Why wait?

Caught myself thinking again this morning, “Man, if I was back in the classroom, knowing what I know now, I’d jump all over this.” I was reading an article about the importance of brain breaks for kids.

This made me wonder why, given all the access to professional learning available via social media, it appears that we still wait to do things we intuitively know are better for kids? It’s not like it was when I started teaching. Pardon the brutal lapse into old guy lingo. But sheesh, we didn’t have twitter, edchats, or broad PLNs in the mid-eighties. We had what we learned in college, which was pretty much how we were taught in K-12 as kids. We had the teacher down the hall that was doing some pretty cool stuff with kids. We had an occasional conference. The challenge with the occasional conference was that you would get all fired up about something…but it rarely stuck. Because the occasional conference didn’t include more people in your school. So you came back to school and usually the fervor faded. And you went back to doing what you had always done.

None of that applies anymore. Well actually probably all of that still applies…but there is SO much more. SO many ideas available within seconds from gifted educator colleagues around the world. Is the problem that there is too much available? Is that what will constitute old guy lingo in the future? “It’s not like when I started teaching. We had way TOO much cool stuff to do with kids and lots of it was based on solid research. It was overwhelming. So I just did what I always did.”

A piece of advice from this old guy. Don’t be that guy. Don’t wait. From the too much cool stuff to do to give kids an even richer experience….choose one thing to start. Brain breaks. Greeting kids at the door. More student talk. Less teacher talk. Flipped classrooms. Different homework. Access to experts via technology. Find your social media tool of choice…and use it. A new career flashpoint could happen in the next 2 minutes.

Don’t wait. Please.


The principal job can be lonely. I’ll never forget one terrible time at our school, where one of our students had been killed by a drunk driver. And another one of our student’s fathers had been killed during a robbery. That student was beaten and was in the hospital. Those two events happened on the same night. A student was killed and another one was beaten and in the hospital, after his dad had been killed. The next day was the most horrible day I had ever experienced as an educator. Picture an entire school of over 600 8th and 9th graders walking from class to class in utter silence. The shock and distress was simply too much for any of us to bear. We got through it with love, support, prayers, and a caring army of supporters. I remember a friend catching me in my office, by myself, wiping my eyes, as I struggled. Her comment was, “You can do this. You have to. You’re the principal. Keep us all together.”

Being a principal is very special. I’ll never forget when I got my first big principal question. I kind of looked around the room and thought, “Oh. That’s me. I’m the principal. I am the one that makes that decision now.” And man. There are a lot of decisions. Big ones. Little ones. And pretty much all of them affect other people. In fact, I’m not sure there actually are little decisions. My experience taught me that the little ones are the ones most likely to bite you. I liked the decisions that allowed me to hit the brake, not the gas. Slow down. Think it all through. Talk with respected and trusted colleagues. My line always was, “Do we still hold all the cards? Have we screwed anything up yet?” And if we still held all the cards and hadn’t screwed anything up, which usually happened by acting too quickly, that was a very nice place to be.

There are lots of principals in the United States. All kinds of principals with a wide range of skills and expertise. I was a principal for 12 years at a junior high school. I loved that job. My story is, however, that my favorite job is always the one I have at the moment. My favorite job right now is being the Executive Director of Teaching-Learning-Innovation. I LOVED being a teacher for 16 years. My first job. If I had to pick a job to go back to….I’d go back to the classroom.

Danny Steele and Todd Whitaker are principals. They also happen to be great thinkers. And great writers. And excellent sharers. They’ve put together a book of 48 Essential Truths for Principals. It should be required reading. We had our principals’ meeting today, which I have the good fortune of leading…and I shared the book, with the offer to buy it for any interested principal. They are interested. The orders are in.

The cool thing about the book is that is, in fact, a collection of essential truths. I told our principals that we could have written this book and that we’ll recognize the truths. But we didn’t, Danny and Todd did. And we’re glad they did, and the truths are gathered nicely in one place for us to contemplate.

Danny and Todd are soliciting other principals to share #essentialtruths. A truth I would share is that it’s the best job a leader can have. And it can be one of the loneliest. The great days will far outnumber the tough days. You have the chance to impact thousands and thousands of kids. Any staff that has ever had a poor principal knows how different everything is when they have a great principal.

We have great principals in our district. It’s an honor to work alongside them. I thanked them today for all they are doing. Their energy, passion, compassion, and leadership are evident, necessary, and changing kids’ lives.

That fact is an essential truth.

Happy 3rd Blog Anniversary!

Three years ago, I wrote my first blogpost. Like many people, I often use anniversaries to reflect.

Like Twitter, I didn’t see the point in blogging. Probably because ‘blogging’ is such a weird verb. At least it is to me. The fact is, it’s writing. And when writing, one is required to think. That’s the part of writing that I like the best. It makes me think. I can physically feel my brain doing stuff. I hope that’s a good thing. I’ve learned that I really like writing. It’s nice when people read the words, but it is not an expectation. It’s a bonus.

One of my professional goals this year is to model writing to our building leaders. I’m still working on that one. I fully understand how hard it is to find the time to write as a principal. I also know that were I to return to that role, I would find the time. It makes me a better leader, thinker, and learner.

Turns out I’ve written 116 blogposts, including this one. I’m kind of on a once a week schedule now. Earlier, it was far less frequent. That’s something else I’ve learned. I need to exercise discipline to keep myself writing.

My two most read blogposts were about kids being distracted by devices, which was actually a reaction to a great tweet from Eric Sheninger. My second most read blogpost was Ten Tips for New Teachers. One of my favorite teachers, Mr. Jim Taylor, my AP English teacher, told us that the best writing was the result of “a spontaneous overflow of powerful emotion.” I’ve never forgotten that line. It was true in both the cases of the aforementioned blogposts. The words came out quickly, in order, with some sense to them.

My two favorite images with words associated with writing/blogging/twitter are:


Each of these images generated a lot of interaction and conversation.

And finally, the entire journey of writing, and twitter for that matter, go back to the learning I’ve experience because of George Couros. His thinking and words relit a fire that I didn’t know was flickering.

I can’t wait to see what the next 3 years bring!