Connected Principals Posts

Image by John Spencer It is almost winter holidays for many teachers all over North America.  At this time of year, it can be extremely stressful as kids minds are…

Read More Because of a Teacher…

It is almost winter holidays for many teachers all over North America.  At this time of year, it can be extremely stressful as kids minds are often other places, sometimes positive, and sometimes negative, but usually not in the classroom.  It can be easy to “check out” yet great teachers all over the world do … [Read more…]

Read More Because of a Teacher…

So I had a really interesting experience the other day that I wanted to share. This experience inspired me to make a point of reaching out to people, and connecting…

Read More The Story You Don’t Know

The film you are about to see was created entirely by students. From beginning to end  entirely by students. Every                   thought              word            shot            line Everything. That’s iHub. That’s the opening to […]

Read More Created Entirely By Students



Here’s a reflective question to ask yourself when you’re making decisions about your priorities:



What would happen if you weren’t successful on this one thing?



What would be the ramifications? What would be the price to pay? What would be the cost if this thing did not happen? What would happen if success in this area isn’t made a priority? What would we stand to lose? How would it impact the student, the community, or the world? 



Some things are absolutely essential and some things are nice to see happen and some things really aren’t that important at all. Life’s all about priorities. But how often do we just go with the priorities of what’s been done in the past? 



How often do we accept the priorities of others without even considering if they are best for kids? How often do we push back against the priorities of the status quo because we know we can do better?



There isn’t enough time, energy, or resources to make everything a priority. We have to make good choices about what’s most important and how to apply our energy and effort. We have to establish the priorities that make the biggest difference.



Here are a few examples of my thinking as I work through this thought experiment…



1. What would happen if I didn’t develop the strongest relationships possible with my students?



I would risk losing the learner entirely. They might just check out and not follow my lead on anything. There’s greater chance of behavior problems, attitude problems, parent problems, and more. If the relationship is toxic, nothing I do will be good enough, interesting enough, or important enough. It’s impossible to have extraordinary learning experiences with mediocre relationships.



2. What would happen if students dreaded coming to our school or my classroom every day?



If students hate school, we know they’re going to be disengaged, distracted, and probably agitated. None of those are good conditions for learning. We can wish they would change and magically love school. Or we can change the school and find ways to reduce the friction. What if we made it harder for kids to hate school? What if we created a place where kids who hate (traditional) school love to learn?



3. What would happen if students didn’t get chances to lead and make decisions in this school?



If they don’t have chances to lead and make decisions now, they won’t be ready to lead and make decisions later. They won’t have opportunities to practice and they won’t be primed for leadership and decision making beyond school. Kids need practice leading and making decisions about their learning. They need agency just as much, if not more, than they need achievement. If I simply learn, I will probably forget. But if I have a strong enough learning identity, there is nothing I can’t learn eventually.



4. What would happen if students didn’t master every standard in this school?



They might not score as well as others on standardized tests. They might have some gaps in their learning. They might have to learn some things down the road if they’re faced with situations where they aren’t fully prepared. But is that really the worst thing? Is standards mastery the key to future success? I don’t think it is.



5. What would happen if students didn’t learn soft skills or develop good character in this school?



I’ll answer this question with another question. Would you prefer to have a neighbor that is a caring person or one who has outstanding academic skills? Of course, having both would be great. If you needed help with some complex math problems, they’d be able to help you and care enough about you to be willing to help you. But if you had to make a choice? I’m picking soft skills and character every time.



So what other questions might you ask to test your priorities and your school’s priorities? If we didn’t do this thing, what would happen? Pour your energy into the things that you know count the most. We get most of our results out of a small portion of our effort. We accomplish 80% of our results with just 20% of our effort. The rest of our effort is lost compared to that 20%. If we can learn to apply effort more efficiently, our overall capacity would greatly increase.



Let me know what you think about this thought experiment. Is what you’re doing today moving your students closer to what you want for them tomorrow? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More What Would Happen If You Weren’t Successful On This Thing?

I am blessed and truly grateful to be invited to speak at many educational conferences, and I am always appreciative of the opportunity. I have done my best to not…

Read More Arrogance Leads to Irrelevance

I am blessed and truly grateful to be invited to speak at many educational conferences, and I am always appreciative of the opportunity. I have done my best to not only attend these events as a presenter but also try to take advantage of participating as a learner. Just today, I had the opportunity to … [Read more…]

Read More Arrogance Leads to Irrelevance

In a recent conversation with author and generation expert Dr. Tim Elmore, he shared how many students are affected by “FOMO” (Fear of Missing Out). For many young people, this condition is demonstrated by a preoccupation with wanting to constantly know what is happening with peers or social media contacts. FOMO can sometimes lead to […]

Read More PMP:135 Using FOMO for Positive School Culture with Kim Coody

I watched this Kyrie Irving ad, and I am not going to lie, it brought me to tears. I loved basketball as a kid (still do) and I asked my dad for a hoop in our driveway. My dad put together the ugliest green piece of wood ever, that was definitely a quadrilateral but neither … [Read more…]

Read More Doing Our Best with the Knowledge We Have

I heard this quote the other day (author unknown): What you don’t know is more than what you know. It was a reminder of the importance of growing and developing as learners, but also having humility on the journey.  Those two reminders for me were evident in Brad Gustafson’s new book from the IMPress team, “Reclaiming … [Read more…]

Read More Reclaiming Our Calling; The New Book from Brad Gustafson



It’s inevitable. Sooner or later there will be conflict. People will have differences. Disagreements will erupt. Mistakes will be made. Stuff happens.



But we can sharpen our skills to be ready when unhealthy conflict begins to rise. And we can use our tools to keep dialogue open and productive. Disagreements don’t have to turn destructive. 



A difference of opinion doesn’t haven’t to escalate into a damaged relationship. The phrases I share below have worked well for me, for the most part. Tone of voice and body language are critically important too.



It doesn’t matter if the conflict is with a student, a colleague, or a parent, it’s so important to listen carefully and let the other person know you are listening carefully. 



Listen carefully and practice empathy. Try to fully understand where the other person is coming from.



Here are 11 phrases that might be helpful…

1. “Let’s work together to solve this.”



All of the problem-solving to address an issue shouldn’t come from one side or the other. It’s not me vs. you. It’s us vs. the problem.



2. “I may be wrong. I frequently am. Let’s look at the facts.”



Our natural tendency is to become defensive when someone challenges us. Take a tentative stance at the start. That shows you’re open to listening.



3. “If I’m wrong I want to correct it and make it right. I may be in error.”



If you start to defend your position right away you set yourself in opposition to the other side. When we set ourselves in opposition to another, it’s their instinct to cling to their ideas and defend them whether there is truly any merit to them or not.



4. “Let me see if I got that.”



Or “Let me see if I understand you correctly?” Listen actively. Acknowledge what the other person is saying. Instead of defending or explaining, start by paraphrasing. Repeat what they’ve said to ensure that you’re getting the right meaning. Ask clarifying questions. It makes the other person feel heard. It shows you are listening.



5. “What’s your biggest concern?”



Sometimes when people get upset they vent about all sorts of things that may be related and may not be related. This question helps focus on what the real issue is.



6. “How are you feeling about that?”



Again this question is acknowledging that there are strong feelings as a result of the situation. It’s good to validate the feelings someone is having. It doesn’t mean you agree with what needs to happen, but you are trying to understand how they feel. 



7. “What would you like to see happen? What would make you happy?”



Sometimes when I ask this question after I’ve listened carefully for a time, the person will say they don’t really want anything to happen. They just wanted to express their frustration. And sometimes there are specific requests. This question get possible next steps out on the table. 



8. “Is it possible that we could…?”



Or “What if…” Help introduce new possibilities to the situation. In emotionally charged situations, people often get locked into seeing things from only one perspective. We’re looking for a creative solution that is win/win.



9. “I’m willing to discuss this as long as needed until we’re both satisfied how it’s resolved.”



I love to say this when I can tell things are really heated. It immediately says to the other person that I’m not going to be your opponent in this discussion. I’m not going to allow this to be an argument. It almost always diffuses the situation.



10. “Let me think about this some more. Let’s try again later.”



Sometimes, even when I’ve tried to maintain dialogue and approach the problem with as much diplomacy as possible, we still can’t seem to either deescalate or find acceptable solutions. Then it’s time to say let’s both think about it some more and try again later.



11. “Do you feel like the situation’s been handled fairly?”



It’s very rewarding when a conversation that could be angry and awful ends up being successful. It actually builds a stronger relationship. Conflict can make us stronger. Sometimes I will even ask if the other person feels it’s been handled fairly. If they can’t say yes, then maybe we need to talk some more.



Don’t allow yourself to become an opponent in the conversation. If people sense that you are defensive, they will set themselves in opposition to you. They will cling to their ideas and defend them no matter what. Even if there isn’t merit to the concern, they will fight for their point of view. They won’t care about what’s right. They’ll only care about being right. They’ll defend the most ridiculous claims and blunders simply because they view you as an opponent.



And conversely, if you truly listen and avoid becoming an opponent, people are far more likely to admit errors of their own. If they are handled gently and respectfully, they will be more open to listening to your perspective too. But make sure they’ve had plenty of opportunities to be heard before you expect them to hear your point of view.



Do you have other ideas for disarming conflict? What’s been your experience with handling conflict successfully? I’d like to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More 11 Helpful Phrases for Disarming Conflict

I was blessed with the opportunity to work with a group in Yellowknife, NWT this past week and it is easily the furthest north I have ever been in the world. As a Canadian, I have experienced cold, but the participants were raving about the unseasonably warm weather in November as a beautiful and toasty … [Read more…]

Read More Sometimes the “Work” is Really the “Learning”