Connected Principals Posts



When we think about creating a stronger school culture, we know how important it is to focus on relationships. But why are relationships such an important part of an outstanding learning environment? It seems clear when you think about it. Everyone needs to feel connected. Everyone needs to feel like he or she matters. 



Everyone needs to matter!



All. Of. Us.



It’s through relationships we create the supportive, inclusive, positive, and caring place we want to see. A place where people can thrive. A place to be great. A place to reach higher and do more.



Students are trying to answer these questions. And adults are trying to answer these questions too. The title of this post might be focused on the kids. But all of the adults in the building have these needs as well. These questions are essential to us all.



1. Am I important to someone here?



2. Do I belong here?



3. Am I good at something here?



4. Who will listen to me here?



5. Is my presence here making a difference?



As we work to improve the culture of learning in our schools, we should always keep these questions in mind. Can students and staff members answer these questions positively and confidently? What are we doing to build stronger connections and take care of each other?



This week every chance you get, look for ways to help others find the answers to these questions. You can show another person they matter to you. You can lift them up and make them feel like they are valued for who they are. You can show them they are heard. You can notice the unique talents and gifts they have to offer the world. You can show them how they are making a difference.



What are ways you are helping your students and your colleagues answer these questions? Who will you lift up this week? Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter. It’s always a privilege to connect with you.

Read More 5 Questions Every Kid Is Trying to Answer



When we think about creating a stronger school culture, we know how important it is to focus on relationships. But why are relationships such an important part of an outstanding learning environment? It seems clear when you think about it. Everyone needs to feel connected. Everyone needs to feel like he or she matters. 



Everyone needs to matter!



All. Of. Us.



It’s through relationships we create the supportive, inclusive, positive, and caring place we want to see. A place where people can thrive. A place to be great. A place to reach higher and do more.



Students are trying to answer these questions. And adults are trying to answer these questions too. The title of this post might be focused on the kids. But all of the adults in the building have these needs as well. These questions are essential to us all.



1. Am I important to someone here?



2. Do I belong here?



3. Am I good at something here?



4. Who will listen to me here?



5. Is my presence here making a difference?



As we work to improve the culture of learning in our schools, we should always keep these questions in mind. Can students and staff members answer these questions positively and confidently? What are we doing to build stronger connections and take care of each other?



This week every chance you get, look for ways to help others find the answers to these questions. You can show another person they matter to you. You can lift them up and make them feel like they are valued for who they are. You can show them they are heard. You can notice the unique talents and gifts they have to offer the world. You can show them how they are making a difference.



What are ways you are helping your students and your colleagues answer these questions? Who will you lift up this week? Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter. It’s always a privilege to connect with you.

Read More 5 Questions Every Kid Is Trying to Answer



When we think about creating a stronger school culture, we know how important it is to focus on relationships. But why are relationships such an important part of an outstanding learning environment? It seems clear when you think about it. Everyone needs to feel connected. Everyone needs to feel like he or she matters. 



Everyone needs to matter!



All. Of. Us.



It’s through relationships we create the supportive, inclusive, positive, and caring place we want to see. A place where people can thrive. A place to be great. A place to reach higher and do more.



Students are trying to answer these questions. And adults are trying to answer these questions too. The title of this post might be focused on the kids. But all of the adults in the building have these needs as well. These questions are essential to us all.



1. Am I important to someone here?



2. Do I belong here?



3. Am I good at something here?



4. Who will listen to me here?



5. Is my presence here making a difference?



As we work to improve the culture of learning in our schools, we should always keep these questions in mind. Can students and staff members answer these questions positively and confidently? What are we doing to build stronger connections and take care of each other?



This week every chance you get, look for ways to help others find the answers to these questions. You can show another person they matter to you. You can lift them up and make them feel like they are valued for who they are. You can show them they are heard. You can notice the unique talents and gifts they have to offer the world. You can show them how they are making a difference.



What are ways you are helping your students and your colleagues answer these questions? Who will you lift up this week? Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter. It’s always a privilege to connect with you.

Read More 5 Questions Every Kid Is Trying to Answer

I am at the end of a three-week trip, and I ended it with an excellent day with an energetic and eager group of educators.  Their willingness to push their learning was humbling and inspiring, and it was such an honor to work with them. As I talked to the administrators throughout the day, I … [Read more…]

Read More The One Answer to All Questions in Education




With less than a minute left in the game, we’re up by one point and inbounding the ball from under our own basket.



The ref is counting, and it’s getting close to a five-second violation.


You’d think a turnover might be the worst thing that could happen here. But you’d be wrong.


Our inbounder senses the need to avoid the 5-count. He throws the ball long, toward the other end of the court. It’s a common play, almost a safety valve.


But when our player catches the ball almost without breaking stride he runs for the opponent’s basket and lays the ball in the basket effortlessly.


That’s right, he scored for the other team.


With less than a minute on the clock. Against one of our biggest rivals.


We went from up one to down one in a flash.


How could this happen?


The large and enthusiastic home crowd went suddenly quiet.


Our coach immediately called timeout. Within seconds, teammates were speaking encouragement to the shocked player. I can’t imagine how he felt when he realized what he’d just done. You could see his disappointment.


In the huddle, our coach reminded his team, “Next play. Next play.” We always move on to the next play. We don’t dwell on our mistakes. We play through our mistakes. We don’t blame, or point fingers, or pout, or feel sorry for ourselves.


We move on to the next play…together.


He stayed in the game. Coach didn’t take him out.


With only seconds on the clock, we hit a three point shot to put us up by two. But then the opposing team came back and tied the game just before time expired. Unbelievable.


Two overtimes later, our Liberators pulled out the win. And the kid who scored for the other team hit a huge three point shot of his own, at our basket of course.


It’s nice that we won. It makes me happy for our kids when we win. But I’m far more concerned that our kids learn to play like winners. And that’s what I saw in the finish to this extraordinary game.


Over the years, I’ve also seen teams that haven’t handled adversity well. It never ends well.


Instead of lifting each other up, they bring each other down.


Instead of being unselfish, they put ME before WE.


Instead of accepting their role, they feel sorry for themselves.


Instead of believing in each other, they believe they deserve more.


Instead of supporting the coach, they think they know better.


And it’s not true just for sports. It can happen in your school, with your family, or at your church. 


Difficulties can pull us together, or they can tear us apart.


They can make us bitter or they can make us better.
The best people rally together in hard times. They don’t panic or act poorly simply because there’s adversity. They believe doing things the right way will eventually lead to great things coming your way.


It might not happen in this moment, in this game.


But in life, if you’re surrounded by good teammates, you’ll never fail alone. Your team will be there to pick you up, even when you score at the wrong basket.


You’ll move through the difficulties. You’ll learn from them.


And eventually, if you keep doing the things successful people do, you’ll give yourself the best chance to be successful.


How are you responding to difficulties? Are they making you bitter or better? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More Difficulties Make Us Bitter or They Make Us Better




With less than a minute left in the game, we’re up by one point and inbounding the ball from under our own basket.



The ref is counting, and it’s getting close to a five-second violation.


You’d think a turnover might be the worst thing that could happen here. But you’d be wrong.


Our inbounder senses the need to avoid the 5-count. He throws the ball long, toward the other end of the court. It’s a common play, almost a safety valve.


But when our player catches the ball almost without breaking stride he runs for the opponent’s basket and lays the ball in the basket effortlessly.


That’s right, he scored for the other team.


With less than a minute on the clock. Against one of our biggest rivals.


We went from up one to down one in a flash.


How could this happen?


The large and enthusiastic home crowd went suddenly quiet.


Our coach immediately called timeout. Within seconds, teammates were speaking encouragement to the shocked player. I can’t imagine how he felt when he realized what he’d just done. You could see his disappointment.


In the huddle, our coach reminded his team, “Next play. Next play.” We always move on to the next play. We don’t dwell on our mistakes. We play through our mistakes. We don’t blame, or point fingers, or pout, or feel sorry for ourselves.


We move on to the next play…together.


He stayed in the game. Coach didn’t take him out.


With only seconds on the clock, we hit a three point shot to put us up by two. But then the opposing team came back and tied the game just before time expired. Unbelievable.


Two overtimes later, our Liberators pulled out the win. And the kid who scored for the other team hit a huge three point shot of his own, at our basket of course.


It’s nice that we won. It makes me happy for our kids when we win. But I’m far more concerned that our kids learn to play like winners. And that’s what I saw in the finish to this extraordinary game.


Over the years, I’ve also seen teams that haven’t handled adversity well. It never ends well.


Instead of lifting each other up, they bring each other down.


Instead of being unselfish, they put ME before WE.


Instead of accepting their role, they feel sorry for themselves.


Instead of believing in each other, they believe they deserve more.


Instead of supporting the coach, they think they know better.


And it’s not true just for sports. It can happen in your school, with your family, or at your church. 


Difficulties can pull us together, or they can tear us apart.


They can make us bitter or they can make us better.
The best people rally together in hard times. They don’t panic or act poorly simply because there’s adversity. They believe doing things the right way will eventually lead to great things coming your way.


It might not happen in this moment, in this game.


But in life, if you’re surrounded by good teammates, you’ll never fail alone. Your team will be there to pick you up, even when you score at the wrong basket.


You’ll move through the difficulties. You’ll learn from them.


And eventually, if you keep doing the things successful people do, you’ll give yourself the best chance to be successful.


How are you responding to difficulties? Are they making you bitter or better? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More Difficulties Make Us Bitter or They Make Us Better

A “traditional” practice in education is not necessarily bad. A “bad” practice is bad. There are some things that teachers have done year after year that have worked for students. There are some things that teachers have done year after year that have worked for the teachers, and not necessarily students. The point of “innovation” … [Read more…]

Read More Traditional Practice Versus Bad Practice

A “traditional” practice in education is not necessarily bad. A “bad” practice is bad. There are some things that teachers have done year after year that have worked for students. There are some things that teachers have done year after year that have worked for the teachers, and not necessarily students. The point of “innovation” … [Read more…]

Read More Traditional Practice Versus Bad Practice

I could tell she felt overlooked and undervalued as she shared what happened. I just tried to listen and be as understanding as possible. She felt like a leader had let her down. She felt diminished.

And I hate to see someone feel that way.

She had gone to a lot of work. It was a job well done. But she felt like no one noticed. At least, he didn’t notice. The leader hadn’t noticed her efforts.

Maybe she felt like no one ever notices? Her words came out defeated.

I felt empathy for her. But I also felt empathy for the leader. I don’t think it was intentional. In fact, I’m almost certain it wasn’t intentional.

And I couldn’t help but think there were probably times someone else felt that way about my leadership, in spite of my best intentions.

Leadership is tough. Whether you’re a principal, a teacher, a parent or just about anyone. If you’ve been in a leadership role, you’ve carried an important responsibility with that. It’s a responsibility to your followers, to the people you’re leading.

You feel that weight, that responsibility…if you’re a good leader.

But you also know at some point, you’re going to let someone down. Someone is going to be disappointed. They’re going to feel like you made the wrong decision. Like you devalued their work. Like you didn’t give your full support.

So let’s just keep this in mind. Effective leadership must give grace.

But leadership needs grace too.

In the end, we can’t expect our leaders to be perfect. We just need them to be authentic.

And we need them to do what’s right and to always care about their followers.

So what does it mean to be an authentic leader? It doesn’t mean you’re perfect. You’ll probably still fall short sometimes. But it does mean you’re willing to be open, honest, and real. And it means you’ll do everything you can to step up for the people counting on you.

Here are 11 Must-Have Qualities of Authentic Leadership. These are challenging for sure, but they are the qualities I aspire to meet. Of course, too often I fall short. But I’m still trying.

1. Lead with your heart.

It’s important to care about others, not just for what they can do for you, but because you genuinely care. Because they matter. When you lead with your heart, you also listen with your heart. Be understanding.

2. Shoulder blame.

When something goes wrong, don’t try to minimize it or deflect it. If it was your mistake, just own it. Apologize for it. Make it right. And then move forward from it.

3. Share credit.

Invest in the success of others. Be generous with recognizing their contributions. Be happy when they do well, in their professional or personal lives.

4. See the best in others.

And believe the best in others. Lift them up. See them for all the good they are and all the great they are becoming. Never underestimate someone or diminish their abilities. Never.

5. Seek criticism.

Authentic leaders want to know what they can do better. They want to know how their followers are experiencing their leadership. They want feedback, even when it’s critical.

6. Lead with optimism.



Your attitude, positive or negative, will determine what kind of leader you will become. Effective leadership hinges on choices, not circumstances. Good leaders are positive even when things are tough.

7. Speak with honesty.

There is no effective substitute for the truth. Authentic leaders always speak truth, but they do it with all the understanding, care, and concern that’s possible.

8. Manage emotions.

Leaders must have their emotional abilities in hand. It’s difficult to lead if your emotions are running your life. You must feel all your feelings, even the distressing emotions. But you must respond in healthy ways, and not react in destructive ways.

9. Be a positive example.



Do what’s right, not what’s easy. Whatever qualities you want to see in others, demonstrate those qualities. Your example is your influence. It’s the most powerful thing you have. Everyone is watching to see what the leader will do.

10. Be courageous.

Be willing to take a risk. To set things in motion. To move ahead. Lots of people see ways things should be different. A leader is willing to take action and lead others to take action to make things different. But it requires courage.

11. Be willing to grow and learn.



Authentic leaders do not have a rigid view of themselves. They are open to changing their leadership when they learn something new or they are presented with new information. It’s important to be flexible and always be learning.

What else would you add to this list? How would you take these ideas deeper? Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter. Your feedback makes us all stronger.

Read More 11 Must-Have Qualities of Authentic Leadership

I could tell she felt overlooked and undervalued as she shared what happened. I just tried to listen and be as understanding as possible. She felt like a leader had let her down. She felt diminished.

And I hate to see someone feel that way.

She had gone to a lot of work. It was a job well done. But she felt like no one noticed. At least, he didn’t notice. The leader hadn’t noticed her efforts.

Maybe she felt like no one ever notices? Her words came out defeated.

I felt empathy for her. But I also felt empathy for the leader. I don’t think it was intentional. In fact, I’m almost certain it wasn’t intentional.

And I couldn’t help but think there were probably times someone else felt that way about my leadership, in spite of my best intentions.

Leadership is tough. Whether you’re a principal, a teacher, a parent or just about anyone. If you’ve been in a leadership role, you’ve carried an important responsibility with that. It’s a responsibility to your followers, to the people you’re leading.

You feel that weight, that responsibility…if you’re a good leader.

But you also know at some point, you’re going to let someone down. Someone is going to be disappointed. They’re going to feel like you made the wrong decision. Like you devalued their work. Like you didn’t give your full support.

So let’s just keep this in mind. Effective leadership must give grace.

But leadership needs grace too.

In the end, we can’t expect our leaders to be perfect. We just need them to be authentic.

And we need them to do what’s right and to always care about their followers.

So what does it mean to be an authentic leader? It doesn’t mean you’re perfect. You’ll probably still fall short sometimes. But it does mean you’re willing to be open, honest, and real. And it means you’ll do everything you can to step up for the people counting on you.

Here are 11 Must-Have Qualities of Authentic Leadership. These are challenging for sure, but they are the qualities I aspire to meet. Of course, too often I fall short. But I’m still trying.

1. Lead with your heart.

It’s important to care about others, not just for what they can do for you, but because you genuinely care. Because they matter. When you lead with your heart, you also listen with your heart. Be understanding.

2. Shoulder blame.

When something goes wrong, don’t try to minimize it or deflect it. If it was your mistake, just own it. Apologize for it. Make it right. And then move forward from it.

3. Share credit.

Invest in the success of others. Be generous with recognizing their contributions. Be happy when they do well, in their professional or personal lives.

4. See the best in others.

And believe the best in others. Lift them up. See them for all the good they are and all the great they are becoming. Never underestimate someone or diminish their abilities. Never.

5. Seek criticism.

Authentic leaders want to know what they can do better. They want to know how their followers are experiencing their leadership. They want feedback, even when it’s critical.

6. Lead with optimism.



Your attitude, positive or negative, will determine what kind of leader you will become. Effective leadership hinges on choices, not circumstances. Good leaders are positive even when things are tough.

7. Speak with honesty.

There is no effective substitute for the truth. Authentic leaders always speak truth, but they do it with all the understanding, care, and concern that’s possible.

8. Manage emotions.

Leaders must have their emotional abilities in hand. It’s difficult to lead if your emotions are running your life. You must feel all your feelings, even the distressing emotions. But you must respond in healthy ways, and not react in destructive ways.

9. Be a positive example.



Do what’s right, not what’s easy. Whatever qualities you want to see in others, demonstrate those qualities. Your example is your influence. It’s the most powerful thing you have. Everyone is watching to see what the leader will do.

10. Be courageous.

Be willing to take a risk. To set things in motion. To move ahead. Lots of people see ways things should be different. A leader is willing to take action and lead others to take action to make things different. But it requires courage.

11. Be willing to grow and learn.



Authentic leaders do not have a rigid view of themselves. They are open to changing their leadership when they learn something new or they are presented with new information. It’s important to be flexible and always be learning.

What else would you add to this list? How would you take these ideas deeper? Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter. Your feedback makes us all stronger.

Read More 11 Must-Have Qualities of Authentic Leadership

They should know better than to: Talk out of turn, Argue with each other, Ignore the rules, Disrespect adults, Give up quickly, Choose so poorly, (insert your least favorite student…

Read More They Should Know Better…



An essential for being successful is to know who you are and what you have to offer. Your experiences help bring a fuller knowledge of yourself and how you can make the greatest impact. You have to believe in yourself and be willing to take risks to test your limits. 



These truths apply for anyone, not just teachers or educators. We need to help our students discover this process too, so they can be their best and reach for their potential.



1. Focus on your strengths.



It’s easy to focus your mental energy on your weaknesses. That’s actually what most people tend to do most naturally. But it’s far more productive to build on your strengths. If you focus on how you don’t measure up, you’ll hesitate to step up. You won’t make the impact you’re capable of making.



2. Exercise your gifts.



You have gifts that you need to develop and share. What excites you and energizes you? What makes you want to do more and be more? What qualities do your biggest fans see in you? Don’t discount these gifts. Exercise them and leverage them. Share them with the world.



3. Have courage to be different.



To be great, you’ll have to be different. And that might make some people uncomfortable. Don’t let other people shape you in ways that don’t feel right for you. You have to be true to yourself and do the work you were made to do. You can’t be a standout if you’re just trying to fit in. 



4. Continue growing and learning.



When you continue to grow, you may find opportunities to reinvent yourself in ways that surprise you and delight you. It’s a shame when people hold on to their view of themselves in self-limiting ways. They cling to a feeling of safety and security in who they are and don’t risk questioning that they could be so much more.



5. Cope with your critics.



Always remember that it’s not the critic who counts. At the end of the day, you have to be satisfied with who you are and what you are doing with your life. Make up your mind to learn from critical feedback. It can be helpful. But don’t let criticism slow you down. Keep pressing forward and believe in yourself. Don’t let anyone diminish your abilities.



What would you add to list list? What do you think it takes to be great? Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More 5 Simple Rules to Be Great



An essential for being successful is to know who you are and what you have to offer. Your experiences help bring a fuller knowledge of yourself and how you can make the greatest impact. You have to believe in yourself and be willing to take risks to test your limits. 



These truths apply for anyone, not just teachers or educators. We need to help our students discover this process too, so they can be their best and reach for their potential.



1. Focus on your strengths.



It’s easy to focus your mental energy on your weaknesses. That’s actually what most people tend to do most naturally. But it’s far more productive to build on your strengths. If you focus on how you don’t measure up, you’ll hesitate to step up. You won’t make the impact you’re capable of making.



2. Exercise your gifts.



You have gifts that you need to develop and share. What excites you and energizes you? What makes you want to do more and be more? What qualities do your biggest fans see in you? Don’t discount these gifts. Exercise them and leverage them. Share them with the world.



3. Have courage to be different.



To be great, you’ll have to be different. And that might make some people uncomfortable. Don’t let other people shape you in ways that don’t feel right for you. You have to be true to yourself and do the work you were made to do. You can’t be a standout if you’re just trying to fit in. 



4. Continue growing and learning.



When you continue to grow, you may find opportunities to reinvent yourself in ways that surprise you and delight you. It’s a shame when people hold on to their view of themselves in self-limiting ways. They cling to a feeling of safety and security in who they are and don’t risk questioning that they could be so much more.



5. Cope with your critics.



Always remember that it’s not the critic who counts. At the end of the day, you have to be satisfied with who you are and what you are doing with your life. Make up your mind to learn from critical feedback. It can be helpful. But don’t let criticism slow you down. Keep pressing forward and believe in yourself. Don’t let anyone diminish your abilities.



What would you add to list list? What do you think it takes to be great? Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More 5 Simple Rules to Be Great

Working with two teachers who had worked in a co-teaching position, we talked about taking advantage of learning from peers in the same classroom.  I suggested it would be beneficial…

Read More Closing the Feedback Loop