Building Culture

The Power of Positivity—and Postcards

Over each of my last five years as a high school principal, we have set three schoolwide goals. Ranging from advancing college and career readiness to increasing attendance, our goals have been simple, student-centered, and focused on getting staff buy-in. Two years ago, we specifically set a goal to improve our community relationships with stakeholders and increase positive communication, and one simple strategy helped us do both. (more…)

Daily Announcements During Times of Uncertainty

When this global pandemic began, I asked myself three basic questions: 1) What can I do to lead our community during this time of uncertainty? 2) What does our community need? and 3) How can I have a positive impact on our students, staff, and community during this difficult time? At Millard South High School, we pride ourselves on living the Patriot Way, and I used the school’s eight pillars to guide me on this journey. Here is how the pillars guided me while continuing daily announcements after the school building was closed. (more…)

Are Schools Ready for What Comes Next?

At the beginning of 2020, no one could have foreseen the impact of the pandemic. In the face of myriad obstacles, educators stepped up to implement remote learning to get through the remainder of the academic year. A post-COVID-19 world will be here eventually, but it is anyone’s guess when that will be. As schools grapple with the unknown questions and challenges at the top of everyone’s mind, here are a few that I hope resonate: (more…)

Culture Outlasts Quarantine

A month or so back, I stopped by my office to accomplish some tasks and to retrieve materials I needed in order to continue working virtually. On my desk were notes about some minor discipline matters that had occurred on the day before we left school. Nothing eventful, just typical middle school “naughtiness.” I have a stark admission to make—I tossed them in the bottom of my desk drawer. (more…)

Finishing the School Year Strong

As administrators and teachers, we spend countless hours each summer preparing for an epic kickoff to the new school year. We have themed professional development days and new school year themes in August—“Welcome back! All Aboard for a Successful Year!” Then come the hard months of January and February, then on to spring, during which we are all thinking: Our train has derailed! While this spring has been very different from the traditional end of the school year, we know it takes every ounce of gumption for our students, teachers, and families to finish strong while also keeping the focus. (more…)

Purposeful Technology Use During the Pandemic

Can hear me now? How about now? Did my stream cut out? Or, more embarrassingly, did I forget to unmute myself? Today’s educators have taken on a task no other industry has accomplished. We completely changed our methods, our platforms, and our engagement from in-person to online in record time. (more…)

An Open Letter to School Leaders

Dear School Leaders,

None of us is doing ok right now, especially our black students. Each horrific incident of state-sanctioned violence against black Americans intensifies the trauma for black students, already suffering disproportionate isolation and fear from the COVID-19 pandemic. And you, leaders of the learning organizations that are central to so many of their lives, are reaching out to them with solace and support. (more…)

The COVID-19 Self-Care Challenge

As educators, we love the flexibility in our typically tightly structured schedule that comes along with school holidays. But, if we are really being honest with ourselves, we usually function best with a schedule and a mountain of things on our to-do list. As we enter the summer months, it will be tempting to binge-watch television during our COVID-19 break, and while there is no shame in doing that, we will feel much better if we also feel accomplished. (more…)

Staying Connected During a Lockdown

Pandemic. Lockdown. Virtual Learning. Social Distancing. Social Isolation. Five concepts that few of us thought would consume our world just six short months ago. Yet, here we are. (more…)

Effective Walk-Throughs in Our Digital Spaces

Even as schools have transitioned to online learning, it’s heartening to see that this crisis isn’t keeping school leaders from carrying out what I think is one of the true joys of school administration—classroom walk-throughs and visitations. Over the years, my thinking and approach to classroom walk-throughs have evolved and changed so much to where I consider it one of my best ways to build relationships with teachers and connect with learners. (more…)