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Sunday, January 22, 2017

Going beyond the PIRATE manifesto for Leaders

Going beyond the PIRATE manifesto for Leaders

First let me say that my inspiration for this article is Dave Burgess, author of Teach Like a PIRATE, his Twitter chats (#tlap), and his visit to my school district to deliver his “Teach Like a PIRATE” credo.  He also stayed at my home before his presentation, when we spent some time visiting.  As Superintendent, my theme for that year was “TLAP”!  I owe a huge debt of gratitude to him, his friendship, and his advice as I was writing my book, Pirate On! Lead Fearlessly, Ignite Passion, Inspire Trust in Your Crew & Emerge as a Leader of Significance, published in 2016.  In the spring of 2013, I began researching and seeking contributions from other educational leaders who inspire me.  Soon after, I was asked to deliver a message at a church pastored by a former student-athlete of mine and the idea for my book took shape.  I added to Dave’s acronym the attributes that I believe are essential for leading.  I included how neuroscience supports each trait, as well as examples of actual pirates and how they exhibit these qualities.  

For the “P” chapter, I added perseverance, believing that it is critical in both leading and teaching.  You will have issues, problems, and hurdles to clear.  You will work with challenging peers, as well as bosses, but if you can persevere through these tough times and exhibit professionalism while staying true to your vision and goals, you will get through those tough times and maintain your sanity.

I included integrity in the “I” chapter.  Without a doubt, this should be a cornerstone of any leader.  Without integrity, your followers will not trust you.  Without trust, you cannot influence.  Influence is, after all, what leadership is all about!  If you cannot influence, there is no way you can carry out your vision for your organization.  I debated between “integrity” and “influence” for my additional “I” chapter, but finally decided on integrity because of its importance but included influence in the same chapter.  Integrity takes time to build, but only a moment to lose!  However, that manifestation is a result of many choices or decisions made over time.  In my book, I included the lyrics to the song “Slow Fade,” by Casting Crowns, which describes this process quite poignantly.  As Tom Peters says in his book, In Search of Excellence, “There is no such thing as a minor lapse of integrity.”

The “R” chapter of my book focuses on relationships.  In virtually every Twitter chat in which I participate, “relationships” emerges as an important focus of many questions posed.  We all know that a positive relationship is, and how critical it is in creating a positive learning environment.  Building and creating positive relationships takes work, but in the end, it will pay huge dividends.  If I could only choose one attribute to emphasize, building positive relationships would be it!  Each faculty and staff member needs to know that he/she matters!

I chose authority as the emphasis of the “A” chapter of Pirate On!  Regardless of where we are, we are always under someone else’s authority.  Someone must be in charge!  FDR coined the phrase, “The buck stops here.”  Ultimately the leader has to make the tough decisions, hold the staff accountable, and map the vision of the organization.  In my presentations, I use the meme of a scratched-up, battle-scarred lion, with the caption, “Everyone wants to be the beast until it’s time to do what real beasts do.”  While the leader does possess the power on the campus or in the district, I have found that when you use power, you begin to lose power.  You may not lose the power of the position, but you're wasting the power to influence.  As explained by Tony Evans, author of Kingdom Man, the “king of the jungle” uses his roar to protect, provide, partner, and lead to declare his dominion.  Sometimes the leader has to be “the beast!”  As Peter Drucker, a famous management consultant, often says, “Every decision is like surgery.  It is an intervention into the system and therefore carries the risk of shock.”

As the focus of the “T” chapter, I chose trust, another cornerstone of effective leadership.  In my opinion, trust involves likeability.  The leader/teacher needs to be liked by her/his students and staff.  Indeed, if people do not like the leader, they probably will not trust her/him.  Trust is a major factor in the classroom, as well as at the campus and district.  At each level, if the student/follower does not trust the leader, the leader will not be able to influence.  Building relationships is the key to inspiring trust.  If there is one thing I learned while serving for 30 years in education, it is this:  if you love your students, their parents will trust you.  Stephen Covey says it well, “Trust is the glue of life.  It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication.  It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”  If the leader establishes a climate of trust (beginning with building relationships), he/she can influence, initiate change, and carry out the vision of the campus or district.  When faculty and staff know that the leader cares for them, they will “run through walls” for him/her.   This past November, we elected the 45th President of the United States.  The saddest aspect of the election is that, according to a Gallup poll, neither candidate had a trust factor of over 39%.  President Trump has a long way to go to gain the trust of the majority of the American people.

For the “E” chapter of my book, I added empowerment.  It’s not about possessing or using power for yourself, but adding power to others.  Empowering your faculty is giving them the freedom to fail.  You may be saying, “Wait! What?”  If leaders would give their followers the freedom to fail and then give feedback, imagine what can be accomplished!  That freedom is an essential part of the “growth mindset” that Carol Dweck writes about in her book, Mindset.  

That being said, I had a difficult time choosing “empowerment” or “edification” and “emotion” in my book, as there is clearly a connection.  It is certainly important to edify your faculty and staff.  Indeed many people prefer recognition for a job well done over gifts or money.  Don’t get me wrong here – Everyone appreciates a bonus or a raise, but the education profession is different from the corporate world in this area.  Leaders should use faculty meetings, hand-written notes (sadly, a dying practice) and private conversations to edify their followers.  The April 9, 2014, issue US News & World Report reported the results of another Gallup poll:  Seven out of 10 teachers are not engaged and “feel that their supervisors do not care about them as a person.”  If you do not care, you surely cannot empower.  As George Couros says, “As leaders in education, our job is not to control those we serve but unleash their talent.”

Emotion plays a huge part in connecting and leading.  Neuroscience asserts that emotion is the gateway to learning.  Capture their emotion; then you capture their brain.  One of the best ways to capture emotion is through storytelling.  Use your experiences and your story to engage those under your leadership.  Once they are engaged with your message, then a leader can lead effectively.  Everyone will find something with which to engage.  Your job is to make sure it is the leader’s message! 

I chose service and significance to close out the PIRATES acronym of my book. Striving to perform as a servant-leader should be every leader’s goal.  It is through service that true joy is achieved.  Just recently I viewed a YouTube video of the entire Ore City High School (faculty & students) in Ore City, Texas, performing acts of service in their community.  I encourage you to click on this link ( and watch.  It will warm your heart as you watch.    

When I was hired as a Superintendent, one of the charges I received from the Board was to create a high school.  We were a small PK-8 district, and the community wanted a high school of their own so that students could stay in our district to finish their public school education.  As Superintendent I added a local mandate of 50 hours of community service as a graduation requirement so that our students could experience serving others.  Krystal Floyd, one of my first Twitter friends, says it best, “My passion for education is to inspire others to greatness by serving them.” 

As we move from being a great leader to being a leader of significance, we must ask author John Maxwell’s questions of our followers: "Do you like me?  Can you help me?  Can I trust you?  Will you add value to my life?"  If you can answer each in the affirmative, you will emerge as a leader of significance. Leaders have to realize that everything worthwhile is uphill.  Selfishness and significance are opposite traits.  Leaders must value people and understand that everything rises and falls on leadership.  Leaders must strive to enhance the lives of the people they lead.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

What will your ripple create?

Many people on Twitter have started the “one word” for the year, some use “three words,” Dave Burgess uses “Beat your drum!”….this year I’m using something a little different and hopefully thought provoking. “What will your ripple create?”

All of us have seen the results of throwing a pebble or rock in a pond, creek, or lake. It creates a ripple. After a while, it dissipates to a little or no ripple, depending on the size of the rock and the distance traveled. One thing I liked as a kid was finding a somewhat flat rock and throwing side arm as hard I could to make it skip across the water as many times as it could until finally hitting the water one last time where it finally sinks. I also noticed each time it hit the water; it would create another ripple, and all the ripples would intersect or run into each other at some point.

As you know, the bigger the object, the bigger the splash, and the ripples are larger and tend to go farther. That is now thing that I pray I am not…Just a splash. My first attempt as an author was just that, a splash. It was an awesome feeling when received the first copy of my book Pirate On! - Lead fearlessly, Ignite passion, Inspire trust in your crew, & Emerge as a leader of significance. I include a link to it.  I had many leaders to contribute and which to added to the book considerably. However, there has been little interest in the book overall. My “ripple” disrupted rather quickly.

When I was a lifeguard during the summers while in high school and one in college, watching one of the ways guys would try to make a huge splash by performing a “cannonball” jump. They would jump off the board grab their ankles and make themselves as tight a “ball” as they could, resulting in a huge splash, usually trying to splash on someone (often a girl they were flirting with) close to the pool.   A big splash, waves to the bank, then it quickly dissipates.

Some ripples or waves can be costly. When there is an underwater earthquake, the result is enormous waves leading to a tsunami many times. The impact is great and lasting, but the cost is devastating.

My goal this year is to inspire, enhance and add value to others. I have been very humbled over the last couple of years shifting my very prideful self to my focus on serving. I miss serving as an educational leader. I have missed participating in many educational chats, and I want to change that. I have even begun researching for my next book entitled Leadership Lessons from the Vineyard (based on John 15: 1-12). If you are a wine lover like me, you will like this book.
So, in closing, I want my “ripple” to help as many educators in their quest to enhance the lives of the students they teach or lead. I want to serve you and the many others on chats this year and this blog. I want to help you produce abundant, sweet fruit in your position this year. May your ripple be significant, impactful, and add value to the lives you touch.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

A New Chapter

I have been contemplating writing this blog ever since I tendered my resignation a few months ago. I have been in education for 38 years and as I started this past year, I fully intended to continue that career for several more years. I had some issues with my board, but nothing I felt I could not overcome. When January came, they chose to not renew my contract for the second year, meaning I only had one year remaining. As I thought and prayed about my future, I felt I just could not continue.

You see while I was at London, I created a High School. That was job one when they hired me 4 years ago. A lot of milestones went into that high school and I will try to highlight them: started an interscholastic athletic program (both boys and girls) a fine arts program (band, choir,& theater), a F.F.A. program, a dual credit and AP curriculum, a rigorous comprehensive vertically aligned curriculum, designed a HS crest, mascot logo, letter jacket, diploma, & senior ring, started a NHS program, a competitive academic program, staffed all of these, hired a counselor, nurse (all of these w/ out a curriculum director & only a HS/MS principal)
I facilitated a renovation of our elementary and lead a successful bond election adding $.18 to raise $9.75 million to build dressing facilities, 16 classrooms, new cafeteria, parking facilities, and all weather track. Our state test scores have remained exemplary and even improved this year. London will be rated the highest academic rating possible.

I say all of this to simply say, that chapter is behind me and I am looking to the next. I have finished writing my introduction to my book: "Lead like PIRATES" and just completed two conferences in which I presented most recently ISTE2014. I feel so blessed to have met many in PLN and the main reason I attended, was meet & network with them. There are so many, but I want to mention a few: Jimmy Casas, Daisy Dyer Duerr, Todd Nesloney, Rafranz Davis, Holldy Sutherland, Melinda Sears, Colin Wilkan, Jennifer Hogan,Kristy Vincent...I could go on and on. I apologize to those who I finally got to meet, but didn't mention. All of you have made a huge impact on my life that I can never repay.

I have been melancholy thinking now when I am in a chat,  I will no longer be a practitioner. I can only say what I use to do and what I believe...this makes me sad. I don't see myself sitting on the couch. I just don't know what I will be doing. Sure I am writing my book and that will take an enormous amount of time. I will contact my regional service center and maybe I can consult or possibly fill in as an interim superintendent while the district searches for a full time.

All the above is this, I will continue to try to contribute in the many chats that are out there, I will continue to learn ( I really take that phrase "life-long learner" to heart). I will try to stay abreast of all the issues that current educators & my PLN face in the day to day of enhancing kids lives. As I type those last words, THAT is what I will miss the most, visiting classrooms, interacting with students and building relationships each day. Even now tears comes to my eyes realizing I may never get that opportunity again. All of you educators, cherish each day and make the most of relationships you build each day. That is what matters. As I have said before, each of you have impacted my life like you will probably never know. I am blessed to know each of you.....Pirate on!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Sunshine Award

I am truly honored and humbled to be nominated for the Sunshine Award.  It states from these two fine educators:
The Sunshine award gives others an opportunity to learn more about me as a blogger, then, in turn, I will send sunshine the way of 11 other amazing bloggers for you to get to know.
Thank you Amber Teamann & Paul Wagoner for nominating me for Sunshine Award. They are both so much better bloggers than me and are edurockstars! I’m just an old superintendent trying to keep up.

Here are the Sunshine Award Rules:
  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  4. List 11 bloggers. They should be bloggers you believe deserve some recognition and a little blogging love!
  5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. (You cannot nominate the blogger who nominated you.)

Here are my 11 Random facts…
1.       I’m a lover of the arts as much as I am sports. I have a lot of money on my walls at my home.
2.       When my granddaughter says “hi Pappa” my heart melts.
3.       I live in Corpus Christ…on the coast, but I am NOT a beach person!
4.       My wife and I have been on 5 cruises, that is our way for travel.
5.       My hobby (which I have not done in a couple of years) is building golf clubs. All the clubs in my bag are built by me.
6.       I get to be on the headphones during varsity football games with the head coach. “You can take the man out of coaching, but you can’t take the coaching out of the man.”
7.       I think I am a pretty good cook and my wife will tend to agree.
8.       I tend to like to landscape, even build flower beds, but only when I am ready to do it.
9.       I went from coaching & being an athletic director to serving as an elementary principal. It was me and 33 women, no assistant or counselor. I’ll leave it that…
10.   “Wizard of Oz” is my favorite movie of all time. I have found it a great movie on leadership…I’ll let you think on that one for a while. And it is the ultimate “chick flick” a movie of two women fighting over a pair of shoes.
11.   Yes, I played in the NFL, and an experience I will always treasure. I hardly ever share that now, heck that was a long time ago! I just wish I was good enough to make more than one year…sigh.

Amber’s questions:

1.       Do you prefer to shop online or stores? Hmm, I will do both, whatever mood I’m in at the time.
2.       How many pairs of shoes do you have? About 20 dress/casual, 5 athletic, 4 boots…I know I probably have too much estrogen, and I have been told that before!
3.       What is your favorite type of music? That is hard since I always listen to sports talk…but I would say ‘Classic Rock.’
4.       Cats or dogs? This is easy…dogs, and I have to say that my Schnauzer, Mally, may be the best dog ever!
5.       What is your typical bedtime? It is rare that I make it past the evening news, unless there is football to watch, of course.
6.       Favorite twitter chat? This is really tough! I’m not going to limit to one - #tlap #arkedchat #IAchat #Alaedchat #edchatri #SBGchat . All of these I have gleaned so much from and mostly because of the moderators of which I admire so much.
7.       Democrat/Republic/Other? I would have normally said Republican, but that party seems to be so anti public education…so I really don’t know now. I am quite conservative in my thinking.
8.       Best place you ever vacationed? Paris! Which my wife won the roundtrip airfare at a Houston Astros game. There is a story behind that, ask me about sometime.
9.       Best book you read in 2013? I will start with Teach like a Pirate by Dave Burges, then Game Changers by Julie Adams, then Classroom Habitudes by Angela Maiers, and now reading David & Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell. I recommend all of those!
10.   Favorite television show when you were growing up? Flipper
11.   What is one thing you never/rarely share you are exceptionally proud of? (See #11 above)
My  11 Bloggers to follow
1.       Angela Maiers (@angleamaiers)
2.       Daisy Dyer Duerr (@DaisyDyerDuerr)
3.       Todd Nesloney (@techninjatodd)
4.       Julie Adams (@adamsteaching)
5.       Dave Burgess (burgessdave)
6.       Rafranz Davis (@rafranzdavis)
7.       Kristy Vincent (@bigpurplehat)
8.       Amanda Dykes (@amandacdykes)
9.       Jennifer Hogan (@Jennifer_Hogan)
10.   Kimberly Hurd (@khurdhorst)
11.   Jimmy Casas (@casas_jimmy)
To all of my PLN (and not just the ones listed above), you will never know the impact you have had on me. I am truly blessed to have you in my PLN and will forever be indebted to each of you.  You all are edurockstars to me!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Our classroom is the only level playing...-->relationships

When I was the high school principal at two high schools with  very high low economic population, I would tell my teachers, “Your classroom is the only level playing field all of your students have.” I would give the example of my daughter; Emily Roberts goes home to a nice house, a place to study, a computer with internet access, and two parents with two degrees and high expectations from both. Joe Poverty goes home to a house with no place to study, maybe one parent or no parent(s) since they had to work 2-3 jobs, is responsible for preparing supper for his siblings and getting them to bed. And then is he able to begin his homework. He may have come home from working at his job to help support the family or from participating in an extra-curricular activity. I would then ask, “When assigning homework, do you consider what your students go home to? Is it fair that you grade the homework of all students with the same grading standards?”
Several times when a student was suspended for a discipline issue, and did not have a way home, I would drive him home. This practice opened my eyes to what many of my students went home to. During the drive I would talk to him/her about the issue, but more times than not, I would just talk to help me understand what he was going through at that time of the school year.  I sometimes built closer relationships with these kids (low economic backgrounds) than with other students. I soon found that when I built a relationship with them, they would almost always turn around their bad choices and would soon begin to improve their performance at school.
I think all educators would agree that we must build relationships to discover/understand about our kids’ lives, other than just them as students. Once those relationships are established, we see our kids grow, learn, excel, and perform at a higher level than we thought possible. When I was discussing her book, Julie Adams (@adamsteaching), Game Changers 7 Instructional Practices That Catapult Student Achievement,  said “Relationships maybe THE most important factor of a productive learning environment." Daisy Dyer Duerr (@daisydyerduerr), principal at a K-12 campus in Arkansas, who moderates the weekly #ArkEdChat, continually stresses the importance of relationships in her chats. I could go on and on about all the professional educators who know and see the value of relationships with our students.  
As educators, when we realize that our school is the only level playing field that our kids have and when we  work (yes it takes work and time) to build relationships with them, we will see them perform for us and have better discussions at a higher cognitive level, because they want to please us. Of course there are boundaries, but when we honor students as people worthy of respect, this will lead to enhanced learning. This is enhancing kids' lives, which goes beyond teaching them a subject matter.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The 3 A's of Education

I have been an elementary principal, HS principal, and now superintendent. At each initial faculty meeting I have made the statement: "I believe in the 3 A's (I never know how to type that if I leave out the apostrophe it just come out as As...) of education." Those 3 A's are academic, athletics, and the arts. From my perspective, if a school does not have all three areas included, then it is not complete or it is out of balance. I sometimes picture a triangle with academics on the top corner and the other two on the bottom. I believe that we must provide an area/program/activity where each student can succeed.

I must begin with academics. This is the reason we are in this profession, to teach the child. However, I like to say our job is to enhance the lives of the children we teach. Each state has standards/objectives that we all must teach. In Texas, it the Texas Essential Knowledge & Skills (TEKS). We are one of the few states that did not adopt the Common Core.I choose not to comment on that. As we all know there are so many components that make the whole child. As professional educators, it is our mission to teach all of those areas, from the mind, body, and emotions. I have found when we touch emotions, learning blossoms.

I love the arts. When my youngest daughter was in high school, she was required to take one credit of fine arts. She was having a hard time deciding what to take. However, we knew that the theater teacher was popular and did a good job of directing the One Act Play, and preparing her students for competition in speaking events. Long story short, she earned her degree in theater and minored in communications. She now teaches speech and debate. One thing that I noticed was that these kids that were in theater and speaking events practiced as much, researched their roles or topics for hours, worked as hard as athletes did in their sports. They learned the value of  hard work, sacrifice, setting goals, and preparation. I can say this about band and choir as well. Research also backs up the fact that the arts contributes to the success of the student academically. Students that participate in the music arts had better abstract conceptual thinking, stronger motor development, coordination, creativity, and verbal abilities.

For those that know me, athletics was and still is a big part of my life. I was fortunate enough to play at the highest level. Sometimes I think back at those days and say "Wow, I really did that!" I think one thing that tends to separate athletics from the rest is responding to adversity at the time it happens. Tom Landry once stated, "Fotball doesn't develop character; it only reveals it." It is through adversity that character comes out. So many other activities allow one to reflect, correct, and move on when adversity takes place. You do this in athletics too, but during contests, players must do this "on the fly." I think that athletics tends to develop leadership and discipline, as well.

As I stated above, we should strive to teach the whole child. To accomplish that, we should provide a program for each student to "have a niche." I want to have a school full of students that "allows the school to pass through the student, not merely students who pass through the school."

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Steering the ship... #SAVMP

As I reflect on the awesome responsibility of leading in the field of education, I must first say that education is the best profession in the world. How many professions have the privilege of enhancing the lives of people that will shape the future. It is there that the enormous responsibility lies. Every day that we enter the classrooms, our words and actions do have a huge impact on our students.

When I look at the different positions that I have held (teacher, coach, athletic director, elementary principal, high school principal, assistant superintendent, and superintendent) I often wonder what impact I have had on the students and teachers that I have taught or lead. On occasion, I get a note of appreciation, an email, or a phone call that confirms my calling. You see, I do consider my position as a calling. I can only hope that the people and students that I am fortunate enough to lead are able to glean from that calling and the passion I have for my position.

I went through a very dark and deep valley last spring in which,  I was able to witness something that was not planned. It was at a board meeting where some 20+ parents attended and all were there in support of me. There were about seven that voiced that support. As I listened to them saying such wonderful accolades on my behalf, tears began to come into my eyes. That was a confirmation to me that told me I am doing something right. As leaders, we understand that it will often be rocky roads or unsafe waters. However, we must stay the course of doing the right thing for the right reasons, and what is best for students.

I lead because I care. I care first and foremost for the students. We can actually mold lives, build character, and motivate performances. I care for the administrators under my watch. They have an enormous responsibility to carry out the plans that I have given them. I care for each teacher that personally touch students' lives on a daily basis. They are my heroes; they are the ones on the front lines everyday, planning, facilitating, and teaching. It is through them that makes the difference in kids' lives. It is them that build relationships which impacts the students to do remarkable accomplishments. I believe all of us have at least one teacher that we can name, that made a difference in our lives. As we understand it is not about the money but about those students that tell us that we made an impact on their lives.

I lead because it is in leadership, I can make a difference. I can only pray that the difference I make is a positive one.