Before you plan 2015, reflect on 2014 (361:365)



Still looking for the New Year’s resolution (or change, plan, etc)? Before you jump into the change you want to make, take a look at what you were able to accomplish in 2014.


Take a few minutes (might take longer) and go through your calendar, twitter feed, or Facebook timeline. Using your Social Networks makes it easy to scroll through the highlights (and low lights). Facebook even has a feature that will make a short flip for you or you can customize it.


As you do this, write down a few things so you can put it all in perspective:

  • What did you accomplish?
  • What were your awesome moments?
  • What would you like to do over?
  • Were there challenges based on time of the year?
  • Did you spend enough time with family, loved ones and friends?
  • Did you make time for your own personal growth?


Hopefully these questions will guide your reflection on 2014. Based on your responses, this could guide your plan for 2015.

Go chase waterfalls (360:365)

The waterfall at Ringwood State Park

The waterfall at Ringwood State Park

Remember the song Waterfalls by TLC from the 1990’s? I can’t believe that song is 20 years old. I’m getting old! In the chorus, TLC sings, Don’t go chasing waterfalls, please stick to the rivers and lakes that you’re used to. I know that TLC was talking about something different, but for the sake of this post, I think you should go chase a waterfall the next time you are on a hike 🙂

Our family went on a post Christmas hike at the Ringwood State Park in beautiful northern New Jersey. I’m so glad we chose to do this as opposed to battling the millions of people who traveled into New York City.


Early on in the hike, we came across a waterfall. It was’t huge (probably 30 feet drop) but it was captivating. We stayed there for some time taking in the sounds, watched the flow, and of course took some pictures.


I asked my daughter what she thought of the waterfall, and she quickly replied, “I loved it.” I asked her why and she said, “It was cool and awesome.” I have to agree with her. I could have sat there all day!


I thought more about the waterfall throughout the day. There are many interpretations of the waterfall. Some say it symbolizes movement, renewal, or even spiritual awakening. No matter the interpretation, the fact is that waterfalls are amazing to look at and are a treat to come across on a hike. Go chase a waterfall!

Merry Christmas! (359:365)



One of the awesome things about the holiday season is Christmas. It is especially thrilling when you have two children (ages 7 and 10) to spend it with. These kids spent months anticipating the day when they would get their wishes granted. I know that the holiday is not about presents and gifts, but from a child’s perspective there is probably not a better day in the year.


What I saw different this year was how my children were also interested in the art of giving. They were interested in getting special gifts for their teachers, cousins and good friends. The kids even wanted to go the store for that perfect gift for Mom and Dad. I was really surprised when they insisted on getting presents for each other. Can’t wait for next year!



Bring the magic alive (358:365)

Our Elves on the Shelves

Our Elves on the Shelves

Yesterday was the last day of school in 2014. It was quite a day. I love how our teachers are committed to bringing the magic alive for our students! The day started off with two visitors from the “North Pole.” Two of our teachers dressed up as Elfs on the Shelf. They wanted to be outside so the parents in the car line could see, but the rain prevented it. So we set them on top of the “shelf” in a classroom and had students visit before homeroom. Kids were in awe. Our transfer students said to me on the way out, “Wow, we never had anything like that at my old school.”


Then we hosted our annual Sing-A-Long. We packed the gym and sang all types of songs to get the kids in the Holiday Spirit. At the conclusion of the Sing-A-Long we got all of the staff members to come down in front of the students and we sang, “We wish you a Merry Christmas.”  We all had our arms on each other and we swayed back and forth. I literally got chills.

We then showed a movie to the students and everyone enjoyed the rest of the morning. All of the classrooms bought pizza for the kids and they enjoyed lunch as they shared presents with each other.


It was a magical day!

Early indication of Genius Hour? (357:365)

I was reading Lilly’s Purple Purse by Kevin Henkes the other night when I came across something that piqued my curiosity (no pun intended). The book, published in 1996, is a story about Lilly, an out of the bok thinker, who goes on an adventure. When she is in the classroom, there is a section the teacher established called the Lightbulb Lab – Where Great Ideas are Born. 


Whenever the students had free time, they were permitted to go to the Lightbulb Lab in the back of the classroom. The expressed their ideas creatively thorough drawing and writing. Lilly went there often. She had a lot of ideas. ~ Keven Henkes


Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse

Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse

Sound familiar? To me it sounds like the modern day “Genius Hour” or “Makerspace” that schools and classrooms are implementing. Was this book ahead of it’s time? Or is this something that has been happening in schools for a long time and now has a name, blogs and videos to showcase?



All I know is whether it is called the Lightbulb Lab, Genius Hour or Makerspace, we need more of it… If only those state administered assessments that determine our future wouldn’t get in the way…. Who knows where we would be????

Leadership starts with YOU (355:365)



In some way, everyone is a leader. You may be leading a district, school, classroom, or an area, but you are leading. How are you leading? How do you know? What is your impact? These are all questions leaders face during reflection.


Understanding how you impact others can be challenging. You can’t go up and ask people, ‘how am I doing as your leader?’ and you can’t go by how you ‘feel you are doing.’ You could send out an anonymous survey and let people weigh (hoping of course that everyone takes it and everyone is honest). You could use the measurement of your organization such as test results, quality of work, absenteeism, or discipline referrals. There are countless ways to measure, but it all comes down to YOU.


Here are some questions to consider as you reflect as a leader?

  • Do you have core values and does everyone know them?
  • Do you hold yourself accountable?
  • Are you willing to acknowledge your mistakes?
  • Can you be honest with your staff, classroom, area or district?
  • Are you approachable?


This is a great time of year to reflect on the impact of your leadership. The most important tool you can use is a mirror.

New Year, New Resolution? (354:365)



I’m not sure what it is, but I like making New Year’s resolutions, goals, or ambitions (whatever you call them). In fact, I have made (and was somewhat successful)  some meaningful resolutions. There are other years when I wasn’t so successful. So why do some work and others don’t?

In 2012, I made a resolution to start blogging and tweeting. I never thought I would get into social media, but I also thought about it for 3 months before I actually did something. In 2013, I didn’t have a resolution, but rather I wanted to improve my health, lose weight, and be more centered. Honestly, since I didn’t make a goal or resolution, I only made minor progress. In 2014, I made the resolution to blog everyday and I have learned a great deal about the writing process (I only have about 11 more to go). As much as it is cliche, I have found power in starting the new year with a vision of what I want to improve (or accomplish). Obviously, sometimes life takes you in other directions and that is OK.


Pre-Planning – What I know about 2015

In early 2015, I will be getting surgery on my foot. This may keep me in a cast or boot for a few weeks or few months. Knowing this, I can’t run a marathon 2015, but I am hopeful that this surgery will help me eventually become more active (with less pain). I will not blog every day. That was a great experience and I might have some good ideas that could be taken further. In 2015, I will be working on finishing the book with the PrincipalPLN crew on Isolation but that isn’t resolution material. I am still perplexed at what to focus on.


What makes a successful New Year’s resolution?

  • Be honest – Like I said earlier, there are a few things I know about early 2015 and this will help me guide my resolution
  • Plan ahead – This is the time to start mulling over what you want to do (basically this whole post is a public mulling session)
  • Talk to others – Make sure you talk about ideas to your loved ones. They can be your biggest champion!
  • Make it SMART – Is it Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time bounded
  • Write it down – By writing down your resolution, you will double your chances of success
  • Make it public – Put it on your blog (or Facebook, Google +, or Twitter) for all to see. This will increase your chances of success, and rally support from your PLN!


I will have something by 12/31. Thanks for all the support…. until then I will keep searching for the right resolution!

The 12 Days of Christmas at School (353:365)



A few weeks ago, the PrincipalPLN crew discussed ideas we could do to show our staff appreciation. We talked about a few ideas that other principals have implemented. We then created a Google document to share what we would be specifically doing at our schools. I am so thankful to have a PLN that could help me with the ideas. I can only hope that my staff appreciated it 🙂


Day 1 (Monday, December 8) You’re so valuable ~ enjoy a 100 Grand Bar ~ Check your mailboxes

Day 2 (Tuesday, December 9) Lottery Day (Everybody Wins)~ Win a Lottery Ticket, Get out of Duty, 1 hour of Classroom Coverage or WaWa Gift Card ~ Check you mailboxes

Day 3 (Wednesday, December 10) Work Out Wednesday ~ Wear your workout gear and be comfortable

Day 4 (Thursday, December 11) Reading Blizzard ~ Once the Principal arrives, everyone stops, and listens to a book

Day 5 (Friday, December 12) Flannel Friday ~ Wear your favorite pajamas or Flannel Shirt

Day 6 (Monday, December 15) Hugs and Kisses (The Hershey Kind)

Day 7 (Tuesday, December 16) Good Morning Visit ~ Wear Red and Green 

Day 8 (Wednesday, December 17) Workout Wednesday ~ Wear your workout gear and be comfortable

Day 9 (Thursday, December 18) Staff Meeting ~ Breakfast at 8:30 AM (Teacher’s Room)

Day 10 (Friday, December 19) Holiday Sweater/Shirt Day ~ Holiday Party at Runaway Chefs @ 4:15 PM

Day 11 (Monday, December 22) Monday morning quarterback ~ Wear your favorite sport shirt and jeans

Day 12 (Tuesday, December 23) Handwritten Notes for the Holiday 

Stop! And smell the roses (352:365)



Sometimes in life, and in work, you have to stop and smell the roses! Leaders, when was the last time you scheduled a meeting and just let the staff connect with each other? When was the last time you just stopped and smelled the roses?


Scaling back, especially around the holidays, can be the best thing for you and your staff. We all understand we have a tough job to do, but we also have to remember everything else that is going on outside of the workday. The holiday stress is real, and our teachers are also mothers, and fathers, brothers and sisters. Not to mention people get sick, and kids get sick. There are days when teachers are roughing it out so that we don’t have call substitutes. The list goes on and on.


So as you reflect on the holiday season, it is important to stop and smell the roses, slow down, and be sure that people know how much you appreciate them.