Life is such a head game. We have control of what we let in.

Life is such a head game. We have control of what we let in.

The worst enemy you have is right in your head. -unknown

This morning I learned just a little bit about the life of Florence Foster Jenkins. She aspired to be a singer, she was a singer. She just…well, she sounded like this:

Florence loved music, in fact she was a child prodigy pianist who played for the president of the United States at one point. As an adult, she injured her arm and turned to singing.

The thing I love about Florence is that she did not let ridicule or others’ opinions stop her from doing what she loved. Yes, she may have pierced a few eardrums, but she also brought joy and fun to many lives. Including mine today.

She didn’t just sing in her kitchen while doing dishes, she worked her way to perform at Carnegie Hall at the age of 76. She didn’t just do what she loved, she did it ALL the way. Unabashedly, confidently, unapologetically.

Florence could have let criticism stop her, she could have let her confidence slowly ravel away until she stopped singing. Instead, she charged forward and is remembered to this day for her spirit, determination, courage, and her persistent pursuit of what she loved.

She ignored her critics, the naysayers and she DID it–all the way to Carnegie Hall. Imagine what we could accomplish if we could ignore critics and naysayers completely. Of course, Florence had moments of self-doubt, but she didn’t let those moments cripple her momentum to pursue her dreams.

Life is such a head game. We have control of what we let in.

Listen to this post HERE

Sources: CBS Sunday Morning, YouTube, Wikipedia,

Blog image: Leonardo Da Vinci Face Proportions, source: click here


One of My Biggest Mistakes as a Principal

One of My Biggest Mistakes as a Principal

When my #CompelledTribe blog topic for this month was presented, I wasn’t sure how I would pick from my many mistakes. Our assignment was inspired by Jon Harper’s #MyBad16 and we are taking Jon up on his challenge to write about a mistake we made and what we learned from it.

As I reflected on my ever-growing list of mistakes, I found one that stood out among the rest. As a principal, I know how important it is to TALK and truly LISTEN to teachers and staff, all the time. Every time there is a decision to make, debriefing to do, ideas to generate, problems to resolve, I know the best thing to do is to talk and listen to the experts I work with everyday. They are geniuses and amaze me with their wisdom and perspective. We make a great team.

However, I learned this lesson the hard way.

There was once a time when I worked in a school building with a group of school leaders. We would meet almost on a daily basis and talk through problems, ideas, and debrief. There were five of us in the room, so there was lots of expertise and many perspectives represented, and we walked out of those meetings with decisions and clear direction.

The problem with that system is that teachers and staff were not part of the equation. There was an attempt to consider their perspective, but that cannot be effectively accomplished if they are not directly involved in the conversations. Many times we would individually talk through an idea with a teacher or two before we presented it to the leadership team, but, again, that was relaying the information second-hand, which is certainly not as effective as having teachers right at the decision-making table.

What results is a disconnect between leadership and staff, where assumptions are made, and we already know where assumptions lead us. There is a lack of understanding of the why behind decisions and initiatives. Then a devastating thing happens–trust dissolves.

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.

-George Bernard Shaw

Although I am much better at communication now, this lesson needs to be alive in me all the time. I still sometimes make a decision without considering all perspectives because I have not talked it through enough. The way I combat this is to talk and listen, all the time, as much as possible.

In order to really listen, I have to be sincerely open to input. I have ideas, but I am okay if they are shot down by better ideas. One of my pet peeves is the term “buy-in”. I am not a salesperson, I am a leader of a team. If I have to worry about buy-in, that means we are not figuring things out together. Even if there is an initiative or curriculum that we must adopt, my job is not to sell it. My job is to lead the team to figure out how the mandated item can benefit our students within our goals, mission, and vision.

Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.

-Stephen R. Covey

The talking and listening can happen in a variety of ways–individual conversations, grade level team conversations, whole staff collaborations, and sometimes through things like Google Forms. I like to keep survey-type input anonymous to encourage staff to be open and honest, so I only use it for certain purposes. The most important thing is to have a culture where relationships are strong, and where open and honest communication focused on problem-solving is the norm.

Here are blog posts I wrote about other mistakes I have made. I could write a book about my mistakes, maybe a series!

How I Avoided the Chopping Block my First Year of Teaching:

To Assume or Not to Assume?:

The rebel in me: my aversion to learning without choice

The rebel in me: my aversion to learning without choice

When I was in high school, I read everything that Danielle Steel wrote. I loved the escape, the easy read, the happy endings, and I especially loved when she wrote historical fiction. One of my favorite books is called Zoya by Danielle Steel. I was shocked when I got to a college history class and found out that I knew everything I needed to know about the Russian Revolution because I read Zoya a couple years before.

I loved to read when I was a kid. Still do. Have to disclose something though–I have rarely enjoyed reading a book that was assigned to me. Maybe because of the rebel in me? Maybe because I don’t like being told what to do?

My aversion to learning without a component of choice has impacted me as an educator–I can understand the power of choice in learning. I can also understand the disengagement that happens in the absence of choice.

Back to Zoya–I still remember much of what I learned about the Russian Revolution when reading that book. How much would remember about the Russian Revolution if I learned about it through reading a textbook and lecture? My guess? Zilch.

When I am assigned a book and comprehension activities, I work reluctantly to get the job done and forget what I learned as soon as it is over. When I am reading a book of my own choice, I extend my learning by googling information I find in the book, by watching YouTube videos on the topic, by talking with friends and colleagues about it, by blogging about it…and what I learn sticks with me.

In The Innovator’s Mindset, a book that is as much about good leadership, empowerment, and relationships as it is about technology, George Couros says,

Our job as educators and leaders is not to control others but to bring out the best in them.

-George Couros

How can we teach the curriculum, which includes things that students have no interest in learning, in a way that brings out the best in them? How can we empower students to learn in a way that is meaningful and sticks, encouraging their curiosity rather than squelching it?

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