Tag: Influence



The days of summer will soon give way to the start of a new school year. For teachers, the end of summer can be met with mixed emotions. Even the most passionate educators can be reluctant to give up the freedom and flexibility of summer break. But it’s also a great time to get excited about the possibilities that lay ahead. It’s GO-TIME!!!



As you gear up for back-to-school, here are seven reasons to be enthusiastic about the new school year.





1. Making New Friends



One of the most exciting things about the start of a new school year is the chance to meet new people and welcome them into your school. It’s a privilege to get to know new staff members and students. And it’s a great opportunity to share with them all the things that make your school great. It’s also a great opportunity to find ways they can contribute to making your school even stronger.



Remember that being new can be terrifying. Offer your support. Be sure to send the message loud and clear to everyone new to your school, “We’re glad you’re here.”



2. Reconnecting with Old Friends



I also look forward to seeing everyone who is returning. Over the years, we build increasingly strong bonds with the people we work with. It’s great to hear about their exciting adventures of summer and begin to share in the daily life of school again. I can’t wait to see all the smiles and feel the energy as we come together again to help kids.



Keep in mind that returning to school can be especially difficult in certain seasons of life. I am always reminded that a word of encouragement or act of kindness can go a long way to making the new school year better for someone going through a difficult time.



3. Making a Difference 



For some students, summer hasn’t been that great. They’ve had struggles, turmoil, maybe even hunger. Returning to school won’t solve all their problems, but it will provide a chance for educators to make a difference. No matter what their summer was like, your students are counting on you now. They need to know how much you care. They need you to love them, listen to them, and to never give up on them.



Your work as a teacher makes a difference in the lives of young people. That’s a great reason to get excited about the start of the school year! 



4. Fulfilling Your Purpose



It’s great to enjoy the wonderful time away from school during summer break. Good teaching is demanding in so many ways. We need time to recharge. But there is something about doing what you are meant to do, even when it’s hard. The start of the school year is a great time to reflect on why you started in the first place. Why did you become a teacher? How will you make a positive impact this year?



When you have passion and purpose for your students and your teaching, you won’t have too much trouble being excited for the new school year.



5. New Beginnings



When I reflect on a previous school year, there are always things I wish had gone differently. I see areas I need to improve, and things I want to change. The start of the school year is a brand new thing. It’s a fresh start.



There’s something about the cyclical nature of school that lends itself to making adjustments based on last year to continue to make things better for learning. But the key is to reflect and set goals during the summer, so that you’re ready to adjust and adapt this year.  



6. New Opportunities to Grow



Positive people grow. Happy people grow. Healthy people grow. The new school year will not doubt present challenges that will help us grow if we choose to allow growth to happen. I believe growth is an essential part of being fulfilled in our lives. We can’t stay the same or even have stagnant growth and expect to have a healthy and happy life. And for certain, we won’t make much of an impact on others if we aren’t willing to grow.



I know some people dread the start of school because they feel that they are going to face challenges that are really difficult for them. Some struggle more with difficult students. Some struggle to keep up with paperwork or grading. Clearly, some struggle to get through the school day more than others. I think most of that is related to attitude.



If we welcome the challenges and view them as a way to grow, it changes everything. If we invite hard things into our lives, it makes us stronger. Rarely do I see an unhappy teacher who also regularly takes on new challenges. Usually, the most unhappy people in your school are the ones who are most protective of their time and their comfort.



So I think a GREAT reason to get excited about a new school year is that it’s a GREAT opportunity to grow. What would your school be like if every educator had a growth mindset?



7. Believe in Amazing Possibilities



I’m excited about the new school year because I believe this will be the best school year ever. I’m excited about the work our school is doing. I believe we are moving in a positive direction. I see a tipping point happening, where we will see learners empowered in ways we’ve envisioned. 



Your classroom has amazing possibilities too. Students will learn more about who they are. They will learn and grow and become more confident and independent learners. Commit yourself to the idea that great things are going to happen this year. Focus on the positive. Who knows what incredible things will happen this year in the life of your school?



Questions: What gets you excited about a new school year? What are you anticipating? I would love to hear from you. Leave me a message below or respond on Twitter or Facebook. Here we grow!

Read More 7 Reasons for Teachers to Be Enthusiastic About a New School Year

“I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.” -Stephen Covey



Making good decisions is important for all us. Whether we are working with students, with parents, or even with colleagues, our decisions ultimately define our success. And the key to better decisions is better thinking. We must never make a key decision in haste. Instead, we should consider the problem from everyone’s perspective, collect advice, and ask ourselves the questions that will help us make the wise choice.



Our decisions can have a big impact on the school, learning, and ultimately our students. So it’s very important to make the best decision possible. Of course, I often make decisions and then come to realize later that with different information or a different perspective, I might have acted differently in the situation. When we make decisions we are doing the best we can with the information we have at the time.

That’s why it’s so important to ask tough questions to make sure the decision is the best one possible with the available knowledge. I want to think through my decisions and test my thinking with questions that help me clarify my values and ensure that I’m acting in a way that is congruent with my beliefs. I want my actions to line up with what I believe and what I profess to others.



These seven questions have helped me make better decisions. I’m sure there are others you could add to the list as well, but these are the ones that I keep going back to.

1. How can I help you? 



This first question is the essence of servant leadership, the leadership approach that recognizes leadership is service and turns the old paradigm of leadership on its ear. Leadership is not about power over others, or being in charge. Instead, it is about helping followers be successful. It’s about helping others reach their goals. Robert Greenleaf coined the term servant leadership, and he described it as a type of leadership that strives to help followers be healthier, wiser, freer, and better able to be leaders themselves. Leadership does not just create followers who are dependent on the leader, but it creates new leaders who are able to extend their influence and become change agents.

So as I make decisions, I must always remember this question, “How can I help you?” This question begins with empathy, the ability to see things from another person’s viewpoint in a caring way. Sometimes I need to speak the words aloud and offer to help. Other times my actions and attitudes may demonstrate this mindset even if the words go unspoken. But my goal as a leader must always be to help those around me be the best they can be. If someone in my school needs anything I can help provide to be successful, my job as a leader is to try to move mountains to get it done.



“The secret to success is good leadership. And good leadership is about making the lives of your team members better.” -Tony Dungy.

2. Is this good enough for my own child? Would I want this for my own child? 



As a parent I will do just about anything to support the success of one of my kids. I want them to have the best opportunities possible. I want them to have the best teachers, and I want them to have experiences in school that cultivate a love of learning and lead them to find who they are as people and as learners.

As I consider situations in my school against this high standard, there are times when I realize we’re not quite there yet. There are things that need to improve to best meet the needs of students. I guess there will always be areas to improve, but I don’t find this discouraging. Instead, I find it exciting to know that we can create better opportunities and continue to grow so that every student finds optimal success.

I will share that this question has helped me to find clarity on tough decisions in the past. When there are times the task may seem too big or the obstacles insurmountable, asking this question has helped me stay focused. I’ve also used it with others in my school to help frame a situation on a personal level. Parents don’t want excuses about why something can’t be done, they want heroic action that overcomes any hindrances and ensures that their student is receiving the best.

3. Will this decision preserve or attack the dignity of a child? 



Our words are very powerful and can do great good or great harm. By considering this question, it helps me focus on the humanity of a child in each situation. We must always strive to build up and not tear down. We must treat others with dignity and respect. As Todd Whitaker writes, great teachers and principals treat every student like they are good. We must presume positive intentions and come alongside students to help them succeed. 



There is never a place in a positive school for cutting sarcasm, public humiliation, or harsh treatment of a student. Even the best teacher will occasionally make a mistake in how they treat a student, but we should work quickly to restore any break in the relationship. When everyone in a school makes decisions that consistently preserve dignity and respect, the culture will be one of mutual cooperation and shared success. I explored this topic in greater depth in a previous post.

4. As I make this decision, what am I ultimately hoping to achieve? 



Part of effective decision-making is the ability understand how decisions are going to impact the goals of the individual or organization. I may be justified and have good reasoning for a decision, but if it is going to ultimately hinder the mission of our team, maybe I need to reconsider my decision. There is great finesse and wisdom in knowing how to help others be successful. Sometimes it means overlooking things that might be personal pet-peeves of the leader.

As we make decisions, we should always consider the purpose of the decision and if a particular action will lead to the purpose being accomplished. We should also consider if the decision will do any harm beyond the main purpose. Many schools have implemented policies to try to fix a specific problem, but have unwittingly harmed culture or created distrust. You must consider if the purpose is large enough or is there a higher purpose that might be jeopardized in this decision? Effective leaders see the big-picture.



5. How does this decision impact learning in our school? 



Some decisions or situations may not affect learning greatly or at all. If this is the case, why make these decisions important in your school? We spent too long trying to solve the issue of whether students should be allowed to wear hats in our building or not. Ultimately, most everyone agreed it really didn’t affect learning so why make an issue of it. Other decisions, however, greatly impact learning. We need to have tough discussions about our schedule, course offerings, assignments, and grading. Are we making decisions based on what’s best for learning or what’s convenient for adults?



I would add one other part to this question. Does the decision have the potential to transform learning in this classroom or school? I think we spend too much time trying to incrementally improve the same stuff we’ve always been doing. We should all be thinking about how we can do things that could be a complete game-changer for our students. We need to think big!

6. If you had no fear, what would you do? 



Sometimes change can be frightening even if we truly believe change is necessary. Fear causes us to hesitate, to think small, and to avoid difficult conversations. We are all governed by fear to one degree or another, but nothing great was ever accomplished without risk and a possibility of failure. We must practice taking risks in small ways and build confidence in our risk-taking to reach for our really big dreams. If a decision is good for students and will improve learning, what are you waiting for? If you had no fear, what would you do?

7. In any situation, how will the best people respond to this decision? 



There will almost always be critics of any significant or meaningful decision. We cannot please everyone. What’s right is not always popular and what’s popular is not always right. But in any situation, we should consider what the best people will think. If my very best teachers will not support a decision, then perhaps I need to consider why I feel this is the best decision in the first place. If the best teachers are unable to support a decision, then maybe I need to go back to #4. What exactly do I hope to achieve if even the best people in the building are not on board? Conversely, how often do we delay or lower our expectations because of the worst people in the building (students or teachers)? We shouldn’t aim lower or expect less because a few people seem to find a problem for every solution. If the best people are supportive, then even in the face of some criticism, a school can successfully move forward.



Question: What other questions would you include to guide effective leadership decisions? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.



This is an update from a previous post published here in April 2014. 

Read More 7 Questions To Guide Decisions Of School Leaders

“I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.” -Stephen Covey



Making good decisions is important for all us. Whether we are working with students, with parents, or even with colleagues, our decisions ultimately define our success. And the key to better decisions is better thinking. We must never make a key decision in haste. Instead, we should consider the problem from everyone’s perspective, collect advice, and ask ourselves the questions that will help us make the wise choice.



Our decisions can have a big impact on the school, learning, and ultimately our students. So it’s very important to make the best decision possible. Of course, I often make decisions and then come to realize later that with different information or a different perspective, I might have acted differently in the situation. When we make decisions we are doing the best we can with the information we have at the time.

That’s why it’s so important to ask tough questions to make sure the decision is the best one possible with the available knowledge. I want to think through my decisions and test my thinking with questions that help me clarify my values and ensure that I’m acting in a way that is congruent with my beliefs. I want my actions to line up with what I believe and what I profess to others.



These seven questions have helped me make better decisions. I’m sure there are others you could add to the list as well, but these are the ones that I keep going back to.

1. How can I help you? 



This first question is the essence of servant leadership, the leadership approach that recognizes leadership is service and turns the old paradigm of leadership on its ear. Leadership is not about power over others, or being in charge. Instead, it is about helping followers be successful. It’s about helping others reach their goals. Robert Greenleaf coined the term servant leadership, and he described it as a type of leadership that strives to help followers be healthier, wiser, freer, and better able to be leaders themselves. Leadership does not just create followers who are dependent on the leader, but it creates new leaders who are able to extend their influence and become change agents.

So as I make decisions, I must always remember this question, “How can I help you?” This question begins with empathy, the ability to see things from another person’s viewpoint in a caring way. Sometimes I need to speak the words aloud and offer to help. Other times my actions and attitudes may demonstrate this mindset even if the words go unspoken. But my goal as a leader must always be to help those around me be the best they can be. If someone in my school needs anything I can help provide to be successful, my job as a leader is to try to move mountains to get it done.



“The secret to success is good leadership. And good leadership is about making the lives of your team members better.” -Tony Dungy.

2. Is this good enough for my own child? Would I want this for my own child? 



As a parent I will do just about anything to support the success of one of my kids. I want them to have the best opportunities possible. I want them to have the best teachers, and I want them to have experiences in school that cultivate a love of learning and lead them to find who they are as people and as learners.

As I consider situations in my school against this high standard, there are times when I realize we’re not quite there yet. There are things that need to improve to best meet the needs of students. I guess there will always be areas to improve, but I don’t find this discouraging. Instead, I find it exciting to know that we can create better opportunities and continue to grow so that every student finds optimal success.

I will share that this question has helped me to find clarity on tough decisions in the past. When there are times the task may seem too big or the obstacles insurmountable, asking this question has helped me stay focused. I’ve also used it with others in my school to help frame a situation on a personal level. Parents don’t want excuses about why something can’t be done, they want heroic action that overcomes any hindrances and ensures that their student is receiving the best.

3. Will this decision preserve or attack the dignity of a child? 



Our words are very powerful and can do great good or great harm. By considering this question, it helps me focus on the humanity of a child in each situation. We must always strive to build up and not tear down. We must treat others with dignity and respect. As Todd Whitaker writes, great teachers and principals treat every student like they are good. We must presume positive intentions and come alongside students to help them succeed. 



There is never a place in a positive school for cutting sarcasm, public humiliation, or harsh treatment of a student. Even the best teacher will occasionally make a mistake in how they treat a student, but we should work quickly to restore any break in the relationship. When everyone in a school makes decisions that consistently preserve dignity and respect, the culture will be one of mutual cooperation and shared success. I explored this topic in greater depth in a previous post.

4. As I make this decision, what am I ultimately hoping to achieve? 



Part of effective decision-making is the ability understand how decisions are going to impact the goals of the individual or organization. I may be justified and have good reasoning for a decision, but if it is going to ultimately hinder the mission of our team, maybe I need to reconsider my decision. There is great finesse and wisdom in knowing how to help others be successful. Sometimes it means overlooking things that might be personal pet-peeves of the leader.

As we make decisions, we should always consider the purpose of the decision and if a particular action will lead to the purpose being accomplished. We should also consider if the decision will do any harm beyond the main purpose. Many schools have implemented policies to try to fix a specific problem, but have unwittingly harmed culture or created distrust. You must consider if the purpose is large enough or is there a higher purpose that might be jeopardized in this decision? Effective leaders see the big-picture.



5. How does this decision impact learning in our school? 



Some decisions or situations may not affect learning greatly or at all. If this is the case, why make these decisions important in your school? We spent too long trying to solve the issue of whether students should be allowed to wear hats in our building or not. Ultimately, most everyone agreed it really didn’t affect learning so why make an issue of it. Other decisions, however, greatly impact learning. We need to have tough discussions about our schedule, course offerings, assignments, and grading. Are we making decisions based on what’s best for learning or what’s convenient for adults?



I would add one other part to this question. Does the decision have the potential to transform learning in this classroom or school? I think we spend too much time trying to incrementally improve the same stuff we’ve always been doing. We should all be thinking about how we can do things that could be a complete game-changer for our students. We need to think big!

6. If you had no fear, what would you do? 



Sometimes change can be frightening even if we truly believe change is necessary. Fear causes us to hesitate, to think small, and to avoid difficult conversations. We are all governed by fear to one degree or another, but nothing great was ever accomplished without risk and a possibility of failure. We must practice taking risks in small ways and build confidence in our risk-taking to reach for our really big dreams. If a decision is good for students and will improve learning, what are you waiting for? If you had no fear, what would you do?

7. In any situation, how will the best people respond to this decision? 



There will almost always be critics of any significant or meaningful decision. We cannot please everyone. What’s right is not always popular and what’s popular is not always right. But in any situation, we should consider what the best people will think. If my very best teachers will not support a decision, then perhaps I need to consider why I feel this is the best decision in the first place. If the best teachers are unable to support a decision, then maybe I need to go back to #4. What exactly do I hope to achieve if even the best people in the building are not on board? Conversely, how often do we delay or lower our expectations because of the worst people in the building (students or teachers)? We shouldn’t aim lower or expect less because a few people seem to find a problem for every solution. If the best people are supportive, then even in the face of some criticism, a school can successfully move forward.



Question: What other questions would you include to guide effective leadership decisions? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.



This is an update from a previous post published here in April 2014. 

Read More 7 Questions To Guide Decisions Of School Leaders



It’s been a couple of years now since I started blogging here. Starting a blog is not really the hard part. Continuing to blog is what’s tough. To be successful, you must constantly remind yourself why you started in the first place. And I think for many people, they don’t really have a clear vision of why they are blogging.



It seems to be the thing to do. It starts with Twitter. You feel the excitement and support of being connected to other educators. You really start to think about things in new ways. Ideas are flowing. Others in your network are sharing posts from their blogs. You get some encouragement, and you’re on your way.



But the newness wears off soon. It doesn’t seem like anyone notices what you write. You get discouraged or distracted and pretty soon your blog is a distant memory.



Years ago, I had more than one failed experience with blogging. They were failures in the sense that I didn’t continue to add new content, and I don’t think anyone ever read the content that was created. I had some vague notions of why I wanted to blog, but I didn’t have the commitment to continue.



Writing is hard work. And to create writing that is valuable to others is extra hard. I think many people view blogging like it’s a public journal. It’s a way to work through their thoughts. They write for personal reflection and self-expression, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.



However, your audience will demand more. If people are going to read what you write, it needs to be valuable to them. As educators, we face many of the same challenges. So you have valuable things to share from your knowledge and experience. When you are able to share something that is helpful to another teacher or principal, that is powerful. Together, we can solve more problems, offer much needed encouragement, and challenge one another’s thinking.



It’s also helpful when you make learning in your classroom or school more visible to your community. There are amazing things happening that deserve to be noticed. It’s not self-promotion, either. I know you don’t want to come across as bragging. But bragging on your students and promoting learning is part of what we do as educators. We need to sell learning.



So even though personal reflection and self-expression are valid reasons to blog, it’s important for the ideas we share to be received. Someone needs to see them. If you don’t see growth in your audience or at least consistent response from your audience, it’s tough to stay motivated.



Blogging is ultimately about the audience. It’s not about how big the audience is, but it is about how you bring value to the audience, whatever the size, through what you share. The sense of audience is one of the reasons blogging is so helpful for personal and professional growth. It forces you to really clarify your ideas and how they might be beneficial. You want your writing to be relevant and helpful to your readers. 



I realize this is vulnerable turf I’m treading. It’s really scary to publish something you really believe in and to have the response be underwhelming. It happens to me all the time. I can never predict how an idea will be received. It requires the willingness to take the risk and put yourself out there. I often read over a post later and find mistakes and wonder why I thought that was a good idea in the first place. Not everything you share will turn out the way you’d hoped.



The important thing is that you are sharing. You should be proud of that. It’s really a shame when outstanding educators don’t share what they do with others. I’ve known some amazing teachers who really didn’t share their work with anyone, even in their own school. They were completely focused on their students and their classroom and didn’t seek to have an impact beyond that circle.



But other teachers do amazing work in the classroom, and then have tremendous influence as leaders in the whole school, and even make an impact beyond their school. Blogging is one way to do that. You can share your journey with others in ways that make an impact on your profession. You can contribute to making education better for all of us.



You may feel like you have nothing to contribute. You are selling yourself way too short. Everyone…and I mean everyone…has knowledge and wisdom that is valuable to share. I am reminded of the Bill Nye quote, “Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.” Your thoughts matter and can help your audience succeed! You have incredible experiences, talents, and perspectives to contribute!



Blogging is about better thinking. When I am working on a blog post, it really pushes my thinking. I have to consider if my ideas make sense, will they be helpful, are they worth sharing? I spend time thinking about the ideas I want to share in my blog. When I have an idea that I want to write about, I make some notes about it. I get inspiration for posts from reading books and blogs, from interacting on Twitter, and when I’m just going about my day. I never know when something will trigger a thought or idea.



There is a creative process in all of this that is valuable to me. It requires my sustained thought. I am always harping on my own kids about creating vs. consuming. I don’t want them to constantly be consuming YouTube, Netflix, Instagram, etc. and never creating anything. I have to walk the walk if I’m going to expect this from them. 



I guess in a way I’ve always viewed myself as a writer, but for years I was writing very little. As educators, we all know how important literacy is. If our subject matter is important enough to learn, it is worth writing about too. If our classrooms and schools really matter, aren’t they important enough to write about? We need to model this for our students. Find your identity as a writer. How many teachers and administrators are not writing anything, ever? I wrote a post earlier about how important it is for educators to be readers, but they should be writers too. In fact, I think we should be writing alongside our students as they write too. 



I cannot imagine giving up on blogging again. I’ve found it to be incredibly valuable. And I really look forward to the day when I can look back over a period of 5 or 10 years or longer and see how my thinking has changed over time. Because I should be able to trace my own growth in a way that I couldn’t before.



I recently heard Pernille Ripp speak at the Model Schools Conference in Orlando. It was a thrill for me to introduce myself after her presentation. Pernille is one of my favorite bloggers. She is truly authentic and transparent in sharing her work as a 7th grade English teacher. She doesn’t come across as a person who has it all figured out (even though she is brilliant), but she generously shares the work she is doing in her classroom. She has created tremendous value for her audience. I observed other educators greeting her with stories of her impact. It’s amazing what can happen when you decide to share.



If you are considering blogging, summer is a great time to start. You can write some posts and also plan for some later posts you might want to explore when you have a classroom full of kids again. Pernille is constantly sharing what her students have to say about learning. She uses her blog to give them voice. If you are thinking about blogging, I would urge you to visit her blog. I’m sure you’ll find it inspiring.



I would also like to hear from you. How can I help you on your blogging journey? What’s standing in your way? What passions can you share through your blog? Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More Why Blogging Isn’t What You Think It Is



It’s been a couple of years now since I started blogging here. Starting a blog is not really the hard part. Continuing to blog is what’s tough. To be successful, you must constantly remind yourself why you started in the first place. And I think for many people, they don’t really have a clear vision of why they are blogging.



It seems to be the thing to do. It starts with Twitter. You feel the excitement and support of being connected to other educators. You really start to think about things in new ways. Ideas are flowing. Others in your network are sharing posts from their blogs. You get some encouragement, and you’re on your way.



But the newness wears off soon. It doesn’t seem like anyone notices what you write. You get discouraged or distracted and pretty soon your blog is a distant memory.



Years ago, I had more than one failed experience with blogging. They were failures in the sense that I didn’t continue to add new content, and I don’t think anyone ever read the content that was created. I had some vague notions of why I wanted to blog, but I didn’t have the commitment to continue.



Writing is hard work. And to create writing that is valuable to others is extra hard. I think many people view blogging like it’s a public journal. It’s a way to work through their thoughts. They write for personal reflection and self-expression, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.



However, your audience will demand more. If people are going to read what you write, it needs to be valuable to them. As educators, we face many of the same challenges. So you have valuable things to share from your knowledge and experience. When you are able to share something that is helpful to another teacher or principal, that is powerful. Together, we can solve more problems, offer much needed encouragement, and challenge one another’s thinking.



It’s also helpful when you make learning in your classroom or school more visible to your community. There are amazing things happening that deserve to be noticed. It’s not self-promotion, either. I know you don’t want to come across as bragging. But bragging on your students and promoting learning is part of what we do as educators. We need to sell learning.



So even though personal reflection and self-expression are valid reasons to blog, it’s important for the ideas we share to be received. Someone needs to see them. If you don’t see growth in your audience or at least consistent response from your audience, it’s tough to stay motivated.



Blogging is ultimately about the audience. It’s not about how big the audience is, but it is about how you bring value to the audience, whatever the size, through what you share. The sense of audience is one of the reasons blogging is so helpful for personal and professional growth. It forces you to really clarify your ideas and how they might be beneficial. You want your writing to be relevant and helpful to your readers. 



I realize this is vulnerable turf I’m treading. It’s really scary to publish something you really believe in and to have the response be underwhelming. It happens to me all the time. I can never predict how an idea will be received. It requires the willingness to take the risk and put yourself out there. I often read over a post later and find mistakes and wonder why I thought that was a good idea in the first place. Not everything you share will turn out the way you’d hoped.



The important thing is that you are sharing. You should be proud of that. It’s really a shame when outstanding educators don’t share what they do with others. I’ve known some amazing teachers who really didn’t share their work with anyone, even in their own school. They were completely focused on their students and their classroom and didn’t seek to have an impact beyond that circle.



But other teachers do amazing work in the classroom, and then have tremendous influence as leaders in the whole school, and even make an impact beyond their school. Blogging is one way to do that. You can share your journey with others in ways that make an impact on your profession. You can contribute to making education better for all of us.



You may feel like you have nothing to contribute. You are selling yourself way too short. Everyone…and I mean everyone…has knowledge and wisdom that is valuable to share. I am reminded of the Bill Nye quote, “Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.” Your thoughts matter and can help your audience succeed! You have incredible experiences, talents, and perspectives to contribute!



Blogging is about better thinking. When I am working on a blog post, it really pushes my thinking. I have to consider if my ideas make sense, will they be helpful, are they worth sharing? I spend time thinking about the ideas I want to share in my blog. When I have an idea that I want to write about, I make some notes about it. I get inspiration for posts from reading books and blogs, from interacting on Twitter, and when I’m just going about my day. I never know when something will trigger a thought or idea.



There is a creative process in all of this that is valuable to me. It requires my sustained thought. I am always harping on my own kids about creating vs. consuming. I don’t want them to constantly be consuming YouTube, Netflix, Instagram, etc. and never creating anything. I have to walk the walk if I’m going to expect this from them. 



I guess in a way I’ve always viewed myself as a writer, but for years I was writing very little. As educators, we all know how important literacy is. If our subject matter is important enough to learn, it is worth writing about too. If our classrooms and schools really matter, aren’t they important enough to write about? We need to model this for our students. Find your identity as a writer. How many teachers and administrators are not writing anything, ever? I wrote a post earlier about how important it is for educators to be readers, but they should be writers too. In fact, I think we should be writing alongside our students as they write too. 



I cannot imagine giving up on blogging again. I’ve found it to be incredibly valuable. And I really look forward to the day when I can look back over a period of 5 or 10 years or longer and see how my thinking has changed over time. Because I should be able to trace my own growth in a way that I couldn’t before.



I recently heard Pernille Ripp speak at the Model Schools Conference in Orlando. It was a thrill for me to introduce myself after her presentation. Pernille is one of my favorite bloggers. She is truly authentic and transparent in sharing her work as a 7th grade English teacher. She doesn’t come across as a person who has it all figured out (even though she is brilliant), but she generously shares the work she is doing in her classroom. She has created tremendous value for her audience. I observed other educators greeting her with stories of her impact. It’s amazing what can happen when you decide to share.



If you are considering blogging, summer is a great time to start. You can write some posts and also plan for some later posts you might want to explore when you have a classroom full of kids again. Pernille is constantly sharing what her students have to say about learning. She uses her blog to give them voice. If you are thinking about blogging, I would urge you to visit her blog. I’m sure you’ll find it inspiring.



I would also like to hear from you. How can I help you on your blogging journey? What’s standing in your way? What passions can you share through your blog? Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More Why Blogging Isn’t What You Think It Is

Elevator selfie while waiting for rescue!

Sunday we held our Commencement ceremony for 205 Bolivar Liberator graduates. It was a great day, and I’m so thankful for all the teamwork that makes an event like this a success. I am truly surrounded by rock stars!



It was an extra special graduation day for me. My son Cooper received his diploma. I had the great honor of presenting it to him. He plans to attend Southwest Baptist University next year to study computer science. I’m a proud dad!


You might notice in the picture I am wearing an abundance of beads and Hawaiian leis. The graduating class usually gets me a little gift that each person hands me as they make their way to receive the diploma. This year I was all decked out.



During this year’s Senior Trip to NYC and Washington, DC, there was some unexpected excitement. A group of us were stuck in an elevator for 45 minutes. It was the inspiration for my message to this year’s class:



It’s customary for graduation speakers to bestow some parting wisdom on the graduating class. I would like to do that today so I created a short list: 5 Life-Changing Lessons from Being Stuck on an Elevator…in New York City…on Senior Trip.



1. Keep Good Company



Surround yourself with people who lift you up and inspire you. You don’t want to be stuck on a hot, crowded elevator with negative people. You want people who believe rescue is possible and who can smile and face adversity with a good attitude, people who suggest things like ordering out a pizza or taking a selfie.



2. Be Problem Solvers



Work the problem. You start pushing various buttons on the panel, you bang on the door, you use the intercom to call for help. 



“We’re stuck in the elevator?” 



“Okay, we can help.”



“How many are in there?” 



“14” 



“Seriously, how many?”



Sheepishly, “Really, there’s 14 people in here.” 



But you don’t give up. You collaborate with your team to suggest ideas, “Maybe we could crawl out the ceiling, like in Die Hard?” 



For the record, I vetoed that idea. Or if you can’t solve the problem, you bring along expert help, like the New York City Fire Department.



3. Be Careful of Shortcuts



When you’re on the tenth floor and you’re tired and hungry you might be tempted to try to squeeze into a crowded, creaky elevator. But sometimes the easy way is not the best way. Give that extra effort. Take the stairs. Show a little more patience. Wait for the next elevator. When 12 high school students tell you there’s plenty of room, don’t listen!!!



4. Have Courage



Don’t let fear take over. Your mind starts racing, “What if no one hears our call for help? What if the cable breaks? What if we suffocate? What if we miss dinner? What if I need to go to the bathroom?” 



I was recently reading that Jesus’s most repeated command was to not be afraid. It’s mentioned over and over in the New Testament. There is a way to live a life of hope and faith where fear is not in control.



5. Make Plans but Be Willing to Adjust 



We like to try to plan life and have it work out just the way we want. We want things to go as expected. But then you get stuck in an elevator. That can be scary. But you have to adjust and keep believing in your dreams. Many of you have big plans for after high school. Some of you aren’t sure what you want yet. 



But I hope as a result of your time at BHS, you know yourself a little better, you’re a better problem-solver, and you can adapt to the challenges life throws at you. You may get stuck in an elevator now and then, but you can handle just about anything because you won’t give up.



And one bonus piece of advice – very important – use a high quality deodorant. If you’re ever stuck in an elevator, everyone will thank you.



Good luck and blessings to the Class of 2016!!! #ProudPrincipal

      

Read More 5 Life-Changing Lessons from Being Stuck on an Elevator…in New York City…on Senior Trip

Elevator selfie while waiting for rescue!

Sunday we held our Commencement ceremony for 205 Bolivar Liberator graduates. It was a great day, and I’m so thankful for all the teamwork that makes an event like this a success. I am truly surrounded by rock stars!



It was an extra special graduation day for me. My son Cooper received his diploma. I had the great honor of presenting it to him. He plans to attend Southwest Baptist University next year to study computer science. I’m a proud dad!


You might notice in the picture I am wearing an abundance of beads and Hawaiian leis. The graduating class usually gets me a little gift that each person hands me as they make their way to receive the diploma. This year I was all decked out.



During this year’s Senior Trip to NYC and Washington, DC, there was some unexpected excitement. A group of us were stuck in an elevator for 45 minutes. It was the inspiration for my message to this year’s class:



It’s customary for graduation speakers to bestow some parting wisdom on the graduating class. I would like to do that today so I created a short list: 5 Life-Changing Lessons from Being Stuck on an Elevator…in New York City…on Senior Trip.



1. Keep Good Company



Surround yourself with people who lift you up and inspire you. You don’t want to be stuck on a hot, crowded elevator with negative people. You want people who believe rescue is possible and who can smile and face adversity with a good attitude, people who suggest things like ordering out a pizza or taking a selfie.



2. Be Problem Solvers



Work the problem. You start pushing various buttons on the panel, you bang on the door, you use the intercom to call for help. 



“We’re stuck in the elevator?” 



“Okay, we can help.”



“How many are in there?” 



“14” 



“Seriously, how many?”



Sheepishly, “Really, there’s 14 people in here.” 



But you don’t give up. You collaborate with your team to suggest ideas, “Maybe we could crawl out the ceiling, like in Die Hard?” 



For the record, I vetoed that idea. Or if you can’t solve the problem, you bring along expert help, like the New York City Fire Department.



3. Be Careful of Shortcuts



When you’re on the tenth floor and you’re tired and hungry you might be tempted to try to squeeze into a crowded, creaky elevator. But sometimes the easy way is not the best way. Give that extra effort. Take the stairs. Show a little more patience. Wait for the next elevator. When 12 high school students tell you there’s plenty of room, don’t listen!!!



4. Have Courage



Don’t let fear take over. Your mind starts racing, “What if no one hears our call for help? What if the cable breaks? What if we suffocate? What if we miss dinner? What if I need to go to the bathroom?” 



I was recently reading that Jesus’s most repeated command was to not be afraid. It’s mentioned over and over in the New Testament. There is a way to live a life of hope and faith where fear is not in control.



5. Make Plans but Be Willing to Adjust 



We like to try to plan life and have it work out just the way we want. We want things to go as expected. But then you get stuck in an elevator. That can be scary. But you have to adjust and keep believing in your dreams. Many of you have big plans for after high school. Some of you aren’t sure what you want yet. 



But I hope as a result of your time at BHS, you know yourself a little better, you’re a better problem-solver, and you can adapt to the challenges life throws at you. You may get stuck in an elevator now and then, but you can handle just about anything because you won’t give up.



And one bonus piece of advice – very important – use a high quality deodorant. If you’re ever stuck in an elevator, everyone will thank you.



Good luck and blessings to the Class of 2016!!! #ProudPrincipal

      

Read More 5 Life-Changing Lessons from Being Stuck on an Elevator…in New York City…on Senior Trip

As a principal, I realize the best chance of sustainable, meaningful change only happens in our school with strong teacher leadership. Programs come and go. So do principals. But teachers are consistently in a position to create change and positively impact their classrooms and the entire school. 



We often think of teacher effectiveness as what happens with classroom instruction. And that is one very important part of how teachers lead and exert influence. But there are many other ways teachers can contribute to positive change.








Teacher leadership is not limited to a title or role, such as department head, instructional coach, etc. While it is great to have teachers in formal teacher-leader positions, it’s important to recognize that leadership is more about actions than defined roles and responsibilities. 










Leadership, in essence, is concerned with making the lives of your team members better and doing what is best for them in the long run. Here are 11 ways teacher leadership can drive change in your school.




1. If we want to empower students, we need to empower teachers. Students need greater voice and choice, so do teachers. Teachers are more likely to offer student-driven learning experiences if they have the same opportunities to drive their own experience.


2. Teachers understand the challenges and the opportunities. Too many ideas for education have been imposed from outside sources, sometimes originating from bureaucrats with little knowledge of a classroom. Teacher leaders know first-hand the complexities of learning, and how to develop solutions that work.



3. Teachers influence other teachers. When teachers take risks, it encourages others to take risks too. Change can be difficult, but with support from other teachers, it’s much easier.








4. Solutions developed by teachers are more likely to succeed. Why? Because if we believe in something, we will find a way to make it successful. Whether it is the best idea or not might not even matter. We’ll make it successful because we believe it is the best idea. 



5. The closer the goals are to the classroom the better. We get maximum results when students and teachers are developing goals together. 








6. Teacher leadership builds teamwork, trust, and shared ownership. When teachers lead, it creates greater interdependence. Team members play to their strengths and contribute in ways that make the whole greater than the sum of the parts.



7. Teachers are professionals and deserve to make professional decisions. Too many schools have a culture of permission, where teachers feel they must clear decisions they believe will be best for students. We need a culture of intention, not a culture of permission.



8. Leadership provides opportunities to grow. We cannot effectively explore our talents or potential without opportunities to lead. Using our talents to serve others is leadership. If we hope to create positive change, we have to be willing to grow and have the courage to challenge our own assumptions. We aren’t the school we used to be, but we’re not the school we want to be. 



9. Teacher leaders are culture builders. Nothing is more important in our schools than developing a strong culture. When teachers see themselves as leaders, they recognize how their voices matter to help set the tone for a caring, productive, learning-focused culture. Changing culture isn’t always easy to quantify, but it’s one of the most important things we can do. Every school should strive for a stronger culture.

10. Teacher leaders change lives. I’m constantly amazed at the ways teachers go above and beyond to make a difference in the lives of students and colleagues. Every time I see this type of commitment, I see leadership in action. Change happens in a school one person at a time.



Question: What are ways teacher leaders drive change in your school? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

      

Read More 10 Ways Teacher Leadership Drives Change

As a principal, I realize the best chance of sustainable, meaningful change only happens in our school with strong teacher leadership. Programs come and go. So do principals. But teachers are consistently in a position to create change and positively impact their classrooms and the entire school. 



We often think of teacher effectiveness as what happens with classroom instruction. And that is one very important part of how teachers lead and exert influence. But there are many other ways teachers can contribute to positive change.








Teacher leadership is not limited to a title or role, such as department head, instructional coach, etc. While it is great to have teachers in formal teacher-leader positions, it’s important to recognize that leadership is more about actions than defined roles and responsibilities. 










Leadership, in essence, is concerned with making the lives of your team members better and doing what is best for them in the long run. Here are 11 ways teacher leadership can drive change in your school.




1. If we want to empower students, we need to empower teachers. Students need greater voice and choice, so do teachers. Teachers are more likely to offer student-driven learning experiences if they have the same opportunities to drive their own experience.


2. Teachers understand the challenges and the opportunities. Too many ideas for education have been imposed from outside sources, sometimes originating from bureaucrats with little knowledge of a classroom. Teacher leaders know first-hand the complexities of learning, and how to develop solutions that work.



3. Teachers influence other teachers. When teachers take risks, it encourages others to take risks too. Change can be difficult, but with support from other teachers, it’s much easier.








4. Solutions developed by teachers are more likely to succeed. Why? Because if we believe in something, we will find a way to make it successful. Whether it is the best idea or not might not even matter. We’ll make it successful because we believe it is the best idea. 



5. The closer the goals are to the classroom the better. We get maximum results when students and teachers are developing goals together. 








6. Teacher leadership builds teamwork, trust, and shared ownership. When teachers lead, it creates greater interdependence. Team members play to their strengths and contribute in ways that make the whole greater than the sum of the parts.



7. Teachers are professionals and deserve to make professional decisions. Too many schools have a culture of permission, where teachers feel they must clear decisions they believe will be best for students. We need a culture of intention, not a culture of permission.



8. Leadership provides opportunities to grow. We cannot effectively explore our talents or potential without opportunities to lead. Using our talents to serve others is leadership. If we hope to create positive change, we have to be willing to grow and have the courage to challenge our own assumptions. We aren’t the school we used to be, but we’re not the school we want to be. 



9. Teacher leaders are culture builders. Nothing is more important in our schools than developing a strong culture. When teachers see themselves as leaders, they recognize how their voices matter to help set the tone for a caring, productive, learning-focused culture. Changing culture isn’t always easy to quantify, but it’s one of the most important things we can do. Every school should strive for a stronger culture.

10. Teacher leaders change lives. I’m constantly amazed at the ways teachers go above and beyond to make a difference in the lives of students and colleagues. Every time I see this type of commitment, I see leadership in action. Change happens in a school one person at a time.



Question: What are ways teacher leaders drive change in your school? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

      

Read More 10 Ways Teacher Leadership Drives Change