Connected Principals Posts

I fell upon some articles by Tom Goodwin, who focuses on innovation, but from a business perspective.  One of the quotes from his article,The Future of TV isn’t Apps, really connected with me in what we are doing in education. Whenever a new technology arrives we typically misuse it.  Rather than rethinking what’s possible and transforming … [Read more…]

Read More Surface Level can be a Starting Point, but not the End Goal

Jon Corippo shared this awesome yet simple video that shows the power of “asking” from Steve Jobs. This is a message that my mom taught me as a kid. You never know until you ask, so you might as well do so. Yet how often do we assume that we can’t get or do something, … [Read more…]

Read More Just Ask

Jon Corippo shared this awesome yet simple video that shows the power of “asking” from Steve Jobs. This is a message that my mom taught me as a kid. You…

Read More Just Ask

As my daughter just passed her fourth month in this world, it is amazing to see how curious she is about the world.  Her wide eyes seemingly notice everything around…

Read More 4 Non-Negotiables for Schools

As my daughter just passed her fourth month in this world, it is amazing to see how curious she is about the world.  Her wide eyes seemingly notice everything around her, and watching her try new things, the notion that children are born curious and learners, has only been re-emphasized in watching her development. This has … [Read more…]

Read More 4 Non-Negotiables for Schools

In a conversation with a group of educators, we discussed some of the challenges that we had with promoting “innovation” in their schools (the idea of doing new and better things).  As one group started to share, they started with, “The problem we have…”, and quickly I said, “You mean…The opportunity we have…” The demeanour … [Read more…]

Read More Problems or opportunities? Depends on how you look at things.

In a conversation with a group of educators, we discussed some of the challenges that we had with promoting “innovation” in their schools (the idea of doing new and better things).  As one group started to share, they started with, “The problem we have…”, and quickly I said, “You mean…The opportunity we have…” The demeanour … [Read more…]

Read More Problems or opportunities? Depends on how you look at things.

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

Read More PMP 046: 5 Tips for Responding to Resistance

I have been thinking a lot about schools and how from my observations, things are moving in a positive direction in many cases.  Since I am not in schools every…

Read More Acknowledging Change in Schools

I have been thinking a lot about schools and how from my observations, things are moving in a positive direction in many cases.  Since I am not in schools every day, I wanted to see what others thought, so I asked this question: We are almost finished 16 years of the 21st century. What has … [Read more…]

Read More Acknowledging Change in Schools

Does every student have to change the world?  Depends upon how you look at what that truly means. This quote, from one of my favourite songs of 2016, “Growing Up”, by Macklemore and Lewis, stopped me in my tracks: Powerful words that should make every educator pause when we think about our kids “changing the … [Read more…]

Read More “…and eventually the world will change.”

This past week NFL Films released “Troy Aikman: A Football Life”. Obviously, I’ve watched it a number of times now, and keep finding these gems of greatness. One of the themes that jumped out at me was Troy’s issues with Barry Switzer’s coaching style. Switzer was older, relaxed, and felt like as the coach of […]

Read More Lead like Jimmy, not like Barry…says @TroyAikman & @8amber8





Are you beating the state average? The teacher down the hall? The school down the road? How about the Fins or the Singaporeans? How do your scores measure up? Is your school keeping up with the Joneses?



Lately, I’ve seen lots of comparisons of achievement data. Including the PISA international benchmark results that were just released. Once again, U.S. scores were not stellar in comparison to some of the best test takers in the world.



While reading Linchpin by Seth Godin, I was challenged to think about how we define success. And where we spend our energy to develop world class schools. Godin illustrates how difficult it is to be the best by any statistical comparison.

❝Donald Bradman was an Australian cricket player. He was also the best athlete who ever lived. By any statistical measure, he was comparatively the best at what he did. He was far better at cricket than Michael Jordan was at basketball or Jack Nicklaus was at golf.

It’s very difficult to be as good as Donald Bradman. In fact, it’s impossible. Here’s a chart of Bradman’s batting average compared with the other all-time cricket leaders. 

Bradman’s Test batting average was 99.94. In cricket, a player’s batting average is the

total number of runs scored by the number of times they have been out.


Everyone else is quite grouped near sixty. Bradman was in a league of his own, not even close to the others. 

The challenge of becoming a linchpin solely based on your skill at plying a craft or doing a task or playing a sport is that the market can find other people with the skill with surprising ease. Plenty of people can play the flute as well as you can, clean a house as well as you can, program in Python as well as you can. If all you can do is the task and you’re not in a league of your own at doing the task, you’re not indispensable. 

Statistics are a dangerous deal, because statistics make it strikingly clear that you’re only a little better than the other guy. Or perhaps not better at all.

When you start down the path of beating the competition based on something that can be easily measured, you’re betting that with practice and determination, you can do better than Len Hutton or Jack Hobbs did at cricket. Not a little better, but Don Bradman better.

And you can’t. 



And this demonstrates the problem with measuring school performance based on standardized tests. To clarify…



1. Someone is always statistically better. 



You cannot be the best just on your effort or the effort of the students in your classroom or school. You cannot measure up. Even your best will not be enough. There will always be a Don Bradman. So when we accept this measure as judge and jury of our effectiveness, we are setting ourselves up for frustration and inadequacy.



2. More achievement is not always better.



A recent article about the learning culture in Singapore shows just how unhealthy a culture of over-achievement can be. Even in our own schools, we should not celebrate unhealthy attitudes toward achievement. How many ulcers, headaches, and mental health issues are a result of students, and educators, who are placing too much emphasis on achievement results? Being an effective human being involves a healthy attitude toward achievement, not high achievement no matter what it takes.



3. What can be measured doesn’t always count the most.



And what counts the most can’t always be measured. There are so many things about being an effective learner, a well-educated person beyond test scores. In fact, there are many people in our communities who are incredibly successful and lifelong learners, but who did not excel as test takers. Their success is attributable to many intangibles that cannot be easily measured. As Godin points out, “The easier it is to quantify the less it’s worth.” The most valuable things are often hard to measure.








4. High test scores are not a vision for learning.



When raising test scores becomes a chief aim of a school or district, it can easily become the vision of the school. And raising test scores is not a vision for learning. This approach marginalizes the individual and their learning needs in favor of data objectives that may not even be meaningful to the individual. In a sense, it dehumanizes learning. A vision for learning should always focus on the individual learner and create a culture that helps each student reach his or her goals. 



5. A school’s identity should not be contingent on achievement.



The identity of a school, or individual, should not be contingent on achievement. It should be comprised of the way the school seeks to fulfill its mission. We should seek to have a high level of commitment, collaboration, and care. We should strive to help our students achieve, but also to fully engage, to be more excited about learning, to gain hope, to learn more about who they are, and to fulfill their potential in the broadest sense. We control our identity, but we can’t always control our scores. Any teacher knows this, but sometimes we do our best work with students who DO NOT demonstrate achievement on tests.



So what’s the alternative to playing the test score game? Godin suggests using emotional labor to make yourself indispensable. I think this principle can be applied to schools, too. The idea is to focus energy on connecting, supporting, reaching out, lifting up, and offering hope better than anyone else. It is always teaching students first, then curriculum.



Even though many educators realize how important emotional labor is, it is rarely included in strategic plans, teacher evaluations, or educator standards. It is not considered a strategic advantage. In my review of my state’s principal standards, the word data was found 15 times. By contrast, the word relationships was not to be found. The era of accountability has created an assembly line approach to schooling. It seems to almost eliminate the human element. 



But the truth is the human element is everything in education and in most every profession. Once you have achieved a measure of expertise in polishing your craft, you become a game-changer only through your interaction with each child. Your emotional labor is what makes you able to do your job unlike anyone else on the planet. And if your school collectively does it’s emotional labor better than anyone else, it will indeed be world class. And I’m betting your test scores will improve as an added bonus.



Question: How do you view the role of emotional labor in your classroom and school? Is it a measure of success? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More 5 Reasons to Look Beyond Test Scores as the Measure of School Success





Are you beating the state average? The teacher down the hall? The school down the road? How about the Fins or the Singaporeans? How do your scores measure up? Is your school keeping up with the Joneses?



Lately, I’ve seen lots of comparisons of achievement data. Including the PISA international benchmark results that were just released. Once again, U.S. scores were not stellar in comparison to some of the best test takers in the world.



While reading Linchpin by Seth Godin, I was challenged to think about how we define success. And where we spend our energy to develop world class schools. Godin illustrates how difficult it is to be the best by any statistical comparison.

❝Donald Bradman was an Australian cricket player. He was also the best athlete who ever lived. By any statistical measure, he was comparatively the best at what he did. He was far better at cricket than Michael Jordan was at basketball or Jack Nicklaus was at golf.

It’s very difficult to be as good as Donald Bradman. In fact, it’s impossible. Here’s a chart of Bradman’s batting average compared with the other all-time cricket leaders. 

Bradman’s Test batting average was 99.94. In cricket, a player’s batting average is the

total number of runs scored by the number of times they have been out.


Everyone else is quite grouped near sixty. Bradman was in a league of his own, not even close to the others. 

The challenge of becoming a linchpin solely based on your skill at plying a craft or doing a task or playing a sport is that the market can find other people with the skill with surprising ease. Plenty of people can play the flute as well as you can, clean a house as well as you can, program in Python as well as you can. If all you can do is the task and you’re not in a league of your own at doing the task, you’re not indispensable. 

Statistics are a dangerous deal, because statistics make it strikingly clear that you’re only a little better than the other guy. Or perhaps not better at all.

When you start down the path of beating the competition based on something that can be easily measured, you’re betting that with practice and determination, you can do better than Len Hutton or Jack Hobbs did at cricket. Not a little better, but Don Bradman better.

And you can’t. 



And this demonstrates the problem with measuring school performance based on standardized tests. To clarify…



1. Someone is always statistically better. 



You cannot be the best just on your effort or the effort of the students in your classroom or school. You cannot measure up. Even your best will not be enough. There will always be a Don Bradman. So when we accept this measure as judge and jury of our effectiveness, we are setting ourselves up for frustration and inadequacy.



2. More achievement is not always better.



A recent article about the learning culture in Singapore shows just how unhealthy a culture of over-achievement can be. Even in our own schools, we should not celebrate unhealthy attitudes toward achievement. How many ulcers, headaches, and mental health issues are a result of students, and educators, who are placing too much emphasis on achievement results? Being an effective human being involves a healthy attitude toward achievement, not high achievement no matter what it takes.



3. What can be measured doesn’t always count the most.



And what counts the most can’t always be measured. There are so many things about being an effective learner, a well-educated person beyond test scores. In fact, there are many people in our communities who are incredibly successful and lifelong learners, but who did not excel as test takers. Their success is attributable to many intangibles that cannot be easily measured. As Godin points out, “The easier it is to quantify the less it’s worth.” The most valuable things are often hard to measure.








4. High test scores are not a vision for learning.



When raising test scores becomes a chief aim of a school or district, it can easily become the vision of the school. And raising test scores is not a vision for learning. This approach marginalizes the individual and their learning needs in favor of data objectives that may not even be meaningful to the individual. In a sense, it dehumanizes learning. A vision for learning should always focus on the individual learner and create a culture that helps each student reach his or her goals. 



5. A school’s identity should not be contingent on achievement.



The identity of a school, or individual, should not be contingent on achievement. It should be comprised of the way the school seeks to fulfill its mission. We should seek to have a high level of commitment, collaboration, and care. We should strive to help our students achieve, but also to fully engage, to be more excited about learning, to gain hope, to learn more about who they are, and to fulfill their potential in the broadest sense. We control our identity, but we can’t always control our scores. Any teacher knows this, but sometimes we do our best work with students who DO NOT demonstrate achievement on tests.



So what’s the alternative to playing the test score game? Godin suggests using emotional labor to make yourself indispensable. I think this principle can be applied to schools, too. The idea is to focus energy on connecting, supporting, reaching out, lifting up, and offering hope better than anyone else. It is always teaching students first, then curriculum.



Even though many educators realize how important emotional labor is, it is rarely included in strategic plans, teacher evaluations, or educator standards. It is not considered a strategic advantage. In my review of my state’s principal standards, the word data was found 15 times. By contrast, the word relationships was not to be found. The era of accountability has created an assembly line approach to schooling. It seems to almost eliminate the human element. 



But the truth is the human element is everything in education and in most every profession. Once you have achieved a measure of expertise in polishing your craft, you become a game-changer only through your interaction with each child. Your emotional labor is what makes you able to do your job unlike anyone else on the planet. And if your school collectively does it’s emotional labor better than anyone else, it will indeed be world class. And I’m betting your test scores will improve as an added bonus.



Question: How do you view the role of emotional labor in your classroom and school? Is it a measure of success? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More 5 Reasons to Look Beyond Test Scores as the Measure of School Success

I often get the opportunity to work with students and speak to them in large gatherings, which can be tough.  Some of the educators that I speak to might know…

Read More On the Other Side of the Screen