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My Daughter Ran Away and What I Learned about how to be an Effective Educator

My daughter ran away while we were camping. She was supposed to just go to the bathroom, early in the morning, but instead went to go find someone. That's pretty scary to begin with, but it is more scary when compounded with the following factors:

  • We were in Denali National Park.
  • There were signs everywhere about a moose charging people if they got too close.
  • There was a river not too far from our campsite.
  • My daughter has no sense of direction.
  • My daughter has no sense of consequences.
  • My daughter is very stubborn.
  • My daughter has down syndrome and can't communicate very well to all people. We understand her, but not everyone else does.

I went to a place where I thought she might go. It was a place where she and I walked two days before, so it is possible she might know the way. I told the workers there the situation, and one worker's response was

"Oh, just make breakfast. They usually come back when there is breakfast."

That one comment brought about so many emotions I could hardly stand it.

Anger - I was really angry that she would say something so insensitive. My daughter had no idea where she was or where we were. She has no sense of direction or ability to find her way back. She doesn't know what campsite we were at, only that we were in Denali. It wasn't just about breakfast. She was lost, and she would not miraculously find her way back.

Frustration - This lady was not listening to me. She didn't understand my daughter! How dare she make some off-the-cuff response that totally disregards all the information I had just given her about her disability and inability to find her way home.

Sadness - My daughter was lost, and nobody could tell me that she was going to come back home on her own. I needed help to find her, and someone who should have been able to give some help or advice on how to get help was completely unable to offer support.

Hurt - I felt like this lady was judging me that I was upset that my daughter was lost. She seemed dismissive about what I was going through.

Empathy - I suddenly realized that this lady was totally unequipped to help comfort a parent who was in a dire situation. She didn't have the tools to help me be successful.

What does this have to do with Education? I'll tell you:

  1. We need to be supportive allies of parents. One of my friends asked me a while ago, "How can I be a good friend?" Many times, with parents, that's what we need to do.
  2. We can't judge parents. Parents are likely doing the best they know how to do. We can't waste any time making judgments about what they are doing or how they can or can't do something. My daughter ran off through no fault of mine or my wife's. She had been to the bathroom at the campsite many times by herself, and she chose to run away rather than go to the bathroom. When that lady that should have helped me made me feel that way, I felt like I was a bad dad. I'm not. I'm not perfect, to be sure, but there was nothing I could do to have prevented it.

I hope I can approach situations with my students and their families with more empathy, respect, and lack of judgment.

I hope you'll join me in August for the #1 online conference for educational leaders: Transformative Leadership Summit Join me and over 40 amazing educational leaders to discuss all the ways you can improve your school this year.

Loved #modelschools? Go deeper with these podcasts for the trip home!

If you, like me loved, the Model Schools Conference, you’re going to love these podcasts.

For listening to podcasts, I’d recommend Overcast for iPhone or Podcast Addict for Android.

Here are some of the podcasts that I’ve recorded with some presenters from #modelschools:

Bill Daggett

Sue Szachowicz

Eric Sheninger

Rob Carroll

Kyle Palmer

Also, if you want to take your leadership to the next level, check out the Transformative Leadership Summit, the #1 Online Leadership Conference focused exclusively on K–12 school leaders and teachers.

I work in an awesome place

This is my newsletter for this week to my team. I'm really grateful to work here.

Hi Team!

Thanks for all your hard work last week in getting the Spring aimsweb assessments completed, graded, and entered. Here are the math results:

6th Grade MCAP

7th Grade MCAP

8th Grade MCAP

You’ll notice that the number of students still in the red is quite low (less than 13%).

Last week I asked you what things we should be measuring. A few of you responded and we have been able to have a great conversation over email about what we should be measuring. Most of the responses indicated that these kinds of scores are good to have, but not the indicators of real success. I believe that as we focus on helping our kids feel comfortable and safe these scores will take care of themselves. We need to pay attention to them, but we also need to recognize the benefits of other practices, like trauma-informed practices, recognition, and empathy. The little things we are doing, like providing standing desks, fidget boxes, and stools are not a big deal, but they let kids know that we understand that they are individuals. Thank you for your care and consideration towards our students. There are so many more things that you are doing that help our kids to be successful.

Upcoming Calendar Events:
We are in that weird time of year when the days will go by so fast, yet so slow.
Our Friday meetings are as follows:
May 6: professional development in the library
May 13: grade level PLCs planning for next year (recommendations for foundations, student groupings recommendations, etc.) - You can start the efforts in basecamp if you would like. I’ll give more information for foundations and special ed teachers and where they should plan to go for these meetings as we get closer.
May 20: Final planning and preparation for the last week of school activities in your grade level teams. You can also start this work in Basecamp.
May 27: We will have a farewell breakfast and celebration in the morning, and then you will have the day to prepare for summer.

If any of you are participating in the summer academies, or are planning on it, please let me know your intentions so I can help support you.

Three Tips for More Engaging PBL Projects - Here’s some ideas for helping your Project-based Learning projects more engaging.

Making the Courageous Choice - Sometimes we need to make a courageous choice. Courageous choices sometimes make us choose between two bad choices. They aren’t always easy choices to make.

Closing the Gate - We have a really great team at the middle school. We have grown and changed and understood each other better over time. As with every year, people leave and new people come. How can we help those who will be new next year hit the ground running and be successful? How are we going to welcome them to our school and make their new transition as successful as possible? You already do this, but we don’t really talk much about it.

Beautifully out of reach via @gcouros

Beautifully Out of Reach | Connected Principals

The moment we feel we have “arrived”, is the moment we might as well pack it in and call it career. As education develops and we know more about learning, we will constantly be reaching for a target that is seemingly, and beautifully, just out of our reach.

This is great. We need to be responsible for our own learning. It doesn't matter how old we are. We need to be in charge. There's a great quote from Stephen Downes in that post, too.



I am so fortunate to work with some amazing people. Our awesome assistant principal, Damon Hargraves arranged for a bunch of our teachers to talk at board meeting tonight and they were incredible. They told our story, the story of the work that we do to help the students of Kodiak Middle School, and they told it beautifully. We weren't asking for anything, we were just explaining who we are.

These teachers jumped out in front and made us look good. They talked about trauma-informed practices, our tutorials, our math intervention practices, our PLCs, our culture. We are a culture of amazing educators that rock! It is an honor to work with them!

More from Seth Godin on Storylines

Seth's Blog: The dominant narrative

We come up with a story (about an organization, a person, a situation) and all the data that supports it, we notice, and the nuance we discount or ignore. So, if you believe that Whole Foods is expensive, you won't notice the items that are a little cheaper, but the overpriced things that confirm your narrative will be obvious. If you believe that your boss is cold-hearted, you'll gloss over the helpful moments and remind yourself of the other times.

These are storylines. It is so important that we, as leaders, are able to define ways for our teachers, students, and parents to approach us when they have a storyline and get the story straight.

Use my communication cards to help you do that.

Nothing via @glennr1809

Connected Lead Learner: "Nothing"

Take a moment and think of a time in your life, that something or someone caused your mind to reach a state of rapture, which prompted you to share with everyone? As Jason Silva states “these moments are what make final cut” and create memories of a lifetime.  These moments occur in school, when students are empowered by educators to take risk outside their comfort zones, utilize design thinking and/or personalized learning, without the sense of failure, as learning is the main focus, not grades.

These moments happen in our lives and that is what we remember about our own personal educational experiences. I still haven't blogged about my #shadowastudent experience because I still don't have the words. "Nothing" is not the word I want to use to describe that experience. That is for sure.

Reflections on a Great #NASSP16

I'd like to reflect on the time I spent at the National Association of Secondary School Principals conference in Orlando, Florida.

I'm sharing my notes below but I first want to say that the best part of my experience down there was meeting all these people that I have been following online for so many years. Seriously, I can't say enough how amazing it was to make those in-person connections. Meeting Will Parker and Glenn Robbins and Bill Ziegler was just awesome. These guys are Giants to me, and it was so great to meet them and see who they are as humans, in person. It is so great. I also met people that I hadn't followed that I will start following because they were amazing.

People talk about how powerful Twitter (and other social media) is and how worthwhile it is to use. I've been using Twitter since 2007, and have gone through phases of engagement with it. I have learned, however, that Twitter really can be incredibly beneficial. The importance of connecting with people is incredible. It is not just about being ON Twitter, or lurking on Twitter. It is really about connecting with people.

The power of the connection is that you learn how to appreciate the other people, how to learn from them, and how to know how to help them. I'm so glad that I have been on Twitter, and I am sure that I have grown more through those connections than any other professional development I have experienced. I'm lumping my podcast into this because I would not have the idea, success or opportunity to do the podcast if not for my connections on Twitter.

My notes below are largely unedited. Be sure to follow the podcast to hear more interviews coming up from people I met there at the conference. Go here to listen to my interview with Todd Whitaker and Rick Wormeli. It was awesome.


Mental Health Issues

  • Overreact, undersensationalize
  • Mark Sullivan

School Showcase

  • Assistant Principal of Student services
  • Why did you give it that title?
  • Lunch period and special breakfasts.
  • Eagles Eye newsletter with new student interviews
  • Freshman stay for extra 25 minutes each day to get extra supports
  • What is the ACCESS program and what have you learned from it?
  • - why do you focus on mindfulness?
  • RENEW Tier 3 student-centered SEL program - visualization mapping process
  • Yes AND…the power of this thinking?
  • Yes but... regarding FedEx?
  • Innovation incubator
  • Apply to be part of it.
  • Design thinking process—empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test, refine
  • Innovation class period - how does that work for credit?
  • How do you give freedom to teachers to be creative?
  • Good ideas come from everywhere. Steven Johnson—Where Good Ideas Come From.
  • Chance favors the connected mind. Chance favors the connected school.


  • Care - Advisory - 1 teacher 20 kids
  • PTC done through Advisory teacher. Kids can go to advisor to work with the teacher they are struggling with.
  • Homework is a legacy app in schools.
  • I teach the kids [subject]
  • How do you define inquiry? Purposeful Curiosity, Gerad Carrier
  • What changes when you help students develop their skill of inquiry?
  • With inquiry, it becomes more student-directed and less dependent on the teacher.
  • Assessment becomes more difficult. Control becomes more difficult.
  • Be willing to challenge the quiet classroom.
  • Personalized is when kids have real skin in the game?
  • Subject matters by Harvey Danielson
  • Reading scores improve because kids are reading deeply in every area.
  • TO meet the standards, you have to be a thoughtful curriculum planner.
  • Engagement is the wrong goal.
  • Empowered is better
  • Deep inquiry enhances care, compassion and empathy
  • We teach less stuff at SLA, but kids learn more.
  • Inquiry isn't us asking kids questions we know the answers to.
  • Inquiry is scary when we get a blank page. Starting can be scary.
  • Group collaboration guidelines can include firing a group member.
  • SLA Dell partnership to support
  • Important to front load the inquiry (structure and procedures) to make sure kids have skills to figure things out.
  • 9th grade teachers spend more time on process than content than any other grade.
  • Rather than have teacher's aide help grade papers and make copies, have the teaching assistant work with a teacher to really be a teacher assistant.
  • Fears associated with Inquiry-based learning?
  • What the worst outcome of your best idea?
  • What else changes at your school when you become inquiry based?
  • School schedule mod time with the principal from Missouri
  • Stop calling it a technology project, it is called a school.
  • Technology in an inquiry school is ubiquitous, invisible and necessary.

Daisy Dyer Duerr Link for BYOD agreement in their school. Rural schools that are doing awesome things.

Questions for podcast: * Why go BYOD and not buy tools for the few students you have? * How is BYOD different from 1:1 initiatives in terms of instruction? Do you focus less on teaching tools and more on teaching concepts? * Poverty is obviously a big issue in Rural Education. * Talk about PRMB - Flex mod schedule. * How do you attract and maintain great teachers?

Janice Case

Rick and Todd

  • Anytime I can make the faculty look good, do that.
  • Roland Barth - The achievement of any one school is based upon the relationship of the adults.
  • Make every decision based on your best teachers.
  • Get teachers in others' classrooms in a non-evaluative, non-judgmental things
  • Only need teachers to do two things each day: care and try.
  • Crummy teachers don't just close the door, they cover up the window
  • Ego is so tied up in what we are doing that we aren't willing to change.
  • Writing makes us more vulnerable and willing to discuss things
  • Record yourself as principal and share it with faculty.
  • The hardest person to change is the first one.
  • We have to validate those who want to intellectually engage.
  • Challenge: The other day I was sitting in my office, and I forgot what school was. I wanted to come in your classroom to see what school was like.
  • Teacher evaluation is an ongoing event, not an every 3 years issue
  • 3 goals for teacher evaluation: Reinforce good teachers, develop not so good teachers, get poor teachers out
  • The reason I try to be in classrooms as much as possible is because the good teachers like it and the poor teachers don't!
  • Don't do things that suck the life out of people.
  • Basis for being at my school: treat every person with respect and dignity.
  • Don't play it politically safe.
  • Don't ever give a student teacher to an average teacher!
  • Characterics of effective PD:
  • If teachers aren't taking control of their professional development, they aren't even treading water!
  • Send potential applicants a letter of expectations about the culture of the school.
  • Professional development just needs to be good. However it is done.
  • If teachers can be part of it, it is incredible.

Ed Leadership Sims

Experience Design: Creating experience Simulated scenarios to help faculty experience difficult situations with simulations. * Narrative Flow - Power of storytelling * Choice options - Encourage Critical thinking * Consequences - make it memorable * Scorecard Feedback - make it realistic/measurable * Narrative Feedback - repetition/memorable * Small group debriefings and opportunities to share/expand the experience/consequences * Large group debriefings to * @edleadershipsim * Brain Rules by John Medina * Sims encourage a systems thinking approach * Sims provides an opportunity to learn from failure * Sims provide experience and emotional engagement * Many things don't feel wrong until you experience them. * Any stage of person's development can take advantage of leadership simulations * The difference between games and simulations is Alternative reality and Alternate reality. * Alternate reality could be my reality - has to be relatable. * Alternative reality is fantasy. * It has to be about what was learned, not what happened. * Simulating a period of time where X learning needs will be apparent. * The only way you're going to get better at some things is by experience * Deer in the headlights is never a good idea. * Spaced Learning and Simulations

Suicide Sims

Help staff know how to communicate and deal with suicide and suicidal ideation by going through a simulation: Password ignite16

Need to support each student. Not just the at-risk students. We need to establish a mentoring program for each of our students. Mentoring from staff and peers. Everyone is a mentor.

Who could be a peer model? Ask kids, then train the kids they identify.

Blue dot program: I have a blue dot on my door that means I will drop what I am doing to talk to you.

Podcasts to listen to on the way home from #NASSP16

It's time to head home from a great conference.

What to do on the plane? Sure, you could watch a movie, but here is a challenge. Listen to some of these great principals share what they have learned.

Listen to Todd Whitaker and Rick Wormeli talk about how to help your great teachers here:

Listen to William Parker talk about how to deal with difficult people, one of the most downloaded podcasts in the whole Transformative Principal catalog. Here:

Listen to this interview on the Better Leaders Better Schools podcast with Daniel Bauer about being nice and listening. Here:

Here, Baruti Kafele talks about how to reach every at-risk student:

Be sure to like Transformative Principal on Facebook, follow the blog, follow on Twitter @TrnFrmPrincipal, and subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.

I was able to interview some other great presenters from the conference, and their podcasts will be released soon.

Also, let me know if you are interested in joining a mastermind