What’s your why? And then what?

My Why.

My multitalented colleague, Elaine Smith, recently captured our first TLI (Teaching-Learning-Innovation) department meeting in her excellent blogpost. She described the two questions each member of the department might ask her/himself at the end of a day. A very cool idea we stole from Jason Kennedy. I personally love the idea for a number of reasons. It’s good to reflect at the end of the day. It’s good to have challenging questions to prompt reflection. Good questions and honest answers can create accountability. Personal and professional accountability.

My two end of the day questions are, “What did I do today to encourage/inspire educator learning?” and “What did I do today to support students?” I stick by, and do actually think about, those questions at the end of the day.

Our team did themselves proud with the far reaching and challenging questions each put forward.

And then there’s one of Elaine’s questions.

“Did the time spent today match my why?”

Huh. How about them apples? Lots and lots of educators spend a lot of quality time thinking about why they do what they do. Their why. This is a great thing to do. I’ve seen really poignant and meaningful answers to the question, “What is your why?” Good stuff.

Elaine jacks that idea up 9 notches. We get busy. We do a lot of things every day. Everybody does. But what a challenging, honest, and abrupt question to ponder at the end of a busy day. Did any or some or none of all you just did today match up with your purported ‘why’? Whoa.

If the answer is no and if the answer is no a lot, is your why real? Do you need to adjust your why? Or do you really need to take a hard look at your time spent each day. Those are good questions too.

So as I often do, I want to thank Elaine for challenging me. Again. And you’re welcome for allowing me to challenge you.

Does the time you spent today match your why?

Hey…psst…it ain’t about tiktok….

So the latest entry in the world about which we can gnash our teeth about ‘kids these days’ is tiktok. Want to see how a great leader is addressing this latest version of ‘dumb stuff that some kids do’?

Here you go. Thank you Dr. Daniel!

#notoverhere #besthashtagoftheday

Obviously when kids are causing literal damage to their school, that is unacceptable. Full stop.

But to think that getting rid of an app is the solution is foolish. There will be 17 new apps tomorrow. Dr. Daniel’s leaning into kids as family, loving them, building and strengthening bonds and relationships, is a great way to go. Probably the best way to go.

Mildly related, fidget spinners? Remember the tremor in the force about those? I actually wrote about those too.

In neither case is the thing actually about the thing. The thing is about kids. And grownups. And those two things together deciding that doing unacceptable things won’t fly in this place where we care for each other. Relationships, trust, acceptance, and love are at such a place that a kid can’t imagine letting the people down who have built those relationships in the first place.

We’re good at that. Building relationships, trust, acceptance, and love are our foundational work.


End of the day questions.


Saw this cool tweet from Jason Kennedy yesterday. Really grabbed my attention. I’ve shared the idea with our TLI and principal teams.

Previously I wrote about the post-it notes we may leave around for ourselves. This feels different. More reflective.

As a principal, I used to, at the end of the day, run over the building in my mind to see if I had touched base with every teacher, every day. Not always possible to achieve, but an important goal to me.

Jason’s two reflective questions, “What did you do today to promote student learning?” and “What did you do today to support teachers?” are excellent! I would put those in front of literally everybody who supports teachers, which is everybody who is not a teacher. I am wondering if I can come up with any other 2 questions for myself that have more impact than those two. Different impact? More aligned to my role impact? Maybe not, but I might lean into the idea, with the first question, of changing ‘student’ to ‘educator’. I might change the verb.

“What did I do today to encourage/inspire educator learning?”

A concern I have, wholly based on my own personal and professional experiences, is that it’s sometimes too easy to stop learning and growing as a professional, which can have a real negative impacts on kids.

And then, I might flip the 2nd one around.

“What did I do today to support students?”

Yep. Those will be my two. The 2nd one, “What did I do today to support students?”, I suspect will most often be answered by thinking about Jason’s 2nd question. “What did I do today to support teachers?” Kind of a nice circle of thinking, questioning, and accountability.

I’m looking forward to hearing from some of my colleagues about their two end of the day questions!

Simple words.

One of my favorite quotes from Abraham Lincoln:

“He can compress the most words into the smallest ideas of any man I ever met.”

A professional, and frankly personal goal of mine, is to not be the guy Lincoln was referencing. In fact, in my earlier years, my dad once said to me, “Jeff, you should take every opportunity you can to keep your mouth shut.” Not too much subtlety in that statement. And of course, he was and is right. Got to keep working on that one.

Saw a tweet earlier this week from Monte Syrie. Included this picture:

Simple words.

How absolutely great are those simple words? Three words that convey such a huge message. Sort of the opposite of Lincoln’s statement. The most ideas in the smallest words.

As we go about the important work of getting a new school year underway, as we are establishing the roots of relationships with kids, we should continue to be aware of our words. Any teacher with any length of tenure will know that her/his words will echo for decades. For good or ill. Make a kid’s day. Break a kid’s day. Potentially send a kid’s life on a wholly different path…for good or ill.

#myroommessage is a great hashtag and “I trust you” are wonderful, simple words that directly speak to a kid’s heart. For good.


Together We are Fife. Fife We are Together

Started year 38 as an educator in the same district I started year one in 1984. Couldn’t possibly be a more different start. Or was it really that different? Might depend on how I view things.

That idea reminds me of this picture from the front of our brand new, beautiful Fife Elementary School. Does it read ‘Together We Are Fife’ or “Fife We are Together’? It sure does.

Some of the same stuff from year one to year thirty-eight? The night before the first day, for all educators, I believe, is a rough night. There is a lot of anticipation, nervousness, and excitement the night before. I always slept way better the after the first day, but was also always super tired the second day. More same stuff? Everything is new, clean, shiny, exciting. New relationships that will literally last a lifetime are being formed. Lifelong friends are being introduced. Words are being uttered that will change lives forever. Everybody is a learner. Opening a new elementary school really drives that home! Parent drop off, for example. The learning that occurred from day one to day two is unreal. Kind of a debacle yesterday at a school that was exactly 12 minutes old as parents were dropping off, then one day later, smooth as silk. Everybody learned, adjusted, grew. Nice work!

Different stuff? Let me think some more about that one. The examples in my head might seem different on the surface, but upon reflection, are simply variations on themes. Themes of caring, quality, learning, and safety.

Fife. We are together.

Together. We are Fife.

Same as it ever was. Onward.