Sometimes things just fall into place. It doesn’t make sense all the time, but it always seems to happen at just the right time. The important thing to remember is - just go with it, there’s a reason it’s all happening!
Who would have known that six months ago, we would have met face to face and hit it off so well at NAESP? That it would have led to the creation of Kids Deserve It and a book deal?
That the working relationship would turn into a friendship where it was like we’d found our long lost brother. Where our world’s began to collide on more than just a work level.
This weekend we finally had the opportunity to spend some time in person together since July! And even more than that our families got to meet as well.
But the best part came the next day. On Saturday our families collided and we spent the entire day touring San Francisco. We visited the Golden Gate Bridge, rode a cable car, walked the streets, saw thousands of Santas, rode on BART, ran to Twitter Headquarters, and even rode (yes, all 6 of us) in a Pedicab.
And as we sat across the table from each other writing the ending of our book on Sunday morning while Adam made blueberry pancakes, it all hit us. Look at the world we live in. A world where when we choose to connect with others and put ourselves out there, we can really find something special.
Over the last six months our worlds have been flipped upside down. There’s so much awesomeness that has happened. And this weekend, spending it together with our families, was only a further reminder of even greater things to come!
So please remember - take the time to connect with people in person. With Social Media we all have so many ‘friends’ and it’s the real friends that we believe truly make the difference. They make you a better person for you, your family, your job and for those around you everyday.
Be awesome, connect with others, practice gratitude and don’t forget to smile - you deserve it!
Writing + breakfast at Adam's house!
Pedi cab with both families, thanks to Chris for pedaling us!
When we stop moving forward, we become stagnant. When we stop climbing, we become restless. When we stop learning, we become outdated and stale. Never ever stop, kids deserve relevant.
Our jobs are challenging, some days it feels like there are no wins, like it's all a bunch of missed field goals and overtime losses. Being a leader is exhausting. It's deflating at times. There are days I want to leave and not come back.
I've never cried about work or about issues I'm dealing with as Principal, but I've cried for students who need more that I can give. I've cried with teachers who need my support. Just yesterday I was a little emotional because a staff member had such positive comments towards a parent that is working through some behaviors by their child. I gave her some personal kudos for the hard work and passion she brings everyday! It's so important and valuable to focus on the positive!
We must keep climbing for kids. Even when we want to leave our keys on the table and not return.
We must never stop for kids, they deserve every ounce of energy, enthusiasm, passion, motivation, caring and creativity that we can muster.
Sometimes you just need to stop. Collect your thoughts. Regain perspective. It's so easy to focus on what is not going well, on what needs to change, on what could be done differently.
Being a leader is similar to climbing a big mountain with an extremely heavy pack on - in the snow, during a storm, and you've run out of water.
No matter how hard the challenge is, we must jump in, take that leap. Lace up those shoes, run faster and farther. Keep climbing, find a new route, push yourself.
Then, during the fray - while you're climbing - when you're jumping - as you're running - stop! Look around, take a seat, refocus your attention, analyze your output and where you're spending time and energy.
Flip the switch and focus on your wins. The more you focus on positivity, the more wins will happen for you and your community. Enjoy the journey and that climb up your mountain.
Please don't stop climbing. Please always jump in with both feet. Please get in the game and stay there until the fourth quarter. Never stop being awesome for kids, we mean more to them that we probably even realize.
Kids need you. They want you. They deserve us to be suited up and ready to go. Now go!
This post is co-written with my good friend Chara Rodrigues who is an amazing Readers and Writers Workshop coach in the Bay Area. @CharaRodrigues1
We love books. We love the story they tell. We love how they inspire us to be better for kids. We love talking about them with other educators to see their perspective which opens new doors for us.
We really love a book that makes us stop and think. Makes us examine who we are, take a step back, and then move forward with a different plan. ‘I Am Yoga’ written by Susan Verde and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds is that book.
It was no happenstance that I Am Yoga appeared in my mailbox when it did. It was a day when I needed a quiet reminder to “be still.” It was a day when my kids needed a quiet reminder that it’s okay to “be slow”. It was a day when I wish I could remind teachers to “make room in their minds to create and imagine.” This book speaks to a soul. Your soul, my soul, our souls. It is a message that leaves a mark - one that lingers. One we need to return to, time and time again.
When I look back on my life, I find that most of the time, I was juggling.
Balls in the air.
Dropping left and right.
Picking up dropped balls as I needed to get back in the game.
It was okay, everyday was a new one and new balls would take precedence.
But I never felt in control. I never felt I had a good handle on things.
Spinning. . .
Or shall I say juggling?
But balance - that is what I strive for. That is what I want my children to strive for. It makes us better people. Better citizens of the world.
One of my yoga teachers whispered in my ear one day, “Be the warrior, not the war!” And that, my friends, is the true essence of balance.
We must find balance in our lives, all of us. At work, at home, with friends, with digital media, with social media - we’re better for kids when we’re balanced!
Take time each day to balance yourself.
Find that space where your mind can relax and balance comes back to your core.
Take several long and slow deep breaths. Clear your mind. Breathe in your intentions and exhale your stress.
Play calming music and close your eyes.
Our children can see our stress, they can sense our anxiety, they feed off our energy. Make that energy positive, calming, and focus on being present in their lives.
I hope your ears are burning Erik Wahl, some of our Kindergarten students were channeling your message this morning! Let me explain.......
Last week was International Dot Day which is organized by Peter H. Reynolds. I've read The Dot to my entire school for the past five years on Dot Day and it's such a fun experience. I missed one of our Kindergarten classes last week in my reading marathon and read to them this morning first thing.
The Dot is so rich with creativity, moments for whole group discussion, opportunities for partner turn-n-talks and most importantly about being an artist. After I read this book to a class we always chat about Vashti and the impact her teacher had on her. Also what potential impact she had on the little boy who drew the squiggly line and so many students want to know what happens next. (Hopefully Peter will write The Line as a follow-up to the Dot)
Today I asked the Kindergarten class before I left -
"Raise your hand if you're an artist?"
All twenty-four children raised their hands! I've asked that question to every class on campus after reading The Dot.
It hit me.
The older the grade level, the fewer hands go up.
I wish you were there Erik. Why are our students losing their artistic energy as they get older? Why do they feel they're not artists? This is a bigger problem than simply drawing.
If a child thinks they can't draw, they may also doubt if they can create. If they can take risks. If they can think differently when approaching a problem and looking for a solution. If they have the freedom to step out on their own and be independent.
We must promote creativity, innovation and art in our schools. It's the foundation for everything that we do. Our kids deserve it. Our kids need it. Our kids will grow and flourish because of it!
Principals and School Leaders - We must be the catalyst to make this happen. Give permission. Set the tone. Be the example. Have fun. Go create. Get dirty. Break the rules. Live your life. Be an artist. Watch your students thrive and see where it takes them.
Grab some paint, make a design, have fun, let loose, live your life and be an artist!
Paint, color, draw - then have an art show at your school like Vashti!
I'm a dad, I have a daughter and please don't ever call her bossy.
For years as a teacher when I was still in my 20s I would hear it, from parents or other teachers. That girl is bossy, she tells people what to do, she doesn't listen, she always takes charge. It hasn't stopped - at school, at the pool with neighbors and of course in the media.
I've seen it for boys also- he's a leader, strong, captain, takes the initiative, someone you would follow. Why is there such a difference in how we describe our children based on their gender?
At my last school where I was Principal there was a very strong girl who was often referred to as bossy. I'd always refute those people and explain my position. I finally called her parents one day to talk. Telling them how important I felt it was to never use the word bossy. We must keep her fire burning inside to be a future leader in our world, the stakes are high if her flame goes out, she may loose that edge if the message she hears keeps pushing her back.
After I spoke with the parents they came back to me about a week later. We had another long talk and they expressed their feelings and gratitude for our previous conversation. They'd heard it from others about their daughter as well and had actually been concerned and tried to 'calm' down her leadership.
I told them to embrace her energy, push her to achieve greatness, never let anyone tell her she can't, open all doors and make everything/anything possible, harness her 'captain' like oratory skills as a leader and to never look back!
As a Principal I'm always trying to build my teachers into leaders. Working in elementary schools my entire life, I've usually been surrounded by female teachers. It's astounding how many amazing women I've worked with over the years that I talk to about being a Principal.
"You should get your administrative credential, you'd be an awesome Principal!" (me)
"Me, oh no, really, I don't think I could do what you do." (them)
"Yes you can, you'd be an awesome Principal, you're so organized, great with people and see the big picture of a school." (me)
"Wow, thanks, I never thought about being a Principal before." (them)
I never want my daughter to think that it's not possible, that she can't do it, that it's not attainable, that she must stand in the back or out of the inner circle, that someone else should be there instead of her.
She/they must always believe they can, we must tell them they can, we must show them they can, again and again and again. We're fighting an uphill battle for our girls and we can't let up, they deserve it, all girls deserve the opportunity!
This is a huge issue, with so many resources and people trying to empower girls/women in many different ways!
We must empower our girls! They aren't bossy, they're leaders, and our future leaders!
This TED Talk from Sheryl Sandberg is worth every minute to watch. We must empower our girls, please don't call them bossy. They're leaders and must maintain that mindset so they continue to lead and achieve! I also highly recommend her book Lean In, it's a great read for anyone!
I love when teachers send kids to my office. I know what you're thinking, what are talking about Adam? Why would you like to deal with discipline? That's not what it's about and not what the Principal's Office should be about either!
We must reverse being sent to The Principal's Office as a negative event and make the Principal's Office a Celebration Office. I love to celebrate. We must celebrate kids. We don't celebrate kids enough.
I'm pretty sure the video below is fictional, but sadly this is probably a scene that really happens in schools each day.
Something else happens all the time, especially recently since I'm the new Principal in my school. I'll meet a parent and their child, then.....
"Don't get sent to Mr. Welcome's office!"
"You don't want to know what his office looks like."
"Make sure the Principal never calls me!"
It breaks my heart. This is the image of Educational Leaders (Principal's) across our country, or it probably means this is what parents remember from their educational experience as a child.
These past few weeks I've been working with a student on their appropriate language for school. They have made amazing growth and will come by once and sometimes twice a day to my office to celebrate! When I see them it's all high-fives, congratulations, we call their mom to report the awesome news - and it all happens in my office. We're celebrating their growth in my office!
Principal's need to take their offices back! Make your office a celebration office.
- We podcast our school radio show in my office!
- Teachers send kids to my office to read with me, make sure you take a photo and share with their parents!
- When a parent is in the office I always grab the younger sibling to come visit my office, we must change the culture even when they aren't quite in school yet.
- Give your 5th graders an iPad and have them take photos around campus. Then sit and Tweet with them, teaches them digital citizenship and builds positive relationships in your office.
- Bring kids to your office and then call their parents on speaker phone to celebrate a classroom win! Parents love this and so do the kids!
- Spend too much time in your office during the day, be on campus and get in the game with your students!
- Make your initial discipline contact with students in your office. Do that outside of their classroom, or in a whisper voice at their desk. Only bring kids to your office when you really have to, make it a last resort.
- Bring kids to your office to 'talk' until you've exhausted many other discipline avenues. Work really hard to make your office a safe place where kids celebrate their awesomeness!
We need to be doing things like this in the Principal's office, way to lead from the front Todd!
I must admit, that feeling is hovering inside me at the moment. It's been there for a couple weeks and I've been trying to fight it off. I'm hoping I can!
That feeling of being overwhelmed - too many initiatives - too many emails - too many forms to submit with sign-in sheets - too many new programs that need attention and too many older programs not being supported adequately - too many meetings, always too many meetings - too much conversation about non-educational things like parking, buildings, fences, sign-in sheets and forms - not enough supervision - wanting to implement fun/engaging programs on campus but simply not having the time - only having a couple of minutes, and not ten or fifteen to really engage with kids - being at work too early and staying too late and still not getting it all done - not seeing my family enough - knowing my balance is way off and being concerned about it - wondering what's coming up next and being concerned with the ability to support it
There's not enough - interactions with kids - time spent in classrooms connecting and supporting the learning - conversations with teachers about teaching and learning or just conversations in general - face to face interaction - going deep with a few programs/initiatives to really understand/taste/smell the learning experience
Head above water - head below - repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat......
What are we doing?
What's most important?
Where's the biggest bang for our buck?
In the classrooms - with kids - learning about what their #eduadventure is - talking curriculum with teachers and how to make kids MORE stoked about school - building relationships with parents to strengthen that home-to-school connection - helping kids to feel confident in themselves - showing kids what's possible to achieve, it's all possible - showing them that we believe and care about them!
What do you do with 'that feeling?' We must support each other! Please connect with me on Twitter or Voxer, we can't do it alone. I need you! You need me! We need each other! I need someone right now!
Hopefully you've been seeing all the amazing Tweets from leaders these past two weeks. It all started with a Tweet and Facebook message that I posted, along with a photo of me going down the slide at school. Challenging leaders to get out of their office and engage with their communities.
Well, the #principalsinaction hashtag has gone NUTS on Twitter and our Voxer group is growing as well! This week we're reading to kids, so keep checking for leaders doing what we're supposed to be doing - hanging out with kids and inspiring teachers!
It’s inevitable, between both of us, we probably hear it on a weekly basis.
Someone is passing out a big binder to everyone in the group. - “Sorry about the binder and all the paper, we know you’re techy.” (Who can't carry a binder around all day, we need something that’s accessible from our phone during the day)
Document camera won’t project during back to school professional development. - “Adam/Amy can probably help, they’re techy.” (Check the power cord and VGI cable, start problem solving)
Other Principals or Directors - “What’s that Twitter thing you do, I should do that, but you’re techy. I’m just not there yet. Can you help me set it up?” - Two weeks later you see that person at a meeting, you’re looking at your phone and they chuckle as they ask. - “Are you Tweeting?” (We’re connecting our school with the world to develop awesome learning experiences for them!)
Most of the time, we brush it off. Smile. Laugh. Turn our head the other way. But every now and then, when the stars are aligned just right, those words, “Oh that’s right, you’re techy”..... they almost rub us the wrong way. In fact, lately, we can’t help but wonder if people are really picking up what we’re putting down.
Do you know which group of people never call us techy? The kids! Why? Because this is the world they know, and it’s not about the tech, it’s about mindset and being relevant.
Kids are techy. Kids are relevant. Kids speak the language. Kids see the possibilities.
They want us to be! They need us to be! They deserve us to be! It’s the world they live in and whether we like it or not, it’s the world WE live in too!
Instead of calling us “techy”, we really wish people would just call us RELEVANT! We didn’t know how to do all these things either when we got started. But we saw a need, a way to connect, a reason to learn, and we took action.
- Embedding a Google Calendar on your school website - just copy/paste the code from Google, no big deal.
- A Twitter account for your school to tell your story, all you need to do is create an account and start Tweeting! See all the magic that can happen.
- Creating podcasts with students, choose from a plethora of app options in iTunes and just start recording.
- Troubleshooting a projector or TV with an issue - pick up the remote and start problem solving!
- Just last week in a Foundation meeting we were talking about our fundraising goal for the year. How about a thermometer on our website to show our status and what we need to achieve? All you do is Google ‘fundraising thermometer widget’ and with two easy clicks and typing our financial goals, it’s ready to embed! This doesn’t mean I’m techy, it means I know how to search, that’s a relevant skill all people should have!
- Working on collaborative docs with other administrators and teachers to streamline communication, just create one!
- Responding to student blogs so they see there is an engaged and connected audience, just search #comments4kids and get to responding!
- Handing your smartphone or device over to students so they can teach you new things, be vulnerable!
- Need to create a space to share documents with a parent group, a Google Drive folder that’s open to everyone. Our 3rd-5th graders know how to do that, so should you! If you don’t, go to Google Drive Help, there’s a short video to teach you how.
- Watching a YouTube video on how to make a form to use during walkthroughs in order to provide meaningful and timely feedback...ready, set, go!
- Add some ideas here please!
We owe it to our students to be relevant with the means by which they learn and can connect. When we were kids in school, it was a different game. It’s time that leaders and teachers start making a shift in order to make sure they’re ready to play.
Learn the skills and get in the game. You can’t coach your team from the locker room, get on the ground floor. Get engaged. Get your hands dirty. Speak a new language. Take some risks. Feel uncomfortable and push yourself.
Our kids deserve us to be on top of relevant ideas.
The parents in our communities should expect us to be!
Our colleagues we work with should be a sponge for what we’re trying to do, rather than a source of pushback or negative comments.
The next time you hear someone say, “You’re techy.” Be observant. Is that person really being techy? Or perhaps just relevant?
Don’t speak the chalkboard language of eras past and be this guy, it won’t end up well for your students and you won't have as much fun!
This Tweet from Alec Couros has always been a favorite motivator of mine.
Yesterday morning I Tweeted this and the initial Principal response was outstanding!
If you're a Principal and school leader, what are you doing to build connections with kids?
You can't build connections from your office, you must be on the ground floor of your campus to....
- have fun
- move the work forward
- and...... Ride. The. Slide.
Principals in action must be the norm! We must not have the reputation or impression of the Tweet above that we're only called to action when a student is in 'trouble.'
There is a No Office Day movement that pushes leaders to not spend any time in their office on a given day. I like this concept, but really feel that every day should be a no office day. Of course you need to spend some time in your office during the day, but all the action takes place on campus.
Run your school from your smartphone and you can stay connected to all the office work that needs to be maintained. Make being in classrooms the norm, so when you do have a busy office day, your staff and kids notice that they haven't seen you and ask if everything is ok.
Yesterday was Ride the Slide, stay tuned for our next theme this coming Friday, it's going to be #eduawesome!
Everyone has a story. Some are longer with more heartache than others. At the end of the day we're all humans. With feelings, personalities, empathy and we must have positive intentions with others.
In thinking about Ronald, I of course think about the kids and parents at my school. I don't believe any of my families are homeless, but they all do have a story. Their story is nothing like Ronald's, but as leaders of a school we must remember to assume positive intentions with people, and to build relationships.
How many of your students walk by you each morning and just ten minutes before they arrived at school it was chaos at their house? Or the night before? Or for the past two weeks?
Parents yelling, parents divorced, they didn't sleep well, they're stressed from pressure they feel at home or at school, parents are traveling for work and they miss their family, fighting with siblings, they don't feel connected to school, they're having trouble with friends at school, they don't have any friends, school is too hard for them, school is too easy for them, kids at school are mean to them, their teacher isn't very nice, they didn't eat breakfast, they didn't eat dinner last night or breakfast this morning, a sibling has special needs and it's hard for them to cope, they don't look like everyone else at school and feel left out at times, they don't feel anyone cares about them.
Leaders must - be nice, give high fives, listen, connect with kids, be visible, sit on the floor with students, talk with kids, connect with parents, create opportunities for student voice, amplify student voice, care about kids a lot, show kids how much they care, eat lunch with kids and talk with them, try to make all kids famous, boost student confidence, focus on kids and not spreadsheets or data, be awesome all of the time and remember why they go into education in the first place!
You never know. We never know. Remember to listen, be positive and treat everyone how you would want to be treated! Go the extra mile, run the extra mile, it's worth all the training, kids will benefit and that's what matters!
This past summer in Long Beach I took my first Uber ride. It was such a great experience and I've thought about my driver Mitch on many occasions actually. I then stumbled on this Uber video and it has me thinking.......
Educators are like Uber drivers. All our kids are different passengers (students), we pick them up at different places (academic/emotional levels) and bring them to different locations (different goals and needs they have.) Each has a different path, with different needs that we must differentiate for along the way! Uber drivers don't pick-up the same passenger at the same location everyday, it's always something different, just like educators.
It's up to you. Swing for the fences. Be the one that makes it happen. You are the one that can make it happen. Help kids find their path, guide them to their destination!
We must take the time to differentiate - customize - go out of our way - adapt and simply be the one that puts kids first.
- Don't let a student walk by you in the halls and not say hello.
- Know every name, of every student at your school - if you don't, you're not in classrooms enough, that's our job as leaders!
- Be intuitive with students/staff, anticipate their needs before they come to you, have your finger on the pulse!
- Create learning opportunities for kids, don't react to a need at your school, be proactive and make kids famous!
Help kids/teachers/parents with their destination. I think in many cases people don't know where they want to go, they do want to be inspired though. Connect with them, guide them, support them, motivate them, push them, give them the stoke factor they need to achieve their greatness!
Leaders have so much responsibility. So much of the responsibility is behind the scenes with making sure everything is running smooth and where it needs to be.
Leaders should also have the high-five responsibility as well. High-fives help people to smile - to get motivated - to turn a negative morning at home into a positive day at school - maybe it's just what a kid needs to know that someone cares about them!
Who loved the high-fives the most besides Rob? The kids, did you hear them hoot and holler.
1. Stand in front of your school during morning drop-off and first greet all the kids as they get out of their cars or walk onto campus.
2. Put your hand-up and give just one child a high-five with a motivatinggood morning or have a great day!
3. Other kids that are around you will smile and naturally gravitate towards you for the same interaction! An awesome high-five is like a magnet, people are pulled in with the energy!
(Please note - some students may be nervous at first, especially if this hasn't been the culture at your school. Once they see a few kids get after it, they ALL follow that lead)
4. Beware - parents love high-fives too and will get in on the action! This is one of my favorite parts of a high-five morning, put a smile on an adults face as well!
5. Don't be stingy with the high-fives, make this your morning routine! If you have an early meeting, try to find a teacher that will take your place, don't be the only one giving out high-fives!
Ron Clark called yesterday. He called both of our cell phones to talk with us. There’s more to the story that we’ll get to in a minute, but there is serious power in a phone call!
Todd and I were on Voxer back and forth talking about different Principal challenges that we have and he was being kind of drama. So, I decided to call the front office of his school and play a little joke. His Office Manager answered and I told her it was Ron Clark calling for Mr. Nesloney. I had just seen Ron Clark on Persicope the other day surprising a school in Tennessee, or in Ron’s words, bum-rushing a school! Hey, I’ll call Todd and act like Ron Clark, see what happens next!
I had just returned from a training and was sitting in my office. Adam knows how much I look up to and admire Ron Clark. Adam also knew that I had just had dinner with Kim Bearden (the co-founder of the Ron Clark Academy) two nights before. I hear my phone ring in my office. When I answer it, my secretary says it’s Ron Clark. I sat in shock. She asked if she could patch him through and of course I said sure. Next thing I knew, “Ron Clark” was talking with me, asking if I was at my school, and telling me he was about to pull up in his big red bus and surprise my staff! Well, I may have been in a little shock….only to hear the next few words of….”just kidding, it’s me, Adam”. Yeah Adam punk’d me. And punk’d me good.
So what did I do? Well of course I Tweeted about it and made sure to tag the REAL Ron Clark in the Tweet.
Next thing we know Ron Clark was favoriting the tweet and then responding! First thing he told me was that it was funny that HE also tried calling my school three times and no one answered. I thought he was joking of course, only to have him respond a second time that he was serious. Next thing I knew I was running around the corner to the office, hearing the phone ring, and trying to catch it in time. And yep, it was Ron Clark. The REAL Ron Clark.
I could have passed out. My educational hero. My person I’d looked up to since I was a junior in high school was talking to ME on the phone. And it was like we were old buddies. We chatted for a good 10-15 minutes. Then it ended with Ron asking for Adam’s mobile phone number so he could let him know not to mess with his buddy Todd Nesloney. Epic.
After I punked Todd, it was time to work and had to meet with some teachers. I was in Evernote writing down some ideas and also watching Twitter on the side. I saw the entire Tweeting exchange with Ron and Todd and was fully laughing on the inside. Then my cell phone rang, and the call was from Georgia.
No way. It was Ron Clark calling my mobile phone and we chatted for fifteen minutes about education, kids and how much we love our work. Such an amazing phone call, filled with inspiration and energy. Thank you Ron Clark!
So why do we write you this post and share this story? Because there’s power in a single phone call. The power of a phone call is real. It’s profound. It’s important. It changes attitudes. Voice connects people in a way that email does not.
There’s such power in taking a minute just to tell someone you notice them. To take that time to share a laugh, a “how are you doing”, a great job, anything! Take a moment to call a parent and let them know the greatness you see in their child. Or take a moment to call a child at home and just let them know how much you enjoy getting to see their smiling face every day. Taking time out of your schedule to make a simple phone call can make a world of difference.
We spoke on the phone after our ‘Ron’ call and tried to process our feelings. If we feel like this after someone called us, how does a parent feel after you call them with a positive message about their child! They. Feel. Amazing.
Call home! Call home more often! Call home to celebrate kids!
Ron may never know it, but yesterday he made a difference in both of our lives. One we won’t soon forget.