Principal Matters: The School Leader's Podcast with William D. Parker
Principal Matters: The School Leader's Podcast with William D. Parker
William D. Parker: Principal, Author, Speaker and Blogger
Principal Matters with William D. Parker & Friends
PMP267: Answering Questions on Grief and Behavior with Jen Schwanke
This week, Jen Schwanke, joins me as we respond to more listener questions. Jen Schwanke is an author and education leader from Dublin City Schools in Dublin, Ohio. Question: How do you manage leading a school through the grief of losing a teacher to COVID? Here are some of the points we cover in response: * Grief is loss — COVID involves fear — it is important to keep both those dynamics in mind when dealing with loss. * Loss takes time and community. Leaders need to involve others in the process of healing.* Fear takes action and, in the case of COVID, isolation has added to the difficulty of working through grief.* Remember that reconciling these losses is different for different types of people. Understanding “The Five Stages of Grief” by Kubler-Ross can be helpful. These include: * Denial* Anger* Bargaining* Depression* Acceptance  Here is a resource for more reading: 8 Ways to Help Your School Manage Grief In 2013, Will shared a post about managing the grief of student loss with the following tips. These steps include: 1. Communicate, communicate, communicate. 2. Be present and visible. 3. Maintain as much stability and routine as possible. 4. Allow creative and spontaneous responses. 5. Ask for help from outside the school. 6. Enjoy and appreciate your students. 7. Be prepared for media contact. 8. Allow yourself time to grieve. You can read the original post here. Also, we refer to a children’s book, The Rough Patch by Brian Lies, that can be helpful when working with staff or students who need context for discussing grief: Question: We are seeing an escalation of behaviors as we transition back to school.  How can we better equip teachers to adjust to this unexpected scenario?  * Just as we teach math and science, we need to teach behaviors, too. * Yes, there is an instructional loss here, but addressing it may take different tools.* As leaders, it is our responsibility to provide professional learning, books/resources and specialists in learning behaviors.* When possible, collaborate with parents for solutions. A helpful resource is a previous podcast with Dr. Don Parker on Building Bridges to Reach Students. You can access that post here. Now It’s Your Turn We would be honored to hear your feedback or suggestions on these questions or to answer questions you would like us to address. Please reach out at
Oct 20
30 min
PMP266: Principal Questions on Curriculum and Goals with Jen Schwanke
Jen Schwanke joins me this week as we respond to listener questions. Jen Schwanke is an author and education leader from Dublin City Schools in Dublin, Ohio. We have two questions from a listener who wrote for feedback as an opportunity is opening to apply for a site principal position.  LISTENER QUESTION 1: “After several years serving in the role of assistant principal, I have been mired in testing, discipline, bus routes etc. for the past several years. I know a little about curriculum, but I need to beef up my knowledge in the coming weeks. What tips do you have for digging in and learning curriculum?” Jen: You don’t have to master curriculum. Just know people who have mastered it… curriculum coaches and support. Thru the evaluation process, ask questions. “This is for my learning…” Remember, you can have different standards being taught differently by different teachers. Will: First of all, acknowledge you do not have to an expert in curriculum to be a strong instructional leader. At the same time, you should be able to identify what standards are important in learning. Curriculum choices are guided by that question. In other words, the learning standards drive the curriculum, not the other way around.  Here’s an example to consider: When someone is teaching 11th grade language arts, for instance, he or she may choose to introduce a text from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letters from a Birmingham Jail. Although the teacher wants students aware of relevant material from our own history, he or she also wants to tie the text to learning standards. In this case, the learning goal may be helping students understand how to analyze the elements of persuasive writing, including rhetorical strategies. The learning standards then guide the outcomes students will identify in the reading as well as model the kinds of critical thinking they will need when they practice organizing their own thoughts and writing on persuasive topics. You can apply this same learning framework to every subject. As an administrator, the goal is to apply these perspectives schoolwide. It is easier to guide instruction when every grade level and subject area has curriculum maps tie lessons and outcomes with agreed-upon standards. LISTENER QUESTION 2: I need to have reasonable goals for the school over the next 3-5 years.  I clearly want to address learning gaps due to COVID and achievement gaps for students.  Are there other areas you would recommend I look at?” Jen:  After you’ve set your own goals, you may want to pair with teachers to do the same… don’t leave this to chance… have them do it as a team… accountability comes with sharing with others… Will: Always start with the questions: 1. What are we doing that is working? 2. What do we need to change or improve? I’m sure you already have access to a rubric, but as a matter of reference, SMART goals should be: * Specific* Measurable* Achievable* Relevant * Timeline  Here’s a free PD resource: I came across a short professional development min-lesson plan I had created a few years ago on introducing teams to vision, mission and goal setting. I’ll paste it here if you’re interested in using it personally or with your teams: Let’s Wrap This Up
Oct 13
33 min
PMP265: Unlocking Talent Within Every School Leader with Daniel Bauer, Part 2
This week I have the privilege of sharing Part 2 of a conversation with Daniel Bauer about his new book, His new book, Mastermind: Unlocking Talent Within Every School Leader. Danny’s new book reimagines what professional development for school administrators looks like in order to meet the needs of all school leaders who currently feel isolated and overwhelmed. You will want to pick up a copy today as I’ve already had an advanced look and can’t wait to get my hands on the final printed publication.  Listen-in as Daniel Bauer shares: * Ways your collaboration – and promoting the growth of others – leads to your own growth.* How to create environments of belonging that lead to trust and learning. * Why what you teach is something you should be experimenting with yourself.* Why thinking outside the box – especially reading books outside the education field – can help stretch your learning and your work as an educator.* Ways that openness and collaboration – not competition – is counter-cultural and still matters in your growth.* Why Danny likes to use the term “level-up” when he refers to leadership growth. Plus, we add a bonus at the end of some follow-up conversation where you can hear Danny share even more takeaways! GET A FREE CHAPTER OF DANIEL BAUER’S BOOK HERE!
Oct 6
21 min
PMP264: Unlocking Talent Within Every School Leader with Daniel Bauer
This week I have the privilege of sharing a conversation with Daniel Bauer about his new book, His new book, Mastermind: Unlocking Talent Within Every School Leader. Danny’s new book reimagines what professional development for school administrators looks like in order to meet the needs of all school leaders who currently feel isolated and overwhelmed. You will want to pick up a copy today as I’ve already had an advanced look and can’t wait to get my hands on the final printed publication.  Danny was a guest on Principal Matters: The School Leader’s Podcast first in June 2017 for Episode 71: How Masterminds Help You Grow. Later in August 2019, he was a guest again for Episode 162: Building Community Through a Go-Community. Daniel Bauer is a self-proclaimed “Unorthodox Ruckus Maker” who has mentored thousands of school leaders through his Better Leaders Better Schools blog, books, podcasts, and powerful coaching experiences. I have been sitting on this conversation for months, and I enjoyed this conversation so much that I have split it into two parts. So I hope you enjoy Part 1 this week, and I’ll share Part 2 with you next week. Here’s a Glimpse of our Question/Answer Time: WDP: In your book, you look at the variety of reasons school leaders aren’t experiencing transformative professional development. Can you explain what you have learned? Danny shares… * Some professional development is delivered inauthentically. * Isolation is a key factor that leaders don’t connect and grow. * Many districts do their best, but the professional development they offer end up being missed opportunities. WDP: What have you learned about who makes the ideal mastermind member and the ABCs of powerful professional development™?  Danny shares: * Authenticity, belonging, and challenge* Professional development built with the ABCs in mind leads to transformation. (Mastermind score card) WDP: You talk a lot about authenticity. Why is this so important? Danny shares: * Professional development that is psychologically safe * Encourages self-awareness* Is values driven can be regarded as authentic WDP: What have you learned about the importance of belonging? Danny shares: * Shared purpose, inclusive environments, and trust are the cornerstones of creating connection between leaders in a professional development experience. WDP: How have you seen your mastermind challenging members to level up? Danny shares: * We do this by developing our leaders’ mindsets, encouraging them to take action, and surround them with a powerful community GET A FREE CHAPTER HERE!
Sep 29
25 min
PMP263: Cycles of Self-Reflection in Leadership
This past month, we sent our third daughter to college. More than a year ago, she began to explore the possibility of studying abroad. As a result of months of apply to schools, virtual meet-ups, and 5,000 miles of travel, she is now a student at Aberystwyth University in Wales. Sending off another Parker child has been an emotional roller coaster. But the experience also brought back some memories of the first time we sent a child to college. As I was walking down memory lane this week, I came across a post I had shared in 2017 about the cycles of self-reflection and applying those lessons both in parenting and in personal growth. This week, I’ve decided to re-share that content here in an encore episode. Listening back also made me realize I originally shared this post in the spring of my last year as a high school principal. At the time, I had no idea I would be offered an opportunity to move into full-time work serving principals in my own state as well as across the globe with my books and trainings.  Listening back has been bitter-sweet, but it has also been a great reminder that growth is a ongoing cycle of learning, reflecting, refining, and action. I hope you enjoy this repeat podcast episode and can apply it to your own journey:  ——————————————————- March 2017: A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I took our oldest daughter, Emily, out to dinner. She turned 18 this year, and we wanted to encourage her in the opportunities and challenges she will be facing as a graduating senior and soon-to-be college student. Previously, I had been reading Tim Elmore’s Generation iY where he shares about three intelligences that help us in conversations with our students and children as they mature: Emotional intelligence: We need to help them develop their EQ—self awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. Moral intelligence: We need to coach them toward robust character—personal discipline, secure sense of self, strong positive values. (Perhaps we could call this MQ.) Leadership intelligence: Finally, we need to encourage clear vision, courage, priorities, big-picture perspective, and planning skills (LQ) (Elmore 209). During dinner, I asked Emily if I could read through the descriptions and if she could reflect on areas she felt were her strengths and where she thought she still needed to grow. As she self-reflected on different areas, I learned some new insights about her. And I think she may have learned some new insights about herself too. My Own Self-Assessment Self-reflection isn’t only good for our children as they grow. It’s good for older learners like you and me. I remember about five years ago when I was talking to a buddy who is twenty years younger than I. He was telling me about the goals he and his wife had set and reached. He was excited about being a young father, starting his own business, and pursuing his dreams. I began to reminisce with him about when I was his age—how my wife and I had paid off debts, bought our first house, started a family. As he listened, he looked at me with a curious expression and asked, “So that was twenty years ago. What are your goals now?” Suddenly, I was stumped. I realized I didn’t have an answer,
Sep 22
19 min
PMP262: Revisiting the Hats You Wear in School Leadership
A few weeks ago, I was invited to provide some virtual professional learning with a wonderful group of aspiring and assistant principals from Pecos Barstow-Toyah Independent School District, in Pecos, Texas.  As a part of our time together, I shared content from my book Principal Matters, including “8 Hats” that school leaders wear. For the sake of this podcast episode, I am including a shortened version of the introduction to the session. My hope is that you will find these takeaways helpful as you reflect on your own responsibilities as a school leader. Here is a summary of the eight hats that all school leaders should expect to wear: 1. Coach Someone has to make the final call, and as the principal, that will often be you. Like a good coach, you will need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your team. You will need to listen to input from others. But ultimately, you will be the one who often makes many of the final calls in your building. Coaches also set the tone, cast the vision, or help motivate their teams to action. Even if you are not a pep-talk kind of person, it is important that you are clear with direction, consistent with follow-through, and fair-minded in difficulties. Like it or not, others will look to you for direction and follow your lead. So plan to lead in a positive direction. 2. Manager School leadership is much more than management, but it is still an important part of it. Some principals are surprised at the amount of work required for supervision, personnel decisions, report generating, budget decisions, and schedule planning. If you are transitioning from the classroom, you are now responsible for an entire school. You can’t manage a school without a great team. One way I have tried to encourage focus in office management of our school, for instance, is by putting job responsibilities in writing. Each office staff member has key responsibility areas in writing so each of us know who is managing specific tasks throughout the year. 3. Counselor Whether it is handling concerns of students, parents, teachers, or other school staff, a significant part of school leadership is learning to listen. I am not a counselor and do not pretend to be. But I have learned the importance of giving my attention to someone in need, providing them feedback, and helping them find solutions. Sometimes people just need to be heard, and sometimes they need to be guided into finding their own solutions. My favorite Stephen Covey quote always comes into play when I talk about counseling: Seek first to understand before seeking to be understood. 4. On Duty Like it or not, everyone is accountable to someone. Just because you are a principal does not mean you are on your own. You still answer to your superiors. You still answer to the state department. You still follow the same rules, regulations, policies, and laws your staff is expected to follow. When you are absent for family sick leave, for instance, you fill out the same form your teachers fill out. I sign in every morning on the same sheet my teachers use for sign in. In fact, I am usually the first one to sign in. Principals are on duty just like everyone else. 5. Cheerleader I am not sure I can emphasize enough the importance of keeping people informed. So often because you are on the front end of decisions or information coming to the school,
Sep 15
26 min
PMP261: Your Friendships, Legacy, Laughter and Well-Being
In last week’s podcast episode, I shared the second part of a keynote presentation I provided on August 12, 2021, to the Archdiocese of Louisville for a welcome-back ceremony of educators from thirty nine Pre/K-8 elementary schools and nine high schools collectively serving 18,000 students. In Part 3 of this keynote series, you will learn the power of your friendships, legacy and laughter. Learn the following: * What research says about the power of friendship when facing adversity* How your friendships allow others to see parts of you that may not be visible in isolation* How important it is to acknowledge those who are ‘packing your parachute’* Ways your story has been built by the influences of others Considering your legacy as an educator, including two truths: 1. You’re not as important as you think. 2. You are more important than you think. Listen-in to find out why… Relationships are more important than outcomes because deep trust inspires better outcomes. At the end of this episode, you’ll also hear some reminders of why you must keep finding humor and joy in learning and leading. Further Reflection There is a story that I love about friendship, involving C.S. Lewis, the author of The Chronicles of Narnia. Lewis was friends with J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and the two of them had a mutual friend named Charles Williams. When Charles died, Lewis wrote the following: “In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets. Now that Charles is dead, I shall never again see Ronald’s [Tolkien’s] reaction to a specifically Charles joke. Far from having more of Ronald, having him “to myself” now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald…In this, Friendship exhibits a glorious “nearness by resemblance” to heaven itself…” (Keller, 2016).  Keller, Timothy. The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith. Penguin Books, 2016. You have others in your life who can see parts of you that you are unable to see yourself. And you have attributes that may be best displayed with one person over another. Keep this in mind as you remember the importance of connecting with friends, family, and community members. Sometimes we need one another to see the best in one another. Now It’s Your Turn How can you be committed to mutual accountability? How are you allowing your friendships to call you back to the best version of yourself? Is there someone you need to thank for doing work that makes your work possible (in school and outside of school)? Thank you again for doing what matters!
Sep 8
24 min
PMP260: Reflecting on Your Influence – Keynote Series #2
In last week’s podcast episode, I shared the first part of a keynote presentation I provided on August 12, 2021, to the Archdiocese of Louisville for a welcome-back ceremony of educators from thirty-nine Pre/K-8 elementary schools and nine high schools collectively serving 18,000 students in six counties.  In Part 2 of this keynote series, you will learn the power of your own influence: * How a medical team’s ability to save my son’s life provide lessons for what qualities will strengthen your education team.* How the challenges and lessons of the past school year are applicable for the difficult days ahead.* Ways you can commit to influencing others in positive ways even in the midst of stress, outrage or fear. In addition, you will learn ways you can commit to positively influencing others, including: * Consider being a mentor. You need input but so do educators with less experience than you.* Stay committed to serving others. Education leaders can jump in lines to serve at the cafeteria when needed.* Lead by example. Be a positive by being willing to go first.* Stay committed to teaching, instruction, and modeling for others.* Utilize your platforms to broadcast, amplify and celebrate the successes of students.* As Jon Gordon teaches, don’t be an ‘energy vampire,’ but be an energy builder. Now It’s Your Turn Who would you consider someone who has been most influential for you? How would you describe your own influence: toxic or healthy? Pick one area from the list above where you can commit to positively influence others this week.
Sep 1
22 min
PMP259: 10 Areas of Self-Care in the School Year Ahead
On Thursday, August 12, 2021, I had the privilege of providing a keynote from my book Pause. Breathe. Flourish.: Living Your Best Life as an Educator at the Archdiocese of Louisville welcomed back ceremony for the new school year.  Although my teaching and administration work has been for public schools, Superintendent Mary Beth Bowling, invited me to address teachers from thirty nine Pre/K-8 elementary schools and nine high schools collectively serving 18,000 students in six counties of the Archdiocese of Louisville.  It was a wonderful experience to attend an early morning Mass followed by an hour of professional learning. This week I want to share the first in a series of episodes from the keynote I delivered to educators beginning a new school year.  If you’ve read my books or listened to my previous podcast episodes, you may find many of my stories and lessons repetitive or familiar. Nevertheless, I hope you will benefit from this summary of ideas on “breathing first” as you continue the important work of serving students – even in the midst of ongoing challenges as I share feedback on the following: * 10 Areas of Self-Reflection for Self-Care* The Power of Your Influence* The Importance of Your Friendships* The Meaning of Your Legacy In Part 1 of this series, learn the importance of reflecting on the following areas: * Your Body* Your Mindset* Your Influence* Your Time* Your Friendships* Your Spirituality* Your Resources* Your Intimacy* Your Future* Your Legacy Now It’s Your Turn Consider the 10 self-reflection areas. If you had to pick three, which ones would you identify where you would like more focus or growth?  Reflect on this quote: “If your goal is to influence others in becoming better, you can’t ignore this important safety notice: You need to learn to breathe first.” In this school year, how have you struggled with “placing the oxygen mask” on first?  Can you describe a time when you have felt like “a shell” of yourself. Who is one person that will tell you the truth and hold you accountable? What is one way you are already “investing outside of work?” Or what is one way you plan to invest in yourself this coming week? What is one area out of the ten that you’ve already seen significant growth? Of the ten self-reflection areas for breathing first described above, what is one area where you want to see personal growth?
Aug 25
22 min
PMP258: Bridging Academic and Social Gaps with Trevor Goertzen
Trevor Goertzen was recognized in 2020 as a National Digital Principal of the Year. He currently serves as the Principal of Spring Hill Middle School in Spring Hill, Kansas, and is an adjunct professor of Educational Technology for Harding University. Trevor recognizes the personal impact that technology can provide by bridging academic and social gaps in his students, staff and community when leveraged correctly and intentionally. He works to provide a learning focus for his building by supporting students of all backgrounds and needs. Helping the Spring Hill Middle School learning community reach their potential, socially and academically, is a driving principle for his leadership. Trevor additionally is the Vice-President of the Kansas Principal Association (KASSP/KAESP) and hosts the podcast ListenUp that features the stories and celebrations of Kansas principals.  Trevor Goertzen grew up in rural Nebraska on a corn farm. In those early years, he learned the importance of working hard and serving the community around him. He is a National Board Certified teacher and Instructional Coach of nine years and now a building-level administrator of five years.  Here are some takeaways we explore in this episode: * Trevor explains how commitments to innovation and technology can enhance your service to students and your community.* After 2020-2021, Principals are more aware than ever of the multiple layers of support students need for achieving outcomes. Trevor shares what lessons principals have learned that they can carry on into the new school year.* Communities are experiences a lot of anxiety as the pandemic continues. Trevor shares tips for communicating with teachers and students and community members at the start of the new semester.* As a veteran school administrator, Trevor offers advice for those who may be beginning their journeys into school leadership.* ListenUp is a podcast for Kansas admins. Trevor explains how hosting a podcast can enhance your own professional growth. Stay Connected You can find Principal Trevor Goertzen on Twitter at his handle @SHMS_growdaily or listen to the KASSP Listen Up Podcast here.
Aug 18
29 min
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