Principal Matters: The School Leader's Podcast with William D. Parker show

Principal Matters: The School Leader's Podcast with William D. Parker

Summary: 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.

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  • Artist: William D. Parker: Principal, Author, Speaker and Blogger
  • Copyright: Copyright | William D. Parker, 2020

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 PMP227: Me, Myself and Bob. 7 Lessons from the Rise and Fall of VeggieTales | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 19:49

Have you ever had a dream you’ve been unable to fulfill? Phil Vischer was born in Muscatine, Iowa, in 1967. He grew up mesmerized by Disney films, Star Wars, and later by MTV. Phil also came from a family that was deeply religious. As he grew up, he longed to see media created that would portray his Christian values in ways that were both appealing and entertaining. Phil Vischer was a technology wiz, even at a young age. Some of his earliest memories involved making special effects with his grandfather’s home video camera. And when the first Atari 400 personal computer was on the market, his family found a way to buy one for him. He went to St. Paul’s Bible college in Minnesota, but he dropped out in his second year and began his first company making advertisement videos in 1989. It was during his twenties, that he began to experiment with software that allowed him to do what no one else was marketing at the time, lattice deformation: the ability to make digital images “squishy” instead of just blocks on a screen. This discovery led to his creation of a cartoon character named Larry: a green cucumber with quirky eyes and a toothy smile. Later he created his sidekick, Bob the Tomato, and the VeggieTales industry began. Actually, the company was called Big Idea Productions, started in August of 1993. Throughout the origin story of the company, Phil Visher had several benefactors whose combined contributions gave him the capitol to take the next steps he needed in making his first 30-minute children’s video with animated vegetables telling stories from the Bible with funny songs and Phil’s brand of sly humor throughout. For the first time in his life, Phil felt he was on the verge of creating something that matched the dreams he had as a boy. He idolized the stories of Walt Disney, and he thought maybe this was the opportunity to launch something as appealing as the Disney brand but with a focus on the values of his faith. By 1994, Vischer had a staff of 4 and 50,000 orders for their first two VeggieTales videos, “Are You My Neighbor?” and “Dave and the Giant Pickle.”  By November 1996, with 700,000 copies of his first six videos sold, Big Idea Productions now had 15 staff and revenues at $1.8 million. By 1997, with the release of “Madame Blueberry,” Big Idea Productions had 36 staff with $4 million in the bank and no debt. Enter the leadership team. It was at this juncture, that Vischer decided to bring in some heavy hitters in finance and marketing. He hired a new company President who took over day-to-day operations, and increased the staff to 80 members with 8 million videos sold. But the rapid growth soon hit several snags. As Phil’s dream began to grow, he began to wonder would happen if Big Idea Productions became successful enough to build an amusement park. Already, families were traveling to their office area outside Chicago to see where ‘Bob and Larry’ were being made.  That same year, Phil and his leadership team took on several new ventures in addition to children’s videos. The idea for a new office headquarters launched a $10 million dollar building project. In addition, an idea for an extended video release soon became plans for a full-feature film.  Also, Big Idea Productions started a new cartoon series as well as creating lots of merchandise. All these decisions moved Big Idea Productions from creating an essential product (children’s videos) to several products while hiring at a rapid rate to keep up with anticipated growth. By July 1999, with the release of the video “Larry & the Rumor Weed,” the company had 150 staff. From 1996 to 1999, revenues grew 3,

 PMP226: Year in Review and Power of Masterminds with Jeff Springer, Part 2 | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 30:42

This past semester, Dr. Jeff Springer has helped me facilitate the weekly book study portion of our Principal Matters Mastermind. In this week’s podcast episode, we share Part 2 of a conversation about the benefits of Masterminds for education leaders. Dr. Springer’s dissertation was on the power of play at the secondary level. As we planned for this show, Jeff asked me, “What if we took each tenet of ‘play’ and tied it into the benefits and results of participating in a Mastermind?’ The Power of Masterminds, Part 2 For a quick overview, Dr. Springer explains P.L.A.Y. and its connections to a Mastermind as follows: People – A Mastermind community helps members establish and identify who your people are. Love –  A Mastermind helps members verbalize how are you care and love for your team and others. Acknowledge – A Mastermind helps participants acknowledge success, failures, and develop a plan for areas of improvement and investigation. Yearn – A Mastermind helps members establish a platform to reconnect educators why they became educators in the first place, renewal with passion. It’s a reminder of what gets them out of bed in the morning and gives them purpose! Listen in to this week’s podcast episode to enjoy these takeaways and more! Principal Matters, 2020 Review Some of you have been readers of the Principal Matters blog or have listened to the podcast for a long time. Others may be brand new members to the community.  I began blogging in 2013 and podcasting in 2016. At the beginning of my blogging journey, I had just been named Oklahoma’s Assistant Principal of the Year. I continued sharing blogs and podcasts as a high school principal. In 2017, I began the fulltime work I do with my state principal association. Principal Matters, LLC, has always been and continues to be a passion project for me. I dedicate time in the evenings and weekends to writing and recording. If I’m invited to present or keynote, I take vacation time from my full-time work, which means my time is somewhat limited. To date, my blog posts have been downloaded 345,885 times and my podcast episodes 495,784. On average, between 2,000-2,500 education leaders are digesting my weekly posts.  I like to think about how many students are being impacting by our collective learning. If each Principal Matters podcast listener, for instance, represents 300 to 500 students, it is possible we are influencing the lives of over 1 million students.   Whether you are a long-time subscriber or first-time listener, I want to thank you for learning along with me. It seems odd to be celebrating at the end of such a crazy and difficult year, but as I look back on the past 12 months, I am amazed at the opportunities we had to grow together through a global pandemic, school shutdowns, and re-openings or hybrid settings. I have so many people to thank for the wins of 2020. These include my guests, partners, Mastermind members, and executive coaching clients.  Guests A special thanks to the 20 friends who shared on my podcast this past year, including: Juan David Campolargo, Tim Elmore, Anthony Fisher, Marlena Gross-Taylor, D.J. Klein, Jethro Jones, Jeremie Kubicek, Sonia Lopez Morales, Andrew McPeak, Patrick McLaughlin, Anthony Muhammad, Jena Nelson, Don Parker, Brad Ruttman, Carolyn Sattin-Bajaj, Jen Schwanke, Jeff Springer, Josh Stamper, William Stubbs, Justin Thomas. Early 2020 Masterminds

 PMP225: 4 Wishes for Your Much-Deserved Break (Plus Will’s Bonus Christmas Hymns) | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 21:35

As you are wrapping up the semester, I wanted to send this note of encouragement. Photo by Brooke Lark – Creative Commons No known copyright restrictions https://unsplash.com/@brookelark?utm_source=haikudeck&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=api-credit This semester you have managed school in ways you never have before. Some of you have served students who have been at home all semester. Others have been in-person or in hybrid models. Whatever your circumstance, I have heard from many principals that this has been the most challenging year of their education career. With that in mind, I want to wish you the following during your much-deserved break: 1. I wish you rest from unending decision-making.  For some of you, you will still manage a lot of family to-do’s over break. But give yourself permission to turn off your technology. Put an automatic reply on your email that you are on vacation until the New Year. And then ignore your inbox. You deserve this time off. 2. Do something that recharges your emotional batteries.  If you are an extrovert, it will be hard to avoid crowds, but find an outlet that brings you joy. If you are a hunter, hunt. If you love exercise, start a new workout. Whether it is: dancing, knitting, reading, or taking long walks – find that thing and do it. 3. Make a list of what has been challenging and what has been a blessing this past year.  Sometimes it’s helpful to see the pros and cons of your experience. Accept the things you could not or cannot change, and then celebrate the experiences that were still happy moments this past year. 4. When you’ve had time to re-charge, think of something outrageously optimistic you’d like to accomplish this year.  Mike Mattos, Solution Tree author, calls this a ‘BHAG’ – a Big Hairy Audacious Goal. I like to encourage leaders to apply this to your personal life too: Maybe you want to run a marathon, start a YouTube channel, earn your doctorate, write your first book, or climb a mountain. If it’s a school-wide goal you’ve always dreamed of reaching, go for it. I can’t tell you what that dream is, but think of a BHAG, and give yourself permission to pursue it. Even if you don’t accomplish the goal, you’ll always go farther when you take action and learn a lot about yourself in the process of trying. On behalf of the Principal Matters community, I want to wish you a much deserved time-off. As a bonus to this week’s podcast episode, I have included an additional 15 minutes of Christmas piano music from my home to yours (with ‘Yours Truly’ playing, mistakes and all). I look forward to continuing to learn together in the year ahead. In the meantime, cheers to your Christmas Break & Happy New Year!

 PMP224: The Power of a Mastermind with Jeff Springer | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 23:37

This past semester, I had the honor of leading a Mastermind with principals from across the U.S. Photo by Viviana Rishe – Creative Commons No known copyright restrictions https://unsplash.com/@vivirishe?utm_source=haikudeck&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=api-credit Like eating a meal with family members each week, a Mastermind is a way for consistent growth with people you trust and admire. Dr. Jeff Springer has helped facilitate the Principal Matters Mastermind by leading our weekly book study portion. In this week’s podcast episode, we spend time talking about the benefits of Masterminds for education leaders. Welcome Back Dr. Jeff Springer An educator for 34 years, Dr. Jeff Springer is the founder of Spring Strategies LLC and the G.O.A.L. TEAM (Getting Others to Achieve Higher Levels), created for helping high school students and young adults to maximize their personal leadership potential. Jeff, a former Texas High School Head Football Coach and eleven-year veteran of the classroom, is also formerly the Principal at Magnolia High School (2002-2016), in Magnolia, Texas. In 2013, he was selected as the State of Texas TASSP State Principal of the year. Jeff resides in Montgomery, Texas with his wife of 38 years. They have two children, and two grandchildren. Community, Engagement, Transformation and Collegiality WDP: One of my friends Jethro Jones compared the Mastermind to eating a great meal. A conference or workshop can be a great event or experience, like a quick meal. But a Mastermind can be like a family meal shared every week with people you trust, admire and respect. Dr. Springer: Yes, I like that analogy. The opportunity to sit around the table with leaders from across the country who bring their own flavors to the feast. We enjoy several courses, and each week we experience new recipes from each other. And you walk away with one new idea to apply every time! WDP: I know we want to talk about how Masterminds building community, engagement, transformation and collegiality. Can you start with how a Mastermind builds community? Dr. Springer: The ability to share what you learn is a powerful opportunity. To listen to leaders share where they are – the different localities, grade levels, experiences that can inform others. That support provides a community approach to leading your campus. WDP: Yes, it seems every time you are together, you discover something new about the other members you didn’t know before. During our book study of my new book Pause. Breathe. Flourish., for instance, we build community through exploring areas each of us is discovering in self-reflection. Dr. Springer: There is the professional growth. But the bonus is knowing each other on a personal level. Between meetings you also share via Voxer messages. This Mastermind is a great model for carrying into your in-person relationships with your teams and schools. WDP: Can you unpack how Masterminds lead to engagement? Dr. Springer: What I have seen and hear from our Mastermind members is that this is vital part of their week. Whether they are principals or assistant principals, they make this a priority. They are so involved in the process, they don’t want to miss a week. If duty requires them to miss, they ask for the recording so they can keep learning. WDP: I love how the Mastermind also facilitates additional conversations. Even outside the hot-seat moments, people continue connecting after the meetings for further learning and collaboration. Dr. Springer: That leads to our next area,

 PMP223: A Fighter Pilot’s Lessons for Leaders, Part 2 | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 38:55

In last week’s episode, Colonel Brad Ruttman shared lessons from his military experience that may also apply to education leaders. Oklahoma Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. C.T. Michael This week, he unpacks more of his “Pocket-List for Leading a New Command” as well as some of his favorite leadership quotes. Meet Colonel Brad Ruttman  Col. Brad Ruttman is a 21-year veteran of the US Air Force and currently serves as the Operations Group Commander for the 138th Fighter Wing.  He has commanded at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels and is a graduate of Air War College. As an F-16 fighter pilot, Col Ruttman has 5 combat tours and over 100 combat sorties in Iraq and Afghanistan.  He is the recipient of several military awards to include 2 Meritorious Service Medals, 4 Combat Air Medals, the Aerial Achievement Medal and the Iraq and Afghanistan Campaign Medals. He resides in Owasso, OK with his wife Stephanie and their five children: JJ, Christian, Coleman, Savannah, and Dawson. All five of his children attend Owasso Public Schools. Part 2 of the Leadership Pocket-List WDP: Thank you again for being on the show. Last time you shared several takeaways, including setting boundaries/instilling discipline, project empathy/right any wrongs, and building trust. Can you take us through the other elements of your list? Col. Ruttman: Sure. Let’s talk next about “Leading Your People Where They Are.” For strategic leaders, it is very important you think about your tactical team members from their perspective. That means understanding your people, what they do, and your own limitations. You cannot just assume you know how to do their work. In my own experience, I have seen officers or commanders show up to enlisted personnel and tell them why they need to work harder because of the global, strategic outcomes needed around the world. This kind of feedback is not helpful. Most people at the tactical level, however care about purpose, security and relationships. Don’t spend time trying to convince others of strategy. Meet them in the ways that matter most to them. WDP: I’ll give an education application. When I was a high school principal, I would visit our cafeteria staff to thank them for the good work they were doing in feeding our students. Sometimes we would have lunch together or a quick meeting so that I could hear any concerns. I did not try to burden them with academic targets, for instance, as they were really not interested in the organizational or strategic plans I was working on. They were most interested in making sure every student was eating.  Col. Ruttman: That’s a great segue to the next area: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood” (Covey). I think many times as leaders, especially brand-new leaders, someone may have been a teacher for a long time, and when they become a principal, they cannot wait to lead a school the way they always dreamed of it being. The challenge is finding ways to influence others because most of them will not be inspired by your ideas. As a leader, it is your job to take your ideas and influence others. The best ways to influence are to first understand what their priorities are, understanding their history, and showing empathy for their experiences. If you can convince others that new ideas are ones they suggested, then they will be more committed to new outcomes.  WDP: Yes, ownership has to happen for accountability to be meaningful. You also talk about the “Staying sharp” with sev...

 PMP222: A Fighter Pilot’s Lessons for Leaders | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 42:39

Leadership is tactical, operational and strategic. These are three words Colonel Brad Ruttman has learned as the framework for understanding how to help others accomplish their goals. In this week’s episode, I had the privilege of learning lessons from a fighter pilot that also apply for all leaders, including in education. Oklahoma Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. C.T. Michael Meet Colonel Brad Ruttman  Col. Brad Ruttman is a 21-year veteran of the US Air Force and currently serves as the Operations Group Commander for the 138th Fighter Wing.  He has commanded at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels and is a graduate of Air War College. As an F-16 fighter pilot, Col Ruttman has 5 combat tours and over 100 combat sorties in Iraq and Afghanistan.  He is the recipient of several military awards to include 2 Meritorious Service Medals, 4 Combat Air Medals, the Aerial Achievement Medal and the Iraq and Afghanistan Campaign Medals. He resides in Owasso, OK with his wife Stephanie and their five children: JJ, Christian, Coleman, Savannah, and Dawson. All five of his children attend Owasso Public Schools. A Leadership Pocketbook Listen to the entire podcast episode for the full conversation. Here is a short summary of our talk: WDP: Thank you again for being on the show. School leaders have a lot to learn from other leaders. As I think about strategic and operational leadership, I wanted to ask you to unpack areas that may help any leaders apply lessons to their own teams. Let’s jump in: Col. Ruttman: When I finished college with a degree in engineering, I was looking for my first job in the field. I always wanted to be in the military. When I realized the Air Force also had an engineering squadron, I decided to enlist for four years. I discovered I loved being in the Air Force, but I didn’t enjoy being an engineer. When I saw how much fighter pilots loved their work, I thought that is what I want to do. Through some hard work and the grace of God, I was able to do that. It definitely wasn’t the normal path to becoming a fighter pilot. WDP: First of all, thank you for your service to our country. In addition to your training as a pilot, you’ve also learned a lot about leadership. You keep a running list of lessons you think about when considering managing a new command. What are those areas, and then can you choose one or two to unpack? Col. Ruttman: In the military and in education, you go from follower to leader quickly. As I have gone through leadership training and conferences, I have kept a running list that I call ‘pocket leadership’ that I share with others in my work. At a Commander’s Development course, I heard presentations from other officers, and it inspired me to begin writing down lessons I could share with others. Here is a short summary: Leadership steps for a new command: * Set boundaries/instill discipline* Project empathy/right any wrongs* Build trust* Lead your people where they are* Seek first to understand, then to be understood (Covey)* Stay sharp *     Never think “you’ve arrived”*     Think like your boss’s boss*     Beware of the Bathsheba Syndrome*     Study Psychology WDP: From that list, can you talk about “Set boundaries/instill discipline”? Col. Ruttman: I remember going through officer training school and watching a movie about a stoic, stone-faced leader.

 PMP221: Designing Leadership Outcomes with Jethro Jones | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 48:34

This week I’m honored to talk to Jethro Jones about his new book, SchoolX: How principals can design a transformative school experience for students, teachers, parents – and themselves. Five years ago, I had the privilege to talk to Jethro Jones, host of the Transformative Principal Podcast, about my first book. That conversation began a friendship that we have enjoyed since then. Jethro has been a guest on my podcast, including Episode 74, on July 26, 2017, as well as episode 163 on September 5, 2019. What a joy to catch up with him this week and share takeaways from his new work and new book! Meet Jethro Jones Jethro Jones is an education leader and consultant who helps schools and districts to find simple solutions to complex problems. Named a Digital Principal of the Year in 2017 by the National Association of Secondary School Principals, he has served students as a teacher, district coach, media and distance learning specialist, and principal, with experience at every level of public education. He has been hosting the Transformative Principal podcast since 2013 and is the founder of the Transformative Leadership Summit. Jethro is married and has four children.  As always, listen to the podcast episode for our full conversation. But here are several takeaways: How Leaders Facilitate Change WDP: Welcome back to the show! Congratulations on your new book. What is one tool or strategy you find yourself using the most when helping principals facilitate change in their schools? Jethro: The first area I would focus on is gaining empathy. Understand what others are experiencing so you have a better position for facilitating change. Here’s a quick tip: Walk up the front of a school and ask yourself how you feel when you walk into the school. Do you see threatening or intimidating signage? Do you feel welcomed? WDP: You’re so right. That’s where leadership helps others move from understanding to change. As leaders are seeing these needed changes, how do they help others move forward to change? Jethro: Normally, when something is negative, no one will complain when it is gone. Take down those negative signs in your school entrance and see what happens. This same rule applies in other ways. What if your district has a policy for turning in lesson plans if there is no purpose in the accountability? If you trust your teachers are doing good work, stop collecting their plans. See what happens when you stop doing things that don’t seem to have a positive purpose or meaning for your school. Ask the question: If we didn’t do X anymore, what would happen? WDP: That makes me think about encouraging listeners to do an action audit.  Jethro: Yes, but sometimes simple changes don’t require a lot of consensus. Think about the small changes that move you closer to the desired result, and do that. Lessons from the Pandemic WDP: Now that we are heading into the end of the first semester, what are some lessons or takeaways you are seeing as principals manage so many different scenarios connected to educating during a pandemic? Jethro: This may seem controversial but I’m convinced that learning loss is not a reality for our students.

 PMP220: Aspire in Leadership with Joshua Stamper | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 38:00

This week I had the privilege of being interviewed by Joshua Stamper for his podcast, Aspire: The Leadership Development Podcast.  When our mutual friend, Jimmy Casas, from ConnectEdd.org, encouraged us to talk about my new book, I was in for a real treat. Not only did we discuss Pause. Breathe. Flourish.: Living Your Best Life as an Educator, but also, we unpacked several other topics together. In fact, Josh agreed to make this a simulcast – an episode we would both share out with our listeners. I am very grateful to bring you this episode that Josh so generously allowed me to post here as well. Meet Joshua Stamper Joshua Stamper is a middle school Assistant Principal for a North Texas School District, where he’s had the amazing opportunity to work at four campuses, two districts, and with hundreds of students, teachers, and administrators. Prior to Joshua’s current position, he was a classroom educator and athletic coach for 6 years working with students in grades 6-8. He and his wife, Leslie are the proud parents of five children. In addition to his administrative position, Joshua is a podcaster, blogger, leadership coach and education presenter. Here are some takeaways from our conversation: Lessons in the leadership journey Joshua Stamper: First of all, can you share your origin story in leadership? WDP: I guess my first lessons in leadership came from the influence of my father who was a veteran and a small business owner. Also, during college, I received leadership training as a college resident advisor. Later, I was quickly overwhelmed with the responsibilities of leadership when I moved from teacher to school administration. Over time, you learn that leadership is not really about you. It’s about serving others. With that perspective, you begin to find more balance in doing what leadership is really about: helping others. Joshua Stamper: What are some things that can help new leaders find balance? WDP: First, remember you’re not as important as you think. Second, remember you are more important than you think. I know those statements sound contradictory. But if you unpack those statements, you’ll realize they are not as contradictory as they sound. Your school will still exist when you are no longer there so it’s important to walk into leadership with humility. At the same time, the small actions you take each day are so important because who you are as a person will influence the effectiveness of your leadership. Joshua Stamper: Balance is hard to find. Can you explain more about finding balance in leadership? WDP: My listeners are familiar with my story as a young administrator when my wife shared with me that I had become a shell of the man I had once been. Because of that frank conversation, I wrote a resignation letter to my school district. I took the letter to school, placed it in a folder, and set it on the corner of my office at school. I told myself I would either begin to find more balance in taking care of myself and family, or at the end of the year, I would resign and find a new profession. That letter became a reminder of the new habits I needed...

 PMP219: Pause. Breathe. Flourish. Part 2 with Jen Schwanke | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 29:59

This week Jen Schwanke continues asking me questions about my new book Pause. Breathe. Flourish. Living Your Best Life as an Educator. Jen Schwanke is the principal of Indian Run Elementary and author of two books, You’re The Principal, Now What? and The Principal Re-Boot: 8 Ways to Revitalize Your School Leadership. Photo by Andrew Neel – Creative Commons No known copyright restrictions https://unsplash.com/@andrewtneel?utm_source=haikudeck&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=api-credit In Part 2 of our conversation, Jen asks me to explain my writing process and asks me questions about remaining positive during challenging times. Here are some takeaways: Jen: You’ve written three books now and two of them while still a principal. I’m curious what is your writing process? WDP: Every week for almost seven years, I have been sharing content on lessons learned in my education journey through my blog. I try to write 500 to 1,000 words each week as a way to journal my experiences. Over the years, I have taken that content and shaped into the books I’ve written. I look for concepts, themes or lessons that might help others. I encourage school leaders to have a way to log the lessons you’re learning. When you look back at previous challenges, you can apply them to ones you’re currently facing. Jen: Recently, I shared a post about a teacher at my school who was working on the weekend. Then I was criticized for promoting ‘toxic’ positivity. You are such a positive and empowering leader. You always root for others. You seem genuinely happy when good things happen to other people. Is this something you need to work toward, or does it come naturally?  How do you remain positive while also being authentic and not be accused of ‘toxic’ positivity? WDP: That’s a great question, but first of all, let me say how sad it makes me that people have started weaponzing social media instead of using it to encourage others. If you haven’t seen the documentary Social Dilemma on Netflix, I highly recommend it for understanding how this is happening on a global scale.   To answer your question, though, I’m not sure if my positivity is natural. Let’s face it. In school leadership, we manage negative situations all the time. But if we only amplify the negative, how do we ever amplify the overwhelming positives that are also happening? I don’t want leaders to be fake or inauthentic. It’s important to be honest about our struggles, but what you publish in newsletters or social media should highlight the reasons people want their children attending your schools.  Also, one of the reasons I choose to celebrate the work of others is that I believe all boats rise with tide. In other words, when I take time to share out the success or achievement of someone else, everyone benefits, including me. That may seem selfish, but I believe in the principle that you reap what you sow. When we are willing to encourage the work and success of others, we will inevitably see our own work improving as a result. Jen: You have built an impressive professional career outside ...

 PMP218: Reflections on Pause. Breathe. Flourish. with Jen Schwanke | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 29:41

When Jen Schwanke and I sat down to talk about my new book this week, Jen turned the microphone to ask me some questions. Photo by Jonathan Farber – Creative Commons No known copyright restrictions https://unsplash.com/@farber?utm_source=haikudeck&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=api-credit Jen Schwanke is the principal of Indian Run Elementary and author of two books, You’re The Principal, Now What? and The Principal Re-Boot: 8 Ways to Revitalize Your School Leadership. Here are some takeaways from our conversation: Questions from Jen Jen: Your new book Pause. Breathe. Flourish. Living Your Best Life as an Educator came out just two months ago. Congratulations! Let’s talk about it. I know you’ve done some reviews of your recent book on your podcast, but I want to ask you some questions about why you thought this book was an important one to share with the universe. What was your drive to write it? WDP: This book was a response to the consistent question education leaders ask: How do I take care of myself in this very difficult work? Pause. Breathe. Flourish.: Living Your Best Life as an Educator explores the habits, practices, and mindset necessary for growth as both an educator and a person. Research shows that teachers and principals are leaving the profession of education at alarming rates. Some of the causes stem from the rising expectations and demands that educators find difficult to manage. Unfortunately, for many educators, taking care of others often means neglecting their own health and well-being. How can educators continue doing work they love while also making sure they are protecting themselves in the process? Pause. Breathe. Flourish. provides practical strategies and common-sense approaches for taking better care of yourself so that you can better serve and lead others. Jen: I feel like a lot of damage is done when we tell others to just “chill” out. But asking them to breathe seems more appropriate. Even when we cannot relax, we can at least breathe. You take it another step by sharing lessons from your own life and from others on how to flourish. What is it you are sharing about living your best life? WDP: In the book, I unpack categories on health, mindset, resources, relationships, and legacy among others. This is really a book that applies to all people, not just educators. In it, educators will discover how your thoughts, relationships, commitments, values, and habits play an essential role in who you are as a person. Understanding ‘who you are’ plays heavily in your ability to weather storms, maintain perspective, work with purpose and effect meaningful change in the lives of others. Applying those insights can be challenging. This book will help you reconsider your mindset, reading habits, personal health, financial commitments, relationship priorities, and legacy building. Jen: For those who haven’t yet had the chance to read your book, will you tell the story about writing your resignation letter and how that helped you keep your sani...

 PMP217: 57 Years Together, A Tribute to My Parents | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 13:32

This year’s pandemic has made it difficult to see my parents as they live a long distance and are both in a vulnerable age group. Instead of posting about education this week, I want to share some personal reflections here instead. It was Sunday, October 27, 1963, 57 years ago at the time of this writing. Polly Kathryn & J.D. Parker, 1963 My mother, Polly Kathryn Carter, with wispy brown shoulder length hair in her Sunday dress, stood 5 feet 2 inches tall, assuming she was wearing heels. Standing beside her my dad, Jesse Darden Parker, stood a foot higher, 6 feet, 2 inches of sunbrowned muscle. He had tight curly black hair, high on top and short on sides and back. He wore a suit jacket, a dress shirt with a straight black tie. When they posed for a photo, J.D.’s tie clip rested just above Polly’s collarbone. Polly had wanted a church wedding, but when her father had died of leukemia a year before, the hopes were lost of having him walk her down the aisle. So after J.D. had ended his work on the farm that weekend, they had driven across the Tennessee state line into Kentucky and then across two rivers, the Ohio and the Mississippi till they came to Cairo, Illinois. At the time, it was a bustling river town where travelers could find hotels and gambling, bootlegged whiskey and plenty of churches to choose from. At the first church where they stopped, they found a minister who eyed them suspiciously. He interviewed the couple for a few minutes and told them they would have to find another minister if they wanted to elope. He didn’t give them a reason. But J.D. nursed an uncomfortable feeling that his dark skin and curls gave the minister the false impression he would be performing an interracial marriage – a union that would still be illegal in many Southern states until 1967. The couple moved down the street to another church. The minister there took them to his house. There in the presence of his wife as witness, he performed the small ceremony. I doubt my parents knew that on the same day they were married on Sunday, October 27, 1963, on the other side of the globe, U.S. Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. stationed in Saigon, received what historians would later call the “green light” telegram. The telegram message, approved by U.S. Under Secretary of State George W. Ball would authorize Lodge to not oppose a coup against South Vietnam President Ngo Dinh Diem. When they arrived back at the farmhouse in west Tennessee where my dad lived with his foster parents, the older couple welcomed the new couple home. The guest bedroom became theirs for the next few months as the Old House across the field was prepped and old furniture located for their first home together. The “Old House” as it was called had been built before the turn of the century. My mother’s grandparents had once owned it. Her mother was raised there. But during the Great Depression, her family had lost the home. Later when my father began working on the farm of his then foster family the Bowdens, the Bowdens owned the land and the Old House that once belonged to my mother’s family. Now in a circle ending for my mother’s family history, the Old House became the first place where my parents began their first years together. Less than one month after their marriage, on November 22, 1963, my parents celebrated my father’s 23rd birthday. That same day, John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. The nation and world stood still. And my dad drove tractors, fed cattle and started a family. By 1967, they had two boys and one on the way.  My dad had been enlisted in the U.S. Navy, at age 17, in 1957 when he had dropped out of high school to join the military.

 PMP216: A Principal’s Toolbox with Justin Thomas | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 33:43

Although it is so important to understand your “why” in leadership, it is also imperative to understand “how” to effectively do your work. This week’s guest, Dr. Justin Thomas, provides practical feedback from his years as an elementary principal with several takeaways from his new book, A Principal’s Toolbox: Real Talk on Tackling School Leadership (2020). The Principal’s Toolbox is an honest look at many of the practical aspects of the principalship. In our conversation, we discuss what motivated him to write The Principal’s Toolbox, how the book is different from others that are available to school leaders, and key takeaways from his 200+ practical topics for principals. Meet Justin Thomas Justin Thomas, Ed.D., is an elementary school principal serving students, faculty, and community near Nashville, TN. Prior to his work in school administration, he enjoyed 8 years as a middle school and high school band director. During his 6-year tenure as principal of Nannie Berry Elementary, his school team has been recognized multiple times by the Tennessee Department of Education for outstanding student growth and achievement gap closure. Dr. Thomas and his wife Susan enjoy their busy life with 3 daughters in Nashville. Here are a few questions we unpack together: WDP: Can you talk to us about why you teach about the importance of “Feedback from Non-teaching Faculty”? Justin: Whether it is teacher’s assistance, office staff, custodians, or front office staff – these are people whose direct influence on students is so important. Often, they have a very global perspective on how things are going around school. Ask them for feedback. Listen to their perspective on what parents think about your school, how your messaging is perceived by community, and what experiences others have when visiting your school. WDP: You also have a chapter on “Things That Aren’t Your Thing Are Your Thing.” Can you explain what that means? Justin: There is no way to escape your own competence with what your school really needs. You may not know much about changing light bulbs, but you may need to learn how it’s done. Paying attention to the quality of your building’s cleanliness, guiding consistency in instructional standards – these may not be areas you consider your expertise, but you must now learn to care about them.  WDP: I so agree. Even at the secondary level, you must make student activities ‘your thing’ as well. This applies academically as well. You may not have been a core content teacher, for instance, but you can still identify and guide effective instruction. Next question: Why do you have a chapter called the “The Booger Test”? Justin: I thought you’d ask that question! If your best friend had a booger hanging from his nose, wouldn’t you tell him? Why aren’t we willing to apply the same lesson to our teachers? It may be uncomfortable to provide critical feedback, but if you do it out of love and care, they will appreciate you helping them grow. If someone has the power to change a practice, offer them suggestions how. If it is not within their control, then don’t mention it.  WDP: In your book, you say you, “…believe that the keys to success revolve around growth and gratitude – the ideas that all members of a school can ‘get better’, and that a spirit of thankfulness is key to strong culture.” Can you unpack that for us?

 PMP215: Reflections from Pause. Breathe. Flourish. with Sonia Lopez-Morales | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 33:09

During the summer, several principals from across the nation joined me for a Re-Opening Mastermind to collaborate, explore, brainstorm and support one another during the difficult days of planning for a new school year. Photo by Ben White – Creative Commons No known copyright restrictions https://unsplash.com/@benwhitephotography?utm_source=haikudeck&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=api-credit As I was wrapping up the final content for my newest book, I shared an advance copy of my new book, Pause. Breathe. Flourish.: Living Your Best Life as an Educator. Sonia Lopez-Morales was a Mastermind member kind enough to write an endorsement for the book. This week, Sonia joined me to reflect on ways she is applying those lessons to her own school leadership. We also explore the unique ways her school is serving the children and families of a diverse community with many immigrant families: Meet Sonia Lopez-Morales Sonia Lopez-Morales is Assistant Principal at Charles Graebner Elementary in San Antonio Independent School District.  Her bachelor’s degree is in music education. She earned her master’s degree at Texas A&M International University.  She and her husband of 32 years live in San Antonio and are the proud parents of three adult children. Sonia began serving as an administrator in 2008. The last three years, she has been serving urban, inner city school students. Charles Graebner Elementary serves 660 PK-5 students with over 95% economically disadvantaged. It is a dual-language school in the southwest part of the city.  WDP: Welcome to Principal Matters! You were a part of the Principal Matters Reopening Mastermind and read the early edition of my book. I remember when you began school, you shared with me the important lesson from your first week. What was that lesson? Sonia Lopez-Morales: Yes, the most important thing we can do is build relationships with students. Nothing is more than important than making connections with students. Students want someone who will be authentic with them and know where they are coming from. We are still living it and do not have history yet to tell us all we have done right and wrong in this new blended model. But in all of it, relationships must be there. WDP: You are in a part of the country that saw soaring numbers of positive Covid cases near the start of school. What has the start of school looked like for your community? Sonia Lopez-Morales: We began August 16 in distance learning. September 8, we began opening schools with 10% of our student body across the entire district. By September 21 we added another 10% of our students. We are cautiously doing well and providing simultaneous in-person and virtual instruction. Our metrics are looking better across the city as we’ve taken this cautious approach. WDP: So many leaders I’m talking to are managing weariness. How do you even find time to recharge your batteries? Sonia Lopez-Morales: If you are not disciplined with your time, this time will force you. But you must still be pausing for your family and person connections. It means adjusting your time for personal reflection and exercise. It may mean cutting your 30-minute routine to 15 minutes. I have a running checklist in my head and on my phone on a daily basis.  WDP: You serve in a border community. Several weeks ago, I interviewed Carolyn Sattin-Bajaj is an Associate Professor in the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education ...

 PMP214: Pause. Breathe. Flourish. Part 2, Review with Dr. Jeff Springer | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 27:56

This week I was interviewed again by Dr. Jeff A. Springer, Ed.D., Educational Leadership Coach – Spring Strategies, LLC, and 2013 TASSP Texas State Principal of the Year, as we explored the final chapters from my new book, Pause. Breathe. Flourish.: Living Your Best Life as an Educator. Photo by engin akyurt – Creative Commons No known copyright restrictions https://unsplash.com/@enginakyurt?utm_source=haikudeck&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=api-credit Listen to the podcast episode for more takeaways. Here is a brief summary of our conversation: Counting Days at School and in Life Dr. Springer: You refer to the book, 20,000 Days and Counting: The Crash Course for Mastering Your Life Right Now, by Robert Smith. The author explains how each of our days is literally numbered. By the age of 55, you’ve lived 20,000 days. How many days do you have left? The reality is we do not have any time to waste. What does this look like for educators? How are you maximizing your time? WDP: There is something powerful about perspective. This is an important conversation to have with students, which includes painting a picture for them of their ultimate goal in school or life. For high school students, for instance, I would ask my students to imagine graduation day together. This same perspective applies to adults. A friend once asked me what my personal goals were for the next five years. I had to admit I was mostly trying to survive. But the question haunted me. I began applying to myself the lessons I was asking my students to apply. For me, that meant investing in writing lessons about my experience in education leadership. Fast-forward and my work now with principals and educators is the outcome of those actions I began taking when I decided to make every day count. Dr. Springer: I agree. When I was leading a high school, I literally lined up chairs in our assembly room, and we had incoming freshman sit in the order they could anticipate for graduation practice. In front of their parents, I would invite them into those seats and then challenge them to imagine the experience of graduating four years later. Being mindful of each day helps us see the meaning in each day. Importance of Relationships Outside of School Dr. Springer: Next question. You also talk about learning to climb together, instead of going alone. Why is this important in regards to your friendships? WDP: I share a few stories in the book that provide some glimpses into more difficult moments in my life, like watching my mother-in-law struggle with Alzheimer’s. Or losing my oldest brother to an unexpected heart attack when he was in his 40’s. When our school work is over, who are the people still there for you outside that work? Those are the relationships that help sustain you when you are feeling hopeless – when no amount of self-talk motivates you – these relationships are essential during your most difficult days. If you haven’t experienced moments like this yet, you will. And relationships matter in helping you through them. How Your Faith Influences Your Actions Dr. Springer: How do you manage your faith in applying it to the work you do as an educator?  WDP: Faith and Transcendence are important conversations. As a believer in the Bible, I don’t expect others to share my faith beliefs. But I find such comfort and assurance in lessons that transcend the time and ideas we interact with every day. When is the last time you heard someone encourage you to love you...

 PMP213: Pause. Breathe. Flourish. A Review with Dr. Jeff Springer | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 36:12

This week I talk with Jeff A. Springer, Ed.D., Educational Leadership Coach from Spring Strategies, LLC, and 2013 TASSP Texas State Principal of the Year. In this episode, Dr. Springer turns the table and interviews me about my new book, Pause. Breathe. Flourish. Living Your Best Life as an Educator. In his endorsement of the book, Dr. Springer shares, “Will Parker has discovered many truths along the way throughout his educational journey – all truths transferable and valuable to those areas of our lives that matter most. In his book, Pause. Breathe. Flourish., Will’s words offer transparency of both pain and victory, fears and faith. His style of storytelling creates a brilliant bridge between the writer and reader. Lessons learned and shared in this book are applicable to anyone in education; but also delivers the principles vital for all desiring to maximize balance, while infusing the power of play in their lives.” Jeff’s Questions about Pause. Breathe. Flourish. Listen to the episode for our full conversation, but here are some takeaways: Dr. Springer: I earmarked 24 pages during my first read. Then I highlighted 17 specific areas that I wanted to ask you about. We won’t be able to cover them all. So I’ll start with your dedication to your parents, Jesse and Polly Parker. Can you tell us what motivated you to dedicate your book to them? WDP: My mom and dad are amazing examples of people who have lived and modeled contentment. They live in rural northwest Tennessee, and although they were hardworking, our family always had limited income. I didn’t realize until I was a teacher that I was a Title I student. I always qualified for free and reduced lunches. But even with limited resources, my parents always provided me with a safe, nurturing environment. They also modeled finding joy and contentment, no matter what circumstances they faced. Dr. Springer: You wrote in your forward that you had no idea this book would be published in one of the most monumental times in the history of education. What motivated you to write a book like this in the first place? WDP: Over the years, I hear a consistent refrain from education leaders. Over and over, people have told me one of their biggest concerns is how to grow individually. Many principals are asking: How can I be a leader without losing myself? This book is a response to that question. It is a book for the heart of what you do. Dr. Springer: When a crisis hits, who breathes first? You talk about the image of a flight attendant instructing others to place the oxygen mask on your own face first before helping others. Why is this such a hard message for education leaders to hear? WDP: First, it was a message I needed to hear. When I realized in my early years of administration that I was burning out, I had to dig deeply into other areas of my life (health, learning, family, spirituality, and even finances) so my work would still have meaning. Dr. Springer: Yes, when your wife told you that you were the shell of the man you had once been, how did you handle that? WDP: That was the night I wrote my first resignation letter, placed it on my desk at school, and told myself I’d either find a better way to lead and take care of my own growth – or I’d find a different profession. I didn’t find a quick fix, but I began to slowly re-invest in what brought me joy. And I stayed in the profession with a newfound sense of purpose. Dr. Springer: I remember a similar experience when I was an assistant principal. For me,

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