Monday, April 27, 2015

Nowhere Else

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 a really good way.

Last summer, aspiring principal Matt Ohnemus


from Dewitt Central High School was paired with my college teammate, friend, DITO veteran and all-around winner Jonathan Cox.


I won't share the specifics of their exchange, but Jon was a handful, to put it delicately. There was little Matt could say that was helpful. At one particularly memorable point in their exchange, Jon asked Matt in a matter of words if he wanted to get physical.

Last Friday, I was headed to Dewitt Central High School for Matt's portfolio presentation, at which he highlighted the experiences he's had during his 20 months in our principalship program. It struck me that it might be fun to have Jon give Matt a call on his big day. Just like his nine years of DITO volunteering, Jon was all over it and eagerly made the call.

Jon reached Matt at school and they shared some laughs about the firework-filled exchange last summer. Jon congratulated him on nearing completion of his master's in educational leadership. He also told Matt not to take any BS from Dr. Pace during the presentation.

In Dewitt, I got to meet Matt's parents and wife, who attended his presentation. He shared how his entire family knows the story of his DITO experience. He also said Jon's call made his day. Hearing that made mine. Telling Jon what Matt said made his.

Matt, who recently interviewed for a model teacher position asked rhetorically, "Where else does that happen but UNI?"

Nowhere, Matt.