The Language of Love

Do you speak the same love language as your staff members?  Before you think that we might be getting into dangerous territory here, Dr. Gary Chapman wrote a bestseller called The 5 Love Languages.   Chapman’s research helped categorize ways that people feel and express love.  While one partner in a relationship might feel loved when spending quality time together the other might appreciate acts of service, such as unexpectedly doing the dishes.  If you only give in ways that you like to receive love, your partner might not feel appreciated, even if you are trying to express your love.  

The same theories hold true at work and Gary Chapman applied his research to work-based relationships in The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace.   The five languages are:  1) Words of Affirmation, 2) Quality Time, 3) Receiving Gifts, 4) Acts of Service, and 5) Physical Touch.   

Please visit the 5 Love Languages Assessment for more detail and a survey you and your staff can take.  How might you vary the ways you show appreciation based on staff preferences?  How might you use each of these languages throughout the year or during Teacher Appreciation week?   How might you help your staff use these with their students, team members, or with the important people in their life outside of work? 

Gary Chapman (1995). The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your MateNorthfield Publishing

Adapting Recruitment Strategies to get the People you Need

We are starting to see job postings for the next school year.  How do you communicate with and attract the people you need? 

First, think about the competencies, the patterns of thinking, feeling, acting, or speaking, that help people be successful in the job.  Think of what competencies your top performers have.  Do they value teamwork?  Are they flexible?  Do they have a drive for achievement? Inform applicants of the competencies expected within the language of the recruitment advertising. 

Target your recruitment to sources where candidates with these competencies are likely to be found.  Ask your top performers.  Do they go to a certain gym or coffee place?  Is there a college or district that produced successful hires? If you work with a specific college, do their instructors know the competencies you want and do they work to develop these competencies?  Do your top performers have friends that they could recruit?  High quality educators usually know other high quality educators and they can pick out the people in their graduate school classes that would be successful in your school. 

Does your recruitment advertising or posting share enough about the competencies, knowledge, and skills that would help candidates be successful and possibly earn performance compensation?  Is there a link to your evaluation system so that candidates can self-select out if it looks too rigorous?  

Finally, does your posting share your brand and values?  What makes employees love working at your site?  What makes you special and different?  Communicate this in your recruitment materials.

These strategies can help you attract candidates that will be a match for your needs.  Next month, we will focus on how to select from your pool of candidates.

Putting Technology to Work for You

How have you made technology work for you?  See if any of these apps would help you be more engaged or productive.  What app helps you the most at work?  Share below in the comments and tell us how the app supports you.  

The standards.  What do you do when you walk into a class and are not sure if what you see aligns with the grade level standard?  Now you can look it up easily.  You may want to use this app in a professional development session so your teachers have it for easy access.  Most people can use the Common Core app but some states, such as Arizona, have slight changes and thus their own Arizona College and Career Standards app for IOS and Android.  

Common Core IOS

Common Core Android

TaskCracker:  You probably learned that we should spend most of our time on the work that is important rather than just urgent, right?  There are days that this seems impossible, but this app allows me to drag and organize my tasks by day and color-coded priority level to ensure that I get the important work done each week.  The $20 purchase was a deal for me to know that I am prioritizing my week to meet my goals.  TaskCracker currently works with Outlook and Google calendars on a desktop computer or an Apple device, but they are yet to develop an Android app.   


Adaptive Schools: I consistently use the Thinking Collaborative’s work with Adaptive Schools during any of my work with teams.  I use this app to analyze a meeting (either with my team or on my own) and determine the structures and moves to make in our next meeting to develop our organizational and professional capacity as a team.   If you are familiar with The Thinking Collaborative, they also have a Cognitive Coaching app for coaching maps, logging coaching records, and assessing States of Mind).  These apps support me in developing my teacher leaders and planning effective meetings.  



Slack:  You can call, message, or send documents to members of different teams easily.   You can share lesson plans or agendas with your instructional cabinet, other principals, the ELA team, or specific people.  You can easily message your full staff during lock-down or fire drills, even if they aren’t near their computers.  People can access the groups to which they belong but all of your workflow is in one easy-to-search place.  It also works with Dropbox and Google Drive so that we were able to stick with the free plan.  



Notes:  I wonder if my actual memory has become weak because I rely so much on the “Notes” section of my phone.  I have 4 folders with 97 notes, 13 of which I refer to on a weekly basis.  In addition to reminders and mileage, I will sometimes dictate a letter or rough objectives for an upcoming meeting while I’m walking the halls or on duty so that I can then transfer it to a more appropriate format when I have a chance.  

For more, read Lauren Brown West-Rosenthal’s blog “10 Best Apps for Principals and School Leaders” 

What is your favorite app?

Doing Both Well

Last month, we looked at How High-Poverty Schools are Getting it Done focusing on leaders’ beliefs about student potential.  This month, we will look at the 2nd of 4 qualities of effective leaders.   As Karin Chenoweth and Christina Theokas studied 33 effective school leaders in 19 states,  the following four characteristics were common among the group:    

1. Their beliefs about student potential drive their work

2. They put instruction at the center of their managerial duties

3. They focus on building the capacity of all the adults in the building

4.  They monitor and evaluate what leads to success and what can be learned from failure.  

(Chenoweth & Theokas, 2013, 57-59)

These leaders found ways to filter managerial duties with a lens that focuses on maximizing opportunities for student and teacher learning.    How do we schedule to ensure the students and teachers who need the most support get access to the most effective teachers?  What schoolwide routines would let us focus more on instruction?  Let’s look at transitions to see if we are maximizing the time we spend teaching.  How do we develop systems, train others, and delegate tasks to support substitutes and new students and facility rentals so most of the day can really be focused on instruction?  

Try using an instructional lens this week.  Anytime you spend on managerial duties, ask yourself if something could be tweaked to put instruction at the center or this task or use of time.  We will check back next month to see how you are doing embedding the instructional lens into your managerial duties.  

Chenoweth, K. & Theokas, C.  (2013) How High-Poverty Schools are Getting it Done.  Educational Leadership:  The Principalship.  (70)7, 56-59.

Zmail Policy

Recently, I had a boss who was an early bird.  As a matter of practice, we would receive emails in the wee hours of the morning and on the weekends.  She sent email when she was most productive and I never felt like she expected an answer immediately.  It didn’t bother me, but she changed her practice after reading “Your Late-Night Emails Are Hurting Your Team” and it had ripple effects with our team.  When she stopped sending early morning and weekend emails it changed how I worked.  It took some getting used to, but I stopped scanning early morning emails and marking them unread until I got to the office.  I left my phone in the bedroom during the weekend.  My significant other appreciated seeing me without my phone.  I managed my attention to be focused on work or focused on home.  My boss didn’t have to change when she worked.  She just delayed the messages to go out during our typical work hours. 

Read the article for the details on what a “zmail policy” that discourages emails on weekends and afterhours on weekdays might do for your team.  With all that we need to do to make sure our students and teachers are supported, we require downtime.  Don’t just slog through until Spring Break.  Manage your attention and help your staff disconnect when they are away from work.   

Thomas, Maura.  2015, March 16). “Your Late-Night Emails Are Hurting Your Team.”  Harvard Business Review

Reflection and Planning for 2018

In “End of year:  It’s time to reflect and start anew,” Eileen Chadnick provides 12 questions to help leaders take stock of the year and help us start the new year off right.  She suggests reflecting on these over the next few weeks over several sittings. 

The Year Past:  

·       What went well?

·       Who needs to be acknowledged? 

·       How did you grow this past year?  

·       What were the stand-out peak moments for you – and why?

·       What’s not working? 

·       Wrap up your year by giving it a theme or name.  


The Year Ahead: 

·       What thresholds will you be crossing?  

·       Who will you connect with more in the year ahead? 

·       What kind of leader, peer, friend, partner (and other roles) do you want to be?

·       What do you want?  

·       How will you put this into action?  

·       What’s the mantra for 2016?   (Chadnick, December 14, 2015)


Take the next couple of weeks to reflect, recharge, and come back refreshed and reinvigorated.  To that end, TXTS4Leaders will also take the next two weeks off.  We will be back January 10th. 

Chadnick, Eileen. (2015, December 14). End of year:  It’s time to reflect and start anew.

Do or do not. There is no try.

Do you have staff members who need support and improvement just to meet expectations?  It is important to prioritize that improvement or ensure that you will not retain them, not just for your students, but in order to retain your very best teachers.  

“‘There is a deep misunderstanding about what teachers believe make a good school,’ says The New Teacher Project’s Tim Daly.  Principals believe that focusing on retaining top teachers and addressing low performance would negatively impact school culture, but teachers said the opposite.  Teachers were more likely to leave schools where they didn’t see the principal addressing low performance.  Either improve your low performers or do not retain them; make schools attractive places for great teachers to work.”    (Varlas, 2013) 

So how do you prioritize improvement?  Ensure that you meet weekly with the teacher to work on one bite-sized change a week.  You observe, you coach and model, you observe again to see the teacher’s improvement, and then you work on one more bite-sized chunk each week.  Document the next step and the results.  If the teacher shows improvement, it is possible to get the teacher where you want him or her with intense support, even if it’s not immediate.  If it seems like it will take too long or you don’t see improvement, it’s time to have a tough conversation.  If you work intensely with this teacher, even for a short time, you will both have a good sense of what it would take to see improvement and it will be an easier conversation to have.  

Varlas, Laura.  (2013).  Focus on Retention.  How to Keep your Best Teachers.  Educational Leadership:  (55) 3, 1-2, 3, 7. 

4 Qualities of Principals Who Get High Achievement in High-Poverty Schools

Name 4 qualities of principals who get high achievement in high-poverty schools.  Do you show these qualities? 

During eight years of studying high-achieving and rapidly improving schools with at least 73% students of color and students of poverty, it was the building leaders that were driving factors in school success.  As they studied 33 school leaders in 19 states, Karin Chenoweth and Christina Theokas found 4 qualities these leaders share: 

1. Their beliefs about student potential drive their work

2. They put instruction at the center of their managerial duties

3. They focus on building the capacity of all the adults in the building

4.  They monitor and evaluate what leads to success and what can be learned from failure

(Chenoweth & Theokas, 2013, 57-59)

Reflect on your words and behaviors from the past week.  How did you demonstrate these qualities in your actions?  Could any of your words or behaviors give others the impression that you do not possess one of these qualities?  Think about how you might be more intentional this next week in ensuring that you are modeling these 4 qualities of successful building leaders. 

Over the next months, we will dig into each of these qualities in more detail.  Stay tuned. 

Chenoweth, K. & Theokas, C.  (2013) How High-Poverty Schools are Getting it Done.  Educational Leadership:  The Principalship.  (70)7, 56-59.

Keep More Irreplaceable Teachers

During this season of thankfulness, try #4 of the “5 Ways Principals Can Keep More Irreplaceable Teachers.”

Number 4 states, "Many teachers use the winter holidays to think about what’s next. Block off time after Thanksgiving to talk to your Irreplaceables and rising-star teachers about continuing to teach at the school next year. Tell them that they are irreplaceable and how much you want them to return. Ask them about their own interests and concerns, and if they are considering other options, ask what you can do to convince them to stay."

With whom do you need to have a stay conversation? 

Click image to enlarge and download.

Click image to enlarge and download.

Strategically Plan for Increased Performance

Guest Author, Michael Labrecque, shares a few ways to strategically plan for increased performance.  

What is the most productive part of your day? This question is not as straightforward as you may think and can have tremendous implications on your school’s performance. In his keynote address at the HCInnovation@Work 2017 Conference: The “When” of Work: How the New Science of Timing Can Transform the Employee Experience, Daniel Pink discussed how timing is a science and very much in our control. Most strikingly, time of day effects can explain 20% of the variance in human performance. 

Here are a few key takeaways:

Be deliberate when scheduling team work. When do you hold your Leadership Team Meeting? If is later in the day you may want to think about moving it to the morning. Research has shown that human performance is at its peak in the morning and it is then when we are most likely to be best engaged when dealing with analytic tasks (Pink, 2017).  For example, in a study of over 1,100 prisoners up for parole it was found that when the judge ruled on the case in the morning there was a 70% chance of receiving parole while those heard in the afternoon had less than a 10% of acceptance. This is the result of what is due to decision fatigue (Tierney, 2011). Think how this could affect your team, not to mention when you should schedule surgeries… 

Do not underestimate the power of breaks. It is important to change our mindset around the concept of “break” and stop thinking of them as a deviation from work. Instead, we need to get in the practice of viewing breaks as a part of work. Research shows that performance goes up directly after a break so start scheduling them like you would do meetings and put them on your calendar (Pink, 2017). The effects can be powerful. In fact, going back to our parole example, the same study found, although the overall favorable rulings fell dramatically in the afternoon they did spike back up to 65% following a break or snack (Bryant, 2011). 

Strategically set your testing schedules. Our students are effected by the same time challenges and testing results have proven it. For example, Pink (2017) cited a study where students taking a test in the afternoon without a break was equivalent to those students attending two fewer weeks of school. On the other hand, when students took a test after a break they showed a performance level equivalent to almost four more weeks of school. And, like with the parole cases, students were much more successful taking the tests in the morning than in the afternoon. What implications does this have for student achievement on your campus?

Look forward to Pink’s upcoming book When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing which is set for release in January. 


Bryant, B. (2011, April 11). Judges are more lenient after taking a break, study finds. Retrieved November 06, 2017, from

Pink, D. (2018, October 25). The "When" of Work: How the New Science of Timing Can Transform the Employee Experience. Lecture presented at HCInnovation@Work 2017 Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Tierney, J. (2011, August 17). Do You Suffer From Decision Fatigue? Retrieved November 06, 2017, from

Veterans are in our thoughts. Do you lead like a military officer? You might be surprised.

How many of these “11 Things the Military Teaches You About Leadership” apply to your own leadership in schools? 

·     Always look sharp.  

·     Take good care of your people

·     Assemble diverse teams to get a range of perspectives

·     Invest in relationships for the long term

·     Be willing to listen to everyone

·     Stay calm under pressure

·     Act decisively even with limited information

·     Carefully plan the logistics

·     Lead with integrity

·     Be, know, and do everything you ask of those below you

·     Give 100% of your effort             (Griswold, 2014)

Which of these do you think most applies to educational leadership?  Which of these could educational leaders adopt to see improvement?  Which of these would you want your students to practice?   

Griswold, A. (2014, February 27).  11 Things The Military Teaches You About Leadership.  Business Insider: Strategy

Restorative Practices Rather Than Punishment-Based Approaches

Due to concerns with high suspension rates, loss of instructional time, and data showing that traditional school discipline techniques are exacerbating the dropout rate and inequity in our schools, many schools are turning to restorative practices. 

If you are making the shift to restorative practices, see if your work matches up to a school that has reduced suspensions and helped students resolve problems and learn from their mistakes.  In their article, “After Sticks, Stones, and Hurtful Words” Doug Fisher, Nancy Frey, and Dominique Smith describe the following four principles used at their school that resulted in a successful restorative approach:

1.    Make sure you have relationships to restore.

2.    Use impromptu conversation to maintain relationships and allow student voice.

3.   Repair harm when it’s done.

4.   Develop re-entry plans.

·       Rehearse with the student

·       Identify a lifeline, an adult that can serve as a buffer

·       Schedule shore follow-ups.

·       Close the loop with adults.  (Fisher, Frey, & Smith, 2016, pp. 55-58)

Not surprisingly, these principles rely on relationships and communication, two things we know are important in many aspects of life.  If you are working on restorative practices and would like more detail about how Fisher, Frey, and Smith use these principles in action, see their full article.   

Fisher, D, Frey, N, Smith, D. (2016).  After Sticks, Stones, and Hurtful WordsEducational Leadership:  The  Principalship.  (74)3, 54-58.

Collective Responsibility Collaborating for Student Success

If you and your instructional team were all transferred to another school, how many of your teams would continue to collaborate to make sure all students are growing and meeting goals?  How many of your teacher teams or PLCs truly take collective responsibility to collaborate for student success?  

Rick DuFour and Mike Mattos provide “5 Steps to Success on the PLC Journey” below.  As you read, consider your teams’ strengths and opportunities for growth.  

1)  Embrace the premise that the fundamental purpose of the school is to ensure that all students learn at high levels and enlist the staff in examining every existing practice, program, and procedure to ensure it aligns with that purpose. 

 2)  Organize staff into meaningful collaborative teams that take collective responsibility for student learning and work interdependently to achieve shared goals for which members hold themselves mutually accountable.

 3)  Call on teams to establish a guaranteed and viable curriculum for each unit that clarifies the essential learning for all students, agree on pacing guidelines, and develop and administer common formative assessments to monitor each student’s learning at the end of each unit. 

 4)  Use the evidence of student learning to identify

  • Students who need additional time and support to become proficient.
  • Students who need enrichment and extension of their learning because they’re already highly proficient. 
  • Teachers who help students achieve at high levels so team members can examine those teachers’ practices. 
  • Teachers who struggle to help students become proficient so team members can assist in addressing the problem. 
  • Skills or concepts that none of the teachers were able to help students achieve at the intended level so the team can expand its learning beyond its members to become more effective in teaching those skills or concepts. The team can seek help from members of other teams in the building with expertise in that area, specialists from the central office, other teachers of the same content in the district, or networks of teachers throughout the United States that they interact with online.

5)  Create a coordinated intervention plan that ensures that students who struggle receive additional time and support for learning in a way that is timely, directive, diagnostic, precise, and most important, systematic.   (DuFour & Mattos, 2013, p. 37)

Based on these 5 steps, where are your teams strong?  Where are they struggling?  Consider bringing these steps to your teams, analyzing the pinch points where they get stuck, and brainstorming next steps.  Consider how you and your instructional team might inadvertently create pinch points and specifically request feedback around these concerns.  Some teams believe in the mission, and use evidence to support student learning, but never dig into the evidence to really examine teacher behaviors.  Interventions may stay at the student level rather than interventions that look at and create more effective teaching practices.  If that continues, teachers may continue with less effective practices year after year.  

How can you support your teams to continue asking, “How can we collectively do a better job of examining every practice, program, and procedure to ensure that all students learn at high levels?”    

DuFour, R., & Mattos, M. (2013). How Do Principals Really Improve Schools? Educational Leadership:  The  

Principalship.  (70)7, 34-40. 

October is National Principal Month

We received a letter from Irma Zardoya, president & CEO of New York City Leadership Academy, celebrating principals like you.  Here is an excerpt:

Being a principal takes courage, commitment, and a clear understanding of the systems and structures that need to be developed to support student learning and tackle inequitable practices head-on..... I am thrilled to use this month to share the stories of principals doing exceptional work, who put their students first and commit tireless energy and resources to supporting their staff in making every day about doing their best for students. 

 … Please take a few minutes to watch our short film, Power of Leaderswhich features a dozen students talking about the impact their principals have had on their lives and takes us into their schools to see their work in action (I. Zardoya, personal communication, October 4, 2017).

How would your students describe you?  Take a few moments to think about the impact you are leaving with your students, staff, and community.  Celebrate that impact!

How long can you go without checking your Smartphone?

Try this experiment on a day when you aren’t working.  Some of you are lucky enough to have a fall break.  If you don’t have a break, try this over the weekend.  How long can you go without your Smartphone?  How many times do you check your phone in a day?  Do you sleep with your Smartphone? 

We live in a world of instant connectivity but that ability to reach out at any time comes at a cost.  If you don’t set the limits, you can be constantly working.  You may feel like you are getting things done, but long hours decrease engagement and productivity. 

Consider ways to confront your nonstop connectivity.  Have a place to charge your phone that is not going to distract you.   Get an alarm clock that is not your phone.  Challenge your leadership team to only send messages from 6:30 AM – 6:30 PM.  

Teams who have confronted their constant connectivity have “become more efficient and effective” and were more satisfied with their work.  This also helped teams recruit and retain employees (Perlow, 2012). 

Try to disconnect.  It’s not just good for you; it’s good for your school.  

For more information, check out Sleeping with your Smartphone:  How to Break the 24/7 Habit and Change the Way You Work.

Make Development Personal

When Amazon knows exactly what products you want, one-size-fits-all learning doesn’t work anymore.  Grovo suggests a ways to make employee development more personalized:

1)      Create Career Pathways:  Work with employees to plot out a long-term vision for how their career arc fits within your school or district.  The coach, AP, Principal, District leader may not allow for enough choices.  How can you expand the impact of “lead” or “master teachers” without having them completely leave the classroom?  Be creative with compensation in order to compensate your most effective educators for their increased impact.

2)      Make learning accessible:  You don’t want learning to be an “event.”  You want it to seamlessly blend in with employees’ work and day.

3)      Give learners agency:  Redundant training kills morale—and quickly.  Set up a system where employees can learn new things without having to suffer through concepts they already understand or practice.  Use some of your effective educators to lead session and be able to differentiate by needs.  

Learn more details in “Light a Fire:  7 Strategies for Developing Employees.”  

How do you lead with humor?

Did you know that principals who are perceived as having a positive style of humor or an affiliative style of humor, one that demonstrates that a leader is not taking one’s self so seriously, were more likely to be viewed as transformational leaders?  However, principals perceived with an aggressive or self-defeating style of humor were not perceived positively as leaders (Mascolo, 2014). 

In creating a climate where people laugh and enjoy their work, incorporate positive humor and opportunities to laugh into your day, especially if it can connect people to your greater mission.   If you tend to have a more aggressive or self-deprecating style of humor, make strides to save that type of humor for home.  If you need a model as a guide, think about a flight on Southwest Airlines.  Their flight attendants work to include positive humor and affiliative humor to make travel more enjoyable as well as to build trust and community for the flight (Klein, 2012).  This comes naturally to some, but if it doesn’t come naturally to you, think about ways to incorporate humor and get your staff to have one good laugh at your next meeting.

Let’s use our TXTS 4 Leaders community of more than 500 educational leaders to spread some laughter.  Do you have a favorite joke or video/image link that you use with your staff?  Scroll down to add it to the comments section.

Klein, G. D. (2012). Creating cultures that lead to success: Lincoln Electric, Southwest Airlines, and SAS Institute. Organizational Dynamics, 41, 32-43.

Mascolo, L. B. (2014). Leading Through Laughter: Humor and Perceived Effectiveness of P-12 Principals. Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, Georgia.

Use Mistakes to Model for Staff

Your staff looks to you to embody the spirit and culture of your campus.  That is a lot of pressure; none of us are perfect.  As the head learner on campus we have an opportunity to create a culture that is feedback-rich.  Your teachers and students probably get quite a bit of feedback that they are expected to act upon.  Are you soliciting and acting upon feedback from them at each teacher or parent meeting?  Do you conduct 360s?  Have you made it explicit that you have leadership goals for which you want to gather feedback and grow?  If you make a mistake, have you modeled for your staff how you acknowledged the misstep, learned from it, said you would act differently, and followed through with that action?  

Creating a feedback-rich culture can improve performance.  A feedback-rich culture can also increase the perception that employees are more effective and fulfilled at work and that their colleagues care about them.   These are qualities that increase retention.  

This week, consider how you can model a feedback-rich culture.  

Conditions of Distributed Leadership

Distributed leadership means more than shared leadership. Too frequently, discussions of distributed leadership end prematurely with an acknowledgment that multiple individuals take responsibility for leadership: that there is a leader plus other leaders at work in the school.

Though essential, this "leader-plus aspect" is not sufficient to capture the complexity of the practice of leadership. From a distributed perspective, it is the collective interactions among leaders, followers, and their situation that is paramount. (James P. Spillane, Distributed Leadership, 2012)

The following conditions facilitate shared/distributed leadership. 
•    Clear and shared mission/vision
•    Structures to facilitate planning and discussion
•    Relational Trust
•    A culture that supports collaboration

Think about what each condition looks like and sounds like within your school.