Connected Principals Posts

I was listening to a student who had struggled in school share an important story.  She shared that every single day she was in school, a teacher, who had never taught her at any point in her academic career, would say “hi” to her and address her by her name.  What seems like a simple … [Read more…]

Read More Big Impact from the Smallest Interactions

This quote from Barry Schwartz always makes me think: Rules and incentives may improve the behavior of those who don’t care, though they won’t make them wiser. But in focusing on the people who don’t care—the targets of our rules and incentives—we miss those who do care. We miss those who want to do the … [Read more…]

Read More Developing Wisdom in the Service of Learners

With the release of “Innovate Inside the Box” this past week, I was given the fantastic opportunity to share my “Sunday Seven” with the Burgess Consulting community which “IMPress Books”…

Read More My Sunday Seven

With the release of “Innovate Inside the Box” this past week, I was given the fantastic opportunity to share my “Sunday Seven” with the Burgess Consulting community which “IMPress Books” is a part of as a subsidiary company. The “Sunday Seven” is just seven random things from different people each week and I have found … [Read more…]

Read More My Sunday Seven

Last week Jen Schwanke and I answered questions from podcast listeners. Listen to Part 1 here. This week we take three more questions from principals on parenting, women in leadership, and professional growth. Here’s our feedback, or you can listen to the entire conversation on the podcast: Question 1: How do you manage being a […]

Read More PMP161: Answers to Principal Matters Questions, Part 2

It is with great pleasure that I share  “Innovate Inside the Box: Empowering Learners Through UDL and the Innovator’s Mindset” my co-authored book with Katie Novak, is now available. As…

Read More Innovate Inside the Box (The Book)

It is with great pleasure that I share  “Innovate Inside the Box: Empowering Learners Through UDL and the Innovator’s Mindset” my co-authored book with Katie Novak, is now available. As the follow-up to “The Innovator’s Mindset,” this book is meant to not only help you create a vision for what our schools and classrooms can … [Read more…]

Read More Innovate Inside the Box (The Book)

One of the blessings of my work is that I work with so many different schools and districts that I can garner so many great ideas from their learning and leadership. Recently, one of these school districts started the day off with having a panel of students that “traditional school” had seemingly failed. These students … [Read more…]

Read More Learning from What Doesn’t Work for Students

I saw this picture on Imgur awhile ago, and I have it saved in my favorite images. This is a good reminder for us as individuals and as schools. For…

Read More Where You Are Right Now

I saw this picture on Imgur awhile ago, and I have it saved in my favorite images. This is a good reminder for us as individuals and as schools. For individuals, focusing on goals is essential, but the process and the journey are important and where you are now will only happen once.  You might … [Read more…]

Read More Where You Are Right Now

Recently, several questions came from Principal Matters community members. This week, Jen Schwanke, principal and author, joined me to answer several questions from principals or aspiring principals. Here are a three questions we take time to discuss and respond to: Question 1: Finding my first principal position… Hello! I have just completed my masters program […]

Read More PMP160: Answers to Principal Matters Questions, Part 1

Something I have been focusing on quite a bit as of late is the idea of innovation in education being more focused on depth rather than being something new.  For example, a lot of organizations (including education) are always touting being on the “cutting edge” as they are embracing the “latest and greatest” technologies or perhaps strategies.  … [Read more…]

Read More Innovation Focused on the Ability to Improvise

Earlier this summer our district leadership team spent a day of training together around the Clifton Strengths Assessment. It was really interesting to learn more about self and others and how to leverage our individual and collective strengths to make our impact for kids stronger.



Of my top five strengths, I was a little disappointed to learn that none of them fell into the larger category of Relationship Building. 



That’s right, I often write about how much I value relationships and how important they are, but connecting is not a natural strength for meat least not in my top 5 according to this instrument. 



Our trainer was really helpful in explaining that just because something isn’t a natural strength doesn’t mean you’re not good at it, or that you don’t find value in it. It just requires more effort and intention to be good at it. When you believe strongly in something, you can be effective in it even when it’s not near the top of your strengths.



That was encouraging to me. 



My top 5 strengths were 1. Learner, 2. Activator, 3. Belief, 4. Futuristic (sounds like a familiar book title), and 5. Self-Assurance. These are all areas where I get energy, where I thrive.



But I also realize that relationships are the most important part of what I do. I can’t be effective as an educator or as a human being for that matter, unless relationships are my number one priority. So I will remain intentional about how I strive to connect with others.



I’ve noticed sometimes when I interact with students I feel like I’m saying the same things over and over. Just simply exchanging pleasantries, smiling, nodding, fist-bumping, etc. And then maybe I’ll ask about last night’s game or how their classes are going.



I’ve also noticed that while we often talk about how important relationships are in education, we don’t always share specific strategies for how to build relationships and connect in the middle of all those interactions we have every day. 



But I read an article recently about a study by psychologist Arthur Aron that described how certain questions have proven to build connection between people. And while the questions were designed to be used in a single 45 minute conversation, I’m wondering about how some of these questions might be helpful to me in working with students or colleagues, perhaps in shorter time frames. 



Some of the questions seemed more fitting than others. I thought I would share a few here in case you’re like me and looking for ways to make your conversations more meaningful. The questions were divided into sets based on the level of vulnerability they might require.



I think they might even be good for staff meetings to build more connection and teamwork among teachers. When we share together we grow stronger together.



Set 1



1. Would you like to be famous? In what way?



2. What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?



3. For what in your life do you feel most grateful?



4. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?



Set 2



5. What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?



6. What do you value most in a friendship?



7. What is your most treasured memory?



8. Is there something you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?



Set 3



9. Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?



10. When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?



11. Make three true “we” statements each. For instance, “We are both in this room feeling…”



There were actually 36 questions total. I’m just sharing a few of the ones that seemed most likely that I might use. I would definitely be uncomfortable asking students, or even colleagues, a few of the questions that were included in the larger group, especially from Set 3. 



You might want to check out the full list of 36 questions and the protocol for the entire activity. You might find some other questions you like for your classroom or school. Or, you might want to try the entire process for date night with your significant other. Enjoy!

What are other questions or topics you rely on to foster connection? I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More 11 Questions that Build Relationships and Foster Connection

I received a really great question the other day from a teacher regarding the notion of “innovation” and how I see it as something that is both “new and better” (with the emphasis on the “better”). I discussed this concept from “The Innovator’s Mindset” in the following paragraph: For the purpose of this book, I’m … [Read more…]

Read More Defining a Personal Path to Success