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It Works Every Time

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I've said it for years. When I'm busy, behind, frustrated or increasingly concerned about the state of the world (which happens a lot), I have to get out; out of my office and into schools, that is. So last week, I spent part of the quiet period for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln spring break on the road visiting educational leaders in Western Nebraska. And is the case every single time I head out, I came back reenergized, renewed, and reassured about the future. I entitled this round the #NebraskaEDADSpringBreakTour so I could share my travels and learning via Twitter.

In Gothenburg, I met with the leadership team of the Gothenburg Public Schools. I heard about the way their teachers have embraced learning communities, the number of students engaged in Future Farmers of America, the donated greenhouse that's operated by students who develop business plans, apply for loans, and reinvest the profits. I heard from Superintendent Dr. Michael Teahon, who earned his doctora…

Looking Forward. And West

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In August of 1987, my mom dropped a high school buddy and me off at Rider Hall at the University of Northern Iowa. We piled out of a Chevy station wagon that looked a lot like this beauty.


That August day was the start of something remarkable. The lessons I learned as a student-athlete shaped me in ways that continue today, sometimes without me realizing it. Those intense five years, however, were only the beginning, Now, almost thirty years later, I'm transitioning to the Department of Educational Administration at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where I have the tremendous honor of serving as the new department chair.  The excitement of the transition has me reflecting on so many things.

The lump I've had in my throat as I choked my way though multiple farewells this spring reappeared tonight, as I wrote notes to colleagues with whom I've been so deeply honored to serve.

Rather than focusing on the change as a physical separation and an ending, I frame it differentl…

Players Make Plays

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I've been on a hiatus from blogging for a while now, but that doesn't mean nothing's been on my mind. Quite the contrary. Syria. The election. Police. It's all hard to turn off. But something happened last week that sent me back to the Balcony View. Thankfully, I remembered my password.

Players make plays is probably my favorite sports saying. The line between the joy and despair of athletics is often microscopic. When the stakes are high and the outcome uncertain, someone has to make a play. Coaches talk about players who want the ball in their hands at that moment. They don't fear failure. They just want to make the play.

Paul Jesperson's half court shot that lifted the Panthers over Texas in the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament comes to mind.  A player doing what he does. Happy for the opportunity.


I'm not one to confuse sports with more important things in life, but it's true that there are so many parallels.

Our department has had the priv…

Nowhere Else

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Nine years ago, I began a role play activity for aspiring principals called A Day in the Office (DITO). I placed aspiring principals in a black box theater with a mock office. One by one, volunteer actors come to see the principals. Most are somewhere between concerned and off-the-chart angry about something. As in the real world, the future principals have to listen, respond, empathize and we hope, deescalate. We don't just throw them to the wolves, though. Among other things, we spend time preparing them with a visit from a police officer who does deescalation training and a theater professor who specializes in professional presence.

The exercise became a hallmark of the way we nurture and develop future principals and grew into my second book, The Principal's Hot Seat:Observing Real-World Dilemmas



Over the years, we've had some memorable encounters. I won't give much away, because DITO IX is slated for this June, but one particular encounter reappeared last week in…

Do You Have Something New?

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When I coached high school basketball, I would buy a new tie when district tournaments came along. Unfortunately, I didn't always get to wear it very long, as my teams were eliminated sooner than I would have liked. As a teacher, I often did the same thing--grabbing a new poster or something for the classroom at the start of the year.

As a professor, I do the same thing most years. A few years ago it was a cactus for my office. I figured I could keep a cactus alive, even through my fifth floor window that might or might not have been washed since the first Clinton Administration. More recently, it was a chute of bamboo. Both are struggling today.

A few months ago, I went with my son's club basketball team to Spiece Fieldhouse in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. Felt like a basketball Mecca. While there, I took this photo


I'm not a huge Bob Knight fan, but I loved my first trip to Assembly Hall last winter and am a huge fan of this statement. Haven't seen much better.

Besides some …

In the Shadow of the Statue of Liberty

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I read a story online about how Rich Eychaner has launched a group called 1000 Kids for Iowa, aiming to house and care for some of the refugee children who have arrived at the southern border of the US. I've read about conditions south of the border--the poverty, exploitation, corruption, drug trade, human trafficking. I looked a little more and read stories about the journey across Central America and Mexico--in and on top of railroad cars, on foot, you name it.  I subsequently read about how Honduras is the murder capital of the world. This guy's blog is a great one, if you wanna think a little.

I thought about parents who, unlike me, are not reading about those conditions; they're living them. What must it be like to decide between  risking death and keeping a family together or sending your children cross country for the chance of life in a better place, knowing full well the dangers of the trip and that you may never see them again? What is it like the moment you dec…

Zach McCabe and Teddy Roosevelt

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I was disappointed but not surprised to hear about nimrods on Twitter attacking University of Iowa basketball player Zach McCabe for his performance in a recent game. And Fran McCaffery telling his players to shut down their accounts is understandable, though some have argued that doesn't really address the problem.

It is, however, good to see McCabe getting support from those who get it--his teammates, coaches, family, friends, fans, and others who know what it's like to put everything you have into something, only to lose and take criticism form a world of no-nothings and do-nothings.

I'm a recovering social studies teacher, which partially explains my affinity for quotes. All this reminds me of a hellagood one from Teddy Roosevelt. I had it hanging in my classroom when I was a high school basketball coach trying to build a new, positive winning culture in our basketball program. The sign was many years before Twitter, but TR's wisdom holds true today.


In a 1910 spe…