Would You Take Them Back?

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Recently, in a social media group I am a member of, someone posed a question asking if they should take back a student whose family left their school unhappy about a decision that was made. Now, the family that left is not happy with their new school and wants to re-enroll. The person who posted was wondering if the family should be welcomed back.

I was surprised that the majority of respondents said, “No”. Some responses were much more colorful than a single word and others appeared to have strong feelings attached.

My response was, “I would take them back. I’d definitely have an intake meeting, be very welcoming, and ask, How can we make this new experience better for you? Here’s an opportunity to have the parents learn a lesson.”

I made the assumption that the issue was with the parent, and not the student. I believe part of our job as educators is to work with challenging and difficult parents and come to a solution that is best for the student. Is it always easy,? No. Does it take time? Yes. Should we punish a student for the behavior of an adult? No. Should we be better, take the high road, and perhaps help others learn a lesson? Yes.

I know my opinion might not be popular, but after thirty-six years as an educator and twenty-one years as a principal, I’ve found the majority of situations involving an angry parent can be managed by listening, meeting face-to-face, collaborating, and focusing on what’s best for the students.

Yes, I’d take them back.


I’m Obsessed with #OneWord


I’ve been collecting the #OneWord choices from members of my PLN and am fascinated by the variety and thought that goes into selecting these guiding words. The philosophy of #OneWord is to choose a word that will guide you in the coming year instead of making specific resolutions and goals. Here is a graphic I created of the contributions from my PLN. For some reason, the Word Cloud program I used to create this didn’t like the two word submissions, No, Do, and, Be, sorry Jessica Cabeen, Todd Schmidt, and Ellen O’Neill.

Word Cloud

In my previous post, I shared my #OneWord2018, Reflective. I’m going to use that guiding word this year, and all the other powerful words chosen by others, to continually work on being the best principal I can be.

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My #OneWord2018

One Word

I’m kicking off 2018 with a blog post about my One Word for 2018. I’m inspired by the book by John Gordon, Dan Britton, and Jimmy Page. They discovered a better way to become their best and live a life of impact. Instead of creating goals and resolutions, they found one word that would be their driving force for the year.

I’ve identified a One Word for three years. In 2017 it was Purposeful. In 2016 it was Gratitude. And, the first word I chose in 2015 was Believe. For 2018 I’ve selected Reflective as my One Word.

I hope to be Reflective in 2018 to improve my personal and professional practices. In early December, I had a heart scare which resulted in a wake up call. The short story is I was having chest pains, went to urgent care, was put into the hospital overnight for tests, and discovered I have a healthy heart. The chest pains were caused by complications from my diabetes and Rheumatoid Arthritis, not my heart.

I’ve been Reflective the past four weeks thinking how that wake up call caused me to take better care of my health. My blood sugar levels are back on track, I’m eating healthy, and I’ve started exercising again. I’ll be Reflective all year working to take care of myself.

I also need to continue to be Reflective at work and pay attention to the feedback I receive and things I observe and learn. The members of my PLN are a great source of inspiration and reflection for me because they share their stories, struggles, challenges, ideas, successes, rewards, and passions. Learning from others helps me be Reflective so I can continue to grow and become a better principal.

Have a successful and productive 2018 and I encourage you to find your One Word.

How Are You Growing and Developing?


Here in my 36th year as an educator, I’m more energized and enthused now than I was earlier in my career. I believe it’s due to the variety of opportunities to grow and develop available to me. Technology has also provided me with tools to connect and learn from others by giving me a PLC through social media and the ability to connect virtually and in person with them.

This week I brainstormed a list of ways I grow and develop professionally and personally. This list is not meant to be exhaustive of potential opportunities, rather my list contains ways I’m currently most engaged in my growth and development.

My list contains social media (Twitter, Voxer, Facebook, Instagram) and in person connections; attending local, state, and national conferences; reading for pleasure and professional growth (blogs, social media posts, articles, children’s books, leadership books); spending time exploring my passions (cooking, traveling, coding, robotics); involvement in my state principals’ association; engaging in professional development at the building, district, and state levels; attending EdCamps; participating in Webinars; listening to podcasts; and reflecting by blogging. What’s on your list?

Reflecting and writing down my professional growth opportunities, it’s no wonder sometimes I feel scattered and that I’ve got my hands in a variety of activities, because I do! I just remember these growth opportunities keep me supplied with ideas, mentors, and ways to keep becoming a better principal.

Find what you’re passionate about, connect with others, and remember growing and developing is a step by step journey. I had to learn to take my own journey and not try to copy someone else’s. Sometimes it was challenging but also turned out to be more rewarding for me.

“Hello, this is the Principal Calling.”


In the summer of 2015, I (Mark) was participating in a Twitter chat and was impressed when a teacher shared that she made a positive phone call home for one of her students every day. I thought, in my school I have 750 students and can certainly find one student a day deserving of a positive phone call home, thus #GoodNewsCallOfTheDay was born. That year (2015-2016) I created a spreadsheet and tracked my 130 different positive phone calls. Actually, I made more than 130 calls, I selected 130 different students that year. For some students I called both parents or other family members, whoever they wanted me to call. I also took a selfie with the student and shared the photo and reason for the call on social media. The following year (2016-2017) I continued my #GoodNewsCallOfTheDay making calls for 135 different students that year. I continued with the selfie and sharing on social media and I bought #GoodNewsCallOfTheDay wrist bands to give each student for them to remember and show others. This has turned out to be a powerful practice taking less than 15 minutes each day and using an easy technology tool, the telephone. Making my positive phone call home is the best part of my day.

During the 2016-2017 school year, I (Jay) had a goal similar to Mark’s – make one positive phone call home. I failed miserably except for one beautiful Friday in April. I had every teacher provide me with at least one student and made phone calls most of the day on that Friday. It was one of the highlights of the year for me and, more importantly, it made our kids and their families feel good. After a summer of learning and challenges by #principalsinaction, I renewed my goal of making a #GoodNewsCallOfTheDay but with a little bit of a twist. I meet with our grade level teams every Thursday and one of our agenda items is to provide me with a name of a student to receive a #GoodNewsCallOfTheDay. Those not on grade level teams have also provided me with names. If there are any “extra” names, I encourage the teachers to make the calls themselves as it’s a great way to build positive relationships with families. This week I added one more twist as I asked staff to nominate a colleague for a #GoodNewsCallOfTheDay. They did, I called the husband of the teacher, and the three of us had a really good cry. The relationships fostered by sharing good news to a student or staff member’s family cannot be underestimated.

When I (Ryan) became a vice principal of a high school, I knew that I needed to do something to make sure that I wasn’t only calling home for discipline issues or problems. I needed to get parents and students to understand that we care about the positive things that are going on as well. Thinking back to the first call I made, the parents were shocked. I had chosen a student that had been in trouble before, but on this day made a great decision and helped out a student who was down on their luck. As soon as I caught him doing something good, I jumped at the opportunity to spread the joy. As I transitioned into becoming an elementary school principal, calling home for good things was a must. These phone calls have established positive relationships with parents and with students.

You can check out the Twitter hashtag #GoodNewsCallOfTheDay to see other educators making positive phone calls and smiling students. Make it a practice to share the positive and recognize the good things happening in your school. Remember, If you’re not telling your school’s story, someone else will.

Trust Your Gut


Call it your gut, instinct, intuition, or conscience, that little voice you hear is worth paying attention to.

Two incidents this past week, our first week of school, made me reflect and confirm that I really need to trust my gut. I won’t go into details, but I can describe my thinking, behavior, reaction, and reflection, hopefully to encourage myself, and you, to trust your gut in the future.

The first incident involved something I observed at the end of last school year. I wanted to make a change at the time, but thought I’d give myself some time to process. I continued to consider it over the summer, but I never quite made the decision, partly because I didn’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. The first day of school arrived and because I didn’t go with my gut, there was a minor eruption. Thankfully, I finally made the decision I considered last spring and all summer, it just took me too long to realize my initial instinct was correct. I could have saved time, energy, and a bit of drama if I would have trusted my gut last spring.

The second incident involved a decision I should have made but didn’t. I actually remember the thought passing through my head then quickly leaving. I also gathered input from others, but things still didn’t feel right. Then, the event happened and I received some unhappy feedback from others. What I learned is to pay attention and spend time with those fleeting thoughts. Because it was the beginning of school, my excuse is that I was too busy to trust my gut. Like the message above says, “If you truly feel there’s something, chances are there is.” I needed to notice that quick gut feeling and spend time with it. Had I done that, I believe I would have made a better decision.

So, pay attention to your intuition, use your instincts, and trust your gut. When you do that, I believe you’ll make the right decisions and save time, energy, and stress.


Dress Code Controversy


Yesterday, I posted the above graphic I created on Twitter to encourage other educators to have fun and participate in Bow Tie Tuesday this year.

Someone read that post and wondered, “Why aren’t teachers expected to wear ties every day?” I asked if they were a public school teacher and what would they recommend for a dress code for teachers.

Hundreds of notifications later, clearly this has touched a nerve with folks.

Someone remarked, “If teachers want to be taken as professionals, then they should dress like professionals.” Another person commented, “It doesn’t take clothes to make for a professional.”

I believe something in the middle works best.

For the past twenty years in the two districts I’ve worked in, there has not been a dress code for the adults who work in the schools. However, there were many iterations of dress codes for students. I always thought it was curious that we had many standards for student dress but none for adults.

My style is to wear a suit, shirt, and tie most days. I’m comfortable in that attire but I don’t espouse that for everyone. There are many opinions about dress expectations for educators. While on one hand, dressing casually and comfortably for physical education, art, recess, hand-on activities, field trips, outdoor learning, and sitting on the floor makes sense, you don’t want that casualness to be extreme. Some folks on Twitter felt jeans, t-shirts, leggings, and shorts are too casual for the workplace.

Do teachers need to wear suits, ties, dress shoes, dresses, pantyhose, or heels to be taken seriously and look professional? Do teachers who wear jeans need to work harder to earn respect and be treated professionally?

I don’t think there’s a right answer. I do believe teachers need to find a balance and discover what works for them.

Another comment in the Twitter conversation was, “If you want to be treated like a professional, act like one.” I totally agree. I believe professionalism encompasses much more than dress. It includes attitude, behavior, language, personality, spirit, relationships, and work ethic, and I get to see great examples of professionalism every day.