December 10, 2018

#TETC2018 Takeaways

It has been a little over a week since I left #TETC20188 at the Embassy Suites in Murfreesboro. Every year, I can say that I leave encouraged, inspired and ready to continue sharing. This year was no different.

Last week I sent out a TWEET that gave 3 simple takeaways (from my perspective) of attending #TETC2018. I wanted to use my blog forum to give a little more detail than the 200 or so characters allowed on Twitter. So a rehash...below you will find a screenshot of that specific tweet.

As you can see, my perspective focused on these three areas:
1. A LOT of hard work goes into these conferences
2. People are excited about sharing what they know
3. The most important thing...connections and friendships

Here you go...detailed version now.

Hard Work

I have assisted in developing and facilitating small-scale conferences. When I say small scale, I am talking about district-level. A few years ago, Christopher King and I came up with this idea of doing a "Summit" at my school and invite folks from our district to participate. It was technology-based and ended up being a GREAT event...even though we had to condense because a blizzard came (which is a rarity in my town)/

In that process, I realized that even for a small gathering of folks for relevant professional development, we spent a TON of time in preparation. Including but not limited to...content, space, technology, presenters, snacks and the list could go on. My point is...that was a huge undertaking for me and Chris. Imagine what it takes for a state-wide technology conference.

This conference is fantastic and I highly recommend it to anyone at any stage of their technology integration. There is really something for everyone. My kudos go to the people involved with TETA who make this happen. If you do not ask or if you are not around anyone he has helped put this together, then there is no way to speculate how much time, planning an money this event takes. I am grateful for two things...1. the folks at TETA who put in this time and 2. that I just get to sit back and enjoy.

Anyways, I want to make it known that the hard work is evident.


It excites me every year when I get the email that allows me to propose to present. I did not send in proposal this year (new position, new responsibilities, just wanted to participate) but I did get to be a participate in a panel discussion about leadership and technology. It is always good to hear what others think.

What I think is cool about this conference (as well as others I attend), is that a vast majority of the presenters are in the trenches. They are current teachers who are sharing the great things that are happening in their schools and classrooms. Who better to learn from than other practitioners? The enthusiasm is evident. I see people frantically taking notes, photos of slides, asking tons of questions and even sketch noting...LOVE this by the way! Check out Sylvia Duckworth or Wanda Terral to get the info on this fun form of note-taking.

As an administrator who has experience both building level and now district level, I want to shout out to all of these educators at TETC to...

...bottle up this enthusiasm and take it back to your building. There is no reason to let this momentum die, spread the love at your building or your district. Teach others what you have learned and model how it can work for them. 

There is no doubt that this conference provides the encouragement, enthusiasm and tools to share with others. The next step...share it.

Connections and Friendships

I have developed lifelong friends by attending TETC. We do not always get to see each other so when we meet up, it is like a reunion. Luckily with the flattening ability of social media, we are able to converse and collaborate on a regular basis. But you know as well as I do, human contact can be good for the soul...and the profession.

I make it a point to connect with people at the conference but also everywhere I go. You may hear a common theme in the things I say or share...relationships. Building relationships with your colleagues (whether in your district or across the country), building relationships with your students, building relationships with your community will only assist in making you and them better stewards of this gift we call education.

There was a time in my life where certain people were unattainable. Certain people had the best information and there were not that many means of sharing. All of that has changed and TETC is one of the best places to start building that professional learning network. That PLN can be something you rely on and utilize to make you a better educator and person.

So...are all conferences the same? Simple answer no. But, in many cases, they are what you make it. If you pay attention, find things that catch your attention, connect with like-minded people (or even folks who disagree) around you...the opportunities are endless.

If you have any difficulty in seeing these when you go, follow me @mickshuran...I will help you move in the right direction.


November 20, 2018

So you want to be an admin...the aspiring leader

Ok, last installment of So you want to be an admin... (for now). This one is straight from a young teacher (I hired by the way) who has aspirations of being a school leader. Let me correct that, he is already a school leader but he wants a position that pays him for it...eventually. This is a must-read for the aspiring leader and even those who have done it for awhile, like me. Check it out and give Mr. Epley some leadership love.

So you want to be an admin?

Why pursue a career in administration?

      This is Caroline, my five-month-old daughter.  

When I think about education, as a teacher or an administrator, I wonder what Caroline’s educational journey will look like. It’s this curiosity that motivates me because I want to a part of the answer.  I will lead in education from my teaching position as long as I’m allowed to do so.  However, I decided to take the necessary steps to open doors to the world of administration.  I did this to give myself the chance of leading education into the future from a related, but different, chair.  To fully understand my “why”, it is important to understand my journey to the field of education.

Education is about serving and building relationships.  I chose to enter the field of education because of my love for history, but more importantly, my desire to positively influence the lives of our youth. Early in my life, in 8th-grade US History, I decided I wanted to be a teacher.  Throughout high school I joggled ideas of physical therapy and other fields that would have made great careers. Yet, I always ended up back where I started - teaching.  I was later hired as a young graduate of the University of Tennessee to teach 8th grade US History at my old school and in the very classroom that jump-started my desire to teach.  

I believe mentors are essential to professionals who desire to grow and lead within their field.  My 8th grade history teacher, Coach Jones, was one of the earliest mentors I remember.  Much later, I was lucky enough to be hired by Dr. Mick Shuran and mentored by him during my first few years as a teacher.  The many conversations with him stimulated my interest in school leadership.  Those conversations revolved around “everything education” and what we can do better as educators in the 21st century.

 I quickly realized I had the ability to build strong relationships with students, which allowed some of the obstacles they faced to become obvious.  Some of these students came from extremely difficult situations at home.  Their home lives were so different than mine as a child.  I grew up in Tullahoma but was naive to the conditions many of our children dealt with at home.  Teachers have a unique ability to see potential in all their students.  I was no different and saw massive potential in all my students.  

As educators, we allow our youth to have meaningful experiences, some of which may end up being their lifelong passion. The 21st century offers educational tools and access to knowledge in greater capacities than at any other point in human history.  These tools give students access to information (OER) and chances to see places (AR/VR) they may never have been able to in a previous decade.  It’s these chances and opportunities that provide all students with new opportunities and may very well save some of our young children by helping them find their passion.  I hope to lead education into the future and provide support to teachers so ALL of our students have the chance to find their passion and their own “why.”

Through much thought and prayer, I decided I wanted to further my education and begin preparing for a possible career in school leadership.  For the record, I do believe teachers are school leaders, actually the most important ones (and it's not close)! I chose to pursue (August 2016) my Ed.D at Carson - Newman University with a concentration in administration with licensure and plan to defend my dissertation in March 2019.

My “Whys”
Disclaimer: My “whys” apply to all the “hats” I wear or may wear over the course of my career in education.

     I chose this path because I understand the tools we have today may very well save kids with difficult home situations by opening doors and providing opportunities.  Serving teachers and students while providing the necessary support, training, and resources to take advantage of these amazing tools (AR/VR, OER, Coding, etc.) is something I’m passionate about.
     I chose this path because I believe the digital divide is closing (even if slowly) and access to knowledge will break down barriers for students that may have never been given a chance to succeed in the previous 20th century “industrial style” classroom.  I believe this happens by exposing students to more information, in relevant delivery methods, which increases their chances of finding their own “why.”
     I chose this path because education needs strong leaders willing to disrupt education norms and help navigate classrooms into the future.
     Lastly, I chose this path to enhance my ability as an educator.  The lessons learned and thinking skills gained from my degree will serve me well as a teacher and any other position I hold throughout my career. 

My “whys” are built on the same foundation that led me to this field: a desire to serve and my passion for people and building relationships.  Serving is the foundation of my career and it is my hope that it is what my career will end on, as a teacher or administrator, and maybe most importantly an educator.

How do you begin to prepare and pursue a career in administration?

          Ask me this question in 30 years (I’m 27), and I will probably tell you certain things I could have done better to prepare for a career in education in general, as well as administration. I don’t pretend to know what an administrator’s daily life is like.  Just like I didn’t know what a teacher’s life was like prior to entering the classroom.  I would not have ever thought to use the video linked below to explain to the “real world”, as they like to call it, what teaching is like, but that's exactly what I do. 

        Once I determined I wanted to begin preparing to ready myself for a potential shift to school leadership and understood my goals, I had to unravel the seemingly infinite amount of layers revolving around university programs, licensure, cost, and value.  I wanted to make sure I could become a licensed administrator in the state of Tennessee and that my degree held value.  Value is obviously hard to measure, so I went with a school I knew had a great reputation and was within my budget.  There are many aspects to consider when contemplating a doctoral program, but some of the more notable ones are discussed below.

 FAQ of Aspiring Administrators


What level degree do I need? What level degree do I want? Ed.D. or Ph.D.?

I received my master's degree in 2014 from UT - Knoxville.  So, I decided I wanted to earn my Ed.D.  Carson-Newman offers Masters, Ed.S, and Ed.D programs.  Some schools offer an Ed.D and some offer Ph.D.  Some may even offer both.  Carson-Newman’s doctorate program awards you with an Ed.D.
Which school should I attend? In-state or out-of-state?
Several reasons I decided to attend Carson-Newman University include their accreditation with the state of Tennessee’s licensure program, they are in-state, and I really valued their Christian perspective.  I wanted an in-state school, because I wanted to be a licensed administrator in the state of Tennessee.  I’m sure there are ways to accomplish this with out-of-state schools, but I’m unsure of them.
Should I participate in an online program or hybrid?
Many universities are moving to online methods of delivery.  UT-Chattanooga and UT-Knoxville offer a hybrid model.  Students attend classes periodically but also find coursework online.  This was a big decision for me.   I felt the ability to network and learn from others would be valuable in a hybrid program.  However, due to costs and proximity, I chose an online method of delivery.  I have been impressed with Carson - Newman’s ability to communicate and ensure students grow while participating in their program.
Is my school accredited with the state of Tennessee’s licensure program?
Some doctoral students already hold an administrative license.  I was not one of those.  So, it was important for me to choose a school accredited with the states licensure program.  
 What do I have to do, in unison with my coursework, to become a licensed administrator?
At Carson - Newman, you can earn your Ed.D without gaining licensure.  You have to be accepted into Carson - Newman’s Leadership Licensure program to have the opportunity of becoming licensed.  The licensure program is a completely separate program filled with tons of requirements that must be met.  A few of the steps that must be met: Portfolio filled with information related to your career, interview, 175 practicum hours, completion of a practicum project, and a passing score on SLLA.
How will I pay for my school? Are there tax benefits I should know about?
You can take out student loans to pay for your school or can utilize Carson - Newman’s partnership with Official Payments: Payplan.  This program divides your annual tuition into 12 payments making it much more manageable.

There are tax credits!

The Tax Assistant is a great tool for you to use to understand your eligibility for certain benefits.

Widely Used Education Tax Credits

What does it take?
I believe having a mentor or someone who has “been there, done that” is important.  That person can provide advice and confidence as you pursue your degree.  Other characteristics that are important include: 


All of these are extremely important because it's not easy paying for it, spending time away from family, and continuing it for three years minimum. I would also say it’s important to find a friend to complete the program with.  I didn’t have this, but it would have been helpful.

 My Professional Goals

During the first few years of my career, I developed three broad, but important, professional goals.  They are meaningful and applicable to any position within the field of education and certainly as an administrator.

1.  Do what is best for the students.
2.  Positively influence the progression of education
3.  Be a lifelong learner.

          These goals apply to many areas of education and are how I hope to be able to summarize my career.  Since these are somewhat long term, I have developed several other goals, or Maxims if you will (thanks, General Neyland), that help direct my daily professional life.

          I hope to use my degree to positively and efficiently stimulate progress in education by meaningfully implementing new and relevant strategies that correlate with the current and future job markets of the world.  I believe this happens by taking risks and being supportive of trying/implementing new instructional strategies.  My long term goals still leave room for people to say, “Ok, so what does that mean? What does that look like?”  Similarly, I don’t want to reflect on my career and see someone who had lots of great ideas but never acted on them.  My Maxims help establish my daily mission and are explained below.

1.  Be a risk taker.
-      I hope to use my degree to positively and efficiently influence educations progression by meaningfully implementing new and relevant learning strategies. 
2.  Promote trying new things without fear of failure.
-       I believe this happens by taking risks and being supportive of trying/implementing new instructional strategies.
3.  Move and lead!
-      I am as guilty as anyone of coming up with grand ideas but leaving them at just that - an idea.  Don’t wait for the next lesson, the next unit, or the next year to try something new.  Likewise, support others brave enough to implement new instructional strategies.  Lead by assuming extra responsibilities and offering assistance to others even when it may be inconvenient.

Interested in starting your journey as a doctoral candidate?
Click the table below (or HERE) to take you to links of programs throughout the state of Tennessee as well as one in Kentucky!

I'll refrain from giving too much advice and defer to Dr. Dan Lawson, another excellent mentor who gave me great advice while I was contemplating starting my EdD when he said, "My best advice is to MOVE!"

Thanks for reading! If you liked what you saw be sure to check out the previous installments on So you want to be an admin. If you like getting weekly tidbits of joy and coolness, click HERE to get my 5 Things Friday.

November 8, 2018

So you want to be an admin...the Principal's Perspective

I asked my good friend Thomas Fuhrman to provide the insight of a current principal on what it is like on that journey towards becoming an administrator. Thomas looks into personal experience and relates it to YOUR future journey. This is definitely worthwhile for aspiring admins as well as the veteran.



Why? Sharing and Caring

When posed with the notion that others want to be education administrators and Mick Shuran’s prompting to share something on the topic, three major ideas popped into my mind about my journey to this role and decision to persevere in it.

For every person who anticipates or even aspires to be in educational administration, I would pose the quick response for which Simon Sinek has become such a spokesperson lately: 

However, I would pose the question in a mirror to mirror sense that must continually look at the image reflected to determine the “why” underlying the “why.” Think of the child who inquisitively and perhaps somewhat obnoxiously fires a barrage of “whys” in an adult’s direction, seeking multiple layers of justification for some inquiry. In other words, the conversation may begin, “Why do you want to be a principal?” to which the person responds, “I want to make a difference.” The next question might be, “Why do you want to make a difference?” To which the person responds, “I remember what an impact my high school principal made on me.” Again, the question leads to, “Why did that principal’s model matter?” Certainly, this could go on and on until it seems to lead away from one’s central purpose or reason for the aspiration, but it is critically important to establish the “why” so that it can overcome the “hows” and “whats” that will inevitably pose seemingly insurmountable challenges without a clear sense of “why.” Furthermore, if you can’t find your “why,” you will continually struggle to bring others to a sense of “why” to which they can subscribe with your leadership. Furthermore, there is a clear difference between wavering in one’s conviction and changing one’s perspective. If your “why” changes, make sure that it is led by conviction, not by political agendas or influences that lead you away from the heart of your initial purpose.

My “why” begins with a purpose greater than my own, a purpose driven by my faith in Jesus Christ and God’s will for my life to be involved in the lives of others as a servant. As I was serving in the capacity of high school English teacher in a school and position that I loved, I realized that I desired to have an impact on children’s lives when they were younger. I prayed that God would somehow answer this prayer, and within a month, I was responding to a tweet seeking an elementary school principal.

I knew that this and the resulting position were an answer to prayer, and my “why” was reinforced. Though I have been in other principal roles since taking this initial principal position, I have continued to hold onto the “why” that first catapulted me into education administration. I like to hold the mirror of meaning before myself frequently to learn a continually deeper “why” which evolves each day with the realization of greater purpose that God has for me. This keeps me in humble recognition that though the waves of education may come crashing upon me, I can ride them without a sense of overwhelming failure even when they crash on my plans or ideas. Within this vein, it is important to me that I fill “the right role” for which I am appointed, not just “any” principal position. My “why” is grounded in my being the right “fit” as a school leader for the school where I am supposed to be, not just the qualified candidate for some school somewhere.

As a caveat, if your “why” includes any of the following, I would discourage you from considering or continuing your path towards educational administration:

-        A cozier, more commodious office
-        Greater sense of authority over others
-        The opportunity to fix everything that is wrong with education
-        Less concern over specific students by removing yourself from the classroom
-        Popularity as a school leader
-        A higher salary without additional time commitments

I would like to reinforce that each of these delusions of grandeur sometimes associated with educational administration has the wrong motives associated with it for leadership, and each further reveals unrealistic expectations that are too often a general caricature of principalship in our popular entertainment media which is far from the reality of daily life as a school administrator, expectations for self-focus rather than school community focus. 

Rather than dealing with each of these individually or other related, misaligned myths about principalship, consider the other two words that have become the essential “hows” for the “why” that makes a difference in the lives of a school community.

How? Sharing
Especially notable in the expectations for Tennessee educational administrators is the mention of “shared leadership.” Though some may have experienced or even admired seemingly autocratic rule by principals in the past, this is neither the norm nor the desired leadership model for an educational administrator today. Sharing leadership requires some very vulnerable practices, namely seeking authentic feedback and trusting others to act in accordance with a unified “why.” It requires the patience that not all leadership operates on a continuum that brings forth expected outcomes within anticipated timelines. Sharing leadership means not only sharing responsibilities but also sharing accountability for some actions for which you aren’t directly involved, but for which your school family is. Sharing requires us to consider other perspectives before forming our own, sharing experiences with others in order to better empathize with their respective perspectives. Sharing, in short, requires humility, whether intentionally sought after or brought upon by the conditions of situations common to complex relationships among school family members. It is imperative that one is prepared to be humble in circumstances in which integrity is the greatest goal and that everyone should have an opportunity to play a part.

One of the most significant features of sharing (in terms of leadership and responsibility) for me is a release of the burden of always having to be right (or assumed so). Many seek leadership to have the answers that they don’t have, and fairly enough, when the answers aren’t correct or problems can’t be solved, the leaders face the greatest scrutiny. By surrounding myself with innovative people and problem solvers, I can share in the struggle to solve the inevitable problems and face adversity with resources well beyond what are in my toolbox. Sharing is not only the right thing to do; it is imperative to the healthy functioning of a school. In every principal role I have held, I have relied on an amazing cast of characters around me who demonstrate amazing ingenuity in areas in which I am an utter buffoon. In the Shakespearean play As You Like It, Jaques reminds us that “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.” Without tapping into their expertise and experiences, I could never
accomplish what too often is attributed to me. If you struggle with sharing, know that going into
school administration, and be ready to learn how, or know that you won’t be a good fit as a
school administrator. In short, be ready to play “many parts” and play the supporting role just as
often as the leading role.

How? Caring
Sharing can’t happen without a profound commitment to caring. At my current school, we commit to the motto: “Let’s prove we care!” We don’t want to merely pay lip service to caring, but we want to be held accountable to “proving” that we care. Caring is expressed in learning student and family names and greeting them daily with a smile, in preparing lessons that engage and enrich students’ education, and in follow-up calls to parents and school community partners to come up with creative solutions to life’s difficult situations. This year, we have expressed our school philosophy in the following (included in our student handbook):

We care about…

Safety. It is critical to a child’s learning that he or she feels safe at school.

Wellness. Health and physical fitness significantly impact children’s development.

Attendance. Students need consistency in their routines and progression of learning.

Academics. Developing academic skills  and critical thinking drives lifelong learning.

Character. Students should make informed choices and respect one another.

Equity. ALL students should be supported based on their respective individual needs.

Opportunity. Students benefit from multiple diverse experiences.

Caring often means sacrificing comfortable conditions for the sake of constructive solutions. Mantras without action are moot and generally turn one into a figurehead without substance; I have found that part of caring as a principal is investing in one’s school, investing time and money, yes, but also investing one’s energy and attention to listen, to respond, and to admit when I am wrong. Caring is validating others’ perspectives and seeking opportunities to empathize when doing so is possible and sincerely understanding when empathy is beyond my capacity. I can’t relate to everyone’s exact situation, but by caring, I can enter into a relationship in which I am willing to listen and understand before responding.

Caring ultimately means persevering through challenges and setting goals to improve situations for all students and families. This is exhausting work, and I am far from meeting the expectations I have set for myself in this area, but I want to continually act with integrity to always empower our JWES family. Caring also means recognizing when to exercise your sense of humor to reduce tension in a situation or to act with grave concern to be sensitive to the serious nature of someone’s tragedy or loss. Caring means taking a pie in the face when a child works exceptionally hard at a fundraiser to raise funds for the school. Caring means holding back tears when meeting with a colleague when his or her tears are too much to bear or crying along with him or her because you know just how he or she feels. Caring means running a mile with students while wearing a mascot costume to encourage the students at the back to keep going. Caring means commitment and longsuffering. I don’t want to live in the past or the future, but I want to consider both in helping those around me to grow and achieve more every day. Caring is intimately woven into my “why,” and I can’t imagine any significant meaning in my role without it. Caring can’t happen effectively without the concerted efforts of those around us committed it, and caring is far less likely to happen if it isn’t embraced, encouraged, and perpetuated by school leadership.

The Journey
My journey as a school administrator is an ever-changing puzzle of acronyms, legislative actions, curricular adjustments, and various other commonly identified features on the edges; however, the central pieces of the puzzle are people and the relationships that form the basis for my “why”: sharing in the journey of educating our youth and families through loving and caring relationships which never neglect the potential that we all have to contribute to our world. I encourage others to think about why you are starting your administrator journey before ever jumping into the driver’s seat, to be ready to respond to navigation along the route, and to change direction, as long as it allows you to arrive at your intended destination with your invaluable passengers. Also, be willing to allow other qualified passengers to spend some time behind the wheel with your support.

Thomas could be in this has not been confirmed.

Hey, I hope you liked this post. If you are new to this post or interested in exploring this topic even more...
to read the last post "So you want to be an admin...the director of school's perspective."

Stay tuned for the next post "So you want to be an admin...the aspiring admin."

November 1, 2018

So you want to be an Admin...The Director's Perspective

Just as I promised, thoughts on becoming an admin from someone else other than me. This one is coming from Tullahoma City School's former Director, now Professor Dan Lawson. Enjoy!

Ironic, but Mick asked for my thoughts with a due date of 11/ first day out of office! And I clearly understood why he asked a cockroach, I am first and foremost a survivor...Surely no Zombie apocalypse, and no nuclear blast, but thirty years as a superintendent with great leadership teams around me that accomplished great things is a legacy that I'll gladly accept.

I think Bennis and Nanus were on point as they advised that most leaders are (my words) just a little smarter than the average person that they lead.  NO that's not heresy, in fact in my case it may be charitable. You will all punch that Yogi Bear ticket because you are willing to read and thoughtfully consider your path.  I can tell already, you're a little bit smarter than the average bear... 

I also, however, believe that those effective leaders work to develop a level of emotional intelligence that will allow them tremendous portability. Or as I'm inclined to share with others, "...sufficient EQ to go from the pulpit to the pool hall."  You get my drift.  An effective 2019 model leader can't and won't know all she needs to succeed.  But she can certainly surround herself with skilled practitioners to accomplish the variety of tasks required.  


So much for philosophy, how did I serve as a superintendent that long and what can others learn from the scars and bruises I earned?

1) One can study swimming, watch swimmers, and visit with swimmers about how they decided to jump into the pool.  All of that is great, but at some point in time, you have to commit to jumping in. Here's the rub, most are successful at the present level and hesitate to risk stability to access that first position.  No easy way around this one, If you are going to lead you are placing yourself in "harms way." I tell prospective superintendents that nearly all are ready to move that first time, but as a superintendent, you have to know that you may move the first time on your terms and the second on others terms.

2) Focus on the mission at hand not the happiness of the team. Too many are inclined to have an idea that the team effect is enhanced by their happiness and underestimate the value of success in completion of a task or responsibility.  If your focus is on team happiness instead of effect and mission you then negotiate all decisions around that as your priority.  Don't. 

3) Know yourself.  Yeah, it would be easy to go with a "to thine own self..." but I've got a better one. When I started thinking about leading schools and districts, I studied a great educator named John Goodlad.  This quote truly has been my guiding star for decades. "If the experience of "doing school" destroys children's spirit to learn, their sense of wonder, their curiosity about the world, and their willingness to care for the human condition have we succeeded as educators, no matter how well our students do on standardized tests?" Goodlad in that quote captured the essence of priority and JOY in the educational experience.  Truly NOT counter to the point above ...JOY matters to me and JOY is under my control as a leader. 

4) Develop thick skin while keeping a soft heart. If you can keep business, business and glean ideas and solutions from the most detestable sources, that's a win.  But too often if we don't like one thing about someone we turn off everything.  You are giving away too much when you can't accept ideas from those that you find generally disagreeable. If your heart is focused on a rubric, the letter on the report card or some "heat map" on a data dashboard, try to find some position where you are managing things instead of leading people.  No disrespect, but both you and your team are in for a miserable existence if your heart is not focused on SERVING the people you are blessed to lead.

5) Embrace and learn from your errors.  You will make them...and the more you try to accomplish and the harder you push, the more inclined you are to err. The first error is a learning experience and the second becomes a choice.  NO one expects perfection. But they do expect character, competence, and chemistry as you lead with joy. So if you're ready, lose those floaties and jump in the pool.    

Dr. Dan Lawson
Lee University
twitter: 1danlawson

October 12, 2018

So you want to be an Admin...what NOT to do

In case you just joined us, this is a multi-part series on becoming a school administrator. You can certainly start here but I would recommend also looking at the 80/20 Rule and the preparation. You never know, you may get some good tips from those.

For this part, let's talk about  what you SHOULD NOT DO when you become an administrator.

Disclaimer...I am not saying I have done all of these things, I am just pretty observant. 

You should NOT...Change things right away
That is unless you were hired to fire a bunch of people. I hope not, that would be a crappy beginning to a career! Most of the time, things will be pretty smooth when you get to where you are going. If not, you still need to hesitate when making major changes. My suggestion...learn your people, learn the school's stories, work on culture and atmosphere. Leave the lunch schedule ALONE!

You should NOT...Be Mean
Why in the world would you do that anyways?? I have seen people get into different positions and feel like they need to immediately exert their authority. This is not necessary...see the first suggestion. Work on the culture and you will never have to be mean.

You should NOT...Gossip
I had a wise principal once tell me "it will feel weird when you walk by the teacher's lounge and know they are talking about you." At any given time, this could very well be true. You are not always going to be their favorite and that is ok. With that being not get involved in ANY of the gossip. It will never work in your favor. Focus on...yeah you guessed, the culture and only spread positive, uplifting vibes.

You should NOT...Show Favorites
This one is hard because there are some who are hard to like. But, it is important to refrain from showing your feelings either way. Now, let me get this straight though. If you have a teacher ROCKIN IT...keep giving them attention, give them resources because everyone else will recognize they are kicking butt. You will get accused of showing favorites but with those superstars, it might be worth it.

You should NOT...Take all of the Glory
Give the Glory, take the blame that is what I always heard. Do not worry, you will get your time to shine. Plus, if your school is doing great or if certain teachers are getting recognized, that is a reflection on YOU! Likewise, if things are crappy it is also going to come back on you.

You should NOT...Be Inflexible
I heard one administrator tell me once "Semper Gumby" simply meaning Always Flexible. You better be flexible because no two days will look alike. And like the great Dr. Petzko always told us..."You are only as good as your Plan B."

You should NOT...Assume YOU have all of the Answers
It does not matter how many years of experience you have or how many degrees you have completed, you WILL NOT have all of the answers. Do not be afraid to pick up the phone, send out an email or even tweet someone. It has been mentioned before, build your professional learning network (PLN) and do not be afraid to use it. It could save the moment, your day or even your career...ASK SOMEONE.

I do not normally focus on the negative side of anything, I am a naturally an optimistic type of guy. But, as a school administrator, some of these things can really get you off to a rough start. Obviously these are not all of them but a great start nonetheless. If these tidbits of advice are too simplicistic and you feel you can navigate this on your own...GO FOR IT! But, word of warning, you better be TOUGH.

I am going to keep this topic rolling for a few more weeks. I have some GREAT guest posts coming...stay tuned for perspectives from a current principal, a long-time director of schools and an aspiring school administrator. It should be fun!!


September 27, 2018

So you want to be an admin...the preparation

People ask me on a regular basis...

"What should I do if I want to be a school administrator?"

I always respond, "other than run...!" Just kidding...well maybe not, I guess there is some truth to that. There is a reason I say that it is because you need to be careful what you wish for. I remember thinking, no schedule, every day is a new day...those are the very things that can wear you down. In all reality, it is probably not what you think. I am definitely not trying to discourage but get ready for a world different than you are used to.

If I have not scared you off, then GOOD. Much like teaching, being an administrator is a calling and it is hard to run from anyways.

So...if you want to start exploring the idea of becoming an administrator, here are some ideas to get you started.

1. Find a mentor
This is HUGE! You need to find someone who is good at what they do, someone you look up to and someone who is willing to be of assistance. I got lucky pretty early and landed a great mentor. And, it is ok to have several too. I did. In fact, connections are important and you should seek the advice of more than one person. In today's world that is super easy, just get on Twitter and see for yourself.

2. Get the appropriate schooling, certification, etc most states you need the appropriate license or certification to even become an assistant principal. Sometimes that is not the case but ultimately you will need the credentials. For the most part, those credentials will involve some extra time in a university setting and most of the result in a Masters degree or higher. Good news though, there are more and more reputable programs offering these options online. My advice, look around and go for what works for you both academically and the wallet.

3. Build a PLN - include future admins and current admins and even leaders outside of education
Even before you take steps towards becoming an admin, you should be building your Professional Learning Network (PLN). I had great experiences and learned a ton in my graduate programs BUT I also made connections that I still interact with today. Also, since becoming active on Twitter, I have made some great connections outside of my district, my city and even my state. These valuable connections (some of whom I have actually met) can and will play an active role in your career, now and in the future.

4. Get on Twitter
I think I have said this a number of times. In fact, if you know me or have heard me speak, then you know this ALWAYS comes up. Right now, Twitter is the best platform for me in regards to professional development. I have participated in Twitter Chats that last an hour that have been more beneficial than a three day conference. How's that for saving time and money?? Plus, I have built some strong professional and personal relationships on Twitter that have been more valuable than I can even explain in a blog post. If you do not have an account, get one and follow me. If you have an account, get back on it and follow me. Ask questions, lurk, follow people who you find interesting and when you are ready, jump on one of those chats.

5. Start thinking like a teacher and a principal
This one is difficult. One of the bits of advice I give to future admins getting ready to take the license test is..."don't answer the questions like a teacher." That is NOT a knock on teachers but simply an indication that the roles require different perspectives and answers. Have you ever wondered why your principal did something a certain way? When you become one, it will probably make more sense. Your "vision" as a principal is different than that of a teacher. Not that one is better or right, it is simply a different viewpoint. Trust me on this one. Start paying attention to the admins around you and look and how and why they make decisions a certain way. And, if you have a mentor, ask them why they do the things they do...they won't mind.

6. Take on leadership roles, not only to prove yourself but to LEARN
Yes, you may have to work the prom or the yearly beauty pageant but I promise, in the long run you will get something out of it. You learn how to interact with people. You learn how to assign tasks. You also learn how to deal with people who do not agree with you and also may be extremely angry with you. Believe it or not, there is a skill with those situations. Any leadership role is going to be helpful. Be sure to volunteer for a variety of those roles to get a variety of experiences.

7. Let someone know you are interested...preferably someone who might hire you.
My first year as a teacher, I told my Director of Schools, "I want to do what you do." He laughed and said the same thing I said while you can. I know he was joking for the most part but I also know that he took it seriously and from that point on, he mentally put me on his list of potential future admins. Several years down the road I got that opportunity and guess who put me guessed it!

If you do not let people know of your intentions, then it is likely that it will be a missed opportunity in the future.

So there you important tips. There are tons more that will benefit you but those seven can get you a good start. Remember, being an admin is NOT for the faint of heart but if you truly want it, then go for it!


Stay tuned for the next So you want to be an admin...If you missed the last one, click HERE.