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Showing posts from 2012

Wisdom for Wannabes: Encouragement from a New Principal

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Every fall semester, I begin a new journey with aspiring school leaders who quickly have their eyes and minds thrown open by new, sometimes conflicting ideas, possibilities and controversies as they try to understand school leadership from a broad perspective. I call it the balcony view. They probably tire of the phrase.
Inevitably, we spend time talking about how simple and straightforward good school leadership looks from the safety of a comfortable chair, newspaper article, politician’s stump speech, corporate board room, faculty lounge, or classroom or office tucked away in the Ivory Tower. And every fall semester, through those messy and often long-running conversations, I’m encouraged by the passion, level of commitment and desire to do good work I see in our students.
A couple years ago, I asked Tara Estep (@TaraEstep), one of our program graduates and a new principal, to participate in a blogging project with my class of aspiring principals. I knew Tara, who is as good as th…

The Cure

A few weeks ago, I jumped into the Panther Car for meetings with aspiring principals and their mentors. Farmers were working, small town windows had been painted for homecoming and, save for the familiar descent into the cesspool that is political advertising, it was a great day to be out.

I had a few excellent meetings with my students, who are spending a large chunk of money and even larger amounts of time and effort learning to be principals. In class and online, we talk extensively about why they want to lead schools, what they have to offer, and their vision for kids' opportunities. They are among the most inquisitive, coachable, intellectually curious people I've met. And it's refreshing.

On my way back to campus, I caught a couple former students who are in their first year as principals on the phone. I heard about the daily trials that are familiar to anyone who has spent time leading schools--working with teachers to develop plans to get off the NCLB naughty list…

Where it All Started

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Winterset, IA, July 29, 2008. My buddy Brad Jackson decides to show everyone he can still throw me around.


Winterset, IA, July 28, 2012. The dude's still got it. Yeah, and that's still Jeff Olson standing beside us, holding a beer. Might be telling the same joke. Not sure.


Fort Pierce, FL, September 9, 2012. Scott Van Duzer, a Republican, hoists POTUS.


Fort Pierce, FL, September 12, 2012. Scott is at it again, this time with former Florida Governor (and former Republican) Charlie Crist.


I know how this stuff goes viral. My mom said the other day she thinks my boy Brad and I started the whole deal. I'm pretty sure she's right.

Gutted and Guarded: What Counts as a Good Day

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A long time ago, I worked for an unorthodox, character of a superintendent. Predictably and like many in positions of authority, public opinion on him was mixed. Some hated him and others loved him. I was in the latter group. In fact, most of the folks I thought were working hard to do the right things for kids felt as I did. Though resources were less than minimal, he worked damn hard to provide people with the things they needed to help move kids forward.

Lots of the things he did (and said) do not appear in any of the educational leadership textbooks on my office shelves. But above everything else, I remember something he taught me: the importance of a sense of humor. When I would see him after school, I often asked "How was your day?" Often his answer was, "Really kind of shitty. Almost nothing was funny." Point taken, lesson learned.

I'm a lot more orthodox and by-the-book (sometimes to my detriment) than this former superintendent, but he helped me learn…

Coming Alive With Dead and Gone

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Hi.  My name is Alison and I am excited Dr. Pace asked me to be a guest blogger!  When it comes to blogs I am a long time reader, first time blogger.  I am currently in Dr. Pace’s class at UNI in the Ed Leadership program.  I keep plenty busy with two jobs and school; keeps me on my toes!
I lived on the east side of Des Moines when I was younger, but my family moved to a quiet suburb when I was in 2nd grade.  My parents ran out of things to say when my brother and I asked why our bikes kept getting stolen.  The final straw was a man who broke in and was found sleeping in our house.  We landed in suburbia.  Everyone I went to school with looked like me and we all had similar religious beliefs. I was there from third through twelfth grades and was quite happy and comfortable.  If you would have asked me then what I would be doing as an adult, there is NO way I would have every guessed I would be working with alternative high school students and loving it!
Currently, I am finishing up my…

A Mr. Slinger Kind of Day

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I didn't want to run this morning, but I always feel better if i do. So I did. That was good.

Arrived at my office with the intention of spending some time on a book project that is now due much sooner than it once was. As is often the case, the day played out differently than my Google Calendar indicated it would.

The first order of business was to help get some doctoral students situated for writing their comprehensive exams. They started at 9 am and it is after 3 pm now. Several are still applying what they know to some challenging questions. Reminded me of what an important step this is on their personal and professional journeys. That's cool.

Then I started digging into some end of the semester things. Made some comments and notes on a final chapter in a book that my excellent future principals from Iowa's Urban Education Network have been reading. Emailed that to them, as class time in our final meeting next Monday will be devoted to them sharing action research pro…

The Mustang Stealth Defense, renewed

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I revisited the Mustang Stealth Defense this weekend after saying goodbye to my friend Steve Clark after his battle with lymphoma. I'll miss his loyalty, work ethic, and sense of humor. That was a good man. Through some tears, it was good to revisit the Stealth. Sad as we are, we also know how much Steve loved a good laugh. And that night in Eddyville gave us many over the years. Here's the story, again, for those who have forgotten and for the first time for those unfortunate to only learn of it now.

Saw this beauty a couple of weeks ago and laughed out loud.





In the interest of self-disclosure, I'm part guilty and part proud, in a tongue-in-cheek, can't believe that happened kind of way. On a cold winter night in about 1997, I was coaching basketball at Davis County High School. We were in a tough road game in Eddyville, IA and not playing particularly well. As I recall, there was a timeout and we made a substitution to try and bring some life to our defense.

The pla…