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I’m not sure exactly how it got started, but for the past few years I’ve shared a joke every morning with our entire building to start the school day.

It’s important to me to help get each day off to a good start and part of…

Read More How Humor Contributes to School Culture

We all see things differently. That’s something I continue to learn as an educator and in every other area of life too. I used to get upset if someone expressed an idea I didn’t agree with. It would frustrate me to no end if they took a position that…

Read More The Importance of Accepting Different Perspectives



“How did you become a Chicago Cubs fan?”



I asked the question to a Cubs fan I was visiting with recently. And I wasn’t being sarcastic, since I’m a St. Louis Cardinals fan, and that would be on point for fan behavior between the two teams.



No, I was just curious because he wasn’t from a part of the country that isn’t typically considered Cubs fan territory. He explained that some members of his family were Cubs fans but what really hooked him on the Cubs was when he attended a game at Wrigley Field (Chicago) as a young boy.



That experience, he said, was something he never forgot and resulted in his lifelong love of the Cubs. It was as simple as that.



Experiences are powerful. They can change our entire perspective for good or bad. In this case, a positive experience resulted in a deep attachment to a baseball team.



I’m wondering about how students experience school. Are we creating experiences that result in a lifelong attachment to learning? Are we creating powerful learning experiences that develop curiosity and cultivate interests?



While much of my own school experience was somewhat routine and mostly forgettable, there were some amazing experiences that really led me to want to learn more.



Most of those memorable experiences were projects or trips to visit interesting places. I remember visiting a cave, a Civil War battlefield, and even a museum with a real mummy, all part of opportunities through school.



I also remember creating a news broadcast and interviewing people from our community, as part of a project for class. I also remember competing in a stock market game, and I remember performing a classroom play.



I don’t remember a single lecture from school. I take that back. I remember one very gifted social studies teacher who could tell stories from the Civil War that were so interesting I wanted to learn more on my own. He had us on the edge of our seats.



I don’t remember any worksheet tasks standing out. I don’t remember any tests in particular. 



Here’s the thing. I’m not saying tests, or assignments, or routine work are all bad in school. I’m not saying they don’t have value. But if we want our students to be inspired learners, we better look for ways to connect learning to positive emotions. We better give students experiences that really capture their attention in ways that go far beyond the routine.



In a time where standards mastery seems to be at the top of all priorities, I wonder what types of experiences kids are having? 



What type of experience are they having when remediation has been routine for them year after year in school?



What type of experience are they having when they don’t have the opportunity to pursue things they’re interested in?



What type of experience are they having when they don’t get to learn outside the classroom by taking field trips?



A couple of high school principals were discussing how they are making sure any field trips in their school tie directly to meeting standards. I guess that’s one way to look at it.



But for me, I want our students to have as many opportunities as possible to learn and interact with interesting people and places away from our school campus. I especially want that for our under-resourced students who might not ever have those opportunities otherwise.



There is a time for rolling up our sleeves and doing the routine work of learning and life. But if we’re not also creating peak moments along the way, we are missing the joy in the journey. 



And we’re probably missing out on potential passions, and maybe even missing out on developing a passion for learning.



The routine work should flow from a deep sense of purpose. We need to know our why. That’s where lasting learning is nurtured.



As I wrote in my book, Future Driven,

Don’t just create lessons for your students. Create experiences. Students will forget a lesson, but an experience will have lasting value. We want to do more than cover content. We want to inspire learning.

Is your school making time for powerful learning experiences? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.





Read More Don’t Just Plan Lessons, Create Experiences



How important are bus drivers? Our kids’ safety is in their hands. They are the first point of contact in the morning and help set the tone for the day. Bus drivers make a difference. And so do cooks. And custodians. And everyone else who gives so much to the life of a school.



I was speaking last week at the Cypress-Fairbanks Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships Leadership conference in Houston. It was a great event, and I enjoyed making some wonderful connections with educators there.


One of the people I met shared some valuable wisdom with me. The conference provided a shuttle to and from the hotel, and my driver’s name was Tammy.


She drives a school bus for the district, but she’s not just a regular school bus driver. She substitutes for all the bus routes in the Cy-Fair district (one of the largest in Texas) wherever she’s needed.


I can’t imagine how difficult that must be to drive a different group of kids every day, on a different school bus, in city traffic, with your back turned to them. That takes a special skill set!


Tammy is amazing! I was inspired by her commitment and her kindness. I asked her how she handles working with so many different kids while navigating unfamiliar routes.


I’m paraphrasing what Tammy said…and then adding a few of my thoughts too. She shared great advice and encouragement!


1. “They can tell I enjoy them and love them. And that makes all the difference.”


When kids know you care about them and accept them, you’ll bring out the best in them. The quickest way to change another person’s behavior is to change your behavior towards them. Every kid wants to feel like they are easy to love.


2. “When I ask them to do something, I address them as sir or m’am. And when they follow through, I say thank you.”


Kids are going to make mistakes. But if you make it a point to enjoy being with them, and treat them with great respect and care, there is almost no mistake you can’t correct. They’ll be far more open to your feedback when they feel that you have the highest respect for them.


3. “When those middle school students realize they can’t get under my skin, I have them right where I want them.”


The kids are going to test you and see how you respond. If it’s with anger or frustration, the situation is likely to escalate. If you are firm, polite, and also calm and caring, you’ll get a much better result. Let them know you’re in their corner even when you’re correcting them.


4. “I keep doing this because they need me.”


Tammy explained she had thought about retiring, but I could tell she also felt great satisfaction and purpose in what she’s doing. She sees purpose and contribution in what she does. She’s making things better with each interaction she has.


5. “I can tell you put your heart and soul into what you do.”


She said that to me. I was so honored and humbled. She gave me a big hug when she dropped me off at the airport. And I’m not even that much of a hugger. She encouraged me and affirmed me and added value to me.


Who makes the difference in your school?


Every person who works in a school makes a difference. Every person contributes to the culture of the school. 


What if everyone in your school gave as generously as Tammy to love and support the kids and the adults in the school? What if we all showed a little more care and appreciation for every person in every interaction? That’s how you build a strong school culture.


Who is someone who inspires you? How are you giving generously to others? Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter. I would love to hear from you.

Read More What You Do Matters





Earlier this month, Dave Burgess shared a great tweet of a slide from Amy Fast’s presentation at What Great Educators Do Differently in Houston.

“The most important work we do in schools is the emotional labor.” – @fastcrayon at #WGEDD #tlap pic.twitter.com/Doh0cGhXJh

— Dave Burgess (@burgessdave) April 2, 2019

It’s true. It’s so important to do the emotional work, your emotional work to connect and care and empathize, because it influences the emotions of everyone around you. It influences others. 

How important are emotions? Emotions are “energy in motion.” Our emotions are always moving us toward something or away from something. We don’t always have to choose to follow those emotions, but they are powerful. Just understand that when a student or colleague is stuck in a performance rut, there is nearly always an emotional component to that.



Most people want to succeed and do well, right? They didn’t wake up in the morning wanting to fail. But sometimes they lose their way. At some point, their thoughts, beliefs, or feelings start getting in the way. Their words and actions are impacted. They allow the obstacles to weigh them down or stall their progress.

We need to create positive emotions in our classrooms and in our schools toward each other, toward learning, and toward making a difference. We need to support each other and believe in each other and never give up on each other. A positive learning environment is a positive emotional environment.



How often are there moments in your school that bring great joy, hope, and purpose? Those moments help create a heightened state of emotion. A peak state of emotion leads to a greater sense of motivation.



Think about it…

When you are laughing, smiling, encouraging, connecting, complimenting, progressing, and succeeding, you will have more energy, enthusiasm, effort, excitement, enjoyment, engagement and more. 



And conversely…

When you are frowning, criticizing, isolating, blaming, or complaining, you’ll reap what you sow with that too. You’ll have less energy. You’ll be more tired. You’ll be less likely to take a risk or do something great.



If you want to increase learning and performance, create an environment that provides for positive emotional support and growth. Create a positive environment. Create an uplifting environment, a fun environment. Bring your best energy.

Be intentional to create opportunities for students and colleagues to have more positive emotions. When the emotional environment improves, everyone has a better chance to change and grow and experience more powerful learning and connection.



What are ways you create an positive emotional environment in your classroom or school?



How do you set the tone each day for connection and care?



What behaviors need to be addressed that are damaging the emotional environment?



I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter. Thanks for all you do to bring your positive vibes each and every day!

Read More The Importance of Emotions in Learning

This is a follow up to a commitment made on my blog post, “Default Setting or Mindful and Intentional?“ Let me know if you like the vlog or if I should just stick to blogging. Challenge yourself to create at least one attainable healthy living goal, make it public, and let me know how you […]

Read More My healthy living goals vlog for my blog.



How do you respond when students don’t exhibit the behaviors you would like to see? Do you tell students they need to change? Do you lecture them about responsibility or respect? Do you complain to your colleagues about kids these days? Do you punish or reward?



How effective are those options? Telling doesn’t work. Lectures create distance. Complaining doesn’t empower anyone. And rewards and punishments mostly work only to get compliance and not to build better better behavioral skills.



But what would be an effective response to harmful behaviors? 



What can educators do to better address non-learning behaviors? 



Teaching behavior is better than just punishing behavior.



Teach the students the new behaviors you want to see.



If they aren’t organized, teach them how to be organized.



If they aren’t respectful, teach them about respect and how to show it.



If they aren’t responsible, teach them new skills to show responsibility.



If they are distracted, teach them how to focus.



Break down any behavior into specific skills and teach your students the steps to successfully exhibit the behaviors.



How to Teach Behavior



1. Know your own expectations for your students. Have a vision for exactly what you expect. Know exactly what you want to see.



2. Communicate your expectations clearly. Be very specific. Over communicate. Explain why the behavior is important. Use stories and examples to make it clear.



3. Build relationships. Students will always learn behavior lessons better from someone that’s trusted and connected.



4. Discuss unwanted behaviors with your students. Don’t tell. Ask questions. Listen. Understand.



5. Give students feedback on how they’re doing. Correct them. Direct them. But most of all, encourage them.



6. Facilitate reflection with your students. Ask them to think about their own behavior and how they are learning and growing. Track progress.



7. Offer a fresh start each day. Don’t bring up previous mistakes except as a teaching opportunity but never to shame or gain the upper hand. Be patient.



8. Always protect the dignity of each child. Don’t lose your cool and say something harmful. Don’t use shame or guilt to motivate. 



How would you treat him/her if his/her grandmother were watching?



9. Review. It’s always good to circle back around to important lessons about expectations and how things are going.



What if I don’t have time to teach behavior?



Better question: What if you DON’T take the time to teach behavior? If you don’t teach the behaviors you want to see, you’ll spend much more time correcting issues that might have been prevented. Make sure your expectations are clear.



When you are intentional about teaching the behaviors you want to see, you are being proactive instead of reactive. You don’t just wait until there is a problem. Try to see things from the student’s perspective and anticipate what reminders they might need.



What do you do to be proactive about teaching behaviors in your classroom? Share your strategies by leaving a comment below or responding on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More The Importance of Teaching the Behaviors You Want to See



How do you respond when students don’t exhibit the behaviors you would like to see? Do you tell students they need to change? Do you lecture them about responsibility or respect? Do you complain to your colleagues about kids these days? Do you punish or reward?



How effective are those options? Telling doesn’t work. Lectures create distance. Complaining doesn’t empower anyone. And rewards and punishments mostly work only to get compliance and not to build better better behavioral skills.



But what would be an effective response to harmful behaviors? 



What can educators do to better address non-learning behaviors? 



Teaching behavior is better than just punishing behavior.



Teach the students the new behaviors you want to see.



If they aren’t organized, teach them how to be organized.



If they aren’t respectful, teach them about respect and how to show it.



If they aren’t responsible, teach them new skills to show responsibility.



If they are distracted, teach them how to focus.



Break down any behavior into specific skills and teach your students the steps to successfully exhibit the behaviors.



How to Teach Behavior



1. Know your own expectations for your students. Have a vision for exactly what you expect. Know exactly what you want to see.



2. Communicate your expectations clearly. Be very specific. Over communicate. Explain why the behavior is important. Use stories and examples to make it clear.



3. Build relationships. Students will always learn behavior lessons better from someone that’s trusted and connected.



4. Discuss unwanted behaviors with your students. Don’t tell. Ask questions. Listen. Understand.



5. Give students feedback on how they’re doing. Correct them. Direct them. But most of all, encourage them.



6. Facilitate reflection with your students. Ask them to think about their own behavior and how they are learning and growing. Track progress.



7. Offer a fresh start each day. Don’t bring up previous mistakes except as a teaching opportunity but never to shame or gain the upper hand. Be patient.



8. Always protect the dignity of each child. Don’t lose your cool and say something harmful. Don’t use shame or guilt to motivate. 



How would you treat him/her if his/her grandmother were watching?



9. Review. It’s always good to circle back around to important lessons about expectations and how things are going.



What if I don’t have time to teach behavior?



Better question: What if you DON’T take the time to teach behavior? If you don’t teach the behaviors you want to see, you’ll spend much more time correcting issues that might have been prevented. Make sure your expectations are clear.



When you are intentional about teaching the behaviors you want to see, you are being proactive instead of reactive. You don’t just wait until there is a problem. Try to see things from the student’s perspective and anticipate what reminders they might need.



What do you do to be proactive about teaching behaviors in your classroom? Share your strategies by leaving a comment below or responding on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More The Importance of Teaching the Behaviors You Want to See

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

Read More Created Entirely By Students



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