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Monday, April 13, 2020

Your classroom is the only level playing field.
…Now what? Thank you, COVID-19!
I said in a few faculty meetings, “Your classroom is the only level playing field. When they get home, the field begins to tilt. Be careful when you assign homework.” Honestly, I do not know how many thought about it beyond my words when they went about assigning homework, projects, research papers, etc. from that point. 

We are now living a “new normal” now. It has now been about 4-5 weeks since we have been physically separated from our students. For many of us, it is creating a plethora of issues. I participated in Zoom/Twitter chat a couple of weekends ago when we discussed many of these issues. How do we maintain relationships? What is the best video app to use to reach my students? How do we assess? Should it be summative…formative? Do we have “office hours?” How do we fulfill my students’ IEPs? Should SEL be a priority?

I served in many different districts and campuses, either as a principal or superintendent. The demographics in each of these were unique. I often considered the kids in the “Economically disadvantaged” category since this group often caused me the most consternation. I often would use the example, “Emily Roberts goes home to two parents, each with two degrees, that has technology and internet, high expectations, and an excellent place to study. Then there is Joe Poverty, who may or may not have two parents, maybe not at home but job number two, with no technology, and little expectations. Oh, and maybe Joe has to care for his siblings when he arrives. Oh, and perhaps Joe arrives around 11:00 from a job he must have to contribute to supporting his family. Or maybe he is just arriving late from some extra-curricular activity. Is the same homework assignment fair or equitable? 

So, when you are planning your lesson that you are going to present (or assign) today or this evening on your Zoom/Google Hangout video app, and you determine how your students are going to “turn in” their work in your Google classroom. How do you assure that all your students are on the same “playing field?” I just read on Facebook from Chromebook Classroom, “Online learning provides a tremendous amount of flexibility.” The last bullet said, “Hold everyone accountable to the objectives covered in the lesson.” Whoa!!! I say that even when all of your students have internet, devices, and time, there is still no level playing field. What is going on in the house at the time of your Zoom meeting, or whenever they are watching your lesson being taught? Are there other family members/students who “meet” at the same time? Could there be crying babies? What does their “classroom” look like when they are on your call/completing your assignment? What about their parents, who are now working from home, using the same wifi bandwidth that they need most of the day? Or maybe the house that has both parents working now outside of their home with only a babysitter or no adult supervision? Or maybe you are responsible for “homeschooling” your child(ren), and their teacher is facing the same issues. Do you consider students getting answers from their parents, peers, Google…?  

I’m going to throw a kink in this blog and say that maybe worksheets/packets are the only things close to a level playing field! We all know (before this new normal) what we all thought about worksheets. Before you say, “No way, will I stoop to sending worksheets!” You are now even thinking, “Hal, how the heck do I even get worksheets to my students?” One district I know has packets available at 17 different locations that students can pick up packets. The packets have two weeks of work and can be turned in at the same location.

Neuroscience says that there is little to no learning when the brain is stressed. How much stress is each of your students under at the time of your “class” or the assignment that you give? Do you or can you know how stressed their young brains are? Oh, and how about the phrase we all love to use that goes something like this, “We must meet Maslow before we can address Bloom.?” How about the students that are on free/reduced breakfast/lunch that counted on their school for their meals? Or, both parents are medical professionals and your students are worried that one or both will contract COVID-19? 

I understand that most of you reading this have thought about most of these issues. I know beyond a shadow of doubt that those who use Twitter or Facebook as a learning platform, are way ahead of me on all of these issues. But maybe you know of an educator that might learn or glean a little information from this blog. Will you pass it on to them? Obviously, this dried up  superintendent does not have all the answers. But I think I have some decent questions that need a pretty good answer for your students.

Monday, January 6, 2020

#OneWord Significance

Strive for Significance Over Greatness

by Hal Roberts, author of Make Waves!

We all want to attain greatness, but what about significance? Many of you may be asking, what is the difference, is there any difference, or what's the big deal about significance? I believe we are called not to be great, but to be significant. When we focus on significance, success and greatness are part of the package.

You see, when we add value to us, it is greatness. When we add value to others, it is significance. In my first principal job, I thought it was important for my teachers to have a slogan, a credo, a manifesto that we could use as a guide for us. I came up with "Side by Side — We Enhance the Lives of the Students We Teach." I got this idea from two very different sources. One was a teenage Christian singer from Australia whom I had the privilege of "chauffeuring" for the couple of days she sang at a youth camp where I was working. Rebecca St. James later became quite famous in the Christian music scene. She sang her song "Side by Side" at the camp. The lyrics that stuck with me were, 
"Side by Side by Side by Side Walking together is the way it should be, Side by Side by Side by Side When you're needing somebody Depend upon me, We'll travel on this journey of life Side by Side." 
I just thought, as a faculty, we could serve our students together, working together on the journey of adding value to our students. The other source was Harry Wong. When I heard him speak at a conference, he told us that any educator should have a business card. Under our name should read, "Professional Educator — I Enhance the Lives of the Students I Teach." I put the two together. (I'm good at borrowing others' ideas.)

I also believe that it is in serving where we add value to others. Whenever we can put others' needs before ours, we add value to them. When you can do something for someone who can do nothing in return, that is real service. Over my 30 years of leadership experience, I learned a lot about the needs of others. Here are four questions that everyone you influence will ask. 
  1. Do you like me?
  2. Can/will you help me?
  3. Can I trust you?
  4. Will you add value to my life/profession?

I hope that you realize that the answer to each of these is YES! Life is a series of choices. How you invest your time, value your resources, use your talents, and value your relationships will determine your destiny or significance. One of the first books I read that made a significant impact on me was "See You at the Top" by the late Zig Ziglar. I was blessed to have met him, sat under his teaching, and got to know him early in his career as an author and one of the best motivational speakers of our time. I learned from him that "You can have anything you want in life if you just help enough other people get what they want." I believe always choose to heal not to hurt, to forgive not to despise, to persevere not to quit, to smile not to frown, and to love not to hate. In the end, it is not what we bought but what we built, not what we got, but what we shared, not our competence but our character, not our success but our significance. Live a life that matters; one that is adding value to others. In Rick Warren's book "A Purpose Driven Life," he said that everyone has five needs:
  1. purpose to live for — passion or service
  2. People to live for — relationships
  3. Principles to live by — integrity
  4. Profession to live out — vision/mission
  5. Power to live on & guide you — faith

You have 180 days in education each year to make a difference in the trajectory of the rest of the life of those you influence. The great thing about education is that every day matters. The scary thing about education is that every day matters. We should prepare the students for the path, not the path for the student.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you chose not to do than the things you did. It will be the relationships that you decided not to enhance or cultivate. 

Add value to others, and you will live a life of significance!

Friday, July 5, 2019

The Words We Speak & the Power They Hold

Have you ever considered that the words we speak create reality? Our words are like bits in a horse's mouth. They are like a rudder on a boat that you steer on a lake. They are like a spark that creates a raging fire. Notice the previous analogies and how each is disproportionately powerful, like our tongue or words we speak. Just think of books, blogs, tweets, that you have read and some of the impact that they had on you. On Twitter, we follow those that we agree with or that inspire us— from their words. There are educators on Twitter that have made a significant difference in their careers, all as a result of the words they tweet.
As teachers, we are or should be held to a very high standard.

Our words often define us. I know you are saying, Hal, it's our actions that are more important than our words. That we must walk our talk. I even say in my book that a parent in my last district told me, "Hal, you walk your talk." And I followed that saying that it might have been the best compliment I have had. Again, those words had a massive impact on me.

We judge our leaders by the words they say. Gossip is powerful, only from the spoken word. When I was hiring educators, I would Google the candidates, looked at their Twitter feeds, Instagram stories to see what kind of words they used.

Words can abuse. When someone is emotionally abused, as I see it, is because of the words spoken to them. One word spoken in the wrong place can burn a soul. I once tweeted that I felt educators should never use sarcasm in their classroom. The first definition of sarcasm that comes up online is "a sharp and often satirical or ironic utterance designed to cut or give pain" If you look further and from the origin, in the Greek, it means literally "to strip off the flesh!" I had many on Twitter that disagreed with me and felt that sarcasm could be used in the right way and would not harm. I have to say be VERY careful if you choose to use sarcasm in the classroom or to any student. I venture to say that most cigarettes tossed out of a car do not cause a fire, but it only takes one to create a wildfire.

Words can also bring fire to the winter of your soul. Have you ever thought that the tongue can do what nature cannot? Our words can both bless and curse. They can soothe and cause pain.  Your words can inspire or cut down.  However, in nature, this is not true. A freshwater spring cannot turn into a saltwater spring. An olive tree cannot produce apples.

The quality of your words should match the value of the person you are speaking to. Consider the difference between a hummingbird and a buzzard. The buzzard will fly all over the living and focus on the death of one animal. The hummingbird will fly all over a desert to find one living flower. Words can honor and encourage. I'm sure each of you can remember a teacher that you made you feel special, by the words spoken to you.

I remember in my very first teaching job when my principal during my summative conference shared that he thought one day I would make a good administrator. I was a middle school teacher and coach. All I ever wanted was to become a head coach in football. But those words stuck with me, and eventually I was fortunate to serve as a superintendent.

Remember out of the overflow of your heart, the mouth speaks.

There are three powerful blessings that you can give, simply by your spoken word.
You have what it takes.
You are forgiven
God used you in my life

When you accept people of who they are; extend grace or forgive; tell others that they are valuable or that they matter; and love the one in front of you. As a believer, I am all of those four words. I am accepted into God's family; I am forgiven; I am valuable and am worth His son; and I am loved. I am defined by those.

Friday, March 15, 2019

An Unexpected Chapter

An Unexpected Chapter

Most of you know when one says, “I’m beginning a new chapter in my life.” that it is usually planned, a goal met, maybe a change in professions. The one I am about to share is one that I not only did not plan but made the decision in about five minutes as I was about to help my older sister to settle in her house after her back surgery. 
You see, her friends and daughter had warned me, you are NOT ready to see what she lives in. My sister even told me, just be ready when you get there. When I notified her friends that is she is being discharged from her rehab facility (earlier than expected) one of them texted me, “that house is not ready for her!” She, her friend, had even bought her a new mattress and box springs while she was in rehab. As I drove in her driveway, I began to understand. The trailer had overgrown vegetation, had “stuff” all over the place, looks like had never been painted…  But the worst was yet to come. If you have ever seen the TV show “Hoarders,” that is what I walked into. One friend was there to help her and had on a hospital mask! I began to bring her clothes, toilitries, etc. in, and I was met with not only was it dark, but musty, no flooring, and then I looked at her furniture that was covered in trash, garbage, …I won’t go into further detail, but I actually felt sorry for her dog that had to live there while she was away, that her friends and neighbors cared for.

With tears in my eyes, I told her, I am not going to leave here without you. One of her friends told her, I”m going to call Adult Protective Services if you stay here. I replied, “If she does not, I will.” My sister has a plethora of medical issues and living in those conditions, I can understand why. She replied, “I have been living here for years and I can’t leave Matilda (her dog) here again.” We finally convinced her to come to our house to recover from here surgery and get better. How long and what we will do to address her living conditions is still up in the air. My wife asked me last night, “What have you decided to do after the doctor’s appointment Tuesday?” I replied, “I haven’t got that far yet.”

I’m writing this blog to say that you literally never know what tomorrow brings. Celebrate the now. Be thankful for the blessings in your life. for the last several years, my wife and I pray together each night before going to sleep. We hold hands and remember the “moments” of that day. Some examples of those are, watching TV, cooking together, grocery shopping together, going to a movie, or one of favorite is going to watch a professional sporting event. We are careful to pray for others in our life group (Sunday school class) at church. And finally we both say how thankful we are for having each other in lives. We also try to find ways to serve each other in some way every day. I’m saying be thankful for the small things in life to really “stop and smell the roses.”

Most all of you here on Twitter I have come to know you, I have met personally, others through your tweets seem to know your personality and your love for kids,  and just know you inspire me everyday. We all know how important that creating safe and healthy relationships is the foundation of what we do.  NEVER take those relationships for granted! Cultivate those here on Twitter. As you come to cross paths, you will find that everyone is what they are here. The ones I have met face to face (you know who you are, and I’m afraid to list as I might miss some) I truly thank you for your friendship, your inspiration, your help, and most of all your impact on kids’ lives that you touch every day. Thank you for your support through the four or so years here on Twitter. As Angela Maiers says, “You matter to me!”

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

One word for 2019


Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness. ~Desmond Tutu

A good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination, and instill a love of learning. ~Brad Henry

Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence. ~Helen Keller

I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death.” 

I believe that ultimately it is our job to kindle hope. We must be merchants of hope!We should strive to make hope building pervasive for every student, every day, and in every period. Regarding hope, Barak Obama might have said it best, 

The 2017 Student Gallup Poll says this about hope:
“Hopeful students are 2.8x more likely to say they get better grades than their discouraged peers. Hope: The ideas and energy students have for the future. Hope has also been linked to student success in school. Hopeful students are positive about the future, goal-oriented and can overcome obstacles in the learning process, enabling them to navigate a pathway to achieve their goals.
Among the 808,521 2017 Gallup Student Poll participants, 38% STRONGLY AGREE that the adults at school care about them. Of students who participated in 2017, 4 in 10 students STRONGLY AGREE they feel safe in their school”!  

Dr. Amy Fast (@fastcrayon) an assistant principal at McMinnnville High School in Oregon tweeted, “Our school is a high poverty school. And thus, many of our kids face more than I can imagine. Yet, they constantly outperform districts around the state on traditional measures. It can’t be a coincidence that the % of students who indicate they’re hopeful is also off the charts.” You see, our students are not looking for miracles; they are looking for hope. They only get that when they struggle and make the choice to keep going. We need to help them make that choice — to persevere when adversity is in their lives. Brene Brown, author of Dare to Lead says hope is not an emotion but rather a behavioral process born from overcoming adversity — a habit of mind founded in resilience. So when we talk about fostering hope in our classes and schools, we should not mistake that with making everything easy or running away from struggle. Hope is not a soft nebulous option; it is what we do inside ourselves, the inner work of clearing the disappointment, fear, hopelessness, choosing hope over despair, and making the effort when it feels the hopeless creeping in.

Hope is the belief that our tomorrows can be better than our todays. Hope is not magic; hope is work. The importance of giving hope, especially to students from poverty is that, “Hope changes brain chemistry, which influences the decisions and actions that we take.” Hope involves the spirit in us. It is the belief that something will turn out better, regardless of the outcome. You see, the poor often feel less in control; therefore, building hope is powerful. We should be relentless in building hope with our students. Do not want think that hope is just  a rainbows and flowers kind of attitude. It is not just giving pep talks with words like “You can be the next president, a rocket scientist, or an NBA star!” But instead say to your students, “You have goals and dreams, and that is a great beginning. It’s going to take grit and hard work. I will be by your side every day and I will do everything I can to help you achieve your greatest potential and dreams. Let’s go for it!”

In my initial faculty meeting as Principal of two high schools and district convocation when I was Superintendent, I made a point of saying,“I believe in the three As of education: advanced academics, arts, and athletics.” Those three provide a balanced curriculum, it is like a three legged stool. If you take away one of those, it is out of balance and will not stand. In almost every high performing school, high expectations, (no matter the demographics) include a complex, challenging curriculum, including arts (performing, musical, and media), athletics (including as many sports as possible) and advanced academic classes. However leaders also added support to each student that needed it. A great example of this kind of support is AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination), a college readiness system for students in Kindergarten through 12th grade. AVID provides a curriculum in the AVID Elective class that includes Writing, Inquiry, Collaboration, Organization, and Reading (WICOR) strategies to help students become college ready. AVID also provides teacher training in every subject which enhances the college-going culture of the school. 

When you teach the whole child, (mind, body and spirit) you help them obtain hope. If you take away any one of these you are cheating the student. This includes free play at recess when kids learn creativeness in making up games and also how to fend for themselves. The arts and a rigorous curriculum enhances learning skills and cognition. Athletics, recess, and physical education classes help the brain grow neurons (neurogenesis) and decreases depression. Therefore, every school should include athletics and physical activity, arts, and advanced academic curriculum in every school day.This curriculum is in addition to any gifted & talented program that might be in place. A rigorous curriculum is needed for every student. 

Hope is the inner fire that warms us, the inner light that gives us direction, the fuel that gives us the energy to keep moving forward. It is born out of meaning and purpose and in turn creates meaning in for our lives. Hope is a powerful force that can change the trajectory of each student that it touches. 

As I continue to ponder hope, I am inclined to think that it originates with love. Maybe the most important things I looked for when I was interviewing educators was, do they love kids — all kids. I believe that this love is a choice. It reminds me of Who I believe is the greatest teacher and leader and how He addressed love.“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”Jesus replied, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it, ’Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22: 36-39 NIV

I find it interest3ing that neighbor is not defined. I believe this was intentional so that we could not qualify who our neighbor is. Isn’t it a huge relief that we do not have to create a list of who our neighbor is and maybe more importantly who we do not have to love. You see we are commanded to love both the lovable and unloveable, the smart and the not so smart, the clean and the dirty, the athlete and the thespian, the black, brown, white, and all color of kids. I want to make it simple — just love the one in front of you. Our school is a neighborhood. Mr. Rogers said or should I say sung it best. 
“It's a beautiful day in this neighborhood,
A beautiful day for a neighbor,
Would you be mine? Could you be mine?
It's a neighborly day in this beautywood,
A neighborly day for a beauty,
Would you be mine? Could you be mine?
I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you,
I've always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you.
So let's make the most of this beautiful day,
Since we're together, we might as well say,
Would you be mine? Could you be mine?
Won't you be my neighbor?
Won't you please, won't you please,
Please won't you be my neighbor?” —  Won’t You Be My Neighbor by Fred M. Rogers. © The McFeely-Rogers Foundation

     In one of my presentations, I use Walt Disney World and Disneyland great examples of culture. The motto for Walt Disney World is “The Most Magical Place on Earth.” The motto for Disneyland is “The Happiest Place on Earth.” If we have a culture of happiness or magic, we will kindle hope and give love. A classroom or campus where a student feels magical or happy will experience hope and love every day. Let’s try to have that kind of culture in every classroom, every period, for every child.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The “Umami” Lesson Plan
a.k.a. The Perfect Lesson Plan

My wife and I traveled to the wine country in Napa, California, last summer to check off a “bucket list” item of mine. While there, we experienced a wine and food pairing at the Silver Oak winery, where we learned so much. The main takeaway for me was learning the five tastes we all have: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and the one I had never heard of — Umami.

Umami is synonymous with the taste of perfection — a wine at its apex of flavor maturity and quality. Linguists have suggested that Umami (pronounced oo-mom'-ee) has English equivalents, such as savory, essence, … deliciousness. .. Umami is associated with an experience of perfect quality in a taste. It is also said to involve all the senses, not just that of taste. In the Asian context there is both a spiritual and mystical quality to Umami. In the West it has been controversial  whether it is also said to involve all the senses, not just that of taste. In wine, Umami is said to have depth and complexity. Are you beginning to see where I’m going with this?

In my presentation, “The Neurocardiologist Leader/Teacher,” I use this slide as a template for a perfect lesson plan for any grade and any subject.

There are three main components to this lesson plan: teacher, student, and content.  All three must intersect for that perfect plan to result. Each touches the other in different but very important ways. Included in the circles are rigor, relevance and relationships. Although there is a plethora of presentations, frameworks, and conferences on rigor, relevance, and relationships, you will see that this explanation is quite simple and easy to understand. 

It all begins with the teacher developing positive relationships with her students. I recently heard a speech Victor Mendoza, an AVID graduate from McKinney, Texas, at the Dallas AVID Summer Institute. He said that there is an “emptiness or gray area” between the teacher and student until that teacher develops a positive relationship with him. I cannot stress enough the importance of this foundation as it is THE most important piece. Neuroscience supports this as well, as the brain continually looks for relationships.

The next important piece is the relevance of the lesson. I have it intersected with student as it must be relevant to the student so he connects the content to himself. The teacher should strive to share stories in her presentation of the lesson, as the brain loves a good story. Stories touch the emotions and emotions are the gateway to to the brain and learning. Also included in that intersection is student choice. Sometimes it is not possible/feasible  to allow students to have a choice in content, but the teacher should always look for this possibility, as this provides ownership to the learner and adds to the Umami lesson. With the content circle is depth/complexity. Though all educators understand the term “rigor,” lately has been given a bad rap (at least on Twitter). So I choose to use depth and complexity to the content/objective which aligns with my Umami example. Bottom line: rise above knowledge and comprehension on Bloom’s. In my presentation, I use another slide to compare depth/complexity to difficulty. I will not delve into that in this article, but in short, depth/complexity/rigor is NOT more and is different from difficult! 

I keep rigor in the intersection between the student and teacher to note how the teacher questions the students when she checks for understanding, to move her students above knowledge/comprehension, above level one on Costa’s, and preferably to level three or four in Webb’s Depth of Knowledge. The teacher must be intentional with  her questions. Included in this same intersection — “respond,” so that there is a time for students to respond to the teacher about the objective (preferably in some kind of written form). This is a great way to formative assess the level of understanding and application to the objective. 

In the middle, where all three intersect are three words: “relationships,” “engagement,” and “Umami.” Relationships are not just between the teacher and student (although this is the most important) but also between the student and the content, as well. The learner must have that relationship for the lesson to reach to the Umami level. The second is engagement. Students will find something with which to engage. All students are engaged! They may or may not be engaged in the teacher’s lesson, but they are engaged. This plan will ensure that the learner is engaged in the teacher’s objective.

The one ingredient I didn’t include in the above illustration is movement. There must be some kind of movement or brain breaks. Get students to move! In a 45-55 minute lesson there should be at least two brain breaks where students should get out of their desks and move.

In this presentation I first ask the question, “How many of you believe there is no such thing as a lazy student?” I never get 100%, until I add “when engaged with a relevant lesson?” At that point, 100% are in agreement. If the teacher includes all of the attributes I have outlined, she will have a Umami lesson. A lesson that has “depth and complexity, taste of perfection, the apex of flavor, maturity, and quality, a deliciousness… what teacher does not want that? What student does not want that?

By Hal Roberts author of the book Pirate On!

Hal is a retired superintendent after 38 years. He speaks on leadership and neuroscience, and offers a half-day PD where he shows the relationship on both. It is informative, fun, and interactive.

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.