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Posted by on in Education Leadership

I found myself mixed with humility and joy listening to my sixteen-year old son, Keegan, as well as just observing his passionate explanation of how I don't know how to use my own camera to take pictures.  Having mastered the art of lecturing to me complete with eyes rolls and exhausted breath, he walked me through all the various settings, buttons, and dials on the camera. When did my son learn all of this?  

While I tried to act interested in all of his tips, tricks, and strategies, I waited patiently for him to finish, so I could school him a very important fact that would keep me at the top of the food chain of knowledge in the family; the fact that I bought an expensive camera with something called "Auto-Focus".  When he finished, I paused for dramatic effect before announcing my profound statement.  Getting ready to drop the mic, he quickly brought me down to Earth with his response: "Then, why would the company still keep all these features?  Sometimes, it is necessary to focus manually."

Even a year later, that experience and his response had me reflecting on its truth in settings outside of the photography world.  We tend to think about the word “Focus”, and think it should be automatic in what we do with it.  We tell ourselves we need to focus more as a New Year's Resolution, and say it when we are asked what changes we intend to make in improvement settings.  It has become such a much-needed area of work that it often gets nods of approval and the occasional "Amen" when we say it aloud.  We treat the ability to focus as something automatic, when it is something that is meant to be set manually.

In an effort to ensure you are focused, here are "Four Strategies To Manually Set Your Focus": 

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Posted by on in Education Leadership
I couldn’t wait for Dad to get home that evening.  You couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.  I peered around the bushes to scan for his car while delicately holding the yellow envelope careful not to bend it.  
I got all A’s for the first grading period of my middle school career, and I couldn’t wait to see the reaction on his face!  It felt like days before his car finally appeared from the corner and pulled in the driveway.  He beeped the horn twice to acknowledge seeing me as I jumped frantically up and down.  Knowing I had something to say, he parked the car immediately and pulled down his window.  With my chest puffed out, I handed him my report card through his car window.  He matched his smile with mine and scanned the report.  After a few seconds, he proudly said, “Great job, Neil.  Now, I think it’s time you get a tutor.”
A tutor?  But, I got all A’s.  I didn’t need any help.  I had an instant imagine of me sitting in the corner of the classroom with a dunce cap while my classmates pointed at me laughing.  My shoulders lowered, my chest deflated, and my head dropped.  What did I do wrong?
Dad could see my reaction, and asked what was wrong.  Trying to hide the tears and hurt in my voice, I asked him what I did wrong that would cause me getting a tutor.
Puzzled, he responded in a matter-of-fact tone, “People don’t get tutors because they are dumb; they get tutors to get better.”
Dad went on to explain the difference in psychology between my thought and his in how we perceive tutors.  Driving home his point, he even reminded me that even Michael Jordan needed a coach!  After that, I was hooked.  I didn’t just want tutors in my schoolwork, but I listened to anyone I could find to help coach me up in tennis.
After securing my first teaching job, I took every chance to be mentored from veteran teachers.  I didn’t see it as a weakness or something that needed to be forced to do.  I realized that to be a better leader in the future, a Future Leader, I needed to learn from others today!
While there is no mandate for me to be mentored today, I still look to learn from others constantly.  Although someone may have more experience than me or a fancy title, it matters that I surround myself with others who possess the following “6 Attributes of Effective Mentors”:
  1. Provide Insights From Experience.  The leader needs to be reflective and able to humbly articulate how they were successful as well as mistakes made in their journey.
  2. Help You to Connect. The leader should be able to connect me with resources to address needs as well as introduce me to other people and ways to grow.
  3. Tell You What You May Not Want to Hear. The leader needs to be honest and straight-forward as well as be direct with areas to avoid or stop doing.
  4. Push You Beyond What You Think Is Enough. The leader should elevate my awareness to the magic of possibilities as well as drive me beyond the limitations I may put on myself.
  5. Encourage You Along the Way.  The leader needs to keep me moving forward as well as be the cheerleader through inspiration and positivity.
  6. Celebrate Your Successes! The leader should present along the journey as well as at the major milestones to celebrate accomplishments to reveal our true friendship and partnership.

While there's no perfect mentor, it's important to go in to a mentoring relationship with the same expectations.  Be up-front and clear on your needs, so you can find future success.

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Posted by on in Education Leadership


It’s been said that the Principal is the face of the school.

If that’s the case, then the Assistant Principal is definitely the backbone!

For those lucky enough to have an Assistant Principal in your building, they are the ones who work, for the most part, behind the scenes in a number of areas.  They are the ones who organize and lead efforts such as: the master schedule, testing, staff development, student discipline, assemblies, recognition events, duties, ceremonies, buildings and grounds, and staff evaluations.  And, while doing all of these important tasks, they do it while connecting with students, staff, parents, and community members!  Could you imagine what would happen if your Assistant Principal wasn’t there?

This week marks National Assistant Principals Week

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Posted by on in Education Leadership

doctor and elderly patient

Over the weekend, I remembered a profound lesson my father taught me years ago.  As an eye doctor, he explained the shift he made after less than a year of practice.  In his eagerness, zeal, and knowledge, he shared that he could diagnose the patient's eye problem quickly by observation and begin thinking through the treatment process.  Often, he was able to determine the course of action without even talking with the patient!  This resulted in him being able to move more patients in and out of his office, so he could help more patients and increase productivity.

Yet, he came to realize that, even though he proved the necessary physical treatment of the patient's eye, he did not treat their human need to share their story.  Although he knew the necessary course of action to treat their eye, he deprived them of sharing the background on what occurred, their pain, and how it has impacted them.  My dad recognized the need to allow patients to share their story as part of their healing process.  Today, he is known not only for the precision and work he physically does to help heal others, but he is also esteemed for his compassionate heart and sensitivity to others.

I was reminded of this story at an annual retreat with the Worthington Resource Pantry Board Meeting.  As part of the visioning process, a facilitator asked a question that went beyond the physical aspects the pantry provides regarding food, resources, and training to those in need.  The facilitator asked the question: "How do you want clients to feel that are serviced at the Pantry?"

The members of Board all agreed it was a profound question - it isn't just about supplying physical needs to others; it's also about empathesizing with them and treating the whole person.  Our conversations lifted the tone of the meeting, as we talked about the need to provide dignity, hope, pride, welcomed, invited, and a sense of community to the question.

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Posted by on in Education Leadership

Counselors office

Last year, I had the privilege of presenting, along with the high school principals, to the Worthington City Schools Board of Education on the “State of the High School Programs”.  We spent time framing our work to consider the whole child as well as students with different backgrounds, interests, and levels in learning.  We shared about the partnerships with various organizations which extended learning beyond the walls of the schools, as well as creating a physically and emotionally safe environment for students to learn and explore.  After the presentation, we opened the time to questions that led to a great dialogue to showcase the hard work of our staff and students.

At the conclusion of the evening presentation, I continued to reflect on a statement from a Board Member immediately after the presentation portion of the evening – “It sounds like our School Counselors are doing a lot for our students.”

As I reflected on all of the slides about our programs, everything we talked about attached to the direct or indirect work and involvement of our school counselors.  While I have an incredible respect for our school counselors and what they do each day, I realized that I neglected to recognize them overtly.  I am so glad our Board Members were able to make this great connection of the work with our students to our school counselors.

With the increased and changing requirements on graduation requirements and state Image result for school counselorstesting, I am fortunate to work with such talented and committed school counselors.  The role of the counselor has changed.  In addition to managing college essays and counseling
students, they also create and monitor programs, in social-emotional learning, new student programs, suicide prevention, career development, intervention, and family issues.  In my role as a district administrator, they are on my direct dial for many of these efforts.

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