Reflections on a Career – So Far

End of school year reflection time, this title could become a theme for the next few musings.

Looking back on what hasn’t changed during my lifetime as a learner:

  • length of the school day
  • length of the school year
  • schedules of the school day – self contained classes are still the predominant model in the younger grades, Frederick Taylor’s bell schedule still dominates the middle and high schools
  • teacher certification and endorsement still dictates who can teach what
  • Andrew Carnegie’s units are the measure of achievement

My lifetime as a learner began in Unified School District #443 in Dodge City, Kansas, very early in the 1960’s. Thanks to Jamie Vollmer, here is a short list of things we have added since I started:

  • In the 1960’s, we added AP programs, Head Start, Title I, Adult Ed, Consumer Ed, and Peace, Leisure and Recreation Ed.
  • In the 1970’s, we added Drug and Alcohol Abuse Ed, Parenting Ed, Behavior Adjustment Classes, Character Ed, Special Ed, Title IX, Environmental Ed, Women’s Studies, African-American Heritage Ed, and School Breakfast.
  • The surge tide came in during the 1980’s, we added Keyboarding and Computer ed, Global Ed, Multicultural/Ethnic Ed, Nonsexist Ed, ESL/Bilingual Ed, Teen Pregnancy Awareness, Hispanic Awareness Ed, Early Childhood Ed, Jump Start, Early Start, Even Start, Prime Start, Full-Day Kindergarten, Pre-school programs for at-risk children, Alternative Education in various forms, and many more.
  • We didn’t slow down too much in the 1990’s, we added, among other things, Conflict Resolution and Peer Mediation, HIV/AIDS education, Expanded Gifted and Talented Opportunities, Death Education, Tech Prep and School to Work, At Risk and Dropout Prevention, Homeless Education, America 2000 and Goals 2000 Initiatives, Distance Learning, Expanded Computer and Internet Education.
  • In the first decade of this century, we have added No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, Bully Prevention, Anti-harassment policies, Early Childhood Wrap Around Programs, Health and Wellness Programs, and Media Literacy Development.

What have we taken off of our plates? Or have the serving portions just gotten smaller?

I have seen two significant changes during my career.

The first is the changing expectations of our graduates. Career/job opportunities for students leaving our schools without, or with only a high school diploma are almost non-existent. The American Dream in increasingly out of reach for many. Strange as it may sound, the outlook isn’t much better for college graduates. The percentage of careers/jobs that require a baccalaureate degree has remained constant at about 20% since the 1960’s. Balancing the salary of an entry level position with the student loan re-payment schedule is a challenge for all of us.

I have been able to spend more than a little bit of my time in the profession examining and working with those who will ultimately employee our graduates, be they from high school or post-secondary. At some point, all of our graduates need to be employable. There have been some very fascinating conversations about what the prospective employers are looking for in new employees. Academic GPA and class rank are not very high on the list of traits being looked for, the “soft skills” are at the top. Has your school made any changes to reflect the changing expectations?

I have kept my elementary school report cards. It is fun to look at them every once in a while. No letter grades were given, instead, we had the following “proficiencies:”

  • a Check in column 1 indicates child is doing outstanding work
  • a Check in column 2 indicates child is making satisfactory progress according to his ability
  • a Check in column 3 indicates child is making slow progress according to his ability
  • a Check in column 4 indicates child is making unsatisfactory progress

Pretty simple, but focused not on where the child is, but where the child is going, according to his ability. And Mom and Dad easily understood what it meant.

The Reading/Language Arts “standards” for grade one were:

  • Understands what he reads
  • Reads with good expression
  • Works out words independently
  • Knows letter names
  • Knows letter sounds
  • Shows ability to organize what he reads
  • Speaks clearly and distincly
  • Expresses thoughts well orally
  • Takes effective part in discussion groups
  • Expresses thoughts well in writing
  • Learns words in spelling lesson
  • Spells correctly in written work
  • Is neat and legible in all written work
  • Forms letters correctly

Here were the arithmetic “standards,:

  • Knows number facts taught
  • Works accurately
  • Shows growth in reasoning ability
  • Finishes work on time
  • Understands meaning of numbers

Pretty basic stuff, and Mom and Dad understood all of it.

By sixth grade, a few things were added, and a few taken away. We were expected to know letter names and sounds, that wasn’t a 6th grade standard. Dictionary skills were expected, as well as following grammar and punctuation rules. In arithmetic, we were expected to be gaining skill in use of the fundamental processes. Mom and Dad understood that 6th grade math and language was certainly different from 1st grade math and reading, but the report card focused on how well we were applying what we were learning, they really didn’t need to know what the specific standards were. Like parents today, they were more concerned with what we were able to do with what we learned. And like today, the language of the standard would not have been understood by them.

The biggest change is the Kindergarten report card. No letter grades, but same rubric. The standards, however, look nothing like what my district shows on our Kindergarten report card.

We were scored on the following:

  • Be friendly
  • Respect the rights of others
  • Work and play well with others
  • Expresses himself
  • Keep emotions under control
  • Follow directions in work and play
  • Takes part in activities
  • Listens well
  • Recognize colors
  • Count
  • Color, cut and use materials
  • Adjust quickly and calmly to a new or unusual situation

Pretty much what employers are telling us they are looking for in prospective employees! They will teach the job specific skills, they are looking for the ability to continue to learn, and to work well with others.

The Kindergarten report card also had the following Message to Parents:

“The goals and purposes of the kindergarten are so different from those of the six elementary grades as to require a distinctly different kind of form for reporting the child’s progress to his parents. In the kindergarten we are not concerned with achievement in any formal body of subject matter; the kindergarten is designed to serve as a socializing agency. Its purpose is to teach the child to adjust himself easily and happily to group living. The kindergarten year is one of the most valuable and important years for building the foundation for a wholesome and worthwhile school life. If there is anything which you would like to talk over with the teacher please come to your school, visit the class, and ask the teacher to help you understand the kindergarten program.”

Needless to say, those days are long gone. But should they be?

The second big change I have seen through my years is in the way our current generation of students learn.

They, and their parents, no longer buy into the compliance model. They are not asking for relevance or engagement as much as they are demanding empowerment. The one-size-fits-all model is finally, hopefully, going by the wayside. We have the tools to individualize the experience for every student, or as was said in Dodge City, Kansas, in the early 1960’s, “making satisfactory progress according to his ability.”

We have the tools, do we have the commitment?

More to follow.

And so it goes…



Teacher Appreciation

Wow, lots of stuff to write about this week.

First, shout out and sincere thanks to all the teachers who have touched me, and shaped my life over 60+ years. Looking back, I had amazing teachers throughout my student career in Dodge City, Kansas during the 1960’s and early 1970’s. They helped me choose education as a career. Over nearly 40 years in the profession, I have had the honor of getting to know, and working with, some amazing educators. A few former students are today, teaching, would like to think that I had a small bit of something to do with that.

Like an award winner giving an acceptance speech, there are way too many to mention by name, and I would unintentionally leave out some very deserving people.

So I will call out only three. First and foremost, Buster and Dorothy, my parents. We pay lip service to “parents are the first teachers,” but it is certainly true. They did what all great  teachers do, they believed in me, loved me unconditionally, guided me, did their level best to teach me the right things to do, let me fail and learn some hard lessons without rescuing me from the consequences of some less than great choices, which taught personal accountability, one of the most valuable lessons of all.

Next on the list is my brother, Frank. He is four years older than I am, was my hero growing up, remains so today. A brilliant student, an exceptional human. A new, exciting and different approach to math education took root while Frank and I were in elementary school, cleverly called “New Math.” Dad and Mom didn’t really understand it, and how we were being taught to solve problems was very different from the methods they were taught and used. Understand, they were of the generation that had both survived the Great Depression and kicked the world’s butt by winning World War II, no small accomplishments. And they have every reason to have some swagger in their lives. But they didn’t get New Math. Many conversations were held around our dinner table. Not very different from conversations being held today between parents and children about Common Core Math…Frank “got” New Math, and he made sure that I did as well.

A lot was talked about, and learned, around our dinner table. Some of it actually had to do with what was going on at school.

Frank and I shared a remarkable English teacher when both of us were in 8th grade, Mr. Deyoe. He shaped both of us throughout our remaining school careers in Dodge City, and in my case, he still does. He, Dad and I were playing golf together one afternoon while I was still an undergrad in college. We were talking about teaching. He had just been named a Kansas Master Teacher, as if his credibility with with me needed a boost. I have never forgotten one of his comments, “There are great high school teachers, and there are great grade school teachers. But it takes someone special to be a great junior high teacher. Not everybody can do it well.” All of my classroom teaching experience included the junior high/middle school learners, and most of my building level administrative experience has as well. Mr. Deyoe wasn’t wrong then, and he is right today.

Mr. Deyoe was one of several outstanding humans who touched me as teachers. Several I have studied under or worked with have won numerous awards and are enshrined in various Educator Halls of Fame. I have kept my elementary school report cards, the memories of those teachers come back to life whenever I pull them out.

Not all have received the public accolades they earned, but they all mattered and made a difference.

To all, I extend my heartfelt thanks and appreciation, and I dedicate the following to all teachers, from Dan Clark:

Quiet Heroes


The world is full of quiet heroes

Who never seek the praise.

They’re always back off in the shadows

They let us have the limelight days.

You’re the one that I look up to

Because of you I’m free.

You set an example I could follow

You helped me see my destiny.


I’ve had my share of broken dreams

But you said I could win.

You gave me the chance I always needed

To start my dreams again.

You took the time to teach and tutor

You showed me rules to rise.

You changed my fears to glory tears.

You’re an angel in disguise.


I wouldn’t be where I am today,

I’ve won my share of times.

Unless you coached me through the maze

And pushed me on the hardest climbs.

It’s just your style, the extra mile

No glory, must be tough.

You let me have the accolades,

A smile, you said, was just enough.


So even though my thanks don’t show

Unnoticed you will never go.

I need to say I love you so

You’re my hero.

Finishing the Year Strong

For many of us, the end of the school year is a mythical time. Our “calendars” do not hang on the wall, they overlap with planning and executing school events.

While this school year will end sometime in late May-early June, we have already begun planning for the next school year. Class registrations are under way, we are reviewing student work from this year in order to plan summer professional development and create the next School Improvement Plans, activity calendars are already being finalized, the list goes on. Throw in the end-of-year programs, projects that are due, final exams for those who still give them and the stress levels for students, parents, and staff are hitting the red lines. The days are long, and our patience and empathy tanks are beginning to run low.

It is easy for little things to become big things at this time of year.

Hopefully, we will not forget to take care of ourselves, and our personal well-being first. The same routines, like diet, exercise, reflecting that helped us get this far are easily pushed aside in the time crunch to “get everything done” before the students and staff leave.

I’ve found through the years that while it may be hard, leaving the school day in the parking lot every afternoon is more critical now than it was 3 months ago. I still have to drive into the parking lot every morning with my tanks full and ready for the new day.

The late Michael Conrad said it best…

And so it goes…

Memories and Changing Expectations

A Facebook memory popped up the other day, it marked the passing of Dr. Andrew Grove, the retired CEO of Intel.

In 1996, back when I was smart, I was invited by Compaq, Intel, and Microsoft to participate in a conference called Innovate Forum 97. The conference brought together representatives from around the world, from a variety of industries to discuss and share thoughts and ideas with leaders of technology industries. I was honored to be part of the education group.

Dr. Grove visited with us about his recently published book, Only the Paranoid Survive, released that year. In it, he writes about significant events that occur in the life of a business. He calls them Strategic Inflection Points.

“A strategic inflection point is a time in the life of a business when its fundamentals are about to change. That change can mean an opportunity to rise to new heights. But it may just as likely signal the beginning of the end. They are full-scale changes in the way business is conducted, so that simply adopting new technology or fighting the competition as you used to may be insufficient.”

Dr. Grove, working with Michael Porter of Harvard University, lists six factors that can cause a strategic inflection point. They are:

  1. Power, vigor, and competence of existing competitors;
  2. Power, vigor, and competence of complementors;
  3. Power, vigor, and competence of customers, I would add both internal and external customers;
  4. Power, vigor and competence of suppliers;
  5. Possibility that what your business is doing can be done in a different way; and
  6. Power, vigor, and competence of potential competitors.

While his book is not intended for the education market, I believe that there are parallels when we view education not as a legislated monopoly, but as a competitive business in an environment of expanding choice.

Since its inception, educators decided what was good and what wasn’t. We set our own quality levels and our own specifications to meet them. As a legislated monopoly, nobody ever questioned that we had the right to do that, and generally we were on target. But now, we are being openly questioned and challenged in the light of emerging technologies and the power of those tools to alter and enhance the teaching-learning process. Many critics point out that the  problems with our educational system are not that it is been doing its task poorly, rather, the schools have not responded in a timely and effective fashion.

We are being impacted by several of Dr. Groves’ inflection points, and too many of us still seeing them as threats to the status quo rather than opportunities to respond to the changing expectations being placed on our graduates.

I am currently serving as the Chair of the Montana ACT Council. In the past two weeks, that position has given me the opportunity to explore in depth how we can change to better meet the expectations of our “external customers,” those who hire our graduates.

I was honored to serve as Director of High School Programs at the Central Educational Center in Newnan, Georgia during the 2003-04 school year when we were named a National Model High School by the International Center for Leadership in Education. With an enrollment of approximately 1,100 students, and growing, we could boast a five year average graduation rate of 98%. Of that 98%, 100% of them were either full-time employed in their career of study, full-time enrolled in post-secondary schools, or a combination of both within 6 weeks of leaving us. And we guaranteed their knowledge and skills.

One of the keys to our success was our implementation of a Work Ethics curriculum. Every student was evaluated every day, in every class, on the following 10 traits:

  • Attendance
  • Character
  • Teamwork
  • Appearance
  • Attitude
  • Productivity
  • Organizational Skills
  • Communication
  • Cooperation
  • Respect

We believed then, and it remains true today, that more people are fired from jobs not because they lack the technical skills to perform them,  but that they lack the work ethic skills needed to be a valued employee.

The work ethic score was a separate line on both the quarterly report card and final transcript. What is important gets measured. We shared that these were important skills and attitudes by measuring them. How else would our students understand that they were important to their futures?  Each semester, potential employers would meet with our new students to explain the work ethics program, and impress upon our kids that they placed more importance on that score than on the GPA or class rank.

The academic score, to them, was only a snapshot of what the student knew at one point in time, it was not indicative of what could be learned. They explained that they would constantly be working with their employees to upgrade their technical skills. But if they could find employees with the necessary “soft skills,” it was a win-win for all. In other words, they expected to continually teach new skills. But they would not teach attitudes. Those had to come with the employee.

Two weeks ago, I spent several days in San Antonio attending the ACT State Organization Spring Summit. I devoted most of my breakout session time to immersion into what ACT calls their Holistic Framework.

We are all familiar with the ACT test we took as juniors and seniors in high school. The beauty of working with ACT in the council role is to discover the other tools they have developed to help us help our students (internal customers) for what life expects of them once they leave us. They holistic framework is one of those tools, and it parallels what we had in place at CEC.

It consists of 4 parts:

  • Core Academic Skills: knowledge and skills necessary to perform essential tasks in core academic content.
  • Cross-Cutting Capabilities: general knowledge and skills necessary to perform essential tasks across academic content areas.
  • Behavioral Skills: interpersonal, self-regulatory, and task-related behaviors important for adaptation to and successful performance in education and workplace settings.
  • Education and Career Navigation Skills: focuses on what individuals know about themselves and their environments, and how they use this information to make choices, plan actions, and move along their education and career paths.

There are significant parallels between education and work success, they are multi-dimensional, so readiness for both naturally should focus on diverse sets of knowledge and skills.

Last week, our Council presented our ACT Workplace Success Exemplar award to Boeing Helena in recognition of the work they do with the Helena School District, Helena College, and the greater Helena community. During our conversation with their leadership team, we asked what they looked for in employees. Not surprisingly, they told us the same things we had learned at CEC, skills will be continually taught and upgraded, attitudes need to be part of the hiring portfolio.

So how are we doing in this area? Are we focusing so much on the academics and test scores that we are short-changing the attitudes and traits the external customers need from our graduates?

This was weekend reading recently…

I suggest that SBAC, PAARC, ACT and SAT, with their focus on teaching and the acquisition of knowledge, aren’t going to help us prepare our graduates for this kind of work. But a multi-dimensional approach based on learning and the application of attitudes along with knowledge and skills will certainly help us better meet the needs of our external customers.

The good people in Helena, Montana get it! The discussion between the leadership at Boeing, the Helena School District and Helena College was about creating processes and programs that will ensure prepared graduates at every level, and will allow Boeing to continue to be an industry leader.

Hope springs eternal!

The Torch Is Passed

Little late getting this written for the #Compelled Tribe, but here is my vacation journal from Spring Break 2017.

This year, it was all about the KiddRock17 wedding in Yuma, Arizona. Sheila Kidd, the oldest daughter of my older brother, was joined in matrimony with Rocky Laguna, a fine American, a nephew to be very proud to have in our family.

My brother and I are all that’s left of our side of the family, our parents and sister having already passed. We get along famously, but distance between Montana, Colorado, and Arizona means we don’t see each other as often as we would like. KiddRock17 made is possible for the families to gather for something not called a “Celebration of Life,” an event all too common at our point in life.

This trip included Spring Training baseball in Phoenix with my youngest niece, Rockies/Royals, my two favorite teams. Unfortunately, one of them lost, but an afternoon at the ballpark with special people is never time wasted.

Our son, daughter-in-law, and youngest grandson joined us mid-week. Time on the golf course with your son is also always special. No birdie putts fell, but none were left short of the cup. And it is only March, lots of golf in our future.

Not that anyone enjoys getting up at 4:00am while on vacation, but when it means a hike up the mountains to see the sun rise over the desert with your sister-in-law, it was well worth missing a few hours of sleep. Time to talk, catch up on stuff, and be thankful for a glorious sun rise seen from the top of a mountain is a treasured memory.

The wedding was, as they all are, a very special time with family and friends. And it was a beautiful ceremony, held outside on the grounds of the Yuma Territorial Prison. Can only hope Rocky understands the metaphor….

Best of all was time with family. The oldest member of our branch of the family tree, age 93, was able to get acquainted with the youngest member of the branch, age 6 weeks. Grandson will remember the event only by looking at pictures and sharing in the stories, but that is how history is passed along.

New lives started that day, congratulations to the newlyweds. Two remarkable families became one, the Kidd family and the Laguna family are embarking on some amazing adventures. And one very special photograph has been added to the family history and tradition.

The torch has been passed to a new generation…


imageAnd so it goes…

On This Day

April 12, 1961 was a day that the world was forever changed.

In less than 2 hours , Yuri Gagarin  “slipped the surly bonds of earth, and danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings.” *

I was an elementary school student that day, my eyes saw the reports of his flight.

My eyes have also seen all that followed. They were in the Lincoln Elementary School  gymnasium watching television on February 20, 1962, when John Glenn became the first American to orbit earth. They were in the gymnasium at the Chase Elementary School on January 28, 1986 when we watched Space Shuttle Challenger explode shortly after launch.

My eyes have seen both the triumphs and the tragedies.  They have shed tears at both.

Personal sidebar – our son started working for Lockheed-Martin after his high school graduation. His first project was to work with four men the ages of his parents to build heat shields for Mars Rovers Spirit and Opportunity. These eyes also watched the reports as both landed successfully on the Martian surface. His heat shields worked. And our son, at age 18, built something that has littered another planet. We wouldn’t have thought that possible on the night he was born, but life has a way of changing from what we expect at some point in time.  End personal sidebar

They have seen many changes in many aspects of life, except for our schools.

I work in a middle school that is not fundamentally different from the junior high I attended. I have worked in elementary schools that were not fundamentally different from Lincoln Elementary School in the early 1960’s. We do some things differently, but schedules haven’t changed. Groupings of students haven’t changed. For the most part, attitudes haven’t changed.

I have also worked in schools that have been classified as “Pockets of Excellence.” They were fundamentally different from the schools I attended. Schedules were different, groupings were different, they were about learning more than they were about teaching. Because they were grounded in attitudes and beliefs that had changed. The irony is that they were considered Pockets of Excellence, not mainstream schools.

Every day, I am honored to be part of the lives of about 1,100 adolescents. What will their eyes have seen by the time they are the ages of their parents? What will they have seen by the time they are my age?

Are we preparing them to litter another planet?

Or pass a test?

“Up, up the long delirious burning blue, I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace, where never lark, or even eagle, flew; and, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod the high untrespassed sanctity of space, put out my hand and touched the face of God.” *

I want for our students what I wanted for our children. I hope we are creating more litterbugs.

And so it goes…

*High Flight – John G. Magee, Jr.


It all goes back to relationships!




Relationships are the essential element in our schools. The old adage, “Kids don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” is true especially in today’s society when kids are used to so much choice in their world. Also, in today’s busy world, it’s important for teachers and school staff to make positive connections with students. We must be intentional and taking time with these relationships must be purposeful.


Members of the Compelled Tribe have teamed up to share practical ways for educators to build relationships with students. As connected educators we also embrace the notion that it is the power of the team that drives much of what we do. How do you build relationships with those that you serve? See the list below for ideas to add to what you may be already doing in the buildings and districts in which you work.


  1. Greet students at the door. Smile and call them by name. Tell them you are glad to see them.
  2. Ask your students to share three things about themselves. Let them choose what they share. Keep them on index cards to help make connections throughout the year.
  3. Know your students families. As important as it is to know the students, make the connection to home. Great relationships with your kids starts where they kick off their day. As the year continues and both the good and bad arise, having that connection will be crucial to getting the results you are seeking.
  4. Journal writing is an activity to get to know your students well and give students a voice in the classroom.
  5. Make positive phone calls home especially within the first two weeks of the school year.
  6. Genius Hour/Passion Projects really give teachers an opportunity to learn about student passions.
  7. Have kids make something that represents them out of Play-dough and share.
  8. In the first couple of days of school, learn the first name of every student in your first class of the day, and something personal and unique about them that has nothing to do with your first class of the day.
  9. Be vulnerable!  Let your guard down and show your students that you are a learner, you make mistakes, and persevere.  They will see you as a person, opening the door for a relationship built on trust. Share stories about yourself as a learner or challenges you’ve faced when you were there age and help them see what it took to overcome it. It’s easy to forget how much a simple connection can make the difference.
  10. Eat together.  Have breakfast with a small group of kids or join them at the lunch table.  Gathering around meal time provides an informal way to have conversations and get to know your students.
  11. Hold Monday morning meetings (We call them “Weekend News Updates”).  Ask each student to share about their weekend – good or bad.  Ask questions.  Be sure to share about your weekend too!  Occasionally bring in breakfast or make hot chocolate.
  12. Laugh with them. Frequently. Show them that school, and your class, is just not about learning stuff. It is about sharing an experience. Tell them you missed them if they were out.
  13. Keep in touch with past students.  Show past students that you do not have a 1 year contract with them.  The ongoing relationship will also model to your current students the value of a positive classroom community.
  14. At the elementary level — hold morning meeting everyday as a class and stick to the routine of greeting, sharing, team building activity, and morning message.  This is a sacred time to build and maintain a culture of risk tasking and building relationships.
  15. Send positive postcards home to every child. Have them address it on the first day of the quarter, keep them and challenge yourself to find at least one thing each quarter to celebrate about your students, let them and their parents know.
  16. Find their interests and what motivates them! Sometimes it may take a bit to break down barriers and build trust, but through being genuine and authentic with them this will happen in no time.
  17. Make personal phone calls to parents. Find one good thing to say about the children in your class.  It can be how they contributed to a class discussion or how well mannered they are in class or in the halls. For older students it can be how diligent a student is at learning challenging content.
  18. Share something about yourself that they will find relevant or interesting to extend your relationships with students.
  19. Tell a story from a time you were their age. This approach allows students to see teachers as they once were and make connections easier to establish and maintain.
  20. Create a unique handshake or symbol for each of your students.  Use it when you greet them at the door or say goodbye.
  21. Eat lunch with a group of kids throughout the week. They will enjoy a time dedicated just to them. (And you will enjoy a peaceful lunch!)
  22. As a school, hold monthly celebrations to recognize students and educators their accomplishments.
  23. Take pictures with students. Print. Write a special note on the back to the student.
  24. At the end of a term or year, write a thank you to students telling them what you have learned from them. Be specific and honest – authenticity goes a long way. Try to make the note handwritten if possible, but email works well too.
  25. Each day write two students a personal  note about something that you have noticed about them.  Go into some detail and be specific. Keep track of who you reach out to over the year and try and reach as many students as you can. The time you spend doing this will deepen connections and pay off 10 fold.
  26. Have dance parties! It is so fun to let loose and get down with students. Students love seeing you have fun with them, and the saying goes, “The class that dances together, stays together”.
  27. Play with students at recess or during a free time. Climb the monkey bars, play kickball, or tag. Students will never forget you connecting with them on the playground.
  28. Hang out in the hall to give high fives or to have quick conversations with students. Relationship-building can be squeezed into any time of the day.
  29. Notice students having a bad day. Ask questions without prying. Show that you care. Follow up the next day, week, etc.
  30. When a student is having a rough day, ask if he/she has eaten. We are all more unreasonable when we are hungry. Keep a supply of snacks on hand (ex: breakfast bars, crackers, etc).
  31. Go see students at their events: sports, theater, dance, volunteering. Meet parents and families.
  32. When a student stops to say “Hello” and has a friend in tow, introduce yourself and be sure that the guest feels important.
  33. Stop class from time to time with a comment such as, “Hey, everyone, Katie just asked me a great question. I think you’ll all benefit from this. Katie, could you repeat that for everyone?”
  34. Sing “Happy Birthday” to students; send birthday emails (I use “Boomerang” to schedule my birthday emails each month).
  35. Say “I missed you yesterday” when a student has been absent. Be sincere.
  36. We have to make time to grow relationships with our students. This time can not always be in a planner or a calendar. Sometimes, this simply means just being there for your students.
  37. Mail them a postcard for their birthday. They are always amazed to receive personal mail!
  38. In a leadership position, learn as many names as you can. Greet students by their name as often as you are able.
  39. Music! Bond with your students over music. Play soft classical music while they are working. Incorporate music/songs into special events or lessons.
  40. Classroom: Start a compliment jar. Share comments at the end of class or randomly throughout the day. School: Do shout-outs during morning (or afternoon) announcements/news show.
  41. Smile and make eye contact.  “Good morning”, “Good afternoon”.  Something as simple as a greeting in the hall with smile and eye contact conveys both warmth & safety.  Try it tomorrow.
  42. First day of math class have them choose 10 numbers that are significant to them (3 for number of cats, 1 for brothers, 20 for number of hours they work, etc.).  Everyone shares out.  You will learn lots about all your students in one day.
  43. Cut them some slack every now and then.  “What were you doing?  What should you have been doing?  Can you do that for me next time?”  We all make mistakes.
  44. Hold class celebrations and have students develop unique cheers for various accomplishments…these can be anything from a sports team victory, to being selected for something, to earning a grade, and they need not be school related.
  45. Allen Mendler’s 2×10 strategy for challenging students. Spend 2 minutes per day for 10 consecutive days talking to a student about something not academic.
  46. Share your own goals, successes/failures. Don’t be a mystery to your students.
  47. After morning announcements have students participate in a daily discussion question.  Have a student read the question and set a timer for two and a half minutes.  Each person turns to a partner and answers the question then volunteers share with the whole class.  Each question, in some way, will help you get to know your students.
  48. Halfway through the year, have your parents and students fill out a feedback form.  In my classroom, these forms look different.  Allow them to evaluate you so you can keep what works and change things that aren’t working.
  49. In your summer introduction letter, include a letter asking parents to write about their children in 1,000,000 words or less.  Keep the assignment voluntary and open so they tell you what is most important to them.
  50. Don’t be too busy to truly listen.  Listen to understand, not to respond.  Are you starting a lesson when a student interrupts and tells you they are moving?  Take the minute to hear them out.  That time will mean more to the student than the first minute of the lesson ever will.
  51. When students get stuck in class, teach the other students to cheer them on.  We do a simple, “Come on, [Name], you can do it,” followed by three seconds of clapping.
  52. Teach students call and responses to uplift each other.  When a student responds with something profound and someone loves it, that student gets to start the cheer.
  53. When you check in with groups to give them feedback or see how it’s going, make sure you are seeing them eye-to-eye.  If they’re sitting, don’t stand.  Pull up a chair next to them.  If they’re sitting on the floor, sit down on the floor next to them to avoid standing over them.
  54. Give honest feedback even when it may not be positive.  Your students will appreciate that you expect more out of them than they’re showing.
  55. Create a “You Matter” wall.  Take fun pictures of each of your students.  Print each photo and put each student’s photo in an 8×10 frame.  Hang them all on your wall under a “You Matter” heading.  At the end of the year, send the photos home with students.
  56. Tell them what was hard for you when you went through school and how you worked to overcome the challenges.  It shows they aren’t the only ones who struggle.
  57. Defend your students in front of other people.
  58. Take risks so students feel comfortable doing the same.  Don’t ask them to do anything you wouldn’t do.
  59. Create something that is unique to your class.  For us, it’s a house competition.  It’s something that connects my past students and current students.  It’s also a family bond that only the students who have been in my class understand.
  60. Apologize when you make a mistake.
  61. Cook together and then you can eat family style in the classroom. Some fun and easy crockpot meals: applesauce, vegetable soup, chicken and dumplings. Then, make cupcakes for dessert!
  62. Every so often, take the pulse of your building according to students. Convene a volunteer roundtable with student reps from various groups (athletes, scholars, quiet, loud) and ask them for critical feedback about topics you are working on. Some ideas I’ve seen discussed in this format include schoolwide incentives (assemblies, sledding event, etc.), dress code, and discussing recess options for winter.
  63. During your informal walk throughs, saddle up right next to students and ask them the purpose of the lesson they are involved in. Why do you think the teacher is asking you to work on this? You’ll be more than surprised with the honest feedback.
  64. Bring board games back! Add a few games like Checkers, Uno or Chess to your lunch table options. See if any students are willing to play a game or two with you and others.
  65. Use sidewalk chalk to decorate the entry of your building with positive messages to students. Have teachers help you write and draw the notes!
  66. Leave nice notes on post-its for students on the outside of their lockers. Recruit other students to help spread the kindness throughout many lockers!
  67. Forgive them when they make mistakes. Remind them that mistakes are opportunities for learning. Don’t hold grudges against misbehavior and don’t allow other adults to hold them either.
  68. Make time for dismissal. Tell them you can’t wait to see them tomorrow and share high fives on the way out!
  69. Notice which students still don’t have money to pay for lunch. Help them out when you can. Treat them to a snack they don’t usually get to purchase at lunch time.
  70. Find special projects that need to be done around school and recruit the most unlikely helpers.
  71. Remind your students you and your staff were all kids once too. Have your team bring in pictures of themselves as children (at the ages you have in your school). Post them and have a contest allowing students to guess which teacher is which. Those 80s pictures are the most popular!
  72. My favorite question to ask my students or any student I come in contact with is what are you into lately? This opens communication with your students and let’s them know you are interested.
  73. Allow students to do a job shadow. Give them a peek into what you do and how you make daily decisions.
  74. Host an ice cream social for students that meet certain goals.


The list will grow as our experiences and our connections grow. Feel free to reach out to any of the Tribe members listed below to learn more about the power of our team and how our tribe constantly supports each other in our teaching, leading and learning.


Compelled Tribe Contributors:


Jennifer Hogan, The Compelled Educator  @Jennifer_Hogan

Jonathon Wennstrom, Spark of Learning  @jon_wennstrom

Craig Vroom, Fueling Education, @Vroom6

Allyson Apsey, Serendipity in Education, @allysonapsey

Sandy King Inspiring The Light @sandeeteach

Gary Kidd Reflections and Rants from the Asst Principal, @hinotewailer

Jacie Maslyk    @DrJacieMaslyk

Jodie Pierpoint  Journey In Learning @jodiepierpoint

Jim Cordery   Mr. Cordery’s Blog  @jcordery

Allie Bond   The Positive Teacher @Abond013

Angie Murphy ConnectED to Learning @RoyalMurph_RRMS

Karen Wood @karenwoodedu

Lindsey Bohler @Lindsey_Bohler

Starr Sackstein @MsSackstein

Debbie Campbell The Curious Educator @DebraLCamp

Michael McDonough M Squared at the Microphone @m_squaredBHS

Barbara Kurtz @BJKURTZ

Stephanie Jacobs @MsClassNSession

Michael Todd Clinton Motivated teacher blog  @MotivatedThe

Cathy Jacobs @cathyjacobs5

Reed Gillespie Mr. Gillespie’s Office @rggillespie

Molly Babcock Sweet Tea and a Live Oak Tree @MollyBabcock

Lisa Meade Reflections @LisaMeade23