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.

Make Someone’s Day


Last Monday, I received one of the greatest surprises I’ve ever had. One of my role models; someone I follow and connect with on Twitter, Facebook, and Voxer; and an educator who has reenergized my spirit, stopped by and surprised me as I was welcoming staff back for our first professional development day.

Adam Welcome, amazing and inspiring California educator and cofounder and coauthor of Kids Derserve It, stopped by my school to surprise and meet me for the first time while on his way to central Minnesota for keynoting engagements. This speaks to the quality of this guy that he would take time out of his busy schedule to surprise me and make my day.

Now, I know we all can’t travel across the county to surprise each other like Adam was able, but there are other acts you can take to make someone’s day.

You can make a phone call; write and send a note; text a photo; schedule a Google Hangout or Facebook Messenger video chat; send a heartfelt email; post a funny Tweet or direct message; leave a Voxer message; create and send a video; give a face-to-face greeting; and/or leave a treat on someone’s desk, chair, or mailbox.

I remember the kind actions members of my PLN have taken the past couple years. I have received cards, letters, notes, gift cards, wrist bands, t-shirts, stickers, drawings, phone calls, email messages, Twitter direct messages, Voxer messages, and visits, and I save and remember them all. You probably remember the things you have received from others and now it’s time to pay it forward and make someone’s day.

Principals, It’s Time To Be Silly

Principal Eric Sacco in Kansas wears his school’s eagle mascot costume on the first day of school. Principal Lindsy Stumpenhorst in Illinois plays a game of hot potato with her staff during the school day. Principal Andy Jacks in Virginia dresses up as Elf on the Shelf and hangs out in the media center. Principal Tonya Hilburn in Louisiana dresses up every Friday and brings the Treat Trolley around to her staff members. I could keep going on about what I have seen from principals in my PLN and how they inspire me, but the point is, principals, you need to be silly.

As an aside, I am an extroverted introvert, and many of my principal friends are, too. We can be “on” and exhibit outgoing characteristics, but we can also be “off” and need time to be by ourselves to recharge. I say this because, although I’ve been silly and worn costumes like a pirate, Horton from Dr. Seuss, and the Mad Hatter for years, it takes preparation and energy to do so. But, principals, being silly is so worth it.

Students, families, and staff members love to see you dressing up, singing, dancing, kissing a pig, camping on the roof, taking a whipped cream pie in the face, all those crazy things principals do.

Being silly also demonstrates to staff members that it’s important to step out of your comfort zone and take risks. We expect students to do that so we educators need to role model that for them and who is the lead role modeler for silliness? It’s the principal.

Being silly makes you human, accessible, and let’s others get to know you on a different level. You can share hidden talents, passions, unrealized dreams, and show a side that many don’t always get to see from the principal.

A final reason to ride a tricycle through the hallways, zip down the slide, jump rope, and sing karaoke is that it adds to the spirit and culture of a school. If the principal is willing to be silly and have fun, that attitude will be contagious and fun will permeate your school’s hallways and spaces.

So principals, step out of your comfort zone, have fun, and be silly. After being inspired by watching other principals’ silliness, I sang a version of Adele’s “Hello” in my welcome back-to-school video, live, no lip syncing! The reception has been positive and amazing and I’m already thinking about my next act. Dancing anyone?







What Is This #PIAchat Thing All About?



#principalsinaction is a wonderful group of principals who are always working to be better for their kids and their schools. There is a running hashtag on Twitter where principals, and others in and out of education, can see the great things principals are doing every day. The group consists of about 100 principals that stretch from coast to coast across this beautiful nation.

But there is also a Twitter chat that occurs on Tuesday nights at 8:00 CST that is what we consider the fastest 30 minutes on Twitter. Moderators post a few questions and principals from all over the country respond. We end with a call to action or a challenge that many of the principals take on as the focus of sharing the great things in their school.

For me (Mark), engaging in Twitter chats has provided some of best professional development I have received, and it’s free! I started as a lurker, advanced to answering questions and contributing, to these days volunteering to facilitate and lead Twitter chat discussions. After four years of Twitter chats, I can even engage in two chats at once provided I’m using the TweetDeck tool.

For me (Ryan), Twitter chats have been a way to constantly push my thinking and hear what others have to say on topics that I am not so comfortable with. It took my awhile before I felt comfortable with jumping in and actively participating in the chat. I would sit and watch the chat, but thought that no one could learn from me. I was wrong! There is so much power in sharing your thoughts and your story. Your answer to some of the questions might spark a thought of another person and that is what it is all about. Pushing each other to be better leaders and better people.

For me (Jay), Twitter chats really got me started in the Twitterverse. I initially was a lurker, like Mark, but when I jumped into the discussion, I realized I could learn so much more. The connections began and with it came a comfort level to connect with others face to face at conferences and EdCamps. Before Twitter, I either wouldn’t have known other attendees or I would have been nervous to walk up to speak with them. Twitter became the conduit to deeper professional relationships that fostered learning unlike any other learning before.

Why take part in a chat?

Chats help to focus a conversation. Moderators or co-moderators post questions that pertain to a topic, often in a Q1 (Question 1), A1 (Answer 1) format. Chat participants answer the questions and this oftens provides ideas and suggestions that hadn’t been thought of before.

Chats provide connections to others with similar and different perspectives. This allows participants to grow and learn that don’t occur in other ways, like reading books or blogs. Participating in chats helps to grow your professional learning network, or PLN.

Chats can be searched by hashtag. Our hashtag is #PIAchat, short for #principalsinaction chat. If you happen to miss the chat, you can always go back and search the hashtag to see what you missed.

Hopefully you can join us for the next #PIAchat on August 22, 2017, at 8:00 CST and learn what this #PIAchat thing is all about!

How Do You Challenge Yourself?


With school starting back up around the country, it is important to start thinking, How do you challenge yourself? Jay Posick, Mark French, and I (Ryan Sheehy) are principals that have connected through being in a PLN called Principals In Action. Principals in Action is a group that was started by one of the Kids Deserve It authors, Adam Welcome. It started with a challenge by Adam to ride the slide with kids then tweet the picture using the #principalsinaction hashtag. The group is now so much more than a hashtag. Using Voxer as our platform, we communicate on a daily basis, discussing triumphs, struggles, and the everyday occurrences of being a principal. We currently are a group of over 100 administrators that have made a goal of being out of the office and truly being a principal in action. Our group stretches from coast to coast and everywhere in between.

One of the ways we have been able to challenge each other on a daily basis is through creating challenges that everyone participates in then tweets about using the #principalsinaction hashtag. These challenges come out each week and are posted all over Twitter by using the hashtag. This past year some of the challenges included: ride a tricycle, ride the bus, serve food in the lunchroom, eat lunch with students, play on the swings, and read to students. These challenges are constantly pushing administrators out of their office and out with kids and staff.

For me (Ryan), last year was my first year as a principal. Being part of this PLN provided me a level of encouragement, professional development, and outside thinking that I was not getting in my district. The challenges provided me an excuse to document some of the fun things I was doing outside of my office. I have shown up to principal meetings and other principals look at me and say, “Ryan, it always looks like you are having fun.” I am and I show it off because school should be fun and the challenges had that component for me. I have enjoyed riding tricycles, slipping down slides, serving lunch in the cafeteria, and just being with kids. We need to be the one that shows teachers, students, and parents that principals need to be with kids, not in their office.

For me (Jay), I was in my tenth year as principal in the same building. #principalsinaction provided the inspiration and support to get out of my office, interact with students and staff, and accept challenges. I honestly don’t remember all of them, but I do remember my favorite one, shadowing a student for a day. I actually shadowed two students- a 6th grader in the morning and a 7th grader in the afternoon Lunch and recess duty were sandwiched between the two shadowing opportunities. The day was spent in classrooms learning right alongside the students. Interested students filled out a Google form and then a random number selector determined who I shadowed. The students and staff were awesome that day and it was amazing being in the classrooms with them as a student. I think the staff enjoyed me being in their classrooms far more than an observation or a walkthrough, too.

For me (Mark), last year was my 35th as an educator and 20th as an elementary school principal. Being connected with other leaders across the country has revitalized my attitude and energized my spirit. I have a group of colleagues who inspire, motivate, encourage, and hold me accountable. The challenges get me out of my office and connecting with students, teachers, food service team members, paraprofessionals, bus drivers, custodians, parents, and other stakeholders. I am excited to be a principal in action at this point in my career.

We challenge you to get out of your office and interact with your students and staff members. We encourage you to follow the #principalsinaction hashtag and participate in the challenges. Find ways to share your experiences with your school community through your newsletter, blog, and social media accounts. Join the movement, get out of your office, and show others how much fun being a principal can be!

Why Aren’t More Principals Attending EdCamps? Dispelling Three Myths


I love EdCamps. Today I attended #EdCampSEMN at Austin High School in Austin, Minnesota, the home of Hormel and SPAM. And, if that’s not reason enough to attend, the beautiful drive down from the Twin Cities through rolling hills and gorgeous farmland, reconnecting with other educators, making new friends, and strengthening my skills and knowledge so I can be a better principal, were all great reasons to attend this EdCamp.

While I was there, and when I’ve been at other EdCamps, I’ve has a similar thought, Why aren’t more Principals attending EdCamps? I have identified three reasons I believe that happens and try to dispel the myths around those.

Myth #1 – EdCamps are for teachers. Yes, they are, but they’re also for principals, parents, future educators, Superintendents, technology directors, curriculum leaders, anyone who has a connection with students and schools. I have learned so much from attending EdCamps and count robotics, coding, programming, drones, video messaging, Teach Like A Pirate, genius hour, makerspace, Flipgrid, and augmented reality among practices I have implemented and continue to use as a principal.

Myth #2 – I’m not a techie. I think there is a common misunderstanding that EdCamps are all about apps and programs and robotics and devices and using and integrating technology. That’s not true. Any topic is up for learning, sharing, and facilitating at EdCamps. In fact, two of the sessions I attended today, one I volunteered to facilitate, were about non-technology topics: managing student behavior and flexible learning spaces.

Myth #3 – I’m too busy, there’s nothing of value for me. That is so wrong! It is true that you get out what you put into an EdCamp. If you make connections, share ideas, suggest things you want to learn about, and have an open mind, there will be value for you. One of the great ideas I received today happened during a lunch conversation with a high school English teacher from Iowa. He talked about how his district was implementing professional development this coming year in which pd goals were determined by each educator. They will create a plan for their learning, document their progress, and share their results. I was intrigued by that concept and left with contact names, website information, and Twitter handles. And, that learning took place outside of the scheduled sessions while eating barbecue.

Principals, you need to find and attend EdCamps in your area. If there aren’t any, step up to help organize one. I’ve taken the EdCamp model of professional development back to two different school staffs and having our own, smaller EdCamp professional development day was very well received. So, dispel those myths, model for your teachers, and engage in great learning at EdCamps. Plus you may get to see beautiful scenery and reconnect with great friends.