Guest Blogs

Nurturing a Culture of Gratitude

Each year in November, we take time as a middle level school to emphasize the importance of gratitude. While we are an international school, we build off the American holiday of Thanksgiving as a foundation for celebrating recognition and thanks. Abundant research connects gratitude with a sense of purpose and happiness, and focusing on gratitude is an important way to help meet students’ social-emotional needs. (more…)

Six Steps to Jump-Start Personalized Learning

As education continues to change, so does the way we teach and how our students learn. Instead of the teachers being the holder of all information, our students now have the resources to drive their own learning. Personalizing learning for students allows students greater opportunities to control their learning and search for what suits them, and my Virtual Tour event focuses on what personalized learning looks like at Mason High School. (more…)

Closing the Opportunity Gap in Rural Alaska

Chief Ivan Blunka School is a preK­–12 school located in the Alaska bush community of New Stuyahok. In New Stuyahok, hunting, fishing, and subsisting off the land aren’t hobbies but a necessity for survival due to the lack of traditional economic opportunities. Our community is only accessible by air or boat, and even then only when the weather cooperates. Everything we need to run our school, from toilet paper to textbooks, is flown in via single-engine aircraft. (more…)

Ways to Teach Resiliency

As I reflect on the years that I have been at Whaley School, we are graduating more students each year, we are offering more elective classes that tie into what students want to do after graduation, and our teachers are working hard to create amazing lessons in and out of the classroom—all things which help build resiliency in our students. (more…)

Principal, Parent, and Partner: The Balancing Act of a School Leader

When I was child, I always wanted to juggle like the showstoppers in the circus and on television. I mastered juggling two balls (not that impressive, I know) but when the third ball entered the mix, I couldn’t control it, and I looked like a clown in the worst sense of the word. As school leaders, we have to juggle all the time. We have our professional and personal roles, and sometimes we sacrifice one for the other, and that’s when everything starts crashing down. (more…)

Leading from the Heart, the Mind, and a Place of Stability

As school leaders, we often feel pulled in many different directions and it can be difficult to navigate where we should be leading from. We must be careful to stay grounded and lead from the right place—otherwise, as a line from my favorite musical goes, we could easily be like a ship blown from its mooring, adrift with plenty of work to do but no stability. (more…)

Four Questions to Ask Teachers on Creativity

How do you lead and model creativity? That’s a question many school leaders ask themselves. Many of us can get our arms around collaboration, communication, and critical thinking, but why is it that creativity is one area where we frequently struggle and sputter? I think it’s because we fear creativity—it doesn’t fall into a nice box that is neatly packaged with structure and details. You see, creativity is often messy, frequently busting the seams of our comfort zones and almost always requiring us to stretch and grow. (more…)

A Roadmap for Implementing Standards-Based Grading

Fair, standards-referenced grading systems that communicate what a student knows and can do are often difficult to design. Developing grading systems that are fair and consistent across an entire school district can seem like an impossible task. However, it is a task that is necessary and worthwhile. (more…)

Leading Through the Struggle

We spend a great deal of time as school leaders talking about building culture. We often consider the day-to-day elements of this work: eating lunch with the kids, visiting classrooms, being visible at all kinds of school events, and having meaningful conversations with teachers and students. The work of leading a school and building a culture is much like leading a family, full of joy and, inevitably, pain. (more…)

Three Principles for Improving Practice

My school, long rated as top-performing, was this year given a rating of “targeted” for underperformance among student subgroups—including African-American, free and reduced-price lunch, and special education students. Though this is understandably not an ideal rating, I look at it as a blessing in disguise. We now have a very clear mandate to look at the performance of these subgroups and make immediate improvements. To me, this gives us an opportunity that will ultimately benefit all students, depending on the measures we put in place and the kinds of practices we implement. As an instructional leader, I am reminded that this work starts with me. (more…)