Why – My Ground Zero

Recently I read a book by Simon Sinek called “Start With Why”. In his book, he talked about the golden circle. The golden circle is made up of three circles, each larger than the other. The smallest circle is in the center, the second one on top if the smaller one, and the third circle in on top of the other two. Each circle is labeled. The outer circle is labeled “what”, the middle circle is “how” and the inner circle is labeled “why”.

The golden circle describes how many organizations promote themselves to the public. According to Sinek, most companies promote themselves by telling the public “what” they do and “what” they make. They describe it and then expect the public to purchase the product. Then most companies explain how they go about it. Lastly, most companies either talk a little bit about the “why” or ignore it all together.

Apple was one of the companies, according to Sinek, that has turned this type of advertising on its head. Instead of starting with the “what”, Apple started to promote themselves with the “why”. They began by telling the public why they were doing what they were doing. They did not talk specifically about a product but more about their philosophy of existence. They simply existed to create objects that would make a profound difference.

Simon Sinek’s famous quote is “People don’t buy what you do, but why you do it”. This quote got me to think about my school and how to change the perception of the school. Does the public really have an idea of why we are there? Do we, as a school staff, have a clear understanding of why we are there? Why do we come to work every day? We have a clear understanding of what we do and how to do it but do we know the why? How can I get my educational team to focus on the why?

I have to begin with myself and ask myself why I do what I do. Once I have a clear understanding of the why, then I can begin selling it to my staff, parents and students. After I have discovered my why, I can then focus on the “why” of our organization. I, too, believe that if you have a clear understanding of “why” you are in the business, then you will begin to build loyalty and a strong devotion to your brand. May my why come soon so I can share it with my clientele.

What Comes Out of Your Mouth Matters

As a principal, people are always watching you. They watch what you do and they hear what you say. You are always in the spot light whether you like it or not. Your staff, your students, and your parents are watching you and listening to everything you say. It does not matter if they like you or not, you are in the spot light. Therefore, what comes out of your mouth really matters.

As an administrator it is important to be aware of the things you say. You may say something that inspires someone and you may say something that brings them down. The things you say may have a lasting impact and/or a direct impact on the outcome.

I am problem solving every moment of the day. My staff and parents come to me for advice and/or guidance on a regular basis. Although I am not the sharpest tool in the shed, sometimes my suggestions are nothing more than a mixture of common sense, kind words, and a listening ear. This basic formula has appeared to be beneficial to those I serve on a regular basis.

A lot of times, the advice I give is littered with common sense. The suggestions are nothing more than what they were considering doing and they needed someone to confirm their position. In addition, sometimes I offer a few kind words. For example, if I see a teacher perform a lesson that appeared to be flawless, I let them know in plain words that they hit a home run. Over time, I have discovered that those kind words go a long way. Lastly, there is the listening ear. There have been many times when all the parent needed was someone to actually listen to them and identify with their concern. I have experienced many times when simply listening calmed the situation down and open the doors to a solution.

What we say can and does make a difference. It is important that we as leaders are aware of the impact we can have when we use words. Words, both positive and negative, can and do have a lasting impact on those you talk to.

Creation of an On-line Course

A frustrating experience this has been. I can create one module but have had extreme difficulty with trying to meld two or three modules together. My frustration began with my computers in ability to utilize the recommended software, Screenr. Apparently you need to download Java onto your computer to make Screenr work. Well, as I streamline my life, I only use one computer and it happens to be my work computer. This is a fantastic and smart idea when it comes to streamlining my life on the computer but disasterous when you want to down load a software program. The computer I am using doesn’t allow me to download any software from the internet unless I have the district’s administrative password. Although this is frustrating on my part, I totally understand why this policy is in place. Can you imagine all the unverified programs that potentially could be downloaded onto the computer and all of the potential viruses? I get it but I am still frustrated.

Instead of Screenr, I sued a software called Jing. This is a screen casting software that allows me to capture part of my screen and record over it. It is very simple to use and you can save your productions either on line or on your computer. What is frustrating is that I have no idea how to string these modules together nor how to imbed an assessment into the module. I am assuming that the key would be to use Screenr but I am out of luck. Well, I gave it my best shot and for now I will have to stick with my multiple modules and hope people will watch them in the order I have produced them.

Cyberbullying Over Dinner

Since the rise of technology, we have seen a rise in cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is bullying but through the use of cell phones, the computer, the internet, and social networks. Cyberbullying is when there are regular texts, photos, comments, postings of a negative nature about someone else on line. It has been said that about 9 in 10 youth have witnessed cyberbullying. Cyberbullying has been increasing over the years and in some cases doubling or tripling in number.

Students who have been cyberbullied often become depressed, anxiousness, suicidal ideation, decreased self-worth, hopelessness and loneliness. These effects of cyberbullying are serious. As parents, how can we combat cyberbullying?

A recent post written by Alexandra Sifferlin suggested that one way to deal with cyberbullying in a positive was to simply have family dinners. Who would have thought that having dinner with your family would be a counter measure to fighting cyberbullying. In the research published in the journal Jama Pediatricts, the researchers surveyed over 18,000 in the Midwest between the ages of 12-18. This survey asked a number of questions about their experiences with cyberbullying and they asked one particular question about how often they ate dinner with the family. The results indicated that the students who ate with their families frequently had fewer issues with cyberbullying than those students who did not eat dinner with the families on a frequent basis.

What does all this mean? When families sit down to eat a meal together they are more prone to talking to one another about the things that are taking place in their daily life. Therefore, one could conclude that the key here is communication between a parent and their teen. Communication is the answer to dealing with cyberbullying both as the perpetrator and/or the victim. When you communicate with your children and give them opportunities to talk, you will find out what is going on in their lives and will be given multiple opportunities to intervene as needed.

The study did indicate that the more dinners that had during the week together (five or more) resulted in fewer cyberbullying experiences. My take away from this study is that we, as parents, need as many opportunities to communicate with our children and if dinner with the family is one way to do that, then it should be on the menu at least five times a week.

Lead by Example

What makes a leader worthy of being followed? What are the attributes that make a person a leader? Is there any one characteristic that is better than the rest? There are many attributes that contribute to making a leader worthy of being followed. However, I would like to focus on the one that makes a practical difference.

Ultimately to be called a leader you have to be worthy of being followed. Who is it that you are willing to follow? When push comes to shove, I would like to follow the person who leads by example. This person is someone whose words match their action. This is the person who does what they say and says what they do.

According to Posner and Kouzes, authors of The Leadership Challenge, one of the five practices of an extraordinary leader is to lead by example. A leader’s actions match their words. For example, if the leader expects his followers to act with integrity, they should act with integrity. If the expectation is to come to work on time, then the leader should model this behavior by being to work on time.

When your actions match your words, there is no question where you stand. As the leader of my school, I learned real early that everyone is watching me. My staff, the students, the parents and the community are all watching what you do and listening to what you say. What I do matters. As a leader it is important that I am cognizant of the fact that people are always connecting the dots. For example, if I tell my staff and parents that family is important, than I better make sure that I place my own family in a place of importance. In other words, I need to put my family in a place of importance especially if I am telling my staff and parents they must put family first.

Leading by example is one way to quickly show your followers that you are a person of your word. You are a person who can be trusted. Leading by example is a great way to show your followers that you mean what you say and say what you do.


I don’t like to fail but it is a part of my daily life. In fact, failure is my catalyst for personal and professional growth. As an administrator, many of my successes are a direct result of my failures. I make decisions for a living and some of them turn out to be successful while others turn out to be failures. Rather than beating myself up regarding my failures, I have decided to look at them through positive lenses.

Over the past two decades, I have had many opportunities to fail. These events have been turning points in my career and have made me the principal that I am today. Albert Einstein once said “Failure is success in progress.” This has been my mantra over the years. To make a mistake is not the end of the world but the beginning of a journey that will have positive results.

Failure is not an easy pill to swallow. It is sting that is often times hard to shake. However, failure can be transformed into something that will move you forward. Failure is often interpreted as not attaining the desired outcome. We all have in our minds the desired outcome of every situation we face. For example, when I have a parent meeting, I want the meeting to end with the parents satisfied with the end results of our conversation. This doesn’t always happen due to the fact that the parents and I don’t see eye to eye.

As an administrator, I have learned a few things about failure that has helped me deal with failure in a productive manner. Here are a few of the thing I have learned over the years:

  • Always make a decision based upon all the available data you have. Don’t make a decision based upon a hunch but use data to your advantage. Many times I have made decisions based upon the most up to date data and it turned out to be a wrong decision. However, it was based upon the most up to date information. In situations like these, I reexamine the process of making the decision and try to uncover how I can improve the next time around.
  • Don’t take it personal. We all have a job to do and our job is to make decisions. Sometimes the failure is not a result of our actions but of circumstances.
  • When you fail, own up to it. No one wants to follow someone who is in denial. When you make a mistake, admit it an move on.
  • Be purpose driven. When you make decisions, have reasons for those decision. Have a rational. When your decision does not pan out, it is easier to deal with it when you know the reason behind your decision.
  • Seek to learn from the mistake. A person who learns from his/her mistake will most likely not commit it again. Don’t fall into making the same mistake twice. Learn from it.
  • Lastly, it is important to take risks and with risks come failures. It is important to pick yourself back up after making a mistake. When taking risks your are bound to fail. However, great things were never accomplished without taking a risk. Use risks to your advantage.

Failure is not the end of the world. Often times it is the beginning of a new journey. Failure, when embraced, will make you a stronger leader when you see it as an opportunity to grow. Use failure to your leadership advantage.

Feedback for Austin

Since I did a recent post on feedback, I thought I’d post this excellent video called “Austin’s Butterfly”.  It is a beautiful story of a young man named Austin who draws a butterfly.  However, he drew it with the help of his classmates giving him feedback.  The feedback was incremental, specific, and objective.  These students as well as Austin were only in the first grade.  As an administrator my takeaway from this short video on feedback is to realize that when giving feedback you should have the big picture in mind.  I should provide feedback in increments building up to the desired outcome.  Secondly, the feedback should be specific.  What is the object?  Stay focused when delivering feedback.  Lastly, one needs to stay away from the subjective critiques.  Stay objective when describing what needs to be done.  I am sure I could dig a little more and find additional golden nuggets but that will have to do for now.

The Lollipop Moment

Have you ever had one of those moments in life when you just knew you should have gone up to that someone and told them how important they were to you?  Well Drew Dudley talks about this as “the lollipop moment”.  There are those moments when you do something that doesn’t seem to mean anything to you but has a profound impact on another person.  We as educational leaders have the opportunity to create a lot of lollipop moments in the lives we encounter.  We meet with students, teachers, parents and members of the community.  The impact that we can have on the lives of those we work with or those we encounter by chance can be overwhelming.  However, it is important that we watch what we say, say it with dignity, and say it with the knowledge that we may have a lasting impact on the life of the hearer.

To view Drew Dudley’s TedTalks presentation, please click on the link below.

An Inconvenient Truth Regarding Administrative Feedback

As an administrator at a medium sized elementary school, I am faced with the responsibility to provide formal feedback at least once or twice a year to those I am managing. Providing feedback in a formal or informal setting can be difficult, especially for those of us who see ourselves as an introvert. This was always one of those tasks I found to be difficult especially since I had little training in providing feedback. Typically administrators are not given formal training to provide feedback; however, we are expected to know exactly how to deliver it. As a new boss into the profession, I wanted to be respected and, yes, well liked. How does one accomplish those objectives when they have to give feedback both formally as well as informally? As an administrator, I am expected to give feedback because it is an integral part of the job. How else will my staff build capacity and become better at their craft? Over the past decade, I have learned how to become comfortable in the world of formal and informal feedback. I have learned through my own experiences, the wisdom of others, and through various articles posted on the internet.

Feedback can be looked at as either positive or negative. Several writers have suggested that negative feedback is considered constructive feedback. Both the positive and negative feedback can be used to build the capacity of any team; however, it is all in the approach. As the boss, I need to first build trust among my those I work with. Without trust any type of feedback will fall upon deaf ears. When your staff trusts you, they know that you have their best interests in mind. It is much easier to hear positive or constructive feedback from someone you trust than someone you do not trust. So build trust among those who work for you.

Your feedback should be timely. In other words, do not delay your feedback. Do not delay your feedback. When you have something to say, say it within a reasonable time frame. Who wants to hear something that is one or two weeks old? I have found that when I give feedback, it is best when I am honest and objective. Most employees want to hear honest feedback. They want the truth. Another little secret I learned along the way is to deliver feedback either standing or sitting next to the person. When you stand or sit in front of them, the issue is then in between the two of you. However, when you stand or sit next to the person receiving feedback, you send the message that you are working alongside of them. Regular feedback is more valuable than irregular feedback. This is something I learned a couple of years back and it has served me well. When you get into the habit of delivering positive and constructive feedback on a regular basis, there are no surprises. The staff learns to accept both types of feedback as means of building capacity and becoming more productive. Your staff members are never caught off guard when they receive regular and timely feedback. It is important to note that employees, especially teachers, want feedback. I have yet to come across a teacher who doesn’t want to get better at teaching. Therefore, if you have something to say, then you should say it. Don’t let someone else deliver your feedback. You should be the messenger of what you see – positive or constructive. It will build trust in knowing you are a person who provides the feedback without going through another individual.

Are there times you should not deliver feedback? As a practicing administrator, I have discovered that there times when feedback would not be appropriate. Timing is important. When delivering any type of feedback, your timing has to be right. For example, I observed a lesson two weeks ago and the lesson was not one of the best I have seen. This type of feedback should have been given to the teacher within days if not hours of the observation. When it is delayed, the feedback benefits no one, especially the teacher and the students she/he teaches. Another place feedback should be avoided is when it is personal in nature. As the administrator you are the person in charge of the school. Your feedback should focus on the school not so much on the personal lives of those who teach. The only exception would be when their personal life begins to affect their regular teaching duties (i.e. drinking too much the night before). Lastly, there are those times when I am not an expert in the field and should not provide feedback. For example, I am not an expert in the area of psychology. Often times I need to remind my staff and myself that we are not qualified to provide feedback as if we were psychologists. Any type of feedback in regards of a student’s psychological standing should be reserved for those who are a qualified psychologist.

Feedback, positive and constructive, is an integral part of a principal’s daily life.  It is something that is difficult at first but in time can become a powerful administrative tool. The purpose of regular feedback should be to build the capacity of those under your care. With practice feedback will become a powerful tool in your tool box.

Social Issues – Cyberbullying

For class we were asked to write in our blog about pedagogical approaches or social issues.  I chose social issues because I still struggle pronouncing the word pedagogical.  The social issue I gravitated to has to do with cyberbullying.  Through my brief research, I have noticed that there isn’t a clear definition of cyberbullying and that the research on cyberbullying is all over the place.  However, I have discovered a number of valuable articles that I will be sharing out in the near future as well as using those articles in the cyberbullying paper I need to write.

The big ah-ha that I have discovered so far is that cyberbullying is not like typical bullying in that typical bullying is captured in space and time.  There is a definite time it starts and ends.  Where as with cyberbullying, time becomes the issue.  Once it is on the internet, it is there for all to see, read, and retweet.  It doesn’t go away.  Therefore, cyberbullying has much more of an impact than the traditional bullying.

As I read more, I’ll share more.