Couros Quotes

Almost 3 years ago, I read Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros for the first time. I hadn’t heard of George before. I read the book first using Kindle Cloud Reader. I find this tool a great way to read, while working. I made 223 highlights and 11 notes. That’s basically highlighting the whole book.

It was great to meet George Couros!

As I was reading, I could feel my perspectives and thinking shifting. That’s a pretty good book, to make that happen. And 3 years ago, I was on year 32 as an educator, with half of that time being as a middle school teacher.

Sometimes I feel a bit like a crazed fan, but I can live with that. The book and George’s thinking has pushed me to be better. This week, I started tweeting my Top Ten Couros Quotes. I think I’ve timed this so that my next blogpost will be about the number one quote from the book.

The quotes I’ve chosen so far are:

10. “Change is an opportunity to do something amazing.”

9. “Any time teachers think differently about who they teach and how they teach, they can create better learning opportunities. Questioning what we do and why we do it is essential for innovation.”

8. “Technology can be crucial in the development of innovative organizations, but innovation is less about tools like computers, tablets, social media, and the Internet, and more about how we use those things.”

7. ….scheduled via Tweetdeck to roll out in about 3 hours.

6. …..scheduled via Tweetdeck to rollout in 27 hours

5, 4, 3, 2, 1….still to come!

Thank you George!

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!

When words strike…

We are in the process of planning three new buildings in our school district. A new middle school, a new STEAM center, and a new elementary school. One of our architects mentioned a book during our last meeting. I like books. So I bought a copy of The Space: A Guide For Educators, by Rebecca Louise Hare and Dr. Robert Dillon.

I think the best way to describe the book, which is excellent, is as a workbook. Or as the title suggests, a guide for educators. We will use it as we begin ed specs on our new elementary school.

Early in the book, I hit these words.

It’s hard sometimes to figure out why certain words or phrases just hit you. These words just hit me. P.S. Students are humans. Those words got me thinking about all the different ways we consider students, or what students represent in the school structure. Test scores, FTE, gender, race, high-cap, special education, Title, homeless, free/reduced, and on and on.

It was good to be reminded simply that students are humans.


So are teachers.

So are administrators.

So are parents.

So are we all.

Fourteen Reasons All Educators Should Use Twitter!

As I was writing this blogpost, I retweeted the following and found a new colleague via Twitter!

“After 20+ years in teaching I had got to the point where I was coasting until I actively engaged with twitter. Thank you for inspiring me, encouraging me and pushing me. You made me a better teacher.” –Karen Knight

And now…the blogpost.

If anyone has read many of my previous blogposts, my sad story of Twitter is known. Might be typical for a lot of educators. When Twitter first reared its head, I was a junior high principal. I knew that Twitter was for movie stars and teenage musicians. I just knew it and I was pretty sure I was neither a movie star, nor teenage musician. So Twitter just sat there. Along around 2009 or so, I was hassled into getting an account for our school, via my principal role. I robustly tweeted out some school things on a blistering schedule of a tweet every couple of months to my tens of followers. I still didn’t get it.

Twitter was founded in March, 2006. Officially launched in July, 2006. Officially just sat there for me until about ten years later.

It turns out what needed to happen for me to get Twitter as a Learning Tool was that I needed to get a new job. Shake things up in my professional life and thinking. After 31 years in school buildings, I took on a new role at the district office. Executive Director of Teaching-Learning-Innovation. I had the chance to make a new department, where one didn’t exist. I was casting around for ideas…and found George Couros. On Twitter. And that was that.

I am now an evangelist for Twitter as a Professional Learning Tool For All Educators. And if I can convince just one educator to learn from my sad, slow tale of Twitter acceptance, I know that all of that educator’s teachers/students will be impacted in significant and positive ways.

Twitter has changed, challenged, and enriched my professional life and thinking. Full Stop. -Jeff Nelson, @jnelsontli

Here are Fourteen Reasons
All Educators Should Use Twitter!

  1. Get a new idea/activity/practice in seconds. Find it, think about it, implement it. Share how it went.
  2. Meet authors. Among the authors I’ve met and personally talked with, some of the biggies in our line of work. George Couros, Shelley Burgess, Beth Houf, and Tara Martin, among others! And though I haven’t met him yet, I’ve exchanged thoughts/ideas many times with David Geurin!
  3. Challenge your old thinking. Humbling. But exciting.
  4. Edchats. Twitter Chats. Whatever one wants to call them. A group of educators from around the world, digitally gather around a hashtag and a group of questions and share. My favorite is Saturday morning, 7:30 am (PST), #LeadLAP
  5. Find your voice. Share your voice.
  6. Amplify Your Why via others.
  7. In challenging or dull moments, reinvigorate. Find inspiration. Quickly, easily, and authentically available in seconds.
  8. Follow a real-time hashtag in your classroom to keep up on a current event/pop culture.
  9. From Beth Houf! “My number one reason would be the opportunity to showcase the amazing things that happen in classrooms and buildings each day. We are better together for sure!”
  10. From Tara Martin! “My number one reason would be to amplify impact and build connections with like-minded professionals. There are so many incredible things happening inside the walls of classrooms, but for all of us to peek inside the buildings of these outstanding EDUs and truly learn from each other, we must share openly! Twitter is a perfect platform to amplify the impact of educators around the globe. In the process of sharing and collaborating online, many times…lasting friendships are formed.” By the way, do yourself a HUGE favor and check out Tara’s Twitter 101 For EDUs!
  11. From Robert Kratzig, a real teacher in a real classroom, every single day! “Sharing Ideas / Collaboration – I am certainly not the only person in the world that teaches what I teach (even more true when I was teaching Social Studies), however it often feels like we’re all disconnected.  I was sure there was probably a social studies teacher out there doing something absolutely amazing, but I had no way to professionally meet them, connect with them, see those ideas, and discuss.  Twitter is that avenue!  I have gotten some of my best ideas, things to try or adapt, and just “ah-has” from posts I’ve read from what other teachers are doing in their classrooms.”
  12. Also from Robert Kratzig, “Perspective Shifting – People in other areas of the country or even just in other parts of Washington have different educational experiences and social constructs that led them to have different world views or philosophies of education.  I’ve been a Washingtonian my whole life, and I think that limited perspective is expanded by interacting and seeing posts from others around the world and the social, familial, and educational issues different communities are facing.”
  13. From David Geurin! “Twitter is a great place to get ideas and inspiration. It’s great being connected to fantastic educators from everywhere.”
  14. From The George Couros! “For me, it is the opportunity to provide a “world class” education by seeing what other teachers around the world do in their classrooms.”

I’ll add to this list as other great ideas come flying in to headquarters!

Bitmoji Image


My Why.

We had the chance to sit with a group of aspiring administrators last evening, discussing the advantages of a smaller school district. Along the way, the ever important discussion turned to the question of each leader’s ‘Why’. Why do we do what we do? For whom?

Hard to imagine that any educator’s why wouldn’t somehow be related to the picture above. This is a group of kids from our junior high school. It’s a great representation of Why.

I see Potential. Leadership. Opportunity. Challenge. Growth. Curiosity. Hope. Questions. Answers. Innovation. Wonder.

What do you see?