Tag: character



Reflection is important for growth. But we have to be intentional about it. Our reflection is meaningless unless we do something with it. It has to change us. Or, it has to help us change directions. Effective people are reflective people.



Many years ago I read Dale Carnegie’s incredible book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. Just this last week, I decided to start reading it again. Carnegie tells the story of a bank president who for many years made it a practice to reflect at the end of each week on every appointment he had in the previous week. He would ask himself the following questions:



“What mistakes did I make that time?”



“What did I do that was right–and in what way could I have improved my performance?”



“What lessons can I learn from that experience?”



The banker attributed his great success in large part to his system:

I often found that this weekly review made me very unhappy. I was frequently astonished at my own blunders. Of course, as the years passed, these blunders became less frequent. Sometimes I was inclined to pat myself on the back a little after one of these sessions. This system of self-analysis, self-education, that continued year after year, did more for me than any other one thing I have ever attempted.

It helped me improve my ability to make decisions–and it aided me enormously in all my contacts with people. I cannot recommend it too highly. 

I also try to make it a point to consistently reflect on how things are going in my work. However, I don’t have a process as systematic as what’s described by the banker. Maybe that’s something I should consider.



This week as I’m reflecting, I thought of a few more questions to consider…



1. How is the reluctant learner experiencing our school (or your classroom if you’re a teacher)?



We may think about how our students are doing overall, but I think we need to be especially attentive to how the reluctant learner is doing. If we create an experience that engages some of our most challenging students, that same experience will also probably benefit our other students too. We’re aiming to create a place where even kids who “hate school” love to learn.



2. Am I measuring with a yardstick of my own years?



When I get frustrated with some of the behaviors I see in students, I need to be reminded that they are often acting exactly like 15-year-olds are inclined to act. That doesn’t mean that I don’t try to influence them to rise up, but I can’t get frustrated when they don’t think, or act, like me. That sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? But I think we all tend to get frustrated if people don’t act just like we think they should.



3. Do I have a healthy level of dissatisfaction with my own performance?



At the end of the day, it’s important to be content with doing my best but to also be dissatisfied with how things are. I don’t want to become complacent. And I don’t want to beat myself up when I make a mistake. So be content, but never be satisfied. 



4. Are there ways I’m falling into binary thinking?



Binary thinking creates false dichotomies. It’s either/or. Effective leadership almost always requires a more nuanced position. We can have fun AND have high expectations. We can use technology AND develop social skills and teamwork. We can encourage student agency/inquiry AND improve achievement. It’s not all or nothing.



5. What specific strategies am I using to motivate students (and teachers)?



I’m thinking about the ways I influence student and teacher motivation. Am I doing it by connecting and building relationships? Am I doing it by clearing barriers and showing support? Am I motivating students by creating a positive environment? Just what are the specific strategies I’m using to motivate? Food for thought.



So how are you developing a reflection routine? Would you benefit from having intentional reflection each week? Let me know what you think. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More 5 Questions for Deeper Reflection



Reflection is important for growth. But we have to be intentional about it. Our reflection is meaningless unless we do something with it. It has to change us. Or, it has to help us change directions. Effective people are reflective people.



Many years ago I read Dale Carnegie’s incredible book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. Just this last week, I decided to start reading it again. Carnegie tells the story of a bank president who for many years made it a practice to reflect at the end of each week on every appointment he had in the previous week. He would ask himself the following questions:



“What mistakes did I make that time?”



“What did I do that was right–and in what way could I have improved my performance?”



“What lessons can I learn from that experience?”



The banker attributed his great success in large part to his system:

I often found that this weekly review made me very unhappy. I was frequently astonished at my own blunders. Of course, as the years passed, these blunders became less frequent. Sometimes I was inclined to pat myself on the back a little after one of these sessions. This system of self-analysis, self-education, that continued year after year, did more for me than any other one thing I have ever attempted.

It helped me improve my ability to make decisions–and it aided me enormously in all my contacts with people. I cannot recommend it too highly. 

I also try to make it a point to consistently reflect on how things are going in my work. However, I don’t have a process as systematic as what’s described by the banker. Maybe that’s something I should consider.



This week as I’m reflecting, I thought of a few more questions to consider…



1. How is the reluctant learner experiencing our school (or your classroom if you’re a teacher)?



We may think about how our students are doing overall, but I think we need to be especially attentive to how the reluctant learner is doing. If we create an experience that engages some of our most challenging students, that same experience will also probably benefit our other students too. We’re aiming to create a place where even kids who “hate school” love to learn.



2. Am I measuring with a yardstick of my own years?



When I get frustrated with some of the behaviors I see in students, I need to be reminded that they are often acting exactly like 15-year-olds are inclined to act. That doesn’t mean that I don’t try to influence them to rise up, but I can’t get frustrated when they don’t think, or act, like me. That sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? But I think we all tend to get frustrated if people don’t act just like we think they should.



3. Do I have a healthy level of dissatisfaction with my own performance?



At the end of the day, it’s important to be content with doing my best but to also be dissatisfied with how things are. I don’t want to become complacent. And I don’t want to beat myself up when I make a mistake. So be content, but never be satisfied. 



4. Are there ways I’m falling into binary thinking?



Binary thinking creates false dichotomies. It’s either/or. Effective leadership almost always requires a more nuanced position. We can have fun AND have high expectations. We can use technology AND develop social skills and teamwork. We can encourage student agency/inquiry AND improve achievement. It’s not all or nothing.



5. What specific strategies am I using to motivate students (and teachers)?



I’m thinking about the ways I influence student and teacher motivation. Am I doing it by connecting and building relationships? Am I doing it by clearing barriers and showing support? Am I motivating students by creating a positive environment? Just what are the specific strategies I’m using to motivate? Food for thought.



So how are you developing a reflection routine? Would you benefit from having intentional reflection each week? Let me know what you think. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More 5 Questions for Deeper Reflection



I met John Norlin this summer at the National Principals Conference and knew right away I wanted to learn more about his story and his work as co-founder of CharacterStrong. One thing led to another and luckily we were able to have him present to our staff earlier this week.



It was awesome. Many of the ideas he shared are reminders. He pointed this out more than once. These aren’t new ideas. 



“I’m not here to inform you today as much as I’m here to remind you,” he said.



We all know how important relationships are. We know how important it is to develop character. We all know academic skills won’t take you very far unless you can also work effectively with people. We know kindness counts. 



But even when we know these things, we can get better at doing these things. We can become better people. And we can help our students become better people too. But we have to be intentional. We have to work at it. We have to develop our own habits. And it’s hard work. 



It doesn’t even necessarily take more time. But it does require us to use the time we have in very intentional ways. 



The reminders John shared are very important reminders. He shared the message in a way that inspired us and helped our staff build even stronger connections. I think we left more excited about our work and more committed to our students. I think we left more committed to each other too.



Here are a few reminders that stood out to me…



-Everyone NEEDS character development. All of us.



-We are built to be relational. Stronger relationships help build a stronger school and better learning.



-We need purpose more than we need happiness. Most are trying to be happy, but deeply fulfilled people know their purpose. 



-Students need a deeper why. So many don’t know their purpose and how school fits with that purpose.



-Many of our students need hope. In truth, we all need hope and we need to be hope for each other.



-Our school culture is built on behaviors. Character is revealed by behaviors. We make thousands of choices daily. How are your choices contributing to the culture of your school?



-Such an important question: What have you done for others today?



In Future Driven, I wrote about my efforts to greet students each morning. I had always tried to be visible and friendly as students arrived to school in the morning. But then I decided to be more intentional. I made sure I was at the door to welcome as many students as possible, to learn as many names as possible, to make the greeting as extraordinary as possible. 



When I became more intentional, I noticed all sorts of cool things started happening. Like this…


One day I had some help with my greeting routine. One of our students, Nathaniel, was already at the bus drop off door. He was holding it open. I didn’t think too much of it, but then he started showing up every day. He’s always there now ready to help, even before I arrive. He’s quiet, so he doesn’t say much to the other kids as they come in, but many of the other students will tell him thank you as they walk by.

And I’ve gotten to know Nathaniel a little. He is passionate about professional wrestling. He looks forward to watching it on TV each week, and he asks me if I watched it too. I asked him if he knew about Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant, wrestling heroes from when I was a kid. He just grinned and said he heard of them. I also learned a little about his family, where he lives, and some of his favorite things. I even learned we have 22 buses that drop off students in the morning because Nathaniel counted them for me.
Isn’t it amazing the impact our small actions can make? Just showing up in the morning to greet kids inspired Nathaniel to do the same. Our investment in people has a way of multiplying. Nathaniel wanted to help out. I think he feels good about holding the door open in the morning. I know I feel better each day I get to see Nathaniel and hang out with him for a few minutes. We never know when a simple conversation with a student might spark something lasting and worthwhile. Every interaction is an opportunity for relationship building.

Nathaniel was part of the Class of 2018. As graduation approached this past May, he asked me over and over, “Who are you going to get to replace me when I graduate?



He had faithfully met me at the door each morning and now as he was about to leave our school, he was concerned about who was going to do his job. He had purpose. He was selfless. He was kind.



I told Nathaniel he would be really hard to replace. I asked if he had any suggestions for who could took his place. We talked about a couple of kids he thought might work out. 



And then a few days later he walked across the stage and was awarded his diploma. When I shook his hand, he smiled and said, “Who are you going to find to replace me?”



I was proud of him.



A few weeks ago, one of our teachers came into my office and shared that Nathaniel was very sick and in the hospital. A couple days later I went to the hospital but couldn’t see him because of the limited visiting hours in intensive care.



And then on Friday morning, September 28th we got the news that Nathaniel had passed away. It was crushing news. It still hurts as I’m writing this post.



But I’m so grateful that my story intersects with Nathaniel’s story. I’m thankful I can share about our time together. I’m thankful I can share about a student who had purpose, who was selfless, and who was kind to others.



He wasn’t worried about being popular, or cool, or a big deal. He just wanted to make a difference. 



I can’t even imagine the kind of greeting Nathaniel received in heaven. He certainly deserves the best. He might even get a job holding a door open for others arriving on the scene. 



For those of us still doing our best here on planet earth, we need reminders. Let’s not forget every interaction is an opportunity for relationship building.

Read More Every Interaction Is an Opportunity for Relationship Building



I met John Norlin this summer at the National Principals Conference and knew right away I wanted to learn more about his story and his work as co-founder of CharacterStrong. One thing led to another and luckily we were able to have him present to our staff earlier this week.



It was awesome. Many of the ideas he shared are reminders. He pointed this out more than once. These aren’t new ideas. 



“I’m not here to inform you today as much as I’m here to remind you,” he said.



We all know how important relationships are. We know how important it is to develop character. We all know academic skills won’t take you very far unless you can also work effectively with people. We know kindness counts. 



But even when we know these things, we can get better at doing these things. We can become better people. And we can help our students become better people too. But we have to be intentional. We have to work at it. We have to develop our own habits. And it’s hard work. 



It doesn’t even necessarily take more time. But it does require us to use the time we have in very intentional ways. 



The reminders John shared are very important reminders. He shared the message in a way that inspired us and helped our staff build even stronger connections. I think we left more excited about our work and more committed to our students. I think we left more committed to each other too.



Here are a few reminders that stood out to me…



-Everyone NEEDS character development. All of us.



-We are built to be relational. Stronger relationships help build a stronger school and better learning.



-We need purpose more than we need happiness. Most are trying to be happy, but deeply fulfilled people know their purpose. 



-Students need a deeper why. So many don’t know their purpose and how school fits with that purpose.



-Many of our students need hope. In truth, we all need hope and we need to be hope for each other.



-Our school culture is built on behaviors. Character is revealed by behaviors. We make thousands of choices daily. How are your choices contributing to the culture of your school?



-Such an important question: What have you done for others today?



In Future Driven, I wrote about my efforts to greet students each morning. I had always tried to be visible and friendly as students arrived to school in the morning. But then I decided to be more intentional. I made sure I was at the door to welcome as many students as possible, to learn as many names as possible, to make the greeting as extraordinary as possible. 



When I became more intentional, I noticed all sorts of cool things started happening. Like this…


One day I had some help with my greeting routine. One of our students, Nathaniel, was already at the bus drop off door. He was holding it open. I didn’t think too much of it, but then he started showing up every day. He’s always there now ready to help, even before I arrive. He’s quiet, so he doesn’t say much to the other kids as they come in, but many of the other students will tell him thank you as they walk by.

And I’ve gotten to know Nathaniel a little. He is passionate about professional wrestling. He looks forward to watching it on TV each week, and he asks me if I watched it too. I asked him if he knew about Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant, wrestling heroes from when I was a kid. He just grinned and said he heard of them. I also learned a little about his family, where he lives, and some of his favorite things. I even learned we have 22 buses that drop off students in the morning because Nathaniel counted them for me.
Isn’t it amazing the impact our small actions can make? Just showing up in the morning to greet kids inspired Nathaniel to do the same. Our investment in people has a way of multiplying. Nathaniel wanted to help out. I think he feels good about holding the door open in the morning. I know I feel better each day I get to see Nathaniel and hang out with him for a few minutes. We never know when a simple conversation with a student might spark something lasting and worthwhile. Every interaction is an opportunity for relationship building.

Nathaniel was part of the Class of 2018. As graduation approached this past May, he asked me over and over, “Who are you going to get to replace me when I graduate?



He had faithfully met me at the door each morning and now as he was about to leave our school, he was concerned about who was going to do his job. He had purpose. He was selfless. He was kind.



I told Nathaniel he would be really hard to replace. I asked if he had any suggestions for who could took his place. We talked about a couple of kids he thought might work out. 



And then a few days later he walked across the stage and was awarded his diploma. When I shook his hand, he smiled and said, “Who are you going to find to replace me?”



I was proud of him.



A few weeks ago, one of our teachers came into my office and shared that Nathaniel was very sick and in the hospital. A couple days later I went to the hospital but couldn’t see him because of the limited visiting hours in intensive care.



And then on Friday morning, September 28th we got the news that Nathaniel had passed away. It was crushing news. It still hurts as I’m writing this post.



But I’m so grateful that my story intersects with Nathaniel’s story. I’m thankful I can share about our time together. I’m thankful I can share about a student who had purpose, who was selfless, and who was kind to others.



He wasn’t worried about being popular, or cool, or a big deal. He just wanted to make a difference. 



I can’t even imagine the kind of greeting Nathaniel received in heaven. He certainly deserves the best. He might even get a job holding a door open for others arriving on the scene. 



For those of us still doing our best here on planet earth, we need reminders. Let’s not forget every interaction is an opportunity for relationship building.

Read More Every Interaction Is an Opportunity for Relationship Building



I met John Norlin this summer at the National Principals Conference and knew right away I wanted to learn more about his story and his work as co-founder of CharacterStrong. One thing led to another and luckily we were able to have him present to our staff earlier this week.



It was awesome. Many of the ideas he shared are reminders. He pointed this out more than once. These aren’t new ideas. 



“I’m not here to inform you today as much as I’m here to remind you,” he said.



We all know how important relationships are. We know how important it is to develop character. We all know academic skills won’t take you very far unless you can also work effectively with people. We know kindness counts. 



But even when we know these things, we can get better at doing these things. We can become better people. And we can help our students become better people too. But we have to be intentional. We have to work at it. We have to develop our own habits. And it’s hard work. 



It doesn’t even necessarily take more time. But it does require us to use the time we have in very intentional ways. 



The reminders John shared are very important reminders. He shared the message in a way that inspired us and helped our staff build even stronger connections. I think we left more excited about our work and more committed to our students. I think we left more committed to each other too.



Here are a few reminders that stood out to me…



-Everyone NEEDS character development. All of us.



-We are built to be relational. Stronger relationships help build a stronger school and better learning.



-We need purpose more than we need happiness. Most are trying to be happy, but deeply fulfilled people know their purpose. 



-Students need a deeper why. So many don’t know their purpose and how school fits with that purpose.



-Many of our students need hope. In truth, we all need hope and we need to be hope for each other.



-Our school culture is built on behaviors. Character is revealed by behaviors. We make thousands of choices daily. How are your choices contributing to the culture of your school?



-Such an important question: What have you done for others today?



In Future Driven, I wrote about my efforts to greet students each morning. I had always tried to be visible and friendly as students arrived to school in the morning. But then I decided to be more intentional. I made sure I was at the door to welcome as many students as possible, to learn as many names as possible, to make the greeting as extraordinary as possible. 



When I became more intentional, I noticed all sorts of cool things started happening. Like this…


One day I had some help with my greeting routine. One of our students, Nathaniel, was already at the bus drop off door. He was holding it open. I didn’t think too much of it, but then he started showing up every day. He’s always there now ready to help, even before I arrive. He’s quiet, so he doesn’t say much to the other kids as they come in, but many of the other students will tell him thank you as they walk by.

And I’ve gotten to know Nathaniel a little. He is passionate about professional wrestling. He looks forward to watching it on TV each week, and he asks me if I watched it too. I asked him if he knew about Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant, wrestling heroes from when I was a kid. He just grinned and said he heard of them. I also learned a little about his family, where he lives, and some of his favorite things. I even learned we have 22 buses that drop off students in the morning because Nathaniel counted them for me.
Isn’t it amazing the impact our small actions can make? Just showing up in the morning to greet kids inspired Nathaniel to do the same. Our investment in people has a way of multiplying. Nathaniel wanted to help out. I think he feels good about holding the door open in the morning. I know I feel better each day I get to see Nathaniel and hang out with him for a few minutes. We never know when a simple conversation with a student might spark something lasting and worthwhile. Every interaction is an opportunity for relationship building.

Nathaniel was part of the Class of 2018. As graduation approached this past May, he asked me over and over, “Who are you going to get to replace me when I graduate?



He had faithfully met me at the door each morning and now as he was about to leave our school, he was concerned about who was going to do his job. He had purpose. He was selfless. He was kind.



I told Nathaniel he would be really hard to replace. I asked if he had any suggestions for who could took his place. We talked about a couple of kids he thought might work out. 



And then a few days later he walked across the stage and was awarded his diploma. When I shook his hand, he smiled and said, “Who are you going to find to replace me?”



I was proud of him.



A few weeks ago, one of our teachers came into my office and shared that Nathaniel was very sick and in the hospital. A couple days later I went to the hospital but couldn’t see him because of the limited visiting hours in intensive care.



And then on Friday morning, September 28th we got the news that Nathaniel had passed away. It was crushing news. It still hurts as I’m writing this post.



But I’m so grateful that my story intersects with Nathaniel’s story. I’m thankful I can share about our time together. I’m thankful I can share about a student who had purpose, who was selfless, and who was kind to others.



He wasn’t worried about being popular, or cool, or a big deal. He just wanted to make a difference. 



I can’t even imagine the kind of greeting Nathaniel received in heaven. He certainly deserves the best. He might even get a job holding a door open for others arriving on the scene. 



For those of us still doing our best here on planet earth, we need reminders. Let’s not forget every interaction is an opportunity for relationship building.

Read More Every Interaction Is an Opportunity for Relationship Building



I met John Norlin this summer at the National Principals Conference and knew right away I wanted to learn more about his story and his work as co-founder of CharacterStrong. One thing led to another and luckily we were able to have him present to our staff earlier this week.



It was awesome. Many of the ideas he shared are reminders. He pointed this out more than once. These aren’t new ideas. 



“I’m not here to inform you today as much as I’m here to remind you,” he said.



We all know how important relationships are. We know how important it is to develop character. We all know academic skills won’t take you very far unless you can also work effectively with people. We know kindness counts. 



But even when we know these things, we can get better at doing these things. We can become better people. And we can help our students become better people too. But we have to be intentional. We have to work at it. We have to develop our own habits. And it’s hard work. 



It doesn’t even necessarily take more time. But it does require us to use the time we have in very intentional ways. 



The reminders John shared are very important reminders. He shared the message in a way that inspired us and helped our staff build even stronger connections. I think we left more excited about our work and more committed to our students. I think we left more committed to each other too.



Here are a few reminders that stood out to me…



-Everyone NEEDS character development. All of us.



-We are built to be relational. Stronger relationships help build a stronger school and better learning.



-We need purpose more than we need happiness. Most are trying to be happy, but deeply fulfilled people know their purpose. 



-Students need a deeper why. So many don’t know their purpose and how school fits with that purpose.



-Many of our students need hope. In truth, we all need hope and we need to be hope for each other.



-Our school culture is built on behaviors. Character is revealed by behaviors. We make thousands of choices daily. How are your choices contributing to the culture of your school?



-Such an important question: What have you done for others today?



In Future Driven, I wrote about my efforts to greet students each morning. I had always tried to be visible and friendly as students arrived to school in the morning. But then I decided to be more intentional. I made sure I was at the door to welcome as many students as possible, to learn as many names as possible, to make the greeting as extraordinary as possible. 



When I became more intentional, I noticed all sorts of cool things started happening. Like this…


One day I had some help with my greeting routine. One of our students, Nathaniel, was already at the bus drop off door. He was holding it open. I didn’t think too much of it, but then he started showing up every day. He’s always there now ready to help, even before I arrive. He’s quiet, so he doesn’t say much to the other kids as they come in, but many of the other students will tell him thank you as they walk by.

And I’ve gotten to know Nathaniel a little. He is passionate about professional wrestling. He looks forward to watching it on TV each week, and he asks me if I watched it too. I asked him if he knew about Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant, wrestling heroes from when I was a kid. He just grinned and said he heard of them. I also learned a little about his family, where he lives, and some of his favorite things. I even learned we have 22 buses that drop off students in the morning because Nathaniel counted them for me.
Isn’t it amazing the impact our small actions can make? Just showing up in the morning to greet kids inspired Nathaniel to do the same. Our investment in people has a way of multiplying. Nathaniel wanted to help out. I think he feels good about holding the door open in the morning. I know I feel better each day I get to see Nathaniel and hang out with him for a few minutes. We never know when a simple conversation with a student might spark something lasting and worthwhile. Every interaction is an opportunity for relationship building.

Nathaniel was part of the Class of 2018. As graduation approached this past May, he asked me over and over, “Who are you going to get to replace me when I graduate?



He had faithfully met me at the door each morning and now as he was about to leave our school, he was concerned about who was going to do his job. He had purpose. He was selfless. He was kind.



I told Nathaniel he would be really hard to replace. I asked if he had any suggestions for who could took his place. We talked about a couple of kids he thought might work out. 



And then a few days later he walked across the stage and was awarded his diploma. When I shook his hand, he smiled and said, “Who are you going to find to replace me?”



I was proud of him.



A few weeks ago, one of our teachers came into my office and shared that Nathaniel was very sick and in the hospital. A couple days later I went to the hospital but couldn’t see him because of the limited visiting hours in intensive care.



And then on Friday morning, September 28th we got the news that Nathaniel had passed away. It was crushing news. It still hurts as I’m writing this post.



But I’m so grateful that my story intersects with Nathaniel’s story. I’m thankful I can share about our time together. I’m thankful I can share about a student who had purpose, who was selfless, and who was kind to others.



He wasn’t worried about being popular, or cool, or a big deal. He just wanted to make a difference. 



I can’t even imagine the kind of greeting Nathaniel received in heaven. He certainly deserves the best. He might even get a job holding a door open for others arriving on the scene. 



For those of us still doing our best here on planet earth, we need reminders. Let’s not forget every interaction is an opportunity for relationship building.

Read More Every Interaction Is an Opportunity for Relationship Building



I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about negative student behaviors and how we respond effectively. 


Here are five ideas that have been on my mind…


1. It can be really easy to become judgmental about negative student behavior, especially when it’s repetitive. It’s always appropriate to be corrective about non-learning behaviors, but it isn’t right to place ourselves in a position of greater worth than the student. We might think, I would never do that. It’s like we think we’re superior in some way. And then we make generalizations about their motives based on the behavior. We act as if we know what’s going on in the student’s heart. 


That’s the type of judgment that causes resentment and steals dignity. Judgement isn’t always a bad thing. We actually know having good judgement is a good thing. That’s how we know when something is right or wrong. But relationships get crazy when we start to judge motives. That’s not ours to judge. Judge behaviors. They are observable and there are standards that must be held. Don’t judge intentions. We can never know another person’s heart.


2. Every negative behavior a student exhibits is probably closely resembling a negative behavior I’ve exhibited in my own life at one time or another. If I’m really honest with myself, it’s probably like I’m looking in the mirror. I may not have done that exact thing to the degree that it was done, but I’ve struggled with that issue at some point and acted in a similar manner. There are only so many categories of mistakes, and I’m pretty sure I’ve covered them all at one time or another.


3. Number two is really important because it reminds me to have empathy, to be understanding, and to work with a student through the issue instead of towering over them and being iron-fisted about the issue. We want to correct the issue and preserve the relationship. We need to walk through this with the student.


4. The things that push my buttons the most might be the things that I actually struggle with the most. It’s ironic, but often we are less forgiving and less patient with the behaviors that are most like the ones we struggle with. Think about an issue that is a struggle for you. Are you especially hard on students when they make a mistake in this area? Maybe not if they make the mistake in the same way you do. But if they make it in a different way or to a greater degree, look out. It might push all your buttons.


5. When students show up poorly and have behaviors that are destructive, I need to also look at the environmental factors at play. If I was in the same environment as the student, might I also act in this way? What can be changed about the environment to help the student make different choices? That does not relieve the student of responsibility or accountability for bad decisions, but I don’t want to just enforce accountability. I want to help create conditions so the student will succeed next time.


I think we could all stand to be a little more patient with our students. Heck, sometimes we need to be a little more patient with ourselves too. Mistakes are opportunities to learn more about who we are and to reflect and become stronger, more caring people overall.


I would love to hear your thoughts as always. What’s on your mind after reading this post? Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More When Student Behavior Is Like Looking in the Mirror



I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about negative student behaviors and how we respond effectively. 


Here are five ideas that have been on my mind…


1. Judge behaviors, not intentions.



It can be really easy to become judgmental about negative student behavior, especially when it’s repetitive. It’s always appropriate to be corrective about non-learning behaviors, but it isn’t right to place ourselves in a position of greater worth than the student. We might think, I would never do that. It’s like we think we’re superior in some way. And then we make generalizations about their motives based on the behavior. We act as if we know what’s going on in the student’s heart. 


That’s the type of judgment that causes resentment and steals dignity. Judgement isn’t always a bad thing. We actually know having good judgement is a good thing. That’s how we know when something is right or wrong. But relationships get crazy when we start to judge motives. That’s not ours to judge. Judge behaviors. They are observable and there are standards that must be held. Don’t judge intentions. We can never know another person’s heart.


2. We make mistakes too, just like our students.



Every negative behavior a student exhibits is probably closely resembling a negative behavior I’ve exhibited in my own life at one time or another. If I’m really honest with myself, it’s probably like I’m looking in the mirror. I may not have done that exact thing to the degree that it was done, but I’ve struggled with that issue at some point and acted in a similar manner. There are only so many categories of mistakes, and I’m pretty sure I’ve covered them all at one time or another.


3. Correct the issue and preserve the relationship.



Number two is really important because it reminds me to have empathy, to be understanding, and to work with a student through the issue instead of towering over them and being iron-fisted about the issue. We want to correct the issue and preserve the relationship. We need to walk through this with the student.


4. Are there certain student behaviors that really push my buttons more than others?



The things that push my buttons the most might be the things that I actually struggle with the most. It’s ironic, but often we are less forgiving and less patient with the behaviors that are most like the ones we struggle with. Think about an issue that is a struggle for you. Are you especially hard on students when they make a mistake in this area? Maybe not if they make the mistake in the same way you do. But if they make it in a different way or to a greater degree, look out. It might push all your buttons.


5. Change the environment to help the child change his or her own behavior.



When students show up poorly and have behaviors that are destructive, I need to also look at the environmental factors at play. If I was in the same environment as the student, might I also act in this way? What can be changed about the environment to help the student make different choices? That does not relieve the student of responsibility or accountability for bad decisions, but I don’t want to just enforce accountability. I want to help create conditions so the student will succeed next time.


I think we could all stand to be a little more patient with our students. Heck, sometimes we need to be a little more patient with ourselves too. Mistakes are opportunities to learn more about who we are and to reflect and become stronger, more caring people overall.


I would love to hear your thoughts as always. What’s on your mind after reading this post? Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More When Student Behavior Is Like Looking in the Mirror



I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about negative student behaviors and how we respond effectively. 


Here are five ideas that have been on my mind…


1. Judge behaviors, not intentions.



It can be really easy to become judgmental about negative student behavior, especially when it’s repetitive. It’s always appropriate to be corrective about non-learning behaviors, but it isn’t right to place ourselves in a position of greater worth than the student. We might think, I would never do that. It’s like we think we’re superior in some way. And then we make generalizations about their motives based on the behavior. We act as if we know what’s going on in the student’s heart. 


That’s the type of judgment that causes resentment and steals dignity. Judgement isn’t always a bad thing. We actually know having good judgement is a good thing. That’s how we know when something is right or wrong. But relationships get crazy when we start to judge motives. That’s not ours to judge. Judge behaviors. They are observable and there are standards that must be held. Don’t judge intentions. We can never know another person’s heart.


2. We make mistakes too, just like our students.



Every negative behavior a student exhibits is probably closely resembling a negative behavior I’ve exhibited in my own life at one time or another. If I’m really honest with myself, it’s probably like I’m looking in the mirror. I may not have done that exact thing to the degree that it was done, but I’ve struggled with that issue at some point and acted in a similar manner. There are only so many categories of mistakes, and I’m pretty sure I’ve covered them all at one time or another.


3. Correct the issue and preserve the relationship.



Number two is really important because it reminds me to have empathy, to be understanding, and to work with a student through the issue instead of towering over them and being iron-fisted about the issue. We want to correct the issue and preserve the relationship. We need to walk through this with the student.


4. Are there certain student behaviors that really push my buttons more than others?



The things that push my buttons the most might be the things that I actually struggle with the most. It’s ironic, but often we are less forgiving and less patient with the behaviors that are most like the ones we struggle with. Think about an issue that is a struggle for you. Are you especially hard on students when they make a mistake in this area? Maybe not if they make the mistake in the same way you do. But if they make it in a different way or to a greater degree, look out. It might push all your buttons.


5. Change the environment to help the child change his or her own behavior.



When students show up poorly and have behaviors that are destructive, I need to also look at the environmental factors at play. If I was in the same environment as the student, might I also act in this way? What can be changed about the environment to help the student make different choices? That does not relieve the student of responsibility or accountability for bad decisions, but I don’t want to just enforce accountability. I want to help create conditions so the student will succeed next time.


I think we could all stand to be a little more patient with our students. Heck, sometimes we need to be a little more patient with ourselves too. Mistakes are opportunities to learn more about who we are and to reflect and become stronger, more caring people overall.


I would love to hear your thoughts as always. What’s on your mind after reading this post? Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More When Student Behavior Is Like Looking in the Mirror



I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about negative student behaviors and how we respond effectively. 


Here are five ideas that have been on my mind…


1. Judge behaviors, not intentions.



It can be really easy to become judgmental about negative student behavior, especially when it’s repetitive. It’s always appropriate to be corrective about non-learning behaviors, but it isn’t right to place ourselves in a position of greater worth than the student. We might think, I would never do that. It’s like we think we’re superior in some way. And then we make generalizations about their motives based on the behavior. We act as if we know what’s going on in the student’s heart. 


That’s the type of judgment that causes resentment and steals dignity. Judgement isn’t always a bad thing. We actually know having good judgement is a good thing. That’s how we know when something is right or wrong. But relationships get crazy when we start to judge motives. That’s not ours to judge. Judge behaviors. They are observable and there are standards that must be held. Don’t judge intentions. We can never know another person’s heart.


2. We make mistakes too, just like our students.



Every negative behavior a student exhibits is probably closely resembling a negative behavior I’ve exhibited in my own life at one time or another. If I’m really honest with myself, it’s probably like I’m looking in the mirror. I may not have done that exact thing to the degree that it was done, but I’ve struggled with that issue at some point and acted in a similar manner. There are only so many categories of mistakes, and I’m pretty sure I’ve covered them all at one time or another.


3. Correct the issue and preserve the relationship.



Number two is really important because it reminds me to have empathy, to be understanding, and to work with a student through the issue instead of towering over them and being iron-fisted about the issue. We want to correct the issue and preserve the relationship. We need to walk through this with the student.


4. Are there certain student behaviors that really push my buttons more than others?



The things that push my buttons the most might be the things that I actually struggle with the most. It’s ironic, but often we are less forgiving and less patient with the behaviors that are most like the ones we struggle with. Think about an issue that is a struggle for you. Are you especially hard on students when they make a mistake in this area? Maybe not if they make the mistake in the same way you do. But if they make it in a different way or to a greater degree, look out. It might push all your buttons.


5. Change the environment to help the child change his or her own behavior.



When students show up poorly and have behaviors that are destructive, I need to also look at the environmental factors at play. If I was in the same environment as the student, might I also act in this way? What can be changed about the environment to help the student make different choices? That does not relieve the student of responsibility or accountability for bad decisions, but I don’t want to just enforce accountability. I want to help create conditions so the student will succeed next time.


I think we could all stand to be a little more patient with our students. Heck, sometimes we need to be a little more patient with ourselves too. Mistakes are opportunities to learn more about who we are and to reflect and become stronger, more caring people overall.


I would love to hear your thoughts as always. What’s on your mind after reading this post? Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More When Student Behavior Is Like Looking in the Mirror



I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about negative student behaviors and how we respond effectively. 


Here are five ideas that have been on my mind…


1. Judge behaviors, not intentions.



It can be really easy to become judgmental about negative student behavior, especially when it’s repetitive. It’s always appropriate to be corrective about non-learning behaviors, but it isn’t right to place ourselves in a position of greater worth than the student. We might think, I would never do that. It’s like we think we’re superior in some way. And then we make generalizations about their motives based on the behavior. We act as if we know what’s going on in the student’s heart. 


That’s the type of judgment that causes resentment and steals dignity. Judgement isn’t always a bad thing. We actually know having good judgement is a good thing. That’s how we know when something is right or wrong. But relationships get crazy when we start to judge motives. That’s not ours to judge. Judge behaviors. They are observable and there are standards that must be held. Don’t judge intentions. We can never know another person’s heart.


2. We make mistakes too, just like our students.



Every negative behavior a student exhibits is probably closely resembling a negative behavior I’ve exhibited in my own life at one time or another. If I’m really honest with myself, it’s probably like I’m looking in the mirror. I may not have done that exact thing to the degree that it was done, but I’ve struggled with that issue at some point and acted in a similar manner. There are only so many categories of mistakes, and I’m pretty sure I’ve covered them all at one time or another.


3. Correct the issue and preserve the relationship.



Number two is really important because it reminds me to have empathy, to be understanding, and to work with a student through the issue instead of towering over them and being iron-fisted about the issue. We want to correct the issue and preserve the relationship. We need to walk through this with the student.


4. Are there certain student behaviors that really push my buttons more than others?



The things that push my buttons the most might be the things that I actually struggle with the most. It’s ironic, but often we are less forgiving and less patient with the behaviors that are most like the ones we struggle with. Think about an issue that is a struggle for you. Are you especially hard on students when they make a mistake in this area? Maybe not if they make the mistake in the same way you do. But if they make it in a different way or to a greater degree, look out. It might push all your buttons.


5. Change the environment to help the child change his or her own behavior.



When students show up poorly and have behaviors that are destructive, I need to also look at the environmental factors at play. If I was in the same environment as the student, might I also act in this way? What can be changed about the environment to help the student make different choices? That does not relieve the student of responsibility or accountability for bad decisions, but I don’t want to just enforce accountability. I want to help create conditions so the student will succeed next time.


I think we could all stand to be a little more patient with our students. Heck, sometimes we need to be a little more patient with ourselves too. Mistakes are opportunities to learn more about who we are and to reflect and become stronger, more caring people overall.


I would love to hear your thoughts as always. What’s on your mind after reading this post? Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More When Student Behavior Is Like Looking in the Mirror



These tips are actually true for conversations with just about anyone, not only students. Too often I think we avoid having a difficult conversation about a topic because we aren’t sure how it will go. We aren’t sure if it will be productive, so we just remain silent.



Or, on the other hand, we know the topic might evoke some strong emotions, so we come at the conversation forcefully, from a position of dominance. It’s the “my way or the highway” approach. That might get compliance from students, but it won’t build trust or stronger relationships. Underneath it all, there will be a kid who resents you.



Neither of these approaches is successful. It’s not good to be silent and avoid the topic. And it’s not good to be aggressive and overbearing either. A healthy relationship is build on mutual trust that comes through respectful dialogue.



Here are five tips for having difficult conversations that create shared meaning and understanding.



1. Keep Dialogue Open



Let the student know that you are willing to listen and work together to solve the problem. Ask if they are willing to listen to your thoughts too. Keep the focus on the issue and not on sweeping generalizations like “You always…” or “You never…” statements. You might even ask the student, “How can we have this conversation in a way that is positive and helpful?”



2. Make Respect a Top Priority



Let the student know you believe it’s possible to solve any problem if both parties are respectful of one another. Let the student know you will never intentionally disrespect him or her. Let them know you want to hear what they think about the issue. The words we use are powerful and communicate our level of respect. Your body language and tone of voice are equally important.



3. Describe Your Intentions



You might say, “I’m willing to discuss this as long as it takes until we both feel good about how it’s resolved.” Let the student know you’re wanting a solution he or she can feel good about too. We’re aiming for a WIN/WIN outcome, not my way or the highway. As the teacher, you don’t have to prove you’re in charge. You ARE in charge. You don’t have to prove it. Work cooperatively with students to seek WIN/WIN solutions.



4. Be Curious, Not Furious



Ask questions to understand the student’s perspective. Be curious about what they are experiencing. Say, “Tell me more” or “Go on” to show you are interested in hearing the details. Paraphrase what they say to you to show you’re listening. My biggest mistake is talking too much. When I’m “telling” a student what I think should happen, I’m missing the opportunity to listen and better understand the student’s perspective.

5. Avoid Countering



Countering results in arguments. We start debating the facts. We build our case. We prove our points. It’s about “being right.” Try to avoid this trap. Try to stay curious and avoid countering. Spend more time listening. The goal is to get to a place where both parties let their guard down and work together cooperatively.



6. Timing is Everything



In my first few years as a principal, I would sometimes choose horrible timing to try to address an issue. I thought it had to be resolved immediately. Usually, that’s not true. Most of the time it can wait until cooler heads prevail. If I sense there is no way to have safe dialogue in the moment, I’ll step away temporarily. And then I’ll resume the conversation in a different location in a different time. This works much better than allowing a situation to escalate.



7. Focus on the Future



Every kid needs a fresh start every day. Time spent holding onto yesterday means less time moving forward today. Take inventory of the current situation, but then focus on the future. Where do we want our relationship to go from here? How can we work together to make the future brighter in this situation? What are we trying to accomplish? What will it look like if we are successful in resolving this problem?



Some people might view these tips as “going easy, or “being soft” or “having low expectations.” I would completely disagree. We must have firm boundaries. What’s easy is avoiding the conversation entirely. What’s easy is being silent. What’s easy is also using threats or power to get your way. What’s hard is listening to a student, understanding their perspective, and guiding them in a way that is cooperative and respectful. We MUST have boundaries, and we MUST challenge behavior that is harmful to learning. But the way we do it can either build trust or destroy it. 



What are some of your strategies for having difficult conversations with students? I know you have some great tips to share. I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More 7 Tips for Difficult Conversations with Students



These tips are actually true for conversations with just about anyone, not only students. Too often I think we avoid having a difficult conversation about a topic because we aren’t sure how it will go. We aren’t sure if it will be productive, so we just remain silent.



Or, on the other hand, we know the topic might evoke some strong emotions, so we come at the conversation forcefully, from a position of dominance. It’s the “my way or the highway” approach. That might get compliance from students, but it won’t build trust or stronger relationships. Underneath it all, there will be a kid who resents you.



Neither of these approaches is successful. It’s not good to be silent and avoid the topic. And it’s not good to be aggressive and overbearing either. A healthy relationship is build on mutual trust that comes through respectful dialogue.



Here are five tips for having difficult conversations that create shared meaning and understanding.



1. Keep Dialogue Open



Let the student know that you are willing to listen and work together to solve the problem. Ask if they are willing to listen to your thoughts too. Keep the focus on the issue and not on sweeping generalizations like “You always…” or “You never…” statements. You might even ask the student, “How can we have this conversation in a way that is positive and helpful?”



2. Make Respect a Top Priority



Let the student know you believe it’s possible to solve any problem if both parties are respectful of one another. Let the student know you will never intentionally disrespect him or her. Let them know you want to hear what they think about the issue. The words we use are powerful and communicate our level of respect. Your body language and tone of voice are equally important.



3. Describe Your Intentions



You might say, “I’m willing to discuss this as long as it takes until we both feel good about how it’s resolved.” Let the student know you’re wanting a solution he or she can feel good about too. We’re aiming for a WIN/WIN outcome, not my way or the highway. As the teacher, you don’t have to prove you’re in charge. You ARE in charge. You don’t have to prove it. Work cooperatively with students to seek WIN/WIN solutions.



4. Be Curious, Not Furious



Ask questions to understand the student’s perspective. Be curious about what they are experiencing. Say, “Tell me more” or “Go on” to show you are interested in hearing the details. Paraphrase what they say to you to show you’re listening. My biggest mistake is talking too much. When I’m “telling” a student what I think should happen, I’m missing the opportunity to listen and better understand the student’s perspective.

5. Avoid Countering



Countering results in arguments. We start debating the facts. We build our case. We prove our points. It’s about “being right.” Try to avoid this trap. Try to stay curious and avoid countering. Spend more time listening. The goal is to get to a place where both parties let their guard down and work together cooperatively.



6. Timing is Everything



In my first few years as a principal, I would sometimes choose horrible timing to try to address an issue. I thought it had to be resolved immediately. Usually, that’s not true. Most of the time it can wait until cooler heads prevail. If I sense there is no way to have safe dialogue in the moment, I’ll step away temporarily. And then I’ll resume the conversation in a different location in a different time. This works much better than allowing a situation to escalate.



7. Focus on the Future



Every kid needs a fresh start every day. Time spent holding onto yesterday means less time moving forward today. Take inventory of the current situation, but then focus on the future. Where do we want our relationship to go from here? How can we work together to make the future brighter in this situation? What are we trying to accomplish? What will it look like if we are successful in resolving this problem?



Some people might view these tips as “going easy, or “being soft” or “having low expectations.” I would completely disagree. We must have firm boundaries. What’s easy is avoiding the conversation entirely. What’s easy is being silent. What’s easy is also using threats or power to get your way. What’s hard is listening to a student, understanding their perspective, and guiding them in a way that is cooperative and respectful. We MUST have boundaries, and we MUST challenge behavior that is harmful to learning. But the way we do it can either build trust or destroy it. 



What are some of your strategies for having difficult conversations with students? I know you have some great tips to share. I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More 7 Tips for Difficult Conversations with Students



These tips are actually true for conversations with just about anyone, not only students. Too often I think we avoid having a difficult conversation about a topic because we aren’t sure how it will go. We aren’t sure if it will be productive, so we just remain silent.



Or, on the other hand, we know the topic might evoke some strong emotions, so we come at the conversation forcefully, from a position of dominance. It’s the “my way or the highway” approach. That might get compliance from students, but it won’t build trust or stronger relationships. Underneath it all, there will be a kid who resents you.



Neither of these approaches is successful. It’s not good to be silent and avoid the topic. And it’s not good to be aggressive and overbearing either. A healthy relationship is build on mutual trust that comes through respectful dialogue.



Here are five tips for having difficult conversations that create shared meaning and understanding.



1. Keep Dialogue Open



Let the student know that you are willing to listen and work together to solve the problem. Ask if they are willing to listen to your thoughts too. Keep the focus on the issue and not on sweeping generalizations like “You always…” or “You never…” statements. You might even ask the student, “How can we have this conversation in a way that is positive and helpful?”



2. Make Respect a Top Priority



Let the student know you believe it’s possible to solve any problem if both parties are respectful of one another. Let the student know you will never intentionally disrespect him or her. Let them know you want to hear what they think about the issue. The words we use are powerful and communicate our level of respect. Your body language and tone of voice are equally important.



3. Describe Your Intentions



You might say, “I’m willing to discuss this as long as it takes until we both feel good about how it’s resolved.” Let the student know you’re wanting a solution he or she can feel good about too. We’re aiming for a WIN/WIN outcome, not my way or the highway. As the teacher, you don’t have to prove you’re in charge. You ARE in charge. You don’t have to prove it. Work cooperatively with students to seek WIN/WIN solutions.



4. Be Curious, Not Furious



Ask questions to understand the student’s perspective. Be curious about what they are experiencing. Say, “Tell me more” or “Go on” to show you are interested in hearing the details. Paraphrase what they say to you to show you’re listening. My biggest mistake is talking too much. When I’m “telling” a student what I think should happen, I’m missing the opportunity to listen and better understand the student’s perspective.

5. Avoid Countering



Countering results in arguments. We start debating the facts. We build our case. We prove our points. It’s about “being right.” Try to avoid this trap. Try to stay curious and avoid countering. Spend more time listening. The goal is to get to a place where both parties let their guard down and work together cooperatively.



6. Timing is Everything



In my first few years as a principal, I would sometimes choose horrible timing to try to address an issue. I thought it had to be resolved immediately. Usually, that’s not true. Most of the time it can wait until cooler heads prevail. If I sense there is no way to have safe dialogue in the moment, I’ll step away temporarily. And then I’ll resume the conversation in a different location in a different time. This works much better than allowing a situation to escalate.



7. Focus on the Future



Every kid needs a fresh start every day. Time spent holding onto yesterday means less time moving forward today. Take inventory of the current situation, but then focus on the future. Where do we want our relationship to go from here? How can we work together to make the future brighter in this situation? What are we trying to accomplish? What will it look like if we are successful in resolving this problem?



Some people might view these tips as “going easy, or “being soft” or “having low expectations.” I would completely disagree. We must have firm boundaries. What’s easy is avoiding the conversation entirely. What’s easy is being silent. What’s easy is also using threats or power to get your way. What’s hard is listening to a student, understanding their perspective, and guiding them in a way that is cooperative and respectful. We MUST have boundaries, and we MUST challenge behavior that is harmful to learning. But the way we do it can either build trust or destroy it. 



What are some of your strategies for having difficult conversations with students? I know you have some great tips to share. I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More 7 Tips for Difficult Conversations with Students



These tips are actually true for conversations with just about anyone, not only students. Too often I think we avoid having a difficult conversation about a topic because we aren’t sure how it will go. We aren’t sure if it will be productive, so we just remain silent.



Or, on the other hand, we know the topic might evoke some strong emotions, so we come at the conversation forcefully, from a position of dominance. It’s the “my way or the highway” approach. That might get compliance from students, but it won’t build trust or stronger relationships. Underneath it all, there will be a kid who resents you.



Neither of these approaches is successful. It’s not good to be silent and avoid the topic. And it’s not good to be aggressive and overbearing either. A healthy relationship is build on mutual trust that comes through respectful dialogue.



Here are five tips for having difficult conversations that create shared meaning and understanding.



1. Keep Dialogue Open



Let the student know that you are willing to listen and work together to solve the problem. Ask if they are willing to listen to your thoughts too. Keep the focus on the issue and not on sweeping generalizations like “You always…” or “You never…” statements. You might even ask the student, “How can we have this conversation in a way that is positive and helpful?”



2. Make Respect a Top Priority



Let the student know you believe it’s possible to solve any problem if both parties are respectful of one another. Let the student know you will never intentionally disrespect him or her. Let them know you want to hear what they think about the issue. The words we use are powerful and communicate our level of respect. Your body language and tone of voice are equally important.



3. Describe Your Intentions



You might say, “I’m willing to discuss this as long as it takes until we both feel good about how it’s resolved.” Let the student know you’re wanting a solution he or she can feel good about too. We’re aiming for a WIN/WIN outcome, not my way or the highway. As the teacher, you don’t have to prove you’re in charge. You ARE in charge. You don’t have to prove it. Work cooperatively with students to seek WIN/WIN solutions.



4. Be Curious, Not Furious



Ask questions to understand the student’s perspective. Be curious about what they are experiencing. Say, “Tell me more” or “Go on” to show you are interested in hearing the details. Paraphrase what they say to you to show you’re listening. My biggest mistake is talking too much. When I’m “telling” a student what I think should happen, I’m missing the opportunity to listen and better understand the student’s perspective.

5. Avoid Countering



Countering results in arguments. We start debating the facts. We build our case. We prove our points. It’s about “being right.” Try to avoid this trap. Try to stay curious and avoid countering. Spend more time listening. The goal is to get to a place where both parties let their guard down and work together cooperatively.



6. Timing is Everything



In my first few years as a principal, I would sometimes choose horrible timing to try to address an issue. I thought it had to be resolved immediately. Usually, that’s not true. Most of the time it can wait until cooler heads prevail. If I sense there is no way to have safe dialogue in the moment, I’ll step away temporarily. And then I’ll resume the conversation in a different location in a different time. This works much better than allowing a situation to escalate.



7. Focus on the Future



Every kid needs a fresh start every day. Time spent holding onto yesterday means less time moving forward today. Take inventory of the current situation, but then focus on the future. Where do we want our relationship to go from here? How can we work together to make the future brighter in this situation? What are we trying to accomplish? What will it look like if we are successful in resolving this problem?



Some people might view these tips as “going easy, or “being soft” or “having low expectations.” I would completely disagree. We must have firm boundaries. What’s easy is avoiding the conversation entirely. What’s easy is being silent. What’s easy is also using threats or power to get your way. What’s hard is listening to a student, understanding their perspective, and guiding them in a way that is cooperative and respectful. We MUST have boundaries, and we MUST challenge behavior that is harmful to learning. But the way we do it can either build trust or destroy it. 



What are some of your strategies for having difficult conversations with students? I know you have some great tips to share. I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More 7 Tips for Difficult Conversations with Students



These tips are actually true for conversations with just about anyone, not only students. Too often I think we avoid having a difficult conversation about a topic because we aren’t sure how it will go. We aren’t sure if it will be productive, so we just remain silent.



Or, on the other hand, we know the topic might evoke some strong emotions, so we come at the conversation forcefully, from a position of dominance. It’s the “my way or the highway” approach. That might get compliance from students, but it won’t build trust or stronger relationships. Underneath it all, there will be a kid who resents you.



Neither of these approaches is successful. It’s not good to be silent and avoid the topic. And it’s not good to be aggressive and overbearing either. A healthy relationship is build on mutual trust that comes through respectful dialogue.



Here are five tips for having difficult conversations that create shared meaning and understanding.



1. Keep Dialogue Open



Let the student know that you are willing to listen and work together to solve the problem. Ask if they are willing to listen to your thoughts too. Keep the focus on the issue and not on sweeping generalizations like “You always…” or “You never…” statements. You might even ask the student, “How can we have this conversation in a way that is positive and helpful?”



2. Make Respect a Top Priority



Let the student know you believe it’s possible to solve any problem if both parties are respectful of one another. Let the student know you will never intentionally disrespect him or her. Let them know you want to hear what they think about the issue. The words we use are powerful and communicate our level of respect. Your body language and tone of voice are equally important.



3. Describe Your Intentions



You might say, “I’m willing to discuss this as long as it takes until we both feel good about how it’s resolved.” Let the student know you’re wanting a solution he or she can feel good about too. We’re aiming for a WIN/WIN outcome, not my way or the highway. As the teacher, you don’t have to prove you’re in charge. You ARE in charge. You don’t have to prove it. Work cooperatively with students to seek WIN/WIN solutions.



4. Be Curious, Not Furious



Ask questions to understand the student’s perspective. Be curious about what they are experiencing. Say, “Tell me more” or “Go on” to show you are interested in hearing the details. Paraphrase what they say to you to show you’re listening. My biggest mistake is talking too much. When I’m “telling” a student what I think should happen, I’m missing the opportunity to listen and better understand the student’s perspective.

5. Avoid Countering



Countering results in arguments. We start debating the facts. We build our case. We prove our points. It’s about “being right.” Try to avoid this trap. Try to stay curious and avoid countering. Spend more time listening. The goal is to get to a place where both parties let their guard down and work together cooperatively.



6. Timing is Everything



In my first few years as a principal, I would sometimes choose horrible timing to try to address an issue. I thought it had to be resolved immediately. Usually, that’s not true. Most of the time it can wait until cooler heads prevail. If I sense there is no way to have safe dialogue in the moment, I’ll step away temporarily. And then I’ll resume the conversation in a different location in a different time. This works much better than allowing a situation to escalate.



7. Focus on the Future



Every kid needs a fresh start every day. Time spent holding onto yesterday means less time moving forward today. Take inventory of the current situation, but then focus on the future. Where do we want our relationship to go from here? How can we work together to make the future brighter in this situation? What are we trying to accomplish? What will it look like if we are successful in resolving this problem?



Some people might view these tips as “going easy, or “being soft” or “having low expectations.” I would completely disagree. We must have firm boundaries. What’s easy is avoiding the conversation entirely. What’s easy is being silent. What’s easy is also using threats or power to get your way. What’s hard is listening to a student, understanding their perspective, and guiding them in a way that is cooperative and respectful. We MUST have boundaries, and we MUST challenge behavior that is harmful to learning. But the way we do it can either build trust or destroy it. 



What are some of your strategies for having difficult conversations with students? I know you have some great tips to share. I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More 7 Tips for Difficult Conversations with Students



Most people get to a certain level of effectiveness in life, work, relationships, etc. and then just hit cruise control. It’s normal to just get comfortable and then go with the status quo. The current level of success becomes a sort of boundary they don’t cross. They grow content with how things are. After all, things are pretty good.



It feels safe.



But that’s not the way to create continual and extraordinary growth or develop amazing classrooms or schools. For me, I want to be relentless in pursuing a breakthrough or tipping point, where we go from good to great.



I want to remove the limits. I believe most people (teachers, students, principals, etc.) have incredible reserves of untapped talent and possibility that goes unrealized. How can we create an environment that brings out greatness?



It means taking risks.



Most schools have tremendous capacity that isn’t being realized. The school is the people. And when the people in the school aren’t pushing the limits, we settle for much less than is possible. And that’s not to devalue the work anyone is doing. It’s just saying, I believe in you. And I believe each of us has capacity to do so much more. I want more for you.



Our work matters too much to settle for less. Kids are counting on us. There is a future at stake. We can be the difference.



Mediocrity isn’t being bad at something. Some people get caught up in mediocrity and they’re actually pretty good at what they do. They just become content with being pretty good at what they do. 



Mediocrity is being satisfied with the status quo. It embraces apathy. It’s choosing, either intentionally or unintentionally, to stay the same. 


Excellence, on the other hand, is not necessarily being good at something. A first year teacher may not be a great teacher yet. They may really struggle. But they can have a relentless pursuit of improvement. They are excellent, not because of their current level of performance, but because they seek growth at every turn. They are pushing their limits.


Excellence is always striving to change, learn, and grow. It’s making the choice to get better every day.



So don’t aim for just good enough. Don’t even aim for a little better. Aim for a breakthrough. Set out to be a game changer.


Unfortunately, there are far more examples of mediocrity than excellence. Mediocrity is easy. Excellence is hard. When you notice someone who is doing something with excellence, take note. Learn from them. 


What will you do this year to aim for excellence and be a game changer in your school? Don’t be satisfied with just a little better. Let’s push the boundaries and unleash greatness. I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More Aiming for a Breakthrough



Most people get to a certain level of effectiveness in life, work, relationships, etc. and then just hit cruise control. It’s normal to just get comfortable and then go with the status quo. The current level of success becomes a sort of boundary they don’t cross. They grow content with how things are. After all, things are pretty good.



It feels safe.



But that’s not the way to create continual and extraordinary growth or develop amazing classrooms or schools. For me, I want to be relentless in pursuing a breakthrough or tipping point, where we go from good to great.



I want to remove the limits. I believe most people (teachers, students, principals, etc.) have incredible reserves of untapped talent and possibility that goes unrealized. How can we create an environment that brings out greatness?



It means taking risks.



Most schools have tremendous capacity that isn’t being realized. The school is the people. And when the people in the school aren’t pushing the limits, we settle for much less than is possible. And that’s not to devalue the work anyone is doing. It’s just saying, I believe in you. And I believe each of us has capacity to do so much more. I want more for you.



Our work matters too much to settle for less. Kids are counting on us. There is a future at stake. We can be the difference.



Mediocrity isn’t being bad at something. Some people get caught up in mediocrity and they’re actually pretty good at what they do. They just become content with being pretty good at what they do. 



Mediocrity is being satisfied with the status quo. It embraces apathy. It’s choosing, either intentionally or unintentionally, to stay the same. 


Excellence, on the other hand, is not necessarily being good at something. A first year teacher may not be a great teacher yet. They may really struggle. But they can have a relentless pursuit of improvement. They are excellent, not because of their current level of performance, but because they seek growth at every turn. They are pushing their limits.


Excellence is always striving to change, learn, and grow. It’s making the choice to get better every day.



So don’t aim for just good enough. Don’t even aim for a little better. Aim for a breakthrough. Set out to be a game changer.


Unfortunately, there are far more examples of mediocrity than excellence. Mediocrity is easy. Excellence is hard. When you notice someone who is doing something with excellence, take note. Learn from them. 


What will you do this year to aim for excellence and be a game changer in your school? Don’t be satisfied with just a little better. Let’s push the boundaries and unleash greatness. I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More Aiming for a Breakthrough



Most people get to a certain level of effectiveness in life, work, relationships, etc. and then just hit cruise control. It’s normal to just get comfortable and then go with the status quo. The current level of success becomes a sort of boundary they don’t cross. They grow content with how things are. After all, things are pretty good.



It feels safe.



But that’s not the way to create continual and extraordinary growth or develop amazing classrooms or schools. For me, I want to be relentless in pursuing a breakthrough or tipping point, where we go from good to great.



I want to remove the limits. I believe most people (teachers, students, principals, etc.) have incredible reserves of untapped talent and possibility that goes unrealized. How can we create an environment that brings out greatness?



It means taking risks.



Most schools have tremendous capacity that isn’t being realized. The school is the people. And when the people in the school aren’t pushing the limits, we settle for much less than is possible. And that’s not to devalue the work anyone is doing. It’s just saying, I believe in you. And I believe each of us has capacity to do so much more. I want more for you.



Our work matters too much to settle for less. Kids are counting on us. There is a future at stake. We can be the difference.



Mediocrity isn’t being bad at something. Some people get caught up in mediocrity and they’re actually pretty good at what they do. They just become content with being pretty good at what they do. 



Mediocrity is being satisfied with the status quo. It embraces apathy. It’s choosing, either intentionally or unintentionally, to stay the same. 


Excellence, on the other hand, is not necessarily being good at something. A first year teacher may not be a great teacher yet. They may really struggle. But they can have a relentless pursuit of improvement. They are excellent, not because of their current level of performance, but because they seek growth at every turn. They are pushing their limits.


Excellence is always striving to change, learn, and grow. It’s making the choice to get better every day.



So don’t aim for just good enough. Don’t even aim for a little better. Aim for a breakthrough. Set out to be a game changer.


Unfortunately, there are far more examples of mediocrity than excellence. Mediocrity is easy. Excellence is hard. When you notice someone who is doing something with excellence, take note. Learn from them. 


What will you do this year to aim for excellence and be a game changer in your school? Don’t be satisfied with just a little better. Let’s push the boundaries and unleash greatness. I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

      

Read More Aiming for a Breakthrough



Most people get to a certain level of effectiveness in life, work, relationships, etc. and then just hit cruise control. It’s normal to just get comfortable and then go with the status quo. The current level of success becomes a sort of boundary they don’t cross. They grow content with how things are. After all, things are pretty good.



It feels safe.



But that’s not the way to create continual and extraordinary growth or develop amazing classrooms or schools. For me, I want to be relentless in pursuing a breakthrough or tipping point, where we go from good to great.



I want to remove the limits. I believe most people (teachers, students, principals, etc.) have incredible reserves of untapped talent and possibility that goes unrealized. How can we create an environment that brings out greatness?



It means taking risks.



Most schools have tremendous capacity that isn’t being realized. The school is the people. And when the people in the school aren’t pushing the limits, we settle for much less than is possible. And that’s not to devalue the work anyone is doing. It’s just saying, I believe in you. And I believe each of us has capacity to do so much more. I want more for you.



Our work matters too much to settle for less. Kids are counting on us. There is a future at stake. We can be the difference.



Mediocrity isn’t being bad at something. Some people get caught up in mediocrity and they’re actually pretty good at what they do. They just become content with being pretty good at what they do. 



Mediocrity is being satisfied with the status quo. It embraces apathy. It’s choosing, either intentionally or unintentionally, to stay the same. 


Excellence, on the other hand, is not necessarily being good at something. A first year teacher may not be a great teacher yet. They may really struggle. But they can have a relentless pursuit of improvement. They are excellent, not because of their current level of performance, but because they seek growth at every turn. They are pushing their limits.


Excellence is always striving to change, learn, and grow. It’s making the choice to get better every day.



So don’t aim for just good enough. Don’t even aim for a little better. Aim for a breakthrough. Set out to be a game changer.


Unfortunately, there are far more examples of mediocrity than excellence. Mediocrity is easy. Excellence is hard. When you notice someone who is doing something with excellence, take note. Learn from them. 


What will you do this year to aim for excellence and be a game changer in your school? Don’t be satisfied with just a little better. Let’s push the boundaries and unleash greatness. I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

      

Read More Aiming for a Breakthrough