Posted by: principalsintraining | March 16, 2016

Unforgetting Our 2nd Language (the Innateness of Making Images)


We see drawing as normal for a kid, but unproductive for adults (unless it makes you money). C’mon now!!

When is the last time you drew something? Perhaps it’s been awhile. Virtually all of us drew lots when we were children; scribbles, suns, letters strewn together (letters are images, writing is a form of drawing), faces, blobs of color. After language, drawing is perhaps the most essential and universal form of human communication.


4 y.o. (Drawn, cut, pasted on another paper)


3 y.o. (Amorphous blobs that begin to look portrait-like)

It is as if the modern human soul awakened here.” – Werner Herzog, director

If you choose to set aside this post and draw for the next 30 minutes Read More…

Posted by: principalsintraining | February 10, 2016

Life In A Glass House (Light Filtering In Through Many Prisms)


One moment standing on a gray shore; how do different filters alter the landscape?

There’s a great scene in Sex and The City: Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) meets the famous artist Aleksandr Petrovsky (Mikhail Baryshnikov) at a gallery; a performance artist is in the midst of a 16-day piece in which she lives in a three-walled space (the fourth wall nonexistent to allow the viewing public in). The exhibit is about the intricacies (and drab minutiae) of quotidian life; in this three-walled prison, is there a possibility of transformation? Parker, ever the pragmatist, quips: “At 3:00 am, when no one’s looking, I’ll bet she goes around the corner for a Big Mac.” Baryshnikov: “You are a comic?”

If pressed for time, fast forward to the 2:46 mark. 

Carrie Bradshaw sees an overly wrought exercise in self-exposure and deprivation; Petrovsky sees a serious (“significant”) undertaking of a noble endeavor: self-exposure and deprivation. Perhaps why this scene sticks with me more than any other is because it unmasks something fundamental about the human experience: Read More…

Posted by: principalsintraining | February 6, 2016

177,508 Reasons To Feel Playful: #GSPD2016

Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 9.36.27 AM

Usually my posts are long and a bit rambling – rather than a long preamble to my experiences and feelings surrounding the second annual Global School Play Day, I will summarize what the day means to me through the lens of two tweets, shared from two locations 13,193 kilometers (8197 miles) apart:

Read More…

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…

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