About Me

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I've been an educator since 1995 where I've served as both a teacher and administrator. I believe that serving others is the key to success and make it my goal to be a servant leader for students, teachers, parents, and the community. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017



The word conjures images of greatness, heroism, once in a lifetime experiences. I've yet to meet someone who doesn't want to live an epic life, making a difference in the world.   But, what if being epic and living an epic life were different than our current reality?

What if being epic doesn't mean doing big things, but instead means doing little things well?  What if epic is spending true quality time with your kids or your spouse?  What if it is teaching a child to read? Or write? Or speak?  What if epic is helping a student understand what it means to add and subtract? What if it is inspiring a student to dream big?  What if being epic means giving your time or resources to help someone who could never pay you back?  Or just being there for someone in need?

What if living an epic life is really just doing what we are called to do and doing it well, day by day, no matter the circumstances or obstacles that stand in our way?

Now, that, my friends, is epic.

Thanks to John Spencer (@spencerideas) and the EduAllStars podcast for the inspiration for this post.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Learning from Podcasts

Recently, I discovered podcasts.  I take that back.  I've known about podcasts for years, but only recently started really listening to them.  The reason is that I'm beginning a new exercise program and wanted to learn while I sweated.  But, no matter what got me started, I'm finding a wealth of valuable learning through podcasts.

If you aren't familiar with what a podcast is, a simple definition is that it is a talk show that you can download and listen to at any time.  There are hundreds of them available on every topic imaginable.  I lean toward education and leadership podcasts.

Below are several of my favorites that I cycle through each week.  If you have other suggestions, please leave them in the comments.  I'm always open to learning.

Better Leaders, Better Schools - This podcast is designed to help school leaders get better through learning from the wisdom of those both inside and outside the school setting. 

Angela Watson's Truth for Teachers- Angela Watson provides great ideas for teachers on a variety of topics and from many different guests. 

Andy Stanley's Leadership Podcast - Pastor Andy Stanley provides leadership motivation, ideas, and wisdom from his own experience and interviews with other leaders. 

Kids Deserve It - Todd Nesloney and Adam Welcome provide motivation for educators in each weekly interview with a leader in various fields. 

You can use many different services to access podcasts including iTunes.  I personally use the app Podbean, which is available on the AppStore or GooglePlay.  But, there are many others that provide the same function.  However you choose to do it, I encourage you to start listening.  It is worth the time.

Again, please feel free to leave your favorite podcasts in the comments section.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017


"You can eat all of that food or you can go to your room, young lady."

 Which would you choose?

"You can get to that office now or I can call your mother." Hmm, decisions, decisions.

In either case, there is not much of a choice given.

"You better decide now or it's not going to be pretty around here."

Sadly, these are the kinds of options that kids, particularly those with behavior issues already, face every day.  No matter how they choose, they lose. There is no positive choice.

But what if we changed these scenarios.

"You have a choice. You can eat your beans first or your potatoes first. Which do you choose?"  

"It's time to go to the office. You have a choice. You can walk with me or you can walk ahead.  Which do you choose?"  

At this point, either keep eating or start walking and let them make a choice.  They now have two positive options, both of which get the result the adult was looking for in the first place.

Offering two positive choices give kids a chance to practice decision making and have some control over the situation.  It also allows the adult to focus on the positive response they wanted from the beginning while teaching the child the skill of decision making. For this to work, however, two things must happen. First, you have to give the child some time to make a choice.  This may take some time. Be patient.  If they don't choose, repeat the choices without sounding angry. Second, both choices have to be positive for the child.  If one is positive and one is negative or both are negative, it comes across a threat.

So, let's revisit the above situations. You've just given the child a choice between eating their beans or potatoes first. After a few moments, they start eating their beans.  At this point, it is time to notice them and reinforce their decision.

You chose to eat your beans first.   

In the second scenario, the child goes ahead of you and makes it to office before you arrive. As soon as you get there, acknowledge their choice: You chose to walk ahead of me.  

While it may seem simple, giving two positive choices can alleviate many of the power struggles that adults face with kids every day.  Also, if a student is upset, it can help them become calm by giving them options and some control over those options.

Are two positive choices always necessary?  Of course not.  If a student is following directions, then there may be no need for choices.  If a student is in a fight or flight state and unable to make a choice, then an assertive command will be necessary.  In case of an emergency, choices could be dangerous.  For example, during a fire, the only choice is to get out of the building through the safest route possible.

Giving two positive choices is a powerful tool in our arsenal to use to avoid power struggles and teach kids to develop decision making.

For a more thorough discussion of the concept of choices, watch the video below from Becky Bailey's Conscious Discipline series.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Victim or Victor?

"These kids just can't get it. I could teach if they would just try harder."  "Parents are the problem.  If they would just raise their kids with some manners, my job would be easier."  "If Central Office would stop sending more mandates, I could get something done."

Sound familiar?  These refrains, in various form, are heard in schools everyday.  These and similar phrases along with the thought processes that accompany them are what I've started referring to as victim mentality.  True victims are at the mercy of others, usually not by choice.  A victim mentality, however, is a choice.  I know because I've made it many times in my life and career.

So what is a victim mentality? In simple terms, it is putting yourself in the role of victim by blaming others or circumstances for your current condition.  Victims, in this case, give up control to someone or something else and simply accept circumstances as they are.  It is what Zig Ziglar used to call "stinkin' thinkin.'  It is possible that your current circumstances may be affected or even have been brought on by forces outside of your control.  But, that doesn't mean you have to allow these to control you.

The opposite of victim mentality is victor mentality.  Victors may be in the exact same situation or circumstances as others. They may be facing the same challenges.  The difference is that they take ownership of the problem and look for a solution.  Victors do not give others control over how they respond to circumstances.  They focus on what they can do to change things and then get to work.

Overall, victim mentality is the simpler path because it relieves you of responsibility.  If circumstances are beyond your control, how can you be expected to do anything about it?   Unfortunately, it is also the most dangerous.  This mentality can lull you into believing you can't do anything, so you just don't.  Why try to get better if nothing is going to change?  Why work harder if you can't change anything?

Victors, on the other hand, take responsibility for the situation they are in, even it is not of their own making.  They determine to do what is within their power to do.  They refuse to be defined by their circumstances.

In education as in life, people can choose either of these two mindsets.  The victors are the ones who move classrooms and schools forward day after day, year after year.  They are the ones that defy circumstances and do whatever it takes for kids and schools to succeed.  They do all this while the victims sit back and watch, wondering why these people are working so hard.

So, which will you be:  victim or victor?  The choice is yours.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

You never know

Last Sunday morning, I was visiting with a consultant who helps mentor and train pre-service teachers for an area university.  While we were talking in the church office, a veteran teacher walked in.  The consultant stopped, looked at her, and said, "I need to tell you something." He proceeded to tell how one of his pre-service teachers shared that the reason she wanted to teach was because she had struggled in school, had poor behavior, and didn't feel like her teachers cared about her.  But there was this one teacher in 4th grade who did care.  This teacher loved her, but also pushed her hard when she didn't want to work. She told how this lady would even come to her house, sit at her kitchen table, and make sure she was learning. "It's because of her that I want to be a teacher,"

Tears were beginning to form in my eyes as I listened to this story, but I was stunned when my consultant friend looked in the veteran teacher's eyes and said, "You were that teacher." As he shared the girl's name, a light shone in her eyes.  "Oh, yes, I remember her.  We went round and round, but I refused to give up. I'm so glad she is doing well."

As educators, we may never see the real impact that we have on our students.  It could be years later before the fruits of our labor come to fruition.  But, we do have an impact, for good or ill.
Each day, we need to focus on giving our best to every student and not accepting less than their best, no matter how hard that is to accomplish.  It will be worth it if we don't give up.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Panda Planner Part 3

This is the third post in a series on my journey with the Panda Planner.  In the last two, I talked about the features of the planner and how to use it.  This time, I'm focusing on how I have been putting the Panda Planner to use and some of the benefits I am deriving from it.  See the video below for my insights:

One of the first time/task management principles I ever learned was to set up the next days schedule the night before.  I've continued to do this, but it was burdensome because of having my calendar and other sheets to carry around. Obviously, I could use a tool like Google or Outlook, but, although I am pretty tech savvy, I still prefer paper and pencil for some things.  With the Panda Planner, I have space for my schedule, tasks, and major priorities in front of me and it is easier to plan my next day's activities.  Then, in the morning, I focus on prepping for the day by reflecting on what I am thankful for, excited about, and what I want to focus on for that day. Once I have gotten my mind moving in a positive direction, I then spend the next few minutes reviewing my schedule and priorities before heading out the door.

At the end of each day, before I start on the next day's schedule, I spend time reflecting on and listing the days's wins and ways I'll improve.  This act alone puts me in positive mode again and then gets my brain prepped to look for how I'll change myself the next day to make it better.   Both the planning and reflecting are becoming habits for me and helping me focus on my priorities each day.

One area that I did not do well was longer term planning.  With the Panda Planner, I now have a tool for weekly and monthly planning and reflection.  Every Sunday night, I take time to review all of my pages from the previous week.  I then reflect on the wins and areas I can improve during the coming week.  I then plan my week out, focusing specifically on the important projects and goals.  I refer to this page all week long to keep myself on the right track.

Monthly planning requires me to focus on my major goals for the month and distractions to avoid in order to meet them.  It also lets me decide on a focus for the month and habits I'm trying to develop.  Being able to mark off each day that I do my future habit is a real motivator.  At the end of the month, I can look back and reflect on how I did in meeting my goals and what I learned along the way.

As I've stated before, all of this could be done with other planning tools, but this is the first I've found where it is all together and simple to use.  For me, the simplicity and the reflective piece have made all the difference.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Changing Behavior and Mindset

Our campus, a high-poverty Title 1 school, has been implementing Conscious Discipline this year as part of a three year plan to help change the climate and culture of the school.  As we learn about the CD structures, we are implementing them building wide and teachers are putting them to use in their classrooms.  Each day, we have a campus wide morning meeting where we celebrate student and staff achievements, learn new social skills, and sing about positive behaviors.  Slowly, but surely, we're seeing changes in the behaviors of students as they learn new social skills.  I've even begun to change the way I work with students when they visit the office.  We spend lots of time learning and practicing positive choices.

Last week, my principal and I were doing lunch duty when she observed a student pointing across the table and appearing to tell on another student.  "We're not a tattling school," she told the little girl.  The boy beside the girl piped up, "No, we're a caring school."  Another joined in, "We're a safe school."  A third child joined the conversation, "We're a helpful school, too."  My principal commended each of them for their insights.  About that time, the little girl said, "I was just trying to tell you that she spilled something and needed help."  My principal apologized, let her know she was helpful, and, not one to waste a teaching moment, shared the entire conversation with the rest of the kids and adults in the cafeteria.

I later told our staff, "Our kids are getting it.  By our example, use of Conscious Discipline, and love for these kids, we are making Northside Primary a loving, caring, safe, helpful school."  When we deliberately focus on both teaching and modeling positive behaviors and noticing when kids use them, it will stick and we will see changes, not only in the children, but in ourselves as well.