While visiting all of our schools’ retreats…

So today we had all of our schools’ retreats.  Hundreds of educators gathered in various locations to talk, work, laugh, share, and grow together. It was a spectacular day!  It’s impossible to pick a favorite moment overall.  Too many powerful and moving moments.  So I won’t even try! Thank you to all of our leaders for caring about each other, teachers, kids, and learning for the hard work it takes to build truly profound experiences.

Then, while waiting for one of our groups to return from lunch, I was looking at Twitter….and found this:

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Every time I return to this tweet…it goes up by a couple thousand likes.  I don’t know Andre, but am sure following her now.  Every so often an educator throws out such a profound truth, that other educators react like crazy.  Here’s a case in point.  43,000 likes when I took this screenshot.  Retreated over 8,000 times.  Why?  Because this simple, simple idea, can turn a classroom around instantly.  Forget fancy teaching classes and theories.

Do. This. 

Take a post-it, write these two things on it…then do them.  Instant better learning opportunities for your students or staff.  Full stop.  Period.

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All in all, a great day to be an educator!

How can I help?

At our recently completed leadership retreat, we had the chance to chat with Shelley Burgess and Beth Houf.  One of our questions to them was, “What are you reading?”  They both answered, Talk To Me, by Kim Bearden.  It’s absolutely fantastic and should be required reading for everyone.  Literally everyone.


Two ideas spring to mind.  Two stories.  So far, with this book as the catalyst.  Wait.  Three ideas.

One.  It’s sometimes better to be lucky than good.

Two. As a principal, when dealing with distressed parents, I used to close the door in my office, invite them to sit, then ask simply, “How can I help?”  Always asked that first.  I found this question, genuinely asked, was usually disarming and the last thing frazzled parents expected to hear.  And then we went on from there, usually with calm and success.  I accidentally was following part of Kim Bearden’s advice.

And three.  When people come by to see you, stop what you’re doing.  Look up.  Honestly engage.  Demonstrate that you are engaged in each person. This is a personal challenge for me.  Reminds me of my favorite coach, Ken Edmonds.  Whenever I see Coach Edmonds, to this day, he enthusiastically greets me like I’m a long lost friend, big smile, warm and vigorous handshake, “How are you doing Jeff?!  It’s great to see you again!”  Always makes me feel awesome!  I learned that from him and try to do the same.  Kim Bearden’s story along these lines is when she met Oprah Winfrey.  Yes.  The Oprah Winfrey.  Kim was hoping for a simple handshake.  Instead, Oprah turned to her, took both of her hands, looked into her eyes and asked about her.  Fully engaged.  The rest of the world disappeared.  Wow.

How can I help?  Give people your full attention.  Solid human being ideas.  Thank you to Kim Bearden and her fantastic book!

Culture eats strategy for lunch.

We are fortunate in our district that we can spend time, before the school year begins, with our building leaders in a retreat setting.  This summer was no exception.  However…this summer we had an especially exceptional retreat.

One of the things that made this retreat exceptional was the opportunity to directly talk with the authors of Lead Like A Pirate, Shelley Burgess and Beth Houf.  We had read their great book in advance, used activities and quotes from the book, and generated questions to pose to the authors.  They were kind enough to spend an hour, using Google Hangouts, to chat with us, and answer our questions. It was absolutely phenomenal!


One of the quotes from LLAP that guided our work at the retreat was, “Holding all-day meetings does not constitute a retreat.”  So we worked hard to make sure that wasn’t our story!

After the day’s work was done, our leaders had free time to do as they pleased.  What ended up being the activity of choice for the majority was to float a nearby river.  The temperature outside was easily in the mid-late 90s.  So sitting in an inner tube, floating down a river for a couple hours seemed not only logical, but a relief from the heat.

What we didn’t know was that this activity would turn out to be one of the highlights of the whole retreat.

4 of our 6 schools have new leadership teams.  1 of our 6 teams has exactly one year under its belt. We are bringing on board 3 brand new to our district leaders.  We are launching the careers of two brand new principals (high school and elementary).  When we designed the retreat, we bore this reality in mind, and wanted to manufacture opportunities for people to get to know each other and begin to grow together as a team of leaders.  Plopping down in an inner tube and floating a river was not a designed activity.

Turns out that is a great way for people just to chat.  Our new high school principal worked very hard to spend quality time with every single person on the river.  It was perfect!

As we finished up the retreat, we asked for general comments and feedback and one of our principals said this about the culture and climate he had experienced in our district, since arriving 3 years ago,

“I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop.

It never dropped.”

Through the simple act of floating a river, our culture became real to our new team members.

People, relationships, teachers, kids, families.


We are ready for the best year ever!