Saturday, January 30, 2016

Creation Day

We had what we called "Creation Day" which to sum up basically means get a lot of stuff and throw it in the middle of a room and start building.  It certainly came from inspiration @cainesarcade.  So what did we do, well we have been collecting supplies for a few weeks now.

There were not a lot of rules or restrictions.  Basic stuff like: 
  1. Students can't cut with box cutters, that is job of adult.
  2. No making weapons
  3. Don't hit anyone with your creation
  4. Make sure to walk everywhere
  5. Basic stuff
We spent time setting up, dancing a little, and generally trying to make the environment conducive to this type of messy work.  We had pizzas ordered as well.  Very important to feed people if they will be there over lunch.  Our hours of operation were 10am - 1pm.  Over the next 2 and a half hours students made all sorts of stuff, one structure even needing a ladder as it was over 10 ft. tall. 

It was a great day and I have my staff, the ELK's Club (large supply donation), and our PTA president, who brought in vendors to help with cost of supplies, to thank!  

I would say if you have never done something like this before, go for it.  I hope to do it again, and get even more students involved next time.  The problem we have is space with a small cafeteria.  If you need any advice or guidance you can reach out to me @dougtimm34 on twitter, but it was pretty open ended and free.  

My staff got there early, helped set up and clean up after the event.  They actively participated with their own kids, with each other, and students, to build some pretty incredible things in a short period of time.  I want to thank them for those efforts as they made sure this was a special day for the students that came!  Below are some of the pics.  

Thank you #cddolphins!  You all know how much I wanted to do this for a while and you made it happen!  We need to be creators digitally and non-digitally, today we did that!  You all are the #BESTEVER @chrissiejmclean @cdroom103 @rosy_burke @katy_corey @trotterrosa @4amanda_grace @MrsKise501 @Chigg208 @rdetorocebenka @MsCousinsin2nd @wilkieeducation @stacy_mcmullen @FutureVanGoghs 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016


Feedback is such a double edge sword... We want it, we ask for it, but can we take it?  I will be the first to admit that when I get feedback whether from a supervisor, a colleague, a staff member, a parent, or student it initially hurts.  Every single time it hurts, every single time.  Think about that, every single time.  Never have I gotten feedback and I did not have to pause, even if just for a half a second.  To make it worse, even if it is not grounded in any sort of logical reasoning, it still hurts.  Let's put that out there and own that.

It is like getting a shot from your doctor, you know the initial prick is going to be uncomfortable.  The power and what separates real growth from those that say they want to grow, is in your ability to take that initial prick and realize it is actually good for you.  Maybe even thank the doctor on the way out of the office.  I read the book Thanks for the Feedback about a year ago with an outstanding group of educators on voxer, where we still touch base from time to time.

We realized quickly that the book was not about giving, but receiving feedback.  That is what you own, that is the power.  I realized that I can not control how feedback is given to me, I can only control how I take it and then try to get clarification to better understand how I can use it.  Some is thrown away, but more often than not, a piece or whole chunks can be taken and used to better myself professionally, personally, or whatever.

To me the most powerful and real feedback is based on a common real life experience or moment in time and then talking through that face to face with another person.  It is taking that interpersonal connection and making it intrapersonal.  It is the process of "listening" and then modifying self that moves you.  For me it happens in waves, I can be saturated with feedback and at times will ignore or miss things because I am still processing, but I understand that, and try to limit that when possible. This is also not a perfect science, that I don't feel I will ever master, because of attaching emotion every time.  I have thought of a framework or steps when getting feedback.  I do the following:

  • Listen
  • Question for clarification
  • Sometimes restate in my own words, this can be through talking or internal thinking.
  • These 3 steps are then repeated enough until I have a clear idea, all can occur in minutes, I am not talking days here.
  • I then take time to reformulate or figure out how to apply to practice.  Then I practice, practice and practice until it becomes habit if that is what is needed. 
Now, not all feedback goes through these stages, some things are much simpler.  For example; "You need to stand still when delivering directions to a group of people."  That was feedback I got and immediately agreed, that went straight to practice mode.  No need to clarify that, I agreed, saw myself in action, and still am trying to perfect that.

I want to attach this definition or explanation to social media for a minute, let's be real....

Do you really want feedback?
Do you really want to talk about a thought or situation?
Or do you really want to be told, "great job..."?

On social media let's be honest, you probably don't want real feedback.  Not the type of feedback that challenges your thoughts, motivation, outlook.  There is that belief that the person giving the feedback, does not know me, what do they know anyways.  Sure "what if you changed your format", or "used a different word or font", are forms of feedback, but what does that really do but add to a never ending stream of noise.  It can be helpful, but I would not call it feedback.

So the next time I hear from someone on social media about wanting feedback or to push each other in a way that creates contention, I pause and think, "Is this worth my time and energy?'  Just reconfirming after reconfirming or saying the same thing with a different clich' does nothing for me equal getting feedback.  It can certainly make me feel good, which has it's purpose, and is important, but again not feedback in my definition.

Pushing each other in brainstorming an idea is also totally different and I don't want to come off that this process is applied here, because it isn't.  Maybe a later blog?

Again I come back to my experience with people on social media who ask for feedback.  You really just want to be confirmed in your message and told "good job" or "that is so powerful!".  This is just in many instances noise.  There is a lot of peacocking or "pushing out the chest".  Then when your feathers are ruffled you run, leave, or just stop talking.  Because of that, this is not receiving feedback.

So I take my social media PLN for what it is, a wealth of knowledge a crockpot of ideas and thoughts to pull from.  But except for very few people and/or situations I know that social media at this point is not to get "real feedback" or to give "real feedback."  Most just aren't ready or don't want that.  Does not mean I will not continue to try, I am stubborn.  

I want to speak briefly to two types of feedback to further break this idea apart.  Receiving feedback and having real dialogue are not safe.  Being safe does not help growth.

Type 1:

I have been in an ongoing feedback cycle about many things education related for some time with an individual.  Our views on so many things could not be more different.  We have had to resort to back channels, because it gets quite heated.  All that being said, I so value seeing a new message or post come up and reading and then discussing their views.  It pushes me, because it forces me to redefine my stance and deliver it again in a different way.  I am NEVER going to change this person's opinions, NEVER... But that is okay, going back and forth has enabled me to sharpen my thoughts, feelings, and vision.  It provides me a much needed avenue of feedback. That is one type of feedback.  I respect that person although we don't agree.

Type 2:

I also get feedback from people that I generally agree with in many areas.  Probably 95% of my PLN are defined in this way.  But when there is that moment where the train runs off the track and contention happens I pause a minute.  I have to take emotion out, take the prick, and apply my process.

What do you mean you don't agree with me?
What do you mean I could think or do something better?
We almost always agree... What is going on here?

After the initial shock is over, the general rule of thumb is that growth will occur.  I take to some extent their thoughts and either make improvements or change my thinking.  I don't run away and/or shut down and continue to do things or think the same way I had before.  I respect their opinion and adjust if needed.

Whether in face to face situations or social media, do you have the confidence to accept feedback?   Don't run, tell your points, what is the down side? Really nothing,

For my face to face feedback I look forward to continuing these interactions all the time.  It is good for us and is a must to continue to improve.

For my social media encounters.  I am not your boss, I am not your father, I am not even, in many cases in your same state...  So relax, engage, and let's see if we can really use social media to improve in giving and receiving feedback.

If you can not have or are not willing to have these conversations, then don't put your message out there.  I have been wrong so many times, and have had to change my feelings on so many things from feedback I have gotten.  The words, "I need or want feedback to grow" should not be thrown around like a cliche'.  Either you want it or you don't, figure out what side of the track you are on.  Own it or get out of the way and don't ask for it, whether implied or directly.  Feedback is real and needs to be honored.  Don't treat it like a throw away statement or hide behind it.  

Friday, January 22, 2016

Mistakes are inevitable

Mistakes are inevitable.
Why can't we be more reliable?

#principalpoetry is my new thing, hobby, and rhyme.
But to get my point across my words may not work this time.

Why do people make mistakes?  Why do we struggle with relationships, even after we think we understand the other side.  No matter a group, a student, staff member, loved one, regardless...

When mistakes happen what do you do?

I was reminded this week (and any week from the past 37 years of my life) of a few times about mistakes I have made.  Some were immediate and some were from a time back.  How do I deal with them?  I seem to make more mistakes than most.  Mistakes might also be a word that does not truly define what I do, but I am going with it for now.

First of all, own it.  Listen to the other person, or yourself, and accept that you made a mistake.  Sometimes they are minor like an apostrophe in the wrong place of a video.  Sometimes they are bigger like a total misread of a situation.

What I would say to all of this is simple.  Be true to who you are and trust that the person, group, global audience, whatever, excepts you for who you are...

A person that makes mistakes and nothing more.
Because life is work and being understood is what we are for.

Every moment of life is like a movie, without repeated takes.
I hope tomorrow I don't make any mistakes.

Monday, January 18, 2016

What Makes a Principal's Job Special... A Poem

A Principal's Poem

What do I like about my job?
A poem, I will use to describe.

I am a principal of a great school.
This, is what I always wanted to do.

So what is it about this job that gives me so much pleasure
There are so so many reasons it is hard to measure

Everything from opening milk containers at lunch
To feedback with staff, I like so much

But there is one thing I like more
One thing, what I believe I am here for

It is not slow summer days and long meetings
Or ordering supplies, based on what we are needing

Not getting new computers or cameras, which are cool
Although those are important in a school

Making new connections with educators or other admins is fine
But definitely not the top reason for my time

Maybe the great exercise I get, by walking the halls
Or seeing student work on all the walls

No, these do not seem like the number 1 reason to my ear
Why I truly love my career

It is not as simple as to say it is for kids or students
As that is too general a term, reason is more prudent

It is for those moments of trust
For when an adult ear is a must

For those moments of elation
When students are happy to be back from vacation

For those moments of crying, anger, and pain
When you are there to share the lane

For those moments of aggression
That often lead to deep depression

If you are able to turn their day around
There is no better feeling, on this sacred ground

And those aha moments and smiles
That help you go another mile

When you see a student that is having a bad day
You grab them, to hear what they have to say

Often tears and sadness over a situation
Can turn into smiles, and revelation

Once they know the principal is someone they can trust
For the guy that "owns" the school, listening is a must

Those are a few of the moments I cherish
Help build their self-esteem so they can flourish

My job is only in part to lead a building
It is really more about a feeling

There are so many ways to show you care
As a principal do you dare

Playing music, high fives, greeting students every morning

Just trying to get them pumped up for some learning

Really be there, show them you care with dedication
That is my favorite part of my chosen vocation

For everything that makes school special, great, and vast
Interactions with kids is the greatness that always lasts

I can not name one principal I had growing up, until 10th grade
My students will not have this problem, is promise I made

Friday, January 15, 2016

Thanks for the commitment!

I want to thank my #cddolphins staff for the commitment to learning and work today.  It was a Friday before a 3 day weekend.  We concentrated on many different areas depending on who you were.  Some specials teachers went to their designated areas, guidance had an afternoon training, our math coach presented 2 sessions in the morning, and classroom teachers spent the morning with math and the afternoon with me.

I heard many great things from different people about the professionalism and commitment to being engaged and doing the work from all over.  So here I go in an effort to show my gratitude.  We saw a youtube clip based on a poem in the afternoon, so I am giving it a shot.  Below is not meant to be taken too seriously... Just saying.

Math, Art, Music, Guidance, Lesson Planning
That is what I am naming

It is not easy when you are asked to do so much.
With little time, running from here to there, with a short lunch.

Smiles, laughter, concentration and work was tough
But we did listen to Rick Astley - Never Gonna Give You UP

Every day we do this job it seems to get harder
When it seems to overwhelm lean on each other

Again thank you for your commitment
"our kids" will be better for it!

Thank You #cddolphins for being present, being engaged, being a great audience, and for all your participation!  Have a Great Weekend!


Thursday, January 7, 2016

Power of "No"

This I hope is going to be a short post!

The power of "No" is immense on so many levels.  By saying, "No" you can free yourself up to do other things, turn down a bad option, walk away from bad situations, and so many other positive things...

The power of "No" can also hurt, stop movement, and kill dreams.

How can one word have such different meanings?

It is such a small word, I am pretty sure it is just 2 letters.

How do you use "No"?  I have thought about this word a bit lately after hearing a podcast on the Tim Ferriss show from Dec. 13th where he interviewed Derek Sivers the creator of and many other things.  His "No" was all about freeing himself up for being able to say "Yes" later.  Those "No's" are easy to explain in a way, and if you listen to the podcast he talks about them much better than I could ever write.

So I am going to talk about that other "No".  The one that kills ideas, dreams, and movement.  I remember one of the first times I talked to the #cddolphins back in the spring of 2014, I promised them that, "No" would be a word I would try and seldom, if ever use.

What did this do?  For me it freed me up from having to be the filter of all ideas that might challenge the status quo.  It allowed me to say, "Yes" and "Tell me more".  It was powerful to me, and I hope powerful for them.

What happens when as a leader you say, "No" to "No's"?  It is a scary for a moment and then trust is built, you feel each other out, you realize there are boundaries, but no conversation is not worth having if an idea has sprung in your head.

I will be honest I have said, "No" or something close to that since that day, but my mindset is not to squash ideas or thoughts.  Like I said I have reverted to "NO" and out of habit recoiled with a look, but then have tried to go back to my "Yes" mindset.  Usually able to recover.

As a leader start there.  If you are not sure you are innovative, a leader, have influence, or anything along those lines, just start with not saying, "No".  It is liberating and changed my mindset more than any twitter chat, conversation, book I read, or keynote I have seen.

Saying that you will not say, "No" is actually more than just words, as long as you live by it.  It is action, a commitment, way more powerful than any "Yes".

After listening to David Sivers I confirmed that this does not have to be that hard, just make small changes in thought to create large changes in approach and build systems you can maintain and back up with actions.  JUST SAY NO TO NO!

Saturday, January 2, 2016


This is not a post to self-reflect on my year.  Reflecting for me is generally personal and meant to organize thoughts, not always actions, or create a following.  I do choose blogging over journaling though, just because I know the openness of it helps me stay honest.  

I also don't really set new year's resolutions as I think if you are goal oriented and have personal systems in place, then any resolution, just takes you off your already charted course.  So I will not be writing about that.  

This is also not a post about meeting up with your PLN at a conference and taking a pic with someone you call "your friend".  This is also not about your #oneword although mine was the word of the year by Oxford in in 2013 Article Here.

This is also not about following your passions and drive to be an educator unless that drive is "our kids".  If it is simply to be an app miner, pay-check collector, summer off educator, benefits hoarder, coaster through life, PLN builder, or story teller, go find another line of work.  

So I have told you what this is not about.  I am going to try and get my point across by talking about selfies and looking in the mirror, maybe that is reflection, but hopefully a slight plan of action, talking out of both sides of my mouth again...

This is about those moments when "our kids" take selfie's and look in the mirror.  How do we discuss this in schools and help "our kids" tell themselves the right story.  How can we help them control the thoughts that enter their heads at those moments.

I would argue that the thoughts that creep in your head when you take a selfie or look in the mirror, are one of the single most important thoughts you ever have.  They drive your feelings about yourself, your confidence, your attitude, and everything in between.  Without having a positive self-image and confidence, can you really succeed the way you want as a student, teacher, or admin?  So maybe this is a reflective piece about how I and they should feel about their face... But clear your face up first, make sure you are ready to deal with them before you try.  Every day, be ready.

After taking a selfie or looking in the mirror you do one of the following, not saying this is an all inclusive list:

  • If you immediately don't like that person, you have a problem. 
  • If you immediately like that person too much other people will have a problem with you.
  • If you form no opinion and have no thoughts, you have a problem. 
  • If you sort of smile at that person wishing positive thoughts, you may have a problem. 
  • If you look at that person and immediately are happy, but also realize there are imperfections and you can acknowledge them in the moment and be okay with them, then you are getting somewhere

I also know after working in a school that promotes BYOD and has chromebooks, I have seen "our kids" taking picture after picture and video after video of themselves.  Sometimes these are in the form of screencasts, sometimes just for fun, or other reasons that I can not totally understand.

I also know that just like me, every time they take a picture or video of themselves they begin to have feelings about the image(s) and a story starts to form in their heads.  I would consider myself a pretty confident individual, who often makes fun of himself, and is hard to rattle.  All that being said I still tell stories in my head about my self portraits or moments with mirrors.  There is that working out at YMCA mirror moment, that getting out of shower mirror moment, the checking yourself out in the rear view mirror moment, and then the selfies you take with your phone and friends. And after 5-8 of those you are happy, and you send it out to whomever.

Let me take a little deeper look into myself in the eyes, in rear view mirror moment.  I know that anyone who has driven a car has had this moment, if not every time you drive.  Here is the mirror story I tell myself and how this might be able to help "our kids".  I find myself thinking in the car a lot as I listen to music.  Thoughts sometimes go negative or I have a "what was I thinking" sort of moment.  I inevitably catch myself peering up to myself and reminding myself that although things may not be great for that memory or moment in time, or what I am remembering was embarrassing, wrong, shameful, whatever; mistakes were made, bottom line.  I am not a bad person and I need to have a positive self image.  Having a negative self image is not okay, it is not going to work for me, it will not control who I am, period, I can not accept that.  Here is that look.

I then check for boogers and go back to paying attention to driving.  Those moments are really helpful.  They are self-checks, to make sure I am not just swimming in my head with negative thoughts for too long.  For some reason for me, these occur mostly in the car, maybe not for everyone, but bare with me as I go on to how we can help "our students."

Much of the talk on Social Media lately has been about our resolutions, and our #oneword, and what we can do to help ourselves grow, be better, etc.  I agree that to better yourself will hopefully translate to others around you.  I would also argue that unless you explicitly, purposefully, and are calculated in making an effort to translate these feelings to your classroom or school, then all of your self growth is nothing as an educator.  

I would argue that having confidence as a student in your ability is one of the strongest backbones to being successful and that starts with your image of yourself at that selfie/mirror moment.  That moment when it is just, you and you, telling yourself "yes" or "no", "good" or "bad", "smart" or "dumb" and yes I know those are not growth mindset words.  As much as I try to use growth mindset language with my staff, students, etc.  Rarely do I talk to myself with growth mindset words in my head.  It is all about extremes.  I always seem to revert to fixed mindset when talking to myself in my head in front of a mirror.  Maybe I am old and wretched! See there is that voice again, I am not old and wretched, I feel good about my age and I do have wonderful thoughts about life... HAHA that was a joke!

 I have seen over and over again how negative self images can affect students in ways that are really scary.  So what do we do?  First of all, pay attention, be there in the moment and recognize it.  Then do something about it.   

I think we ask students to take selfies, we talk to them in front of mirrors in front of themselves, and we ask them what they think.  Tell them to do it and live it with them when possible.  We ask them to write papers called "All about me" to start the year, we tell them every day we see them.  All we  want from them is their best effort (there is that growth mindset!).  We ask them what makes them happy about what they accomplished?  We give them constant feedback that promotes growth.  Bring your #onewords back to class and have the students identify them, but don't allow it to be #oneword.  They are better than that, they have many positive words that describe them.  MAKE them use them, and MAKE them repeat them.  Don't do this as a class, do it as individuals, and take some time repeating these activities from time to time.  MAKE them tell themselves they are majestic or whatever word(s) they choose.  It works for me, in my car, and I don't need anyone to tell me... But I have been doing this a lot longer than "our kids" so they need that practice for a while.  

I have a chorus line of students that I meet with daily or at least regularly that I go over some of these things with.  They see me, they know what I want!  I am coming for the positive, the self-image work, the positive promotion of them, not me.  They know I got their back when they need to scream and cry.  Not that they did not do wrong, but let's get that image back first before we talk about consequences.  

They don't care about my #oneword, they don't care, I and they care about their #oneword.  I care about them, they need to know that, they need to care about them too.  We need to do this work on purpose with lots of repetition.

Stop worrying about you, because you know on a day when you are feeling bad, they will show you what feeling bad really means.  They will win every time if they so chose to take you on.  Take care of you, that is important, but don't worry so much about who you think you are or what you represent, "our kids" don't care.  Look in the mirror with them, take selfies with them, and show them they are important enough, strong enough, work hard enough, and MAKE them say it!!! Over and Over and Over and Over!!!  Their #oneword is so much more important than yours, just remember that.