Sunday, September 13, 2015

I've Moved to Wordpress




Thank you for visiting my blog at Passion...Purpose...Pride and for those of you who follow me on Twitter, I am grateful for your loyalty. 

After almost a three year marriage to Blogspot I decided to make the switch over to Wordpress.
  
I hope you will take the time to view my new site at



Thank you for being the change that our children and school communities deserve.


jimmy



Monday, May 25, 2015

What Makes You Stay?

Yesterday was an exceptionally trying day. Not just for me, but for everyone in our school community. We held graduation yesterday and for the second year in a row, we did so with heavy hearts.  For those of you who have ever experienced the loss of a student, you know exactly what I am talking about. That feeling of helplessness never goes away.  In fact, each time a young life is taken from us it can resurrect feelings that have been harbored away since the last time such an experience occurred.  As building leaders, sometimes the pain and feelings of guilt consume us because we begin to question ourselves as to what or anything we could have said or done differently to prevent such a tragic loss from occurring.

The truth is the job of a building leader is difficult. In fact, it is extremely difficult.  I am sharing this with you not because I want anyone’s pity, but because I want to help other leaders out there who may be questioning themselves on whether or not they can continue doing what they are doing in terms of leading a school. After all, most school administrators I know are extremely passionate about what they do, can’t imagine themselves doing anything else, and truly, truly believe they can make a difference in the lives of others. They believe it to the very core of their being that they can and will make an impact.  Yet, all of us hope that the impact we make and the mark we leave on others will be positive.  We want to be able to say the right thing and do the right thing when the moment calls on us to do so, but the truth is, we won’t always get it right and when we don’t, there will be times when we won’t get the benefit of the doubt that we feel we may deserve.  This can be especially hurtful when you feel you have given everything you have to serve others in your school community including students, families, and staff in order help and support them and then feel disparaged or even defamed as a result of your decisions or actions.

In these darkest moments, no one would blame us for doubting and asking ourselves, "Is it really all worth it?"

Regardless of the number of times you are tested in your daily work as a school leader, I hope you take the time in these moments to focus on abundance and blessings rather scarcity and frustrations.  I want my thoughts below to serve as an encouraging word from someone who lives your life every day and who can empathize with the feelings you experience on a daily basis, whether they be feelings of joy, sorrow, gratification, stresses, or even doubt.

1.  Doubt is a part of leadership.  No doubt comes without a purpose. In your most challenging moments, lean on those you trust and let them know your biggest fears. Reaching out will strengthen your relationships with others and serve as a reminder that together we can prevail. Remember, alone we can be an example, but together, we can be exemplar!

 2.  See your wounds and pain as a symbol of strength and courage and teachable moments. Don’t be embarrassed or ashamed of them.  See your resiliency in these challenges and ask yourself, “What am I learning about myself through this?” Take time to reflect on your journey so it can only get healthier and happier.

 3.  Keep going. No matter what, keep going. There will be times in your work when it feels like nothing can go right. Accept the fact that periodically your work as a school leader is going to come at you hard.  Sometimes we have to go through difficult times in order to appreciate the best moments in our job. Some of our most critical learning comes from our biggest mistakes and most trying moments. Don’t let these experiences discourage you, rather cherish the challenges.  



In many ways, the work of a school leader has not changed significantly in the last 25-30 years, but in other ways it has.  The demands and pressures placed on school leaders today by parents, district personnel and legislators at both the state and national levels are certainly greater than they ever have been and not because we are asking for the attention, right? The truth is times are changing. So what can we do moving forward. Well, start with believing that the difference between now and tomorrow is you.

Is it really all worth it? I hope your answer to this question was yes. You see, our profession needs you.  It needs you to not only tell your story, but it needs you to keep living your story, even when you feel like you can’t keep going.

What makes me stay? The same thing that got me in. I didn’t become a school leader to help others be successful, but rather to change the conditions and the environment for others to have the best chance to be successful.

Thank you for enjoying what you do and for all that you do to make this world a better place for our kids.  You are the change!




"Remember the power of reflection and then proceed forward and further than you ever thought possible."


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

One Simple Interaction...

Not a day or an evening passes by in my work as a high school principal where I don’t take a moment to stop and reflect on the dozens of interactions and the hundreds of conversations that I experience on a daily basis.  It is this part of my work that I truly enjoy and value the most. Over time I have come to recognize that by investing my time and my energy in another individual through the simplest of interactions, I not only play a part in helping others become better, I become better.

Over the last few weeks I have been blessed to experience a wide range of personal interactions with educators from all over the country who continue to shape me in my role as a leader, but more importantly, shape me as a person.  These interactions continue to push my thinking, force me to pause and reflect, and serve as a gentle reminder that my ability to influence others and the manner in which I want to be influenced begins and ends with me.

So, I begin…..

1. We may not get to decide which kids we serve, but we do get to decide which kind of climate we want to serve them in.  This is so true. Rather than expend energy complaining about the behavior of some of our students, we need to shift our energy to cultivating a culture where all kids feel valued and are given a sincere opportunity to be a part of something great.  Kids want to be noticed for something positive!
2. When was the last time you tried something for the first time? We ask kids every day in school to put themselves out there but yet forget ourselves sometimes what it feels like to be completely vulnerable.  Remember to be empathetic with kids who are filled with anxieties for reasons sometimes beyond their own understanding.
3. Don’t wait for people to tell you what to do or wait for others to do it…do it yourself.  Want to build a community that currently doesn't exist? Take initiative and be the change you so desire to see happen.  Great change begins with self-change. Take an idea and act! It’s that simple.
4. Thank you for enjoying what you do!  Sometimes we can take notice of others by not just thanking them for the work they do, but for recognizing how much they enjoy the work they are doing.  When we focus our energy on giving of ourselves to others, others notice the magnitude of our joy and passion to serve.
5. If you want people to be less anxious, provide more clarity.  How often do we get frustrated with students or staff who we feel are not able to follow directions?  Perhaps we need to look inward and ask ourselves, “Were my directions as clear as they could have been?” If not, own it, regroup, and try again, this time focusing on more specifics of what you want.
6. The difference between now and tomorrow is you…Be Tomorrow…Today. Do you believe you can have a generational impact on families? True, HOPE cannot be plan all by itself, but it is a beginning.  Every success story begins with this vital first step by someone who has the faith and hope that whatever they believe in can be done. Without HOPE there is no plan. We all need someone to believe in us. Be that one!
7. Sometimes we just need to stay the course and we will eventually pass Go.  Just like in the game of Monopoly, we must keep our focus and not get caught up in short term losses.  Stay the course and recognize that the long term results we desire to see in our students will eventually come after they pass Go. Sometimes we don’t get the benefit of seeing the immediate results of our work, but trust that others eventually will.  And you can feel good knowing you played a part in that student’s success.


8. Experience is still the best teacher.  If we believe this to be true and if we want our students to truly find value in their experiences, then maybe we should put them in position more often of having them experience failure and the consequences that come with having failed.
9. Resume of Failure. Every student should be required to submit their resume of failures throughout their school experience and then share it for others to see. In fact, so should the adults. We need to spend more time investing in the failures of others in order to recognize and appreciate the value of their accomplishments. In this way, maybe even what appears to be the smallest of successes will be more deeply admired through a different lens.
10. We don’t need to transform teaching. We need to transform the belief systems in our school leaders.  Yep, I said it. Think about it.  Those who have a mindset that they can change the world continue to prove their worth by being the game changers our kids and teachers deserve.  We need to move beyond new frameworks, tools and programs and invest more time, energy, support, and resources in shaping the minds and belief systems of school leaders if we are ever going to transform learning and transform our school communities. Don’t misunderstand me. I am calling myself out here as well. I am part of the equation and understand I need to continue to raise my game.

So I end….

Every day I walk through our school doors and am entrusted to make a difference in the lives of the students in our school.  I must be prepared to face the challenges, accept our failures, honor our successes and take time to recognize that neither of these is a final destination.  As school leaders, we are the filters for our schools.

By taking the time to listen and self-reflect on the words of others, I continue to shape my own inner core values and strengthen my belief system which guides me in my daily work with students and staff.  If I want to change my relationships with others for the better, I must be willing to take the time to reflect and then change the manner in which I manage those conversations and interactions.

I vow to continue to try my very best to leave a positive mark on those who I come in contact with each and every day.  Over the years I have learned that it doesn't cost me anything to reach out and greet someone with a friendly smile, strive to lift someone’s spirit with a sincere compliment, support others with a heartfelt hug, or jolt those who are in dire straits with a blast of positive energy to get them through the rest of a day.

One simple interaction, followed by another, and then followed by another……can make all the difference to help us transform our belief system to help change a life forever.




“The best minute you spend is the one you invest in people.”  - Ken Blanchard



Thank you to the following individuals who continue to influence my thinking and inspire me to want to be better every day. I cannot thank you enough for your generosity, time, and words of wisdom in shaping me into the leader and person I want to be.  You are the best!

Dan Kelley                @dpk933               
Pernille Ripp            @pernilleripp
Joel Pedersen           @joelped33
Sue Alborn-Yilek     @dr_sue_ay
Kim Hofmann          @hofmann_kim
James Sanders         @jamestsanders
Mark Wagner           @markwagner
Jennie Magiera        @MsMaguiera
Jason Markey           @jasonmmarkey
Ken Spero                 @edleadershipsim










Sunday, January 18, 2015

The #ONEword All School Leaders Should Avoid

Link to Audio Podcast

Over the last month thousands of Twitter followers around the world have been sharing their #ONEword for 2015.  Admittedly, I have been inspired by members of my PLN and their selections of words such as empathy, attitude, kindness, purpose, resiliency, inspire, courage, engage, create, today, and balance to name just a few.  Some may have selected their one word as part of a New Year resolution or saw it as an opportunity to commit to a change in lifestyle. For others like me, maybe it was a chance to reflect and grow both personally and professionally. 

As I embarked on the challenge of selecting my #ONEword for 2015, I will admit I struggled to make a decision because one of my words embodied the spirit in which I wanted to model to school leaders how to behave and the other bordered on how we as leaders should never behave, especially if we aspire to develop a vibrant and healthy school culture.  Yet, both words are coupled in such a way that others may or may not understand nor appreciate their potential impact on another person or organization.

So, I selected FORGIVENESS.  Initially I focused on my need to forgive others who I believed may have wronged me in some capacity.  I quickly discerned that perhaps I should be more focused on expanding beyond my own willingness to forgive others.  After all, wouldn't I be more fulfilled if I took it a step further and asked others for their FORGIVENESS?

In my head it seemed so.

Yet, I still felt that wasn’t really what was weighing on my mind.  There was another word that was rankling away on me more.  If you have ever been on the receiving end of this word, I think you will be able to relate to what I am about to share.  It is a word that rips at our inner core and makes us question our commitment, loyalty, and value to our organization. 

What is this #ONEword?

GOTCHA!

Lamentably, it is a word I fell trap to during my early years as both a teacher and as an administrator. In my head I justified it. I convinced myself that both students and staff got what they had coming to them.  And if I felt that a student or staff member had denounced me in anyway, I believed at the time I had every right to play the gotcha game right back.  How terribly wrong I was to have behaved in such a manner.  I have shared before in other posts that I have never felt I have a monopoly on how to lead. However, I do feel over the years I have learned that by taking time for reflection and developing a mindset that I am willing to make changes in my behavior when necessary, I can and will grow both personally and professionally.  As a school leader, it is my responsibility to ensure our schools do not cultivate a culture that is so toxic that it destroys the very fiber of what it means to be a community.



What does a culture of gotcha do to students and staff?

  1. makes them feel betrayed, de-valued, disrespected, and in many cases, embarrassed
  2. professionally, causes individuals to believe the environment is set up to fail them
  3. designs a focus on placing blame rather than giving credit
  4. spawns an opportunity to tear down and discredit members of an organization rather than build them up
  5. shapes members to feel powerless, to lack ability to influence or change for the better
  6. produces an environment where opinions don’t matter; if you try to explain or respond, you are left without a voice.
  7. questions the integrity of its members; makes people feel others cannot be trusted
  8. expectations from superiors are not open and/or clear, we expect others to just define them, yet nail them when they don’t do what they are “supposed” to be doing
  9. devised to set people up to fail; not an environment where members feel they can take risks
  10. discovers that people are getting you even when you don’t know they are getting you


Looking back I realize I need to heed my own advice when it comes to modeling forgiveness.   One, forgive myself for some of the poor choices I made early on in my career as well as forgive others whose words or comments may have hurt me in some way. Two, ask for forgiveness from those who I have wronged where appropriate

Then again, as I reflect on this post, maybe gotcha doesn't have to be the #ONEword we avoid after all. Let’s work together to redefine gotcha as spending more time trying to catch others doing something right than trying to catch them doing something wrong.

Gotcha!



Thought for the day:  “Forgive and Forget…not Revenge and Regret.”







https://soundcloud.com/jimmycasas/the-oneword-all-school-leaders-should-avoid

Friday, January 2, 2015

What Connected Educators Do Differently

Link to Audio Podcast

This past year I was fortunate enough to co-author a book with Todd Whitaker and Jeff Zoul entitled, "What Connected Educators Do Differently."  Below is a short highlight of our book describing the impact of what being connected can do for both your personal and professional life. This preview was published in this month's January edition of Principal Leadership magazine.  The release date of the book is scheduled for February 16, 2015 and is currently available on Amazon.com.



The jubilation that she had felt during the welcome back to school week had worn off. Gone was the energy of connecting with new faces and interacting with her peers and preparing for the arrival of students who were eager to get back to school after a long summer. She was now alone, in her classroom, removed from the rest of her peers. She was feeling isolated, less effective, and thirsting for some adult personal and professional interaction.

The scenario described above is all too common in our profession, especially for new teachers who have not had the benefit of establishing a community of support.  Teaching has often been described as a lonely profession. In many schools, teachers walk into a classroom 180 days each year, shut their door, and do the best they can. They spend 90% of their day every day with students, deprived of any significant adult interaction. Over time, this lack of connectivity with other professionals leads to low efficacy, less risk-taking, burnout, and high turnover. Sadly, we begin to question whether we can even make a difference. Educators, like any other professionals, need peer-to-peer interactions and reciprocal investments in order to grow and develop. Why is this so critical? Because effective educators recognize the importance and value of making the time to connect with others both personally and professionally in order to avoid these islands of isolation. They know that students who feel connected to a school are more likely to succeed and realize that the same holds true for them as professionals.

Ultimately, we recognize that the success and impact of any personal learning network depends on the investment of time and effort that each individual is willing to commit not only to others, but to themselves. Creating a personal learning network is a collective effort, but unless each of us is willing to give of ourselves, the likelihood of that investment paying off any amount of positive dividends is dubious. Let us be clear, giving of ourselves does not imply that we are restricted only to giving to others, but equally important, taking time to pause so that we benefit from our own reflection on what we receive in return. These “returns,” or fundamental learnings, are part of building and investing in a Personal and Professional Learning Network. This is often referred to as a “PLN,” with the “P” sometimes representing “Personal” and sometimes representing “Professional.” We believe that both are equally important and think about this as “P to the Power of 2,” or as we sometimes like to call it—a P2LN, so that, collectively, we continue to grow not only personally, but professionally, in our learning network.

Being a connected educator is not a formal title, of course; there is no degree program or certification process one goes through to be deemed a connected educator. Our view is that serving as a connected educator is a mindset more than anything else.  In short, we define connected educators simply as ones who are actively and constantly seeking new opportunities and resources to grow as professionals. 

Based on our experiences connecting with educators around the world, we have identified 8 Key Behaviors that educators do that make the case for them being connected, allowing them to grow and learn—anytime, anywhere, from anyone—so that they continue to serve their schools and their students in the best ways possible.   


CONNECTED EDUCATORS:
  • Recognize it all starts with connecting to—and investing in—a personal and professional learning network (P2LN).
  • Rely on their P2LN to learn what they want, when they want, and how they want, looking beyond the walls of their own classrooms, schools, or districts and beyond the school day hours.
  • Focus on the three C’s so important in the lives of educators: Communication, Collaboration, and Community, consistently looking for new ways to improve in these areas. 
  • Give more than they take and derive just as much joy and energy from the giving as they do from taking.
  • Strive to be tomorrow, today, by making the most of the present while also keeping an eye out to the future. They connect what they did yesterday to what they are doing today—and what they think they may have to do tomorrow.
  • Focus on relationships, relationships, relationships, regardless of the vehicle they are using to connect, even in the midst of daily new advances in technology which allow us to connect in ways that can be considered impersonal.
  • Model the way for others, knowing that the way they behave will have an impact on whether those around them will also strive to become connected. Even if they are connected to thousands of other educators around the world, they do not lose sight of those immediately surrounding them in their home workplace.
  • Know when to unplug and make time to connect with themselves as well as their close family and friends in ways that require intentional unplugging for significant amounts of time. They are passionate about being connected, but know that, like anything else in life, staying plugged in too much can be counterproductive to the ultimate goal of growing and learning.


Getting connected to other educators around the world is actually quite fun once you learn how to go about creating a learning network and begin interacting with members of your network. However, if it were only about meeting new colleagues and having fun, we doubt that anyone would continue along this path for long. What keeps connected educators energized about their learning network is not only the people with whom they connect, but also the ideas they get connected to, ideas that help them get better at what they do.


Regardless of their initial attitudes, connected educators we have met are passionately committed to seeking new ways to connect with educators around the world to improve their own professional lives as well as the lives of the educators with whom they connect and the students they serve. Wherever you are currently on your journey to connectivity as an educator, we encourage you to take the next step; it will be a giant step forward in your professional life.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Closing the Opportunity Gap

Link to Audio Podcast

There I sat in in a room with over one hundred of our country’s most innovative school Superintendents who had been invited by the White House to commit to a pledge of cultivating a culture of digital learning in their school districts by working with students, educators, families and members of the community to become #FutureReady.  It was truly one of the most incredible life-changing opportunities that ever came across my way.

I was completely moved from the speeches by Education Assistant to the President Roberto Rodriguez, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, 2014 National Superintendent of the Year Alberto Carvalho and most importantly, the President of the United States, Barack Obama.

As I sat and listened to each one of them speak, I suddenly found myself inspired to take action. But the question that kept running through my head was what action could I take that would make the greatest impact on not only my school community (#bettpride), but for students and families across Iowa and across the country.  How would I confront the challenges and move forward with a sense of urgency so that the passion, hope, and energy I felt over these two days in Washington D.C. would not simply fade away into the pitfalls of the daily grind once I returned to Iowa.

As I perused the notes on my phone on the plane back home, one comment in particular that was shared by Secretary Duncan struck a chord with me, “We must close the opportunity gap first before we can begin the work of closing the achievement gap for kids.” 

So it begins, a call to action for us to commit to begin to identify and provide OPPORTUNITIES for ALL members of our school communities as well as with those members of our personal and professional networks.  The work is too great for the load to fall solely on the shoulders of Superintendents to bring about #FutureReady opportunities that will lead to #FutureReady change.  Our focus needs to shift to providing OPPORTUNITIES for #FutureReady leaders, teachers, and students to come together on a regular basis to help carry the load.  If we truly believe that every individual has the capacity to lead, then perhaps the success of our organizations should be measured by the number of OPPORTUNITIES we provide for others to demonstrate their leadership and impact on both the personal and professional learning by all members of our school communities.

#FutureReadyChange (#FRC) requires….


1.   Opportunities for Model Leaders…..to come together more often. Taking on a leadership role at any level is tough. It takes courage, resiliency, and toughness to withstand the barrage of challenges, negativity, and stress that comes with most leadership roles.  And yet here we sit trying to navigate this journey alone, our thoughts, ideas and worries isolated from our peers and sometimes our own families.  #FRC will require us to surround ourselves with a network of excellence in order to grow and nurture our own need for personal and professional growth.  We must take action by cultivating opportunities for teams of leaders to come together in more meaningful ways. One recommendation I recently shared with some Iowa Superintendents was to make the time to come together in each other’s school districts during PD/meeting days and learn from each other by observing model programs, sharing resources and discussing best practices. I encouraged them to take advantage of every opportunity to come together as a consortium of leaders and turn it into a learning opportunity for themselves and for their school districts by visiting their neighbors in surrounding school districts across the state regularly rather than meet in an isolated meeting location. 

 Signing the #FutureReady Pledge

2.       Opportunities for Model Teachers…to grow and develop their craft.  Let’s admit it.  Being a life-long learner is no easy task.  It takes time, effort, commitment, focus, discipline, desire and a sense of vulnerability to want to push ourselves to the next level. And yet, I still believe that with the right support and level of trust, most of our staff not only aspires to reach the next level, but wants to achieve a greater sense of accomplishment for themselves in order to have a greater impact on their students.  As leaders, it is our responsibility to purposefully invest in new teachers, but we must also make sure to find opportunities to invest in our veteran teachers.  #FRC will require us to provide meaningful teacher-led professional development by both new and veteran teachers in order to cultivate a culture where all teachers feel valued for their expertise and contribution to a school’s success.  We must find ways to highlight their work as well as their students’ work around the building, utilizing social media and local media to showcase the great lessons, projects and learning that is happening in their classrooms.  We will also need to invest, re-invest, and trust in our teachers by providing opportunities for them to attend state and national conferences as a team in order to support a collaborative culture that will move the needle on the barometer from pockets of excellence to a network of excellence.

2014 National World Language Conference in San Antonio 

3.       Opportunities for Model Students…to showcase their character, talents and brilliance.   The question comes down to this.  Do we truly value our students’ voice in the decision making process?  Or do we simply give it lip service?  Creating a platform to spotlight #stuvoice requires trust, belief, high expectations, patience, intentional fortitude, and a mindset that a student can provide meaningful content, conversation and feedback and can represent our schools in a positive manner in any given situation.  And yet as far as we have come in providing students a stage to demonstrate their learning in authentic, non-traditional, and meaningful ways, we have landed short in trial after trial of flattening the hierarchy that exists in schools today when it comes to placing a value on the student voice.  This opportunity gap is even more noticeable at the elementary and middle school levels. Although we have made some progress in amplifying student voice, #FRC is going to require us to be more consistent and thorough in providing student led initiatives that give students a voice in curriculum offerings, school policies, design of classroom and other learning spaces, lesson/unit design, student-led conferences and feedback on teacher effectiveness in the classroom.  In addition, we will need to see more shifts in classroom instruction with consistent implementation of practices such as genius hour, 20% time, gamification activities, project-based learning, student presentations, and other student led learning options that require students to demonstrate their learning through presentation, modeling, and performance.

BHS students speak at 2014 State Iowa Association of School Boards Conference

It has been less than two weeks since I witnessed over one hundred of the best, most creative and innovative Superintendents from across the country sign off on the #FutureReady pledge, committing to work as one.  Two weeks of OPPORTUNITIES to bring teams of school community members together to close the gap have passed since the pledges were signed.  We cannot continue to sequester our leaders, teachers and students if we want to inspire our communities to be #FutureReady.

There is a #FutureReady in all of us, but we must think beyond ourselves and not look at this challenge as an individual, school or district competition, but as an opportunity to come together as a collaborative community to be the #FutureReadyChange for a nation of schools our children deserve.

Will you join me?





“I believe in leading from the front and not asking people to do something that I will not do myself.”  - Alberto Carvalho, 2014 National Superintendent of the Year, Miami- Dade County Public Schools, Florida.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Poor Communication...The Root of All Evil?

The truth is, I know better.  I have been around long enough to see the damage that can come from poor communication, not communicating in a timely fashion or worse yet, failing to communicate altogether. In fact, I often find myself in my role as principal addressing issues that revolve around communication.  I truly believe that most of the negativity, harsh feelings and unnecessary work that is endured in schools and organizations alike and that impact culture all can be related back to poor communication, thereby causing me to examine closely and pose the following question, “Is it the root of all evil?”

Yet here I stood in a room full of people trying to navigate the emotional sentiments of some of our parents that I could attribute back to a lack on my part to communicate effectively.  That’s on me.  It wasn't that I underestimated the fallout that I knew that would occur from my decision and maybe that is what eventually led to my failure to communicate information out in a timely manner, somehow subconsciously leading myself to believe that it would not matter. Yes, it was a hectic week and I was trying to navigate what seemed like a bizzilion things that were coming my way, but quite frankly, people don’t want to hear excuses, especially from a leader who prides himself on owning his mistakes.  So I did the only thing I could do in that moment. I apologized.

That evening as I reflected back on my failure to properly communicate with some of my stakeholders, I began to think about the recent issues I've been dealing with at work revolving around poor communication. In doing so, I decided to write some examples down in order to not only to learn from my own mistake, but also to help others so they will not have to endure a moment in time like I did that evening for my error in judgment. My hope is by doing so it will serve as a reminder to others the critical importance of doing our due diligence work up front so that we do not cause irreparable damage on the back end.  After all, no one is immune from failing to effectively communicate at some point in time, but it should not keep us from striving to model communication that does not detract from our goal of cultivating a culture of excellence. 

  1. Timely communication is vital.  If “last minute” becomes the norm, people will begin to question your effectiveness as a leader.  Great leaders recognize this and lean on a team of people to help keep them organized and hold them accountable.
  2. If there is a concern or issue that needs to be addressed, it is best that you have the conversation in person rather than via email. If you are the one who receives a contentious on-line communication, respond by asking if you can meet face to face to discuss the concern.
  3.  If you are concerned regarding the way something was communicated or don’t agree with a decision that was made, I strongly encourage you to go to the source of the information/communication in order to clarify or question the decision.  Gossiping to others about a decision or the way it was communicated will not resolve your issue, but learning more about the situation/decision  may help you better understand the reason why it was made.
  4. There is no excuse for not contacting a parent whose student is failing your class.  By failing to do so, we must own part of the failure. The conversation is sure to take on an emotional and negative tone if the communication comes after the final grade has been given.
  5. If you know of a student that is struggling who has typically been successful in school, take time to seek out that student and ask what you can do differently to help them be successful and then follow up with a phone call to a parent.  The mere fact that you took time to ask and call will help build trust with your students and parents.
  6. Avoid sarcasm, defensiveness and never ask a student to repeat an inappropriate comment you clearly heard the first time because you are upset and want to use it as ammunition to punish the offender. Don’t make it about you. 
  7. If you are having difficulty contacting a parent or you are unable to reach a parent altogether due to a non-working number, seek the assistance of an administrator immediately and ask them to help you make a contact.  This is one way they will see you being proactive in trying to help students be successful.
  8. Whether you are a teacher or an administrator who is dealing with student behavior issues, stay out in front of it by communicating early on.  The last thing we need is for things to build up and then when we reach a boiling point, have a parent hear for the first time the entire laundry list of miscues by the student.
  9. If you are a director or a coach and you plan to have a student who has consistently performed or played in previous events/contests and a decision has now been made not to have this student perform or play (same goes for starting roles), it is imperative that you take time to sit down face to face and explain to the student why the decision was made and what it means for their role moving forward.  Follow this up with a phone call to a parent (not email).
  10. If you are a witness to a good deed, be sure to make it a priority to validate that person’s good work in person or through a personal note.  If it involves a student, a positive phone call home can be a game changer for many kids and parents who are not conditioned to hear such positive comments coming from schools. We need to make sure we are champions for recognizing and communicating good deeds as much as we are at reporting bad news.  

I am not sure we can ever go wrong with over communicating as long as we are doing it effectively. We must recognize that the way in which we communicate, the timeliness of our communication, and the quality of our communication will determine the value and contribution of each individual member of our community and their impact on the success of the entire organization.

In reflection, I have gleaned that the manner in which we condition our students, staff and parents to respond to our communication ultimately will determine our success as an organization. In order to maximize our effectiveness and our success, we must learn not to take communication personally, but to make it personal so that the root of communication does not succumb to evil, but remains healthy and vibrant where good always prevails.






"The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place." - George Bernard Shaw