Posted by: principalsintraining | December 11, 2015

2016: The Year of Supporting Your School Administrator


Begin each day with a good breakfast, a bit of exercise and a driving question.

2014 was the year of being Transparent.

2015 has been the year of moving beyond agreement and friendship to something deeper.

In 2016, educational culture initiates its next tentative step forward when school communities take site and district administrators under their wing. At first glance this might seem like an attempt at being cheeky. Usually I do not pass up a good opportunity to be cheeky – however, in this case, I am not being cheeky at all. Don’t get me wrong – this premise does sound funny; in our industry parlance we support kids and we support teachers. We don’t view school administrators (site, district) as people that need support; they are the ones that provide it. That is why they exist.

This kind of thinking dehumanizes the administrator, and, paradoxically, I believe it contributes to a leadership mindset that teachers and community members often complain about in administrators: Read More…

Posted by: principalsintraining | November 24, 2015

Chasing Light and Shadow (Readymade Agenda for Museum PD)


I chaperoned my daughter’s field trip to the de Young Museum last week. I’ve always loved art museums; I studied fine art in college, I still paint when I’m able, and I’m really into the idea of public/organizational spaces being galleries of human creativity. But even better is to see what a group of eight year-olds does when let loose inside (and outside) the hallowed spaces of a major bastion of contemporary visual culture.

IMG_0376 Read More…

Posted by: principalsintraining | October 26, 2015

Amplify Your Idea (From Seedling to Sprout): #FallCUE 2015


The toughest part about getting your ideas out there might be picking which one to share (eat?).

How does an idea go from seedling to sprout?

Katy Foster and I discussed a similar idea exactly one year ago at Fall CUE. Here are the resources to “How Good Ideas Spread” and a summary post on our talk (eek – including the video).

A lot has happened in a year. In late fall I started connecting with teacher/podcaster Scott Bedley to talk about homework. Then I mentioned that Curt Rees had told me about the keynote speaker at IntegratED 2014, Dr. Peter Gray, who discussed ideas from his TED talk on the decline of play. So then Scott tells his brother Tim, and a lava-hot idea goes off in his head and basically Global School Play Day (#GSPD) popped into the world like so much bread from an overly-wound toaster. Hey, even closing keynoter David Theriault gave it a mention as an example of channeling the spirit of Steve Zissou: #thisisanadventure.

All of that took about one month. The only person I’ve met in person is Curt, for about two hours. A good example of #ideaspread! Read More…

Posted by: principalsintraining | October 9, 2015

Shatter the Polite, Fearful Silence: #CUERockStar Day One Stirrings

petra luhrsen

Leadership is an act of making – and helping (coaxing) things take root. Image via Petra Luhrsen

Participating in the first-ever CUE Rock Star camp dedicated to school administrators was a special learning experience for me. I spent a lot of time preparing the slide deck and companion guide for my Day One session, however this exercise felt somewhat artificial to me. I have plenty to talk about, but the magic of Rock Star is enabling attendees to think, connect and CREATE. Instead of adopting the stance of a presenter, my hope was to be more of a provocateur, an instigator. Everyone in attendance chose to be there; I did not need to provide them with any motivation to lead, rather provide a space in which they (individually, collectively) could explore who they are as leaders – better said, a space in which we could explore that. The three posts I will dedicate to the camp experience (one for each day) aim to not only archive the unique material created by attendees but also serve as a reflection on my own learning.

Cue post 1

#NapkinDoodle – trying to get my thoughts straight for the 3-day continuum

Read More…

Posted by: principalsintraining | September 1, 2015

Trails, Rocks, Trees, Wind (Plus Lunch): 4 Elements of #OpenAirPD


When you take learning outdoors, you invite a new array of media to inform your thinking.

What do I do when I’m grown up? Do what you love. (Seen on the Steep Ravine Trail, Mount Tamalpais State Park)

At Hall Middle School, we began our first day of 2015/16 together mostly outside, hiking on the trails of Ring Mountain Open Space Preserve and centering our work around the following outcomes. We shared our thoughts, images and resources to #lcmschools and subsequently populated this blog post as an archive of our day of “Open Air learning.”

We began our day with this presentation (made on the free Adobe Slate app, a terrific tool for storytelling). Why did Principal Tom Utic and I decide to organize our Day One PD around a walk up a (small) mountain? Because we love the outdoors. Because the transition back from summer shouldn’t have our teachers sitting in a room for six hours. Because we had the same kind of experience for our administrative retreat a few weeks prior. Read More…

Posted by: principalsintraining | August 26, 2015

Plein Air PD (Walking Through Our Learning Microclimates)


The leadership team of the Larkspur-Corte Madera School District goes on an overnight retreat each August. This summer we decided to convene on the rippled slopes we look up to every day – Mount Tamalpais. Rather than meet in the hushed confines of a conference room, we took our conversation to the alternately misty and sun-dappled (depending on elevation, on microclimate) trails – first heading out from Pan Toll ranger station on Coastal Trail and descending Matt Davis Trail to Stinson Beach. After lunch, heading 1,800 feet back up Dipsea, Steep Ravine and Matt Davis (eastbound) trails to the historic West Point Inn.

I highly recommend this as ideal lodging for groups of up to 30 – the state park closes at dusk and you and your team are on the mountain, all alone, looking out over the glittering expanse of the Bay Area (dark fingers of fog most likely enshrouding San Francisco in the summer months) and up to the Milky Way above (when is the last time you stared at the Milky Way from where you slept?).

IMG_0023 Read More…

Posted by: principalsintraining | August 10, 2015

Provoke A Year of Learning on Day One (Moment One)


We eagerly (nervously) anticipate those first moments…

The school year has begun for some of us; others of us are approaching the day when we reconvene as a staff. The combination of people that gather for this Day One experience is virtually always different year to year (this year, my school has seen the departure of the 5th grade teachers who taught here for eight years due to overcrowding at the elementary site). Yet the feelings that we all carry with us into our Day One meeting/gathering are virtually always the same: anxiety at the long list of to-do’s, excitement (and anxiety) at the prospect of meeting our new students, fatigue (earlier wake up than the summer standard, perhaps), numbness (as an alternative to anxiety), joy in seeing our colleagues anew…Usually there is one question that everyone (quietly) shares (including the people planning it):

Will our Day One meeting be a productive use of time with the roiling wave of the school year approaching so quickly? Read More…

Posted by: principalsintraining | July 30, 2015

Memory As Momentum (Meetings As the Medium)


We recently spent an afternoon at my father’s childhood home, where my uncle and aunt now live – a place I visited virtually every summer until I was in high school. It was the first time my daughters had been there; the first time they touched the cool, gentle water of the lake, the first steps they took down the dirt trail from the house to the shore, which passes through a dense stand of pine trees and ferns – the dust and shade radiating smells of blueberry and sap, like many woods in the Northwest.


They have a picture on the refrigerator from the year I turned 7 – just a bit younger than my oldest daughter is now. She and her cousins are now the fifth generation in our family to swim these waters, to watch fledgling hawks practice flying with a watchful parent, to pull blackberry thorns out of the soles of our feet from walking barefoot down to the lake.

Memory is a current that flows through our body as much as our mind (sometimes it feels like a breath of air; sometimes a weight); I can swim in that lake without touching it (and I often have in dreams). I ask the reader to please close your eyes now without reading further (in fact, if you read no more, that will be just fine) and imagine yourself in a place that was special to you as a child – even if it is not a place you have revisited, or that you plan to ever visit again. Why is it so powerful for you? What are the sensations you feel, and why have they stayed with you for so long? Read More…

Posted by: principalsintraining | June 29, 2015

The Wonder (and Fear) of Immensity


Looking west to the Aloha Basin and Crystal Range (Pyramid Peak at left).

What is it that we seek in the mountains? What is the interest in arriving at a summit? When we begin our trek, we are often able to look up and see our destination, as in the picture below of Mt. Tallac (South Tahoe, CA) – just a shade below 10,000 feet in elevation. At first glance, considering the thousands of vertical feet separating us from our aspired destination can be intimidating; we are so small in comparison! When we think about – and feel – the cumulative effect of the hours (sometimes days or weeks, depending on the mountain) it will take us to reach the summit, a deep heaviness can settle over us; the shadow of impossibility. Regardless of our preparation and fitness, we can lose our sense of the moment in anticipation of the difficulty, pain and discomfort to come.

Yet, even as we feel this – even as our conscious mind rationally assesses the risks involved (e.g., psyches us out!) – we continue stepping forward in three feet increments (or so), the landscape changing around us as we ascend. Assuming we’ve been smart to pack sufficient water and calories (and layers), our sense of confidence begins to shift; we start looking down at places we were just walking through an hour before. Typically, we lose sight of the summit the nearer we get – a sign we are approaching. Suddenly we feel less heavy, buoyed by this growing proximity.


IMG_1683 Read More…

Posted by: principalsintraining | May 22, 2015

Ten Questions for 2015/16


I’ve got lists everywhere; scraps of paper, post-its, an office whiteboard, the legal pad that slowly becomes an illegible doodle…

It’s all fine and well; thoughts jotted in the moment lead to other thoughts. Some bits and pieces get lost – others move forward into tangible form. I often laugh when I see a scribbled thought some months after writing it; sometimes I can’t recapture the thread I was slowly (haphazardly) weaving.

A thought isn’t so much the stick moving down the stream; grab hold or lose it forever. It’s more akin to the drop of water; always in movement, a times circling through eddies, stagnating as it loses contact with the current – yet in its eventual evaporation taking a new course, perhaps settling into another stream, ocean, glass of water…but not settling for long.

So what about a clean set of questions to anchor my thinking in 2015/16? Read More…

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