Have you ever stopped to think or have been told that ‘there is more?’ In the educational setting, we usually hear a second part of that phrase which goes something like “…to do.” More mandates, more tests, more requirements, etc. Although this is often the case, I challenge us to complete the phrase with “..to be.” There is more to be for our students, colleagues, and parents. This state of being is a constant ebb and flow of how our conscious actions can enable each group to reach greater depths of personal and professional fulfillment.

I share with the staff at Kelly Mill Elementary, that we certainly want academically successful students, but an equally important goal, is in helping our students, colleagues and parents be the best people they can be. In order to reach this goal, “There is More…”


The world of education is in constant evolution as we strive to improve the quality of the learning experience for all students. We have our own lingo, and it does not take you long to realize that within the educational world there are lots of ways to say things. We spend lots of our own money on resources aimed at creating a challenging learning environment. We speak of differentiating, increasing the rigor, developing critical thinking skills and using higher-order questions as means to deepening the academic experience for our learners.   We spend countless hours in professional development sessions learning new strategies. In fact, just look at the session agenda of any educational conference where you will find lots of sessions on “How You Can Have a Challenging and Differentiated, Rigorous Classroom Where Critical Thinking Skills are Developed Through Asking Higher Order Questions.” 

Just google the word differentiation and you get no less than 16 millions hits. Wow! With all of this emphasis on what these types of learning environments should be, we often neglect to talk about how things are in getting to these types of classrooms.

Let’s face it. It’s awkward. What do I mean by that? In our best intentions and desires to have a challenging classroom, we do not mention that it creates a time of awkwardness on the part of the teacher and learner. This awkwardness, or sense of being uncomfortable, is created when the learner struggles to achieve at higher levels. This can be seen in the form of students struggling before they answer, being unsure about what to do, students who typically respond with confidence getting things ‘wrong,’ et cetera. In reality, it is this awkwardness that you WANT within your classroom as you are designing an academically challenging class or school. If the instructional level presented by the teacher does not create a sense of dissonance (uncomfortable), then is the instruction at the appropriate level? Instead of this awkwardness causing the teacher and learner to give up, it should be seen as a sign of success and a step toward getting the type of learning environment that matches the learner’s needs.

If struggle indicates strength — an ability to face down the challenges that inevitably occur when you are trying to learn something — you’re more willing to accept it. (MindShift)

So, embrace this uncomfortable feeling as you are intentional about raising the level of instruction in your classroom. It’s a good thing!

Experience Doesn’t Make You Better, Only Evaluated Experience Makes You Better. (Dr. Howard G. Hendricks)

I recently heard this quote in a series by Andy Stanley. As I began to think about this statement, I continued to see its application within the educational setting and mentoring aspects of leadership and leader and teacher development. Educators know that providing descriptive feedback to the learner is a critical element for learning and growth.

Marzano and others have long researched the benefits of consciously providing feedback to the learner.

W. Fred Mizer stated, ‘Feedback is an objective description of a student’s performance intended to guide future performance.’ Teachers have long understood that the more specific they are in their feedback to the student, the higher the ensuing achievement of the learner. No longer are ‘Good Job’ or Smiley-Face stickers appropriate for providing feedback about learning. Feedback is specific and non-judgmental. It is merely a statement of what was observed and what can be done to improve the next time.

The same goes for educational leaders responsible for providing feedback to the instructional staff. No longer are comments like ‘Good Job’ or ‘I enjoyed the lesson’ appropriate as end conversations about the teaching and learning that has taken place in our classrooms.

With the renewed interest in teacher evaluation systems and the emphasis on learner outcomes, it is important that current educators realize that our emphasis is also on the input. As Dr. Hendricks stated, it is ‘evaluated experience’ that improves practice. We must embrace the benefits of descriptive feedback that we can both provide and receive from colleagues. Too often we simply reflect on our practice by answering, ‘What worked? What needs to be improved?’ Please do not misunderstand me. These are valuable questions to ask, but we also need to utilize the benefits of having someone else provide feedback to us in the course of our daily practice in order to effectively answer these questions.

As building leaders, we must continue to provide the kind of descriptive feedback to teachers of all levels in order to promote growth and the best instruction for all of our learners, student and adult.

The next time that someone says ‘Experience makes you better,’ remember that only ‘evaluated experience’ makes you better.



I have to admit that I have found a recent addiction to the TV channel, TCM, as it has featured its ‘31 Days of Oscar.’  I have heard of many of the titles, but have not actually seen many of them until this past few days while I have been completing homework for my doctoral program. (Yes, I know…focus on the homework).

I truly appreciate what the actors, producers, directors, musicians, and the technical casts have accomplished in such treasures as Singin’ In The Rain, Lawrence of Arabia, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Now , Voyager…I could go on and on. There are so many great films that we should remember.

One of the films, Now, Voyager, was new to me so I was especially interested in seeing it since it featured one of my favorite actresses, Bette Davis.  She pays the role of a young lady who goes through a transformation reminiscent of ‘The Ugly Ducking.’  It was a heart-warming story of her attempts to find herself and then help in the transformation of someone who reminds her of her own story.  The movie ends with Charlotte Vale (Bette Davis) and her friend, Jerry, standing at the library window looking at the sky.  Charlotte looks to Jerry and says, ‘Oh, Jerry, don’t let’s ask for the moon. We have the stars.’

‘Oh, Jerry, don’t let’s ask for the moon. We have the stars.’

I thought, ‘Yes, Charlotte! You understand.” (I now know that many others agree since this particular line is one of the most famous closing lines in all of cinema. Thanks, TCM for adding that bit of trivia).

I thought about my present circumstances with the opportunity to open a new elementary school in the fall, and I find that the more I visit the new school, @KellyMillES (Kelly Mill Elementary), the more excited I become about the possibilities that exist.

As I have been talking with some amazing teacher candidates, I have noticed that this enthusiasm and excitement are contagious!  The more we talk about creating the KME Family, I find myself sharing the vision of being the best school in the state (yes, I DO think it is possible and that you can intentionally design and structure events to cause that to be the likely outcome), and I ask the question, ‘What Can’t We?’

Like Charlotte and Jerry, why should we settle for ‘reaching the moon’ when ‘reaching the stars’ should be our goal?  Too often in education we settle for ‘the moon.’  Sure, it’s no minor feat to reach ‘the moon,’ but we often settle for that when with a little more determination, focus, passion, and fortitude we could help our students ‘reach the stars.’ After all…aren’t they worth it?

I have recently been appointed as the Principal of a new school opening in August. I am so excited as well as deeply appreciative of this rare opportunity.

As part of the intentional efforts to bring together a new community of learners and create a school family, I have been conducting Parent Meet-and-Greets. We answer questions that the Parents have identified as important to them and share some goals that will make the school family a success.

After one of these sessions, a parent asked a question that stood out to me. ‘Can you really do that?’ she asked.

My brain immediately thought of the lyrics to a Gaye Marvin song, It Takes Two. some of the lyrics are

To make a dream come true, just takes two

A typical educational response would be similar to these lyrics – we would say it takes home and school-and that would be correct, but my response was a little different.

My response was ‘Yes, absolutely, but it takes three things -strong school leadership, strong teachers, and strong parent support. Great things don’t happen just because we want them to but because we intentionally position things to increase the likelihood that great things happen.

So, it takes two isn’t exactly the full story…