Subscribe to the Blog

Time to start thinking about goals

Actually, I think about goals all the time.

I set goals, and I work hard to achieve them.

For me, setting and achieving goals is powerful.

But not all goals are created equal.

When I was about 21, I had a few goals that I wanted to accomplish in my 20s. By the time I was 30, I wanted to buy a home, make $75K a year, be a principal, pay off all my student loan debt, and be done having kids.

I achieved all of those (except student loans, which were a couple months after that and that included my wife's student loans, too).

It was incredible.

I have set many goals that were important to someone else, but not to me.

Goals aren't motivating when they are someone else's goals. We need to set our own goals for us to be motivated by them.

I'm really excited for Michael Hyatt's 5 Days to Your Best Year Ever event which is coming out in a couple weeks. This has been a really powerful tool for me the last four years, and I am excited to use it help me become even better.

In fact, I'm so excited I became an affiliate to help Michael sell them, and I would be pushing it just as hard if he weren't paying me a dime!


If you go waaaayyy back in the Transformative Principal archives, to episode 5, my interview with Sandrda Dahl-Houlihan, you'll hear that she gave me some great advice. She said that she writes a personal card to each adult in her building every year between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Ever since that interview, I have done that. It's been great, and I know that people appreciate it.

It's a tradition that reminds me to see people as people and take time to think about what it is that makes me care about them as human beings.

All too often, we breeze past that important information.

This year will be extra special, as my amazing wife made cards for me to give to them, as you can see in this picture of my messy desk below.

Awesome hand made cards

Smallest Viable Audience

I just received Seth Godin's new book, "This is Marketing."

One concept that he writes about is the idea of the smallest viable audience.

Who are we serving in our schools?

When legislators make absurd laws that cripple educators, who are they serving?

When school boards enact policies that make it more difficult to teach students, who are they serving?

It's time to focus on the people in front of us. In your school each year, it's the students right there in front of you.

Each year, our smallest viable audience is the bodies that walk through our school each day. That's who we should be serving.

Thank you.

While some people in the United States celebrate Thanksgiving today, I would like to say "Thank you" to you, for reading this.

Like you, I wonder if I ever say anything meaningful at all.

Like you, I wonder if I am a good enough person/leader/spouse/parent/child.

Like you, I feel insecure many times.

Like you, I know that I really do matter.

Thank you.

The Power of Being Seen

Yesterday, a pipe burst in my school and flooded a whole wing.

In no time, the district "red shirts" were there to fix it and clean up. Shortly afterward, the "green shirts" (custodians) swooped in and helped clean up to.

I was notified at 7:48.

School started with flooded classrooms cleaned up on time at 9:30. Amazing response from our support staff.

We rerouted drop-off for parents and buses.

That was all good and wonderful.

But the thing that brought tears to my eyes was a sweet student and her mom swinging close to me in their car when I was directing traffic in the cold to give me a little blueberry muffin.

Everyone wants to be seen. Even adults.

Parents are the Primary Educators of their Children, We Play a Supporting Role

Schools that have high numbers of students that qualify for free or reduced lunch (Title I schools) typically have a requirement to increase parent engagement.

Schools that are not Title I also always look for ways to have more parent engagement.

What if, instead of trying to get parents to engage, we as educators saw ourselves in a totally different light?

What if we recognized that the truth is that we simply support the education of a family's children?

What if we started each year by saying, "Hi, my job is to support you in educating your child. What do you want your child to learn this year?"

I say what if, because we don't approach it that way. Even though we know that every child who walks through our doors has an education already. It's what their parents do that educate them.

Maybe if we stop thinking that we can define what kids need to learn, and we ask the parents some things will change...

  • Maybe parents will be more involved, without us having to make plans for tricking them into being involved.
  • Maybe we won't need to rely on standardized tests as much because parents will be telling us exactly what is important to them.
  • Maybe we will have fewer discipline problems because families are working with us.
  • Maybe we will focus more on soft skills because we will realize that's what parents really want their kids to learn.
  • Maybe we will care more because we will know the families better.
  • Maybe budget cuts for education won't happen every year.

Whether we want to admit it or not, parents already are the primary educators for their children, and we, as educators, play a supportive role.

We would be wise to intentionally start making choices that give parents more care and attention as it relates to the education of the most important thing in their life.

The School Change Process

In my recent podcast listener survey, I had nearly all respondents ask how to make school change happen. They wanted to know the details around making our schools change.

So, I created a podcast where I listed what we are doing at my school. This is now the third school where I have implemented big change and it is also the third way we have made that change happen.

In the first school it was all about data and students meeting targets.

In the second school it was much more about meeting standards.

In the third school, it is about personalizing learning.

What hasn't changed much is the four step process to make change happen.

  1. Vision
  2. Communication & Culture
  3. Empowerment of faculty, parents, and students
  4. Continuous improvement

When these four are in place, life is good. The change happens.

Take a listen to the podcast here.

Personalized Learning Does Not Mean There are No Deadlines

Deadlines. We love them. We hate them. They are vital. This podcast (30:49) by Michael Hyatt describes how to deliver on a deadline, and how there is power in them.

One of the common misconceptions about personalized learning is that there are no deadlines. The truth is that deadlines are important, they help motivate us, and keep us engaged in a process.

In education, deadlines typically mean the opportunity for learning has past. That's the mindset we need to change. Opportunities for learning should never be over.

This is one of the things that competency-based education addresses. If kids move when they master, then deadlines become mileposts of achievement. Sometimes, you cruise at 65 mph. Other times, you need to slow down, and it takes longer to get to the next milepost.

Sometimes, it feels like it is taking forever, and other times, you blink and you've passed 59 mileposts.

If we do education right, the deadlines are critical markers of growth and they encourage us to keep moving forward.