William D. Parker from the Principal Matters Podcast reveals his school leadership strategies, insights from other leaders, and practical tips so that you can have the tools to achieve your own goals. Rediscover healthy motivation, resolve conflicts and challenges, maximize your communication, grow your instructional abilities, and learn to streamline responsibilities—all while building positive communities among your team members, students, parents, and patrons. A former teacher of the year and Oklahoma assistant principal of the year, he is also an author, blogger, speaker and education consultant. The former Principal of Skiatook High School, near Tulsa, Oklahoma and the Founder of Principal Matters, LLC, he also serves as the Executive Director for OASSP/OMLEA - state associations proudly supporting secondary leaders and middle level educators. He and his wife Missy are the proud parents of four children: 3 girls and 1 boy. When he is not serving his members and family, he is a sought-after keynote speaker for principal conferences and leadership seminars. He has learned to leverage his lessons through growing in-person and online communities. Listen in for motivation to create incredible momentum in your school community.
PMP254: Reconstructing Place and Space with Jen Schwanke
This week, Jen Schwanke, author and education leader, shares thoughts on why education leaders should consider how ‘place and space’ play a role in learning outcomes.
With credit to Dr. Miller, director of the EdD in Educational Administration and an assistant professor – clinical in the Department of Educational Studies at The Ohio State University, Jen probes into several questions his feedback has generated.
Listen to the entire episode for more context, but here is a short summary of the conversation with several applications for education leaders:
WDP: What is the difference between space and place?
Jen: Think about it this way:
* Space is something abstract…you can’t touch it* Place is how we internalize space. In a nutshell, place is space with meaning* For example, your house is an actual place, but the aspects of your house that cause you to feel safe, warm, loved, happy, maybe sad, etc. all constitute your home as a space to you. * Place, as a space, is fueled by memory and carries significant meaning (good and bad) for us. Simply stated, we have a relationship with place. We are nostalgic for places we have left, we protect places where we are, and we fully understand how to enact our lives in those places (e.g., where to play football, where to shop, where to fart). * Place, as a space, is socially constructed, which means they have politics, emotions, and meaning
What meaning does your school building have as a space for students, teachers, and parents? Consider ‘Social Construction’: What we take to be the truth about the world importantly depends on the social relationships of which we are a part. Sometimes that gets us stuck. Sometimes we need to break out of what we’ve already known to be the best way.
WDP: This is one reason our offices should be welcoming places where parents and others feel like guests, not intruders. For instance, our school had a habit of making a fresh pot of coffee and keeping water and sometimes fresh baked cookies on hand. How else should this influence the ways principals consider place?
Jen: For principals, it’s usually about a place of belonging.
Think about what that means for your school, your place, your space. What are some ideas and changes you can make? Consider the terms: Leadership, management, and reconstruction. Only you, your staff, your community can speak to what might need to be reconstruction. But you’re the leader. What does that mean?
a. Is it your job to represent the ideals of your school community?
b. Is it your job to adhere to best educational practice?
c. Is it your job to do what is best for students…at all cost?
Leadership is change/Management is holding down the fort. As a leader, do you have the ability to step outside the your own culture? What roles do you play?
* historian – interprets current events against the backdrop of the past * anthropologist – finds meaning in the behavior of organizational participants* visionary – projects aspirations for others* marketer – models and provides ceremonies and routines
WDP: What is reconstruction?
Jen: For me, it’s evolution. It’s adapting. It’s keeping those students in mind. Changes aren’t hard to defend if they are done for students.
Will: So, is there anything principals should consider reconstructing?
Jen: Some principals are grappling with students of color, transgender, social relationships, mental health, instruction, athletics, hiring. For me,
PMP253: 10 Lessons from a First Year Assistant Principal with D.J. Klein
One year ago, June 4, 2020, D.J. Klein was a guest on the Principal Matters podcast when we shared advice for his first year as a school administrator. You can hear the 10 Tips for First Year Assistant Principals we discussed by listening to PMP:197.
One year later, D.J. Klein has finished his first year as Assistant Principal and Athletic Director at Terry High School, south of Jackson, Mississippi. As the 2020-2021 school year has ended for D.J., we reconnected to reflect on lessons he learned from his first year in the role of school administrator. Below is a summary of 10 new lessons D.J. generously shared:
10 Lessons I’e Learned in my First Year as Assistant Principal by D.J. Klein:
1) “Be aware of your strengths and weaknesses. Know your leadership style, natural strengths, and areas in which you can grow. Although it may seem elementary, having a strong sense of self-awareness of who you are will pay dividends as you develop relationships with more stakeholders than ever before. Take the time to take several personality tests (such as the one on 16personalities.com that is based on the Myers-Briggs theory) and speak to those who have worked close to you for a long time.”
2) “Be visible and accessible. While I was a teacher, my former superintendent once offered me this piece of advice as I prepared to enter the principalship: ‘If I come to visit your school and you are in your office, you better have a good reason for being in there.’ Being visible and accessible as a school leader to your teachers, students, and support staff throughout the day may sound simple, but it is essential. Although meetings, student discipline, and other matters will require your time, it is important to see and be seen.”
3) “Know available resources that benefit students. Learn all you can about the resources that are available in the community and allocate those resources to your students’ benefit. Although I am only a year into it, I am continuing to discover new resources that can be utilized to the benefit of our teachers and students.”
4) “Develop a routine and stick to it to the best of your ability. I learned very fast that there is really no such thing as a “normal” day for an assistant principal. Some days are very fast paced with many things on your daily agenda that need to be addressed. On the contrary, there will be some days when you are wondering why the day is going by as slow as it feels. Despite this, have a designated time frame set apart to complete specific tasks that require your attention: teacher observations, e-mails, returning phone calls from parents, etc.”
5) “Prepare for the unexpected. To piggyback on the last point: In the book ‘Extreme Ownership,‘ Navy Seals Jocko Willink and Leif Babin introduce the four laws of combat. After going through the school year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve learned to prepare for the unexpected. Even if you take the pandemic aside, I am sure this is a rule of thumb that veteran principals will stand by. On the days that one is facing a large number of unforeseen circumstances (whether severe or minor), it is important to follow the third law of combat: ‘Prioritize and Execute.’ Prioritize the most urgent tasks and execute the means of getting these tasks knocked out.”
6) “Share your leadership with others. With the number of clubs, sporting events, extra-curricular activities, etc that are available on the secondary level,
PMP252: Bomb-Proof Constructive Feedback with Chris Zervas
Leadership requires relationships, understanding others, and negotiating through conflicts. This week I am privileged to share a conversation from Chris Zervas about his book, Bomb-Proof Constructive Feedback.
Chris Zervas helps busy leaders improve their communication, leadership and employee engagement to impact their organization’s bottom line.
Chris’s trainings have helped organizations increase efficiencies, productivity, and retention valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars by his clients.
From Army National Guard Bureau, US Bank, and ConocoPhillips to small family owned businesses, Chris empowers leaders to communication relationally rather than transactionally. He is the author of the book, Bomb-Proof Constructive Feedback, and received his Master’s Degree in Communication from Wheaton College after graduating from the University of Oklahoma as a student/athlete. He has served two college communication faculties, worked in fundraising for over 10 years and has been trained in conflict resolution by the Administrative office of the courts of the Supreme Court of Oklahoma. Chris is a Cherokee Citizen and lives in Oklahoma with his wife and five children.
In this episode, we discuss several takeaways, including:
* Knowing the right time, setting, and delivery for giving critical feedback* Using praise and constructive criticism as leadership tools* Minimizing stress and major confrontation through effective communication* Knowing what must be present for feedback to be effective
Now It’s Your Turn
What are ways you are cultivating strong relationships with others so that hard conversations happen within the context of mutual trust? What is one practical step you take in the days ahead to reach out to others (before a conflict) so that you are building bridges that may help later (during a conflict)? Listen to the episode for even more takeaways!
More information about Chris Zarvas and his keynote speaking, employee development and coaching can be found at ChrisZervas.com.
PMP251: You Can Do Hard Things, featuring Samantha Bartrom
This week marks the end of June 2021, and just today I heard from a principal friend, Andrew O’Farrell, West Islip Unified School District in Massapequa, New York, who is enjoying his first week of summer vacation. Other schools across the U.S. have been enjoying break since the end of May.
Wherever you are, I bet it is safe to say that graduation has been one of the most exciting times as you wrap up your school year. And 2021 has a special place of significance for graduating classes and the educators and communities who have served them through a year like no other.
With that well-earned celebration in mind, I am really excited that Principal Samantha Bartrom from Coastal Academy High School in Oceanside, California, shared a link to her graduation ceremony with the Principal Matters Mastermind community and me. Watching her speech was a moment of poignance and sentimentality. In fact, I was so moved by listening to her words to her school community, I asked permission to re-broadcast the speech as this week’s podcast episode.
As you listen, please give yourself permission to rewind the clock on this past year. Think about the lessons you and your school community learned together. Think about the resilience, hard work and dedication you saw demonstrated. And give yourself permission to congratulate yourself on being able to do hard things.
Thank you, Samantha Bartrom and Coastal Academy High School for permission to share your speech with Principal Matters listeners. A copy of the speech script is printed below, or you watch the speech via Youtube at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVJULpj5ZL0
Good afternoon Class of 2021:
“Congratulations on making it to this momentous and special day — your high school graduation! After this unforgettable and unpredictable school year, I am elated and grateful that l we are able to gather in person today to celebrate the resilient and inspiring Class of 2021.
I’d like to take you back to March 2020, your Junior year. On March 4, 2020 Governor Newsom declared a state of emergency. Out of extreme precaution, on March 13th, 2020, Coastal Academy High School transitioned to home-based learning until after Spring Break. At this point, COVID-19 was still very new. Some students were disappointed and even a little worried. Others were not distraught at all. Perhaps you welcomed the break from your day to day grind and hustle. Maybe you embraced the opportunity to do school in your PJs or with your best dog or cat friend on your lap.
At that point in time, I don’t think any of us expected to spend 448 days doing the distance learning shuffle, pivoting back and forth between at-home, hybrid and in-person learning.
There have been exactly 448 days since March 13, 2020. During those 448 days there should have been school dances, athletic events, spirit days, Food Truck Fridays and so much more.
Class of 2021: I am so sorry you didn’t get to experience all of the many rights of passage that come with your Senior Year.
Rather than focus on what you have missed or lost this school year, I’d like to draw your attention to just a few of the things you’ve gained.
In the past 448 days, the Class of 2021 has exemplified the true meaning of a self directed learner. You set goals, created new routines & adjusted to Zoom class. I think we’d all agree the hands down quote of this school year is,
PMP250: Principal Reboot, Part 2 with Jen Schwanke and Mastermind Members
In this episode, Jen Schwanke, principal of Indian Run Elementary in Dublin, Ohio, and author of two books on school leadership, joined me for a conversation with two principals from the Principal Matters Mastermind community: Samantha Bartrom, Principal of Coastal Academy in Oceanside, California, and Erin Igoe, Assistant Principal at Piedmont High School in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Listen to episode 249 for part one of this conversation where we discuss a chapter of The Principal Reboot: 8 Ways to Revitalize Your School Leadership, by Jen Schwanke with the author herself. This week, however, we share conversations about women in leadership, imposter syndromes, and how to pursue ideas for your own career growth.
In particular, I asked Jen to talk to education leaders considering their futures and what thoughts or advice she has for leaders who may want to write or tackle creative projects like she has.
Jen responded, “I have talked to principals all over this country who ask me how I was able to write a book or teach university classes while being a principal. My answer is that I did not wait for these things came to me. I wanted a piece of me to work for myself, not just serve as a principal. For me, I needed to be a writer. I reached out to ASCD and placed a proposal. I connected with Will and it led to podcasting. I decided that I wanted to teach at the university level, so I reached out and asked. It’s hard to stick your neck out, but I encourage people if there is something you want to do, don’t wait for it to come to you.”
Jen Schwanke also spends several minutes reflecting with Samantha and Erin about their dreams and passions, and she provides advice that may apply to any leaders.
Listen-in to the entire conversation for more takeaways on ways to pursue your interests and ideas in your leadership growth, including leaders interested in writing or creative projects.
Now It’s Your Turn
As you think about your future in leadership, what questions do you have about taking action on your dreams or creative ideas? Feel free to reach back by email and let me know other questions you would like to explore in future episodes!
PMPEncore028: Four Reasons Your Vacation Matters
This week’s post is an encore episode I shared a few years ago. Since I’m hoping you can enjoy some well-deserved vacation this summer, I thought I would remind you why your time away from school may help you better serve your school.
Photo by Holly Mandarich – Creative Commons No known copyright restrictions https://unsplash.com/@hollymandarich?utm_source=haikudeck&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=api-credit
Regardless of whether someone is an educator or not, or whether your vacation time is long or short, taking time away from work is healthy for a number of reasons. Here’s why:
4 Reasons Why Your Vacation Matters
1. Vacation reminds you of who you really are.
Sometimes it is too easy to identify ourselves completely by our work. When we introduce ourselves to someone new, we almost always end up explaining what work we do. That’s not bad, but it also exemplifies how common it is to build our identities around our work.
Getting away for personal or family time allows us to come back to some of the priorities motivate us to do good work. For me, it gives me time to see my children play, to explore together, to read books, to have longer conversations with my wife, and to pray. All of these connections can help you rediscover what is important and ultimately give more meaning to your work when you return.
2. Vacation allows you mental and emotion detox.
There is something healthy about days of not accomplishing work-related projects, reading emails, answering questions, solving problems, attending meetings, etc. Like exercising different muscles in your body helps you discover where you need to gain strength, vacation allows you to exercise different mental and emotional muscles. It gives your brain and emotions a break from the normal “work-out”.
3. Vacation stimulates creativity.
For me, I find myself having more time to write, play music, travel, or spend time with friends and family. Suddenly, I am finding time for those areas I love that may often get ignored.
For instance, one morning during a Colorado vacation, I was able to reflect on my surroundings and write the following:
This morning the panorama of mountains is breathtaking. Peaks in the distance show ridges still covered with snow. The jagged, gothic, jutting, massive gray of a 14-er hides behind the closer green aspen covered hills. Mountains to my north and east alternate with colors of green and exposed red dirt and bare rock. And meadows below them all are covered with wildflowers: brilliant yellows, whites, and purples. As I write this, humming birds are alternating between feeders nearby. Shimmering greens, browns, and ruby-throated buzzing back and forth. Yesterday morning, I saw a deer bouncing away in the meadows below. And two nights ago, we watch as a copper colored fox prowled around looking food treasures.
These kind of reflective moments are possible outside of vacation too, but getting away is also a great time to experience them.
4. Vacation creates great memories.
One of my teammates at work has a great practice of putting his vacation photos on his lap-top computer as a screen saver. He keeps it nearby his desk during the day. When he has time to work at his desk, vacation memories consistently greet him.
Although we should never live simply for the pleasure of playing, vacation is a great way to rediscover your priorities, detox mentally, stimulate creativity, and create new memories.
So as the new school year is about to begin,
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Principal Matters has been my go-to resource for a full year. Will and his guests support and encourage both the veteran and novice instructional leader. Topics are relevant to what we as principals face on the daily. Will leads with true servant leadership with a pure vision to lift up and help those who serve in the education field. Subscribe, don’t miss, and be inspired!
Amazing and Valuable!!
I’ve been listening to Will’s podcast for going on three years and he and his guests speak directly to school leaders in a way that is relevant and rejuvenating. He knows the job we have and provides materials and resources from the veterans perspective! Point blank listened to Principal Matters and acting on what you’ve heard will make you a better school building leader!!