Connected Principals Posts

As it does seemingly every year, an article came up about teaching cursive in schools.  I recently tweeted this post out: Reading this article from 2017 – Do we need to teach children joined-up handwriting? https://t.co/i68gumEU5v — George Couros (@gcouros) November 11, 2017 I encourage you to read the post as there are many arguments … [Read more…]

Read More Times Change, Time Frames Stay the Same



The current generation of students is dealing with more stress and anxiety than ever before. I’m sure there are many reasons for this, but regardless of the causes we must work to help address the reality.



Here are the stats as reported in an article from Time:

A study of national trends in depression among adolescents and young adults published in the journal Pediatrics on November 14, 2016 found that the prevalence of teens who reported an MDE in the previous 12 months jumped from 8.7% in 2005 to 11.5% in 2014. That’s a 37 percent increase. (An MDE is defined as a period of at least two weeks of low mood that is present in most situations. Symptoms include low self-esteem, loss of interest in normally enjoyable activities, and problems with sleep, energy and concentration.)

We hear the stories every day of kids fighting depression, feeling overwhelmed, struggling with problems with friends, parents, or both. There seem to be more kids than ever who are no longer living with parents at all.



And here’s the thing, if you are depressed or filled with anxiety, how are you going to focus your energy on learning? You probably won’t unless you shift your thinking. Or unless something in your environment helps you shift your thinking.



One of our teachers commented, “I want my class to be an oasis for students. For the time they are in my class, I want it to be so good they forget the problems on the outside.”



So how do you do that? How can you help kids shift energy from a focus on problems to a focus on learning? 



Here’s what won’t work.



“Class, yesterday we worked on such and such and today we will do such and such. So let’s get started.”



Ready, set, go.



It’s an abrupt attempt to start learning. That won’t work because a bunch of kids in class are still thinking about how bad they feel, what was said to them that’s hurtful, or how they are going to deal with that personal problem. They are distracted. They aren’t emotionally in a good place to learn.



I believe every learner would benefit from more ‘right-brain’ directed starters in class. Lead with something that helps them access positive emotions, creativity, empathy, and connection.



It might take a few minutes to plan and execute these strategies, but it will be well worth it. In the end, there will be more learning by  helping students get the right focus. Start class by shifting the energy. Get kids in the right mindset first.



So here are 9 possibilities to make this happen. Find ways to open your class with one or more of these. And, look for ways to have these things show up throughout your class, too. It will help to inspire learning. 



1. Humor – Tell a joke, make fun of yourself, or do something zany and off the wall.



2. Music – Play upbeat music as students are coming into class. It’s amazing how the right music can put us in a different mood. 



3. Relaxed Breathing – Slow, deep breathing and quiet relaxation can help students to calm body and mind.



4. Imagination – Have kids write or share with each other on topics that require imagination. What if you could time travel? What time would you visit? Why?



5. Drama – Create some fun drama in the class. Have a debate about something ridiculous. Launch an investigation. Make it absurd. Be over the top.



6. Play – Toss a ball around the class. Have a quick game. Nothing too competitive. Just bring some whimsy and playfulness to class. 



7. Movement – Stand up and stretch. Give a high five to someone. Or go for a quick walk outside of class.



8. Sharing Gratitude – Ask students to share something they’re thankful for. Help them be grateful for the little things.



9. Stories – Share stories real and imagined. Find out what’s going on in their lives. I always had some winning stories that I told just about every year. Kids were on the edge of their seats.



These techniques are not intended to treat anxiety or depression, but they can temporarily relieve the symptoms. Of course, students who have depressive disorders need professional help. But for the time they are in your classroom, maybe you can help them focus on learning by using these strategies.



What do you think? Do you have other ideas for shifting the energy in your classroom? I listed several general categories. I would love to hear your specific ideas. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter

Read More 9 Ways to Shift the Energy in the Classroom



The current generation of students is dealing with more stress and anxiety than ever before. I’m sure there are many reasons for this, but regardless of the causes we must work to help address the reality.



Here are the stats as reported in an article from Time:

A study of national trends in depression among adolescents and young adults published in the journal Pediatrics on November 14, 2016 found that the prevalence of teens who reported an MDE in the previous 12 months jumped from 8.7% in 2005 to 11.5% in 2014. That’s a 37 percent increase. (An MDE is defined as a period of at least two weeks of low mood that is present in most situations. Symptoms include low self-esteem, loss of interest in normally enjoyable activities, and problems with sleep, energy and concentration.)

We hear the stories every day of kids fighting depression, feeling overwhelmed, struggling with problems with friends, parents, or both. There seem to be more kids than ever who are no longer living with parents at all.



And here’s the thing, if you are depressed or filled with anxiety, how are you going to focus your energy on learning? You probably won’t unless you shift your thinking. Or unless something in your environment helps you shift your thinking.



One of our teachers commented, “I want my class to be an oasis for students. For the time they are in my class, I want it to be so good they forget the problems on the outside.”



So how do you do that? How can you help kids shift energy from a focus on problems to a focus on learning? 



Here’s what won’t work.



“Class, yesterday we worked on such and such and today we will do such and such. So let’s get started.”



Ready, set, go.



It’s an abrupt attempt to start learning. That won’t work because a bunch of kids in class are still thinking about how bad they feel, what was said to them that’s hurtful, or how they are going to deal with that personal problem. They are distracted. They aren’t emotionally in a good place to learn.



I believe every learner would benefit from more ‘right-brain’ directed starters in class. Lead with something that helps them access positive emotions, creativity, empathy, and connection.



It might take a few minutes to plan and execute these strategies, but it will be well worth it. In the end, there will be more learning by  helping students get the right focus. Start class by shifting the energy. Get kids in the right mindset first.



So here are 9 possibilities to make this happen. Find ways to open your class with one or more of these. And, look for ways to have these things show up throughout your class, too. It will help to inspire learning. 



1. Humor – Tell a joke, make fun of yourself, or do something zany and off the wall.



2. Music – Play upbeat music as students are coming into class. It’s amazing how the right music can put us in a different mood. 



3. Relaxed Breathing – Slow, deep breathing and quiet relaxation can help students to calm body and mind.



4. Imagination – Have kids write or share with each other on topics that require imagination. What if you could time travel? What time would you visit? Why?



5. Drama – Create some fun drama in the class. Have a debate about something ridiculous. Launch an investigation. Make it absurd. Be over the top.



6. Play – Toss a ball around the class. Have a quick game. Nothing too competitive. Just bring some whimsy and playfulness to class. 



7. Movement – Stand up and stretch. Give a high five to someone. Or go for a quick walk outside of class.



8. Sharing Gratitude – Ask students to share something they’re thankful for. Help them be grateful for the little things.



9. Stories – Share stories real and imagined. Find out what’s going on in their lives. I always had some winning stories that I told just about every year. Kids were on the edge of their seats.



These techniques are not intended to treat anxiety or depression, but they can temporarily relieve the symptoms. Of course, students who have depressive disorders need professional help. But for the time they are in your classroom, maybe you can help them focus on learning by using these strategies.



What do you think? Do you have other ideas for shifting the energy in your classroom? I listed several general categories. I would love to hear your specific ideas. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter

Read More 9 Ways to Shift the Energy in the Classroom

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. 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 […]

Read More PMP:089 Marching off the Map with Andrew McPeak

Recently, I have started my own “podcasting” experience by sharing my #thoughtsfromthecar.  I drive quite a bit to events, so I just turn on the voice memos app on my phone, and start talking.  Although there are lots of bumbling through ideas, it is meant to be just informal. On my most recent episode, I … [Read more…]

Read More 3 Ideas to Help Others Embrace Your Ideas





What stands in the way of a brighter future and better schools? 



Well, mostly people. 



People who tell others they can’t or won’t.



People who crush dreams and steal hope.



People who won’t be parents to their kids.



People just showing up and going through the motions.



People who want higher test scores more than inspired learning.



People who cling to the past like it’s a security blanket.



People who protect the status quo.



People making decisions for schools who are removed from the realities of what schools face.



People who spew hate and discord.



People who don’t make kids a priority.



People who are selfish.



People who turn on each other, or a good leader, when something goes wrong instead of battening down the hatches.



People who make performance in sports or academics or anything more important in a kid’s life than being a person of high character and respect.



People who make their own comfort their primary concern.



People who are petty.



People who complain about other people. I hate that!



People who are negative, pessimistic, or who go on rants. Rants are the worst!



Well, that felt good. But the problem is the more I think about the items on my rant list, I realize I’m probably guilty of many at some time or another. Like complaining or ranting. Ha! 



As they say, it takes one to know one. In fact, someone suggested the things we tend to like the least in ourselves, we often magnify in others. In other words, we’re more likely to see faults in others in areas we too have struggles. 



And here’s the other thing, it doesn’t do any good to complain about what other people need to do. We need fewer excuses and more solutions. We need less focus on problems and more focus on actions. It starts with us. I cannot control another person, but I can control me. 



I can encourage.



I can reach out.



I can step out.



I can lead up.



I can lift up.



I can never give up.



I can be the change I want to see. 



I can set the example. 



I can keep growing and giving. 



I can dream of a better future.



I can work to be stronger myself, cause I have plenty of room to grow and learn. 



I’d like to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More Fewer Excuses, More Solutions





What stands in the way of a brighter future and better schools? 



Well, mostly people. 



People who tell others they can’t or won’t.



People who crush dreams and steal hope.



People who won’t be parents to their kids.



People just showing up and going through the motions.



People who want higher test scores more than inspired learning.



People who cling to the past like it’s a security blanket.



People who protect the status quo.



People making decisions for schools who are removed from the realities of what schools face.



People who spew hate and discord.



People who don’t make kids a priority.



People who are selfish.



People who turn on each other, or a good leader, when something goes wrong instead of battening down the hatches.



People who make performance in sports or academics or anything more important in a kid’s life than being a person of high character and respect.



People who make their own comfort their primary concern.



People who are petty.



People who complain about other people. I hate that!



People who are negative, pessimistic, or who go on rants. Rants are the worst!



Well, that felt good. But the problem is the more I think about the items on my rant list, I realize I’m probably guilty of many at some time or another. Like complaining or ranting. Ha! 



As they say, it takes one to know one. In fact, someone suggested the things we tend to like the least in ourselves, we often magnify in others. In other words, we’re more likely to see faults in others in areas we too have struggles. 



And here’s the other thing, it doesn’t do any good to complain about what other people need to do. We need fewer excuses and more solutions. We need less focus on problems and more focus on actions. It starts with us. I cannot control another person, but I can control me. 



I can encourage.



I can reach out.



I can step out.



I can lead up.



I can lift up.



I can never give up.



I can be the change I want to see. 



I can set the example. 



I can keep growing and giving. 



I can dream of a better future.



I can work to be stronger myself, cause I have plenty of room to grow and learn. 



I’d like to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More Fewer Excuses, More Solutions

A good friend and colleague of mine, would walk into a school building in the morning together, and I would count the number of times the words “no,” or “stop”…

Read More Same Message, Different Delivery

A good friend and colleague of mine, would walk into a school building in the morning together, and I would count the number of times the words “no,” or “stop” or “don’t” would appear on the doors and the wall (about seven). This is before we would go to the room to “empower” learners.  It … [Read more…]

Read More Same Message, Different Delivery



I remember a post from George Couros about a teacher sharing how innovation had helped with improving classroom management. The educator reported that “the more innovative I have become, the less classroom management I have to deal with.



It was a great post, and I think the idea definitely has merit. Recently, I’ve noticed another thing. It seems like educators who have the inclination to take risks, innovate, and empower students, seem to have more energy and seem more satisfied in their jobs. 



It seems like innovative educators are happier. They seem more optimistic. They seem to have more hope. 



When they face problems, they see lots of possibilities to address the issue. They are willing to try different solutions. They aren’t always expecting something outside of their control to change. They look to themselves first or partner with colleagues to find solutions instead of expecting a different structure, schedule, program, etc. to make the difference.



There are so many highly committed educators working extremely hard, putting in a ton of effort, who seem to be carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders. Sometimes they are trying to ‘will’ students to learn, but the methods they are using are the same ones they used last year or the year before that. They are just pushing harder with the same methods.



The innovative teacher will ask, “What might work with this group of students?” The innovative teacher is willing to try just about anything to reach these kids, all of them. These teachers are working hard too, but they are willing to change and be creative and step way out of their comfort zone to help kids learn.



They aren’t just working harder. They are becoming more flexible in their thinking. There might be a better way to do this. They look for ways to make learning work better for kids instead of trying to force kids to adjust to how learning works in this class.



But why do they seem happier? More satisfied?



I think it’s because they are hopeful for the future. They believe a better outcome is possible if they keep growing and learning. Other teachers are attached to their methods, their way of doing things, and when it keeps failing, well, that’s quite disheartening.



The happiest teachers are the ones who are connecting, learning, trying new things and believing that even though things might be tough now, things can and will get better. 



So what do you think? Are innovative people happier? Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook

Read More Are Innovative Teachers Happier?



I remember a post from George Couros about a teacher sharing how innovation had helped with improving classroom management. The educator reported that “the more innovative I have become, the less classroom management I have to deal with.



It was a great post, and I think the idea definitely has merit. Recently, I’ve noticed another thing. It seems like educators who have the inclination to take risks, innovate, and empower students, seem to have more energy and seem more satisfied in their jobs. 



It seems like innovative educators are happier. They seem more optimistic. They seem to have more hope. 



When they face problems, they see lots of possibilities to address the issue. They are willing to try different solutions. They aren’t always expecting something outside of their control to change. They look to themselves first or partner with colleagues to find solutions instead of expecting a different structure, schedule, program, etc. to make the difference.



There are so many highly committed educators working extremely hard, putting in a ton of effort, who seem to be carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders. Sometimes they are trying to ‘will’ students to learn, but the methods they are using are the same ones they used last year or the year before that. They are just pushing harder with the same methods.



The innovative teacher will ask, “What might work with this group of students?” The innovative teacher is willing to try just about anything to reach these kids, all of them. These teachers are working hard too, but they are willing to change and be creative and step way out of their comfort zone to help kids learn.



They aren’t just working harder. They are becoming more flexible in their thinking. There might be a better way to do this. They look for ways to make learning work better for kids instead of trying to force kids to adjust to how learning works in this class.



But why do they seem happier? More satisfied?



I think it’s because they are hopeful for the future. They believe a better outcome is possible if they keep growing and learning. Other teachers are attached to their methods, their way of doing things, and when it keeps failing, well, that’s quite disheartening.



The happiest teachers are the ones who are connecting, learning, trying new things and believing that even though things might be tough now, things can and will get better. 



So what do you think? Are innovative people happier? Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook

Read More Are Innovative Teachers Happier?

One of my fears when writing, “The Innovator’s Mindset“, was that I would leave something out and that it would be incomplete.  I then came to grips with the idea that although the learning is shared in book form, the learning on the topic, one that I am extremely passionate about, would continue.  Waiting until … [Read more…]

Read More 3 Images to Further the #InnovatorsMindset

I read this great post on assessment from Bill Ferriter, “How Would YOU Answer these Questions on Grading?“, where he asks these questions: Do your students care more about their grades than the learning those grades are supposed to represent?  Are the grades given in your building an accurate representation of what students know? Are … [Read more…]

Read More A Cadence of Accountability to One Another