I believe early childhood educators daily lay the foundation of excellence for the next generation of innovators through fostering creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and effective communication.

My thoughts here are simply intended to be my reflections on my journey as both a learner and leader. I share them with the hope they will spark others on their journey too.  That being said, I keep these quotes in mind:

“The journey is the destination.”  -Dan Eldon

“Success is a journey, not a destination.” -Arthur Ashe

I was recently asked, “What non-negotiables do you want to have in place in your building as a campus principal?” by one of my school district leaders.  Below was my response, in a nutshell.

My non-negotiables align with the 6 Exceptional Systems of No Excuses University (based on the book No Excuses University by Damen Lopez):

  • Universal belief in the achievement of all students, a Growth Mindset is crucial
  • Authentic collaboration that transforms the way we work together to achieve goals
  • Tight standards alignment for curriculum; vertically aligned curriculum
  • Ongoing formative & summative assessment practices that align to the standards
  • Data management practices that engage/involve students & teachers alike
  • Targeted intervention model that meets the need of all at-risk students (both behavior and academic) in a proactive fashion/at the point of need

I would also add:

  • Building a culture of innovation, creativity, reflection and risk-taking
  • Technology integration that is transformative not static
  • Relationships that last; “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” -John Maxwell
  • Designing engaging work
  • Employing research based instructional practices as a norm
  • Having a vertically aligned and implemented social emotional curriculum & school wide Positive Behavior Supports
  • Engaging parents and the community in both traditional and nontraditional ways

As you read over my non-negotiables, what would you add?  What are your non-negotiables in your building when you are the campus principal?



Innovation Happens

I will be the first to admit I love things that are gadgetty (is that a word) or techie because it is just cool, cool, cool. This video reminds me again about how imperative it is connect innovation with education in tangible ways. Elliot Masie says something so key that as educators we must be highly aware, “beyond being cool can it do anything?” We can not become self sufficient on technology as some great teacher in and of itself teacher itself but must provide meaningful connections. If we are not careful we stand as educators on the precipe of deifying technology as the end in our schools and possible future careers for many students. No, it is the beginning.

We are tremendously fortunate to live in the 21st century ripe with innovation, but students of today must know how to do more than manipulate buttons and stare at compelling screens. No, we must help them to think critically about creativity, design, problem/solution, and the greater benefit that results from innovation. We now stand at a place where the makers of today ARE the makers of tomorrow.

Technology + Innovation + Learning


Proactive Leadership: Everything is Not an Emergency

“One of the true tests of leadership is the ability to recognize a problem before it becomes an emergency.” -Arnold Glasgow

As parents of young boys (3 and 7) we have experienced our fair share of accidents, resulting in screaming, crying, and calling out for us. As a young parent you respond to every emergency because well, you just don’t know better. In the mind of a child everything is important, everything matters right now – “it’s an emergency because I think it is.” As our boys have gotten older and we have gotten wiser we have learned when to respond. Also we have tried to come alongside our boys and teach them they are not helpless, to be resilient, and not just react when they are hurt or upset.

Likewise I want to apply this same lens as a campus leader. As a leader I am challenged in this new year to see my leadership less about solving every emergency that happens with my students or staff but instead about helping them to be proactive problem solvers. In doing so, we communicate a strong message – I trust and respect your brain enough to figure this out. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe in abandonment, instead being a coach to that struggling student or staff team member. If we don’t approach our leadership in this way we find ourselves always deeply invested in owning every problem and only reacting as they arise. This creates a very unhealthy school culture when we model for our school that the only time anything gets our attention is when it is broke.

We provide leadership when we recognize there is a problem and attempt to help our students or teams steer through it themselves but not grabbing the steering wheel. We undermine the very capacity we are attempting to increase when we must be the problem solver all the time. We respect ourselves and others when we look objectively at a problem and offer solution based insights.

Consider Asking…

Tell me what you have tried? Have you considered? What do you think may result if…? What do you think you might do to solve the problem? 

As a school leader it is challenging to feel like you have to provide all the answers…stop…you don’t. Instead pivot and become a great questioner to help others solve their problems.

What do you think?