In The Next Five Days

Sometimes the thought of right now can be overwhelming! We have so much going on in our lives that we feel we cannot add one more thing to our already full plates.

I did not write this post to convince you otherwise. I wrote this post to give you and others and myself a different way of thinking about things that does not involve right now.

Because let’s be honest.

Right now is scary! And when we put right now demands on our brain it usually reacts in one of two ways.

Why Right Now Doesn’t Work

1. Our brain believes it has no other alternative than to take on this new thing immediately. This often causes stress for us and those around us. It’s kind of like the difference between being pushed into a pool or just diving in. There are times when we are pushed into a pool that we do in fact stay in a little while longer. But not often. On the other hand, when we dive into a pool we often stay for quite some time. And we can’t wait to go back in the next day.


2. Our brain says “screw it” and doesn’t even consider taking on this new thing. It says this could be cool but there is no way I could do this today. It believes it can’t be bothered right now and so it dismisses it altogether. This often results in a missed opportunity that may never return. It may have even been something that we would have really enjoyed. It’s just the whole “rightnowness” of it freaks us out!

I am here to suggest a third, and I believe, much more sensible approach. Now, I realize there are times when we do in fact have to get things done right now. As a building administrator I truly get that. But these aren’t the types of things that keep us up at night. These are the events that just happen and we have to react. And we do to the best of our ability.

Here is what I am proposing:

The next time something cool, fun, exciting or even a little bit daunting comes your way, convince your brain that whatever decision/action it decided to take does not have to be started right now.

Instead get together with your brain and ask the following question:

Can We Start This in the Next Five days?

This approach will do two things.

First, it will take some pressure off of your brain and not force it to freak out and think it has to make an immediate and rushed decision.

Second, it will give your brain the confidence to take on projects/tasks/initiatives that it never would have otherwise.

Right now is scary!

But 5 days is almost always doable.

Start to Read a New Book

Don’t miss out on reading something because you don’t have the book or you don’t have the time right now.

It doesn’t matter!

But can you get the book and at least read a few pages within the next 5 days?

Probably yes. In the next five days you can either download a digital copy of the book or you can order it from Amazon and have it at your doorstep. Then just read a chapter. Not the whole book!

You can take this first step and you can do this in the next five days.

Tip to get started

Here are a few possible authors/book series just to get you started:

Todd Whitaker, Dave Burgess, Peter DeWitt and the Corwin Connected Educators Series.

Oh and here is something cool. As you are reading the books by the above authors you can tweet them and guess what? They tweet you back. It is awesome!

Try it! I guarantee it!

Start Your Own Blog

This can be intimidating because what we often see are the finished, polished products of our colleagues. Don’t tell yourself that you have to create and blog and write a piece right now.

You don’t and you won’t!

But can you start this project in five days?

I think you can.

You don’t need to send it out to the world or even publish anything for a while. But you can tinker with websites and you can begin to think about what you might want to write about.

Your site does not have to look perfect and your writing does not have to be free of mistakes. Heck you don’t even need to write in complete sentences. Remember, as William Zinnser says writing is just thinking on paper.

You can begin this project in the next five days.

Tip to get started

Here is a quick 20 minute video put together by Michael Hyatt that can help:

“How to Launch a Self-Hosted WordPress Blog in 20 Minutes or Less”

This worked for me and I am not tech savvy at all!

Become More Active on Twitter

Twitter is fast and exciting and exhilarating and can oftentimes be scary. Especially if you’re just starting out. Because you may not know where to start.

You are comfortable on the roads you know. But jumping on Twitter can be like driving on an eight lane express highway. So many folks don’t even bother to take their car out of the garage.

Here’s what you do. You find five two or three folks on Twitter that  cull through many pieces. See what they are reading and read what they read.

Take it a step further. After someone’s piece, write a comment. It doesn’t need to be profound and it doesn’t need to be long. Maybe just write a couple of sentences telling the author how much you liked their piece and how or why it resonated with you.

Twitter is intimidating! But you can read a couple of pieces and comment on them. You don’t need to do it right now, but you can do this in the next five days.

Tip to get started

Here are a few educators who always seem to find the best pieces out there:

Ben Gilpin @benjamingilpin

Star Sackstein @mssackstein

Todd Nesloney @TechNinjaTodd

Kyle Hamstra @KyleHamstra

Look them up on Twitter and simply click on a piece that interests you.

A New Way of Thinking

So there you have it.

Stop with the right now!

Ease up on yourself and teach those around you to do the same.

And just remember you can do this

In the Next Five Days!

*If you would like to have my next article and my latest podcast episode delivered to your in box just click HERE. And as an extra bonus, when you sign up for my newsletter you will receive A Teacher’s Blueprint To The Best Week Ever. This is a free, 40 page pdf designed to help you have an awesome week. It’s not what you think, trust me.


What I Learned From Sherlock

I remember eagerly awaiting the return of “Sherlock” last year. As usual, it didn’t disappoint. I watch very little television, but this is one show that captured my interest from the very first episode. Sherlock’s brilliance and ability to solve mysteries always amazes me. But it was a scene in which his sidekick, Watson, rebukes him for not knowing that the Earth rotates around the Sun, that is easily my favorite.

Sherlock: Ordinary people fill their heads with all kinds of rubbish. And that makes it hard to get at the stuff that matters. Do you see?
Watson: But it’s the solar system!
Sherlock: Oh H$%! What does that matter?! So we go around the sun. If we went around the Moon…or round and round the garden like a teddy bear it wouldn’t make any difference! All that matters to me is the work! Without that my brain rots.

While I realize that this is simply a scene from a fictional character, I think we can learn much from Sherlock’s tirade. Yes, what Watson says is true. And the fact that someone as brilliant as Sherlock was unaware of this basic astronomy is surprising.

But let’s step back for a moment. What if we, like Sherlock, didn’t know that the Earth rotated around the Sun. Would it matter? Really?

I am not lobbying for the elimination of a rudimentary knowledge of the world in which we live. On the other hand, I do believe that we are taxing our children’s brains by requiring them to memorize a lot of stuff. Stuff that shows up on multiple choice tests and quizzes and then is never needed again. But it takes up space and as Sherlock mentioned above, causes brains to rot.

How much time do we allow for students to create, explore, fail, experiment and daydream? Because this is where the magic happens. But if their brains are exhausted from memorizing, storing and regurgitating, how much do they have left? Very little I imagine.

So what can we do about this? I believe there are three things we can start tomorrow.

Eliminate Memorizing

It’s not that we shouldn’t expect our students to store stuff in their brain. We just need to go about it differently. Information should enter and latch onto the brain through assimilation. comparison and application. The days of cramming dates and formulas and lists and rules into our students’ brains need to be gone. Instead, let them enter the brain on their own. When they are ready. When they are needed. If they are needed.

Allow For Periods of Nothing

While I have no research to back this up, I believe that our students are exposed to more external stimulation than ever before. The ability to multitask is seen as a strength by many. We make checklists and have calendars so that a moment does not go unused. The problem is that this leaves no time for the brain to rest. And be clear. Once again, I realize that Sherlock is a fictional character. But if you have ever watched him in action, you know that he does his best thinking when everyone is still and quiet. Let’s try to carve out some of this for our students. For ourselves.

Assign Thought-Worthy Tasks

Once we have succeeded in creating the time and the space for our students to create and problem solve, then we must give them tools and tasks that allow them to use the newfound brain space. Simply having them fill in a worksheet or color in some bubbles is not acceptable. Doing this would be like handing a child a pack of 64 crayons and a Post It note. The odds are they would only use one or two of the crayons. We want to provide them the opportunity to use the whole pack. And maybe even the sharpener on the back! They need a sheet of poster paper and room to spread out.

Let’s make it our mission to see that our students’ brains are used for what they were designed to do. Create and design and experiment and…

Grown-ups love figures…When you tell them you’ve made a new friend they never ask you any questions about essential matters. They never say to you “What does his voice sound like? What games does he love best? Does he collect butterflies?” Instead they demand “How old is he? How much does he weigh? How much money does his father make? “Only from these figures do they think they have learned anything about him.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince


*If you would like to have my next article and my latest podcast episode delivered to your in box just click HERE. And as an extra bonus, when you sign up for my newsletter you will receive A Teacher’s Blueprint To The Best Week Ever. This is a free, 40 page pdf designed to help you have an awesome week. It’s not what you think, trust me.

How Was You Day? (Better than I first thought)

When my daughter asked me how my day went Friday, I was taken back. Not because I was surprised that she cared about my day. Her question just happened to be late. Nevertheless, my initial response was, it was okay—nothing exciting.

I am the assistant principal at an alternative school so a day in which nothing exciting happens can be a pretty good day. My daughter didn’t see it that way and she kinda felt sorry for me. I knew I had to search deeper. And then it hit me.

I did have something positive to share with her. A close friend of mine had heard some good news—awesome news really. He was so excited and as happy as I had heard him in years.

And so, you know what? So was I. His good news made me happy and I carried that joy with me with rest of the day.

Happiness doesn’t have to be a solo act. In fact, it rarely is. Think back to the times when you were your happiest or when you experienced the most joy. I bet it involved others. And I bet at least half of the time it involved someone else reaching one of their goals or someone else shining, not you.

We all know that laughter is contagious. Just try watching a video of a baby laughing and giggling without laughing too. It’s almost impossible. The same is often the case with happiness. If we witness someone else experiencing happiness or joy, we often feel happy and joyful too.

What does this have to do with education?


We have all experienced moments of joy and happiness that had nothing to do with us and everything to do with what our students were experiencing or sharing at the time.

Maybe it’s the 6-year-old student who skips into class and can’t wait to share with you what she did over the weekend. She got to bake cookies with her grandmother and it was the best day ever. Her grandmother even let her lick the bowl and have an extra cookie. But don’t tell her mom she pleads, she doesn’t want to get in trouble.

What about the middle school student that just found that the girl he has a crush on, likes him too. You know that this budding romance won’t last long, but his happiness brings a smile to your face. You’ll be there when it is over and you’ll be there when he has his next crush.

Finally, how about when the high school senior that you’ve been working with since 9th grade shows you their acceptance letter to the college of their dreams. They can’t believe it, even though you can because you’ve been watching them grow for the past four years.

You see, we may have days that are tough, stressful and just plain suck. But, if we can take our focus off ourselves and what we are going through, I am certain we can find students who can lift us up. Or even if we are having a good day, students have the power to make it even better. I had one such day several years ago.


These are the folks that you spend the majority of your waking hours with. You laugh with them and you cry with them. During the course of a school year, you will all have ups and downs. And it’s hard not to take on the stress and frustrations of those that we are close with.

Since that is the case, why don’t we try harder to share in our colleagues’ joy? I know we have baby showers, birthday parties and such. But what about day to day victories? We’re all not going to have them individually, but we will have them collectively.

Maybe at the end of the day you and your team, or your partner or your staff come together and share what went well. As I mentioned, we all won’t have victories every day. But someone in the room will. That is a reason to be happy. That is a reason to smile and just knowing that someone else experienced a victory, has the potential to turn your day around. If you allow it.


Parents love to hear good news. Most often though, the calls they receive from us are not pertaining to positive occurrences. I am guilty and I must get better at this. I am certain if the only time I ever heard from my kids’ schools was when they did something wrong, I would not look forward to hearing their calls.

Additionally, parents have jobs and lives and difficult days too that have nothing to do with their children. But like us, their day could be turned around by hearing about someone else’s good news. More specifically, we have the power to lift parents up just by sharing something good about their child. It doesn’t need to grand and it doesn’t need to take long. Sometimes a 30 second phone call is all that’s needed.

Close your eyes. No wait a minute, this is an article and you have to read the words. Anyway. Just imagine if you were having a bad day. Nothing seemed to be going right. You couldn’t wait to get home so you could just rest and start over. Then, just when you couldn’t feel any lower, you get a call from your kid’s school. The school counselor called to tell you what a great kid you have. The counselor had observed your son standing up for someone who was being teased and they just had to let you know. All of the sudden you realized that you had a good day.

Last Friday

So, while I didn’t have any exciting or particularly great news to share with my daughter about my Friday—my friend had a great day. And that was enough to make my day good too. There will be days when great things might not happen to you or for you. That’s okay. Look around. And you’ll find all the happiness you need.



*If you would like to have my next article and my latest podcast episode delivered to your in box just click HERE. And as an extra bonus, when you sign up for my newsletter you will receive A Teacher’s Blueprint To The Best Week Ever. This is a free, 40 page pdf designed to help you have an awesome week. It’s not what you think, trust me.

























































































Spend More Time Planting Seeds and Less Time Measuring Vines

It’s only natural. We want to know how well we’re doing. If what we are saying or writing or creating is making any sense—if it is resonating with others. We often go about this by counting downloads, likes, retweets, shares, etc. This is okay up to a certain point. But after a while, it can become a distraction. I have been guilty and I’m sure I still will be from time to time.

It is important to measure how effective or impactful our work is—in the classroom and out. But measuring takes time. Time that could be used doing other things. Like creating and thinking and working. Getting sucked into the measuring trap is very easy. Yet, what do we gain by measuring so often? Oftentimes a false sense of pride or unwarranted dejection.

I know that I feel best when I am in the midst of creating. That may mean that I am reading a book. Or maybe I am writing or preparing for a presentation. Sometimes, I am just listening and learning and sharing with others.

Whatever it is I’m doing, I know I am at my best and I feel best, when I am planting seeds. Here’s the cool thing that happens when you spend your time focused on planting seeds instead of measuring vines; sprouts pop up all the time. When you are not even expecting them. Of course, everything you plant doesn’t flourish or even grow for that matter.

That’s okay. Because you’ve planted enough seeds that you are almost guaranteed that something will pop up. And it’s usually when you least expect it. Up to this point I have been talking about social media and hits and likes and such. But this mindset applies to most everything we do.

Your Students

We spend our days doing everything we can to positively impact the lives of our students. Making every effort to connect with a student that we know has been dealt a difficult hand. Sometimes we see our efforts pay off immediately. Most of the time we don’t though. And it is frustrating. We are measuring every day, every interaction, every reaction. When we feel as if our efforts are in vain, we lose a little hope. It can become discouraging.

This is the time we need to plant more seeds. Maybe try a different approach. Or, focus on a different student. By no means, are we giving up on the student that we couldn’t affect right away. We simply must continue to plant seeds. We’ll be back to measure later. We just can’t measure all the time.

It will happen when we least expect it. Maybe a week later. Maybe a month. Sometimes years. And when we see that growth, we smile because we saw the potential all along. The student who one day is able to write their first and last name without any assistance. The student who can’t wait to tell you that they just finished their first chapter book. Ever. The senior, who struggled in middle school, informing you that they got accepted into college.

If we plant enough seeds, we eventually begin to see the fruits of our labor. But we must not ever stop planting. Because just when you’re ready to hang your head, a bud pops up. One that you had forgotten about. One that you barely remember planting. And you smile as you plant your next seed.

It’s been over 20 years but I still remember quite vividly the day one of my students learned to write coherent and complete sentences. She was in my 2nd grade class, my very first class. This child worked hard. But the words she put down on paper never seemed to come together. Her paper would be full of nonsense words. A typical sentence may look like the following:

Mnft jhnt mrtf trst mng drt.

I didn’t know what to think of it. She was putting the effort in. I was putting the effort in. But the connection was not there. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to teach her the following year. And I don’t know what it was. All the sudden she was writing coherent words. Not just words. Sentences. Not just sentences. She filled up the page!

I couldn’t believe it. I had no idea what had happened. I wish I could say it was something I did but I can’t. I think it was just time. Her seed had germinated long enough and it broke through the soil. To this day, it is still one of the most incredible transformations I have ever witnessed.

Your Teaching

You are always looking for ways to become a better teacher. You read teacher-books while your friends read the fun-books. You attend conferences hours away from home. You take classes that are supposed to help you better meet the needs of your students.

And yet you can’t figure out why your evaluations always come out the same. Your students still struggle on the state assessments. And you don’t feel as if you are any better for all the effort you put in.

Keep planting seeds.

First, evaluations are often unreliable and they rarely, if ever, tell the whole picture. They are a snapshot, of one lesson on one day of one class. The odds are, you’re better than you realize. Maybe the person evaluating you missed it. Maybe you are trying something new and you messed up. On that day. But in the long run it will pay off. And soon you’ll be teaching at a whole new level.

Next, just because your students struggled on the state assessment, that doesn’t mean that you and they are not better. We all know that those assessments don’t measure the majority of what you do in the classroom. Can they measure conflict resolution? Do they show if a student made huge improvements? Rarely. Most of the time, it is either met or not met. Trust me, you are impacting your students more than you realize. Those seeds will sprout.

Finally, it is easy for teachers to get down on themselves. To feel as if what they are doing is not making much of a difference. Folks that work with widgets see immediate results. Teachers, on the other hand, rarely, if ever, witness immediate results. It is frustrating because you are working so hard and you just want to feel as if you are getting better.

Keep planting seeds.

Your Professional Aspirations

You’ve applied for the position for the past three years. Once you got an interview and the other two times you didn’t even get an acknowledgement. Maybe you want to become a content area coach. Maybe you want to become an administrator. Or maybe you want to teach somewhere else. Either way, it’s frustrating because you feel as if you’re never going to get what it is you want.

Or maybe you want to present a certain conference or you want to publish an article in a particular journal. You got accepted to present at a conference once a few years ago. But it was your third choice and only seven people attended your session. I’ve been there. Spending hours and hours preparing for a session in a room that holds 50 people only to have 7 show up is discouraging.

Keep planting seeds.

Because if and when you plant enough of them, they will sprout. But only if you plant a lot. Don’t waste time measuring and don’t spend time feeling sorry for yourself. Just keep going.

I’ll leave you with this short story.

One time I presented at a conference in an auditorium that seats over a thousand people. I was prepared, at least I thought I was. And I was psyched. But as I looked out into the audience, I saw few faces. Not because the light was in my eyes but because there were only a handful of people present.

Nevertheless, I was going to make it the best possible presentation for the people that were there. I started off well. And then the projector cut off. They were able to get it working after a five minute lull. Unfortunately, not long after the projector was up and running again my computer died.

I had forgotten to fully charge the battery and I didn’t have it plugged in. I was able to make it through the presentation and I tried to stay as calm as I could. But I felt like crap. After I was finished, I thanked some folks for coming and stayed around a little while to connect with a few friends.

As I was heading to my car to drive home, I must admit, I was feeling down and was beginning to wonder if it was worth it. I got in my car and decided to check my email before heading home. The first email I read was one informing me that I had been accepted to present at a National Conference. It made me smile. I had forgotten about the seed that I had planted many months before.

And so, I keep planting seeds. Do I stop to measure sometimes? Absolutely. But only for a moment. Because I have seeds to plant. Every day.


*If you would like to have my next article and my latest podcast episode delivered to your in box just click HERE. And as an extra bonus, when you sign up for my newsletter you will receive “A Teacher’s Blueprint To The Best Week Ever”. This is a free, 40 page pdf designed to help you have an awesome week. It’s not what you think, trust me.





Slowing Down: The Soft Skill that Gets Left Behind

We spend our lives planning and hoping for them yet oftentimes the most beautiful moments happen by accident—when we slow down long enough to take in what was right in front of us along.

I had to go to another school to pick up work forwa one of our students. I could have walked. I should have walked. But I decided to drive instead. And as I was heading to the parking lot, I saw something I had seen many times in the past. A woman wasa walking her dog by the school. Her dog didn’t need a leash. She walked ahead and never strayed too far from her owner.

It always made me smile when I saw the two going for their morning walk. They were peaceful. They were quiet. And they had each other. I really have no idea how long their morning walks took, I would only see them as they passed by the school.

But on this day, instead of simply saying good morning and moving on, I decided to stop and talk. And I am glad that I did. After I said hello, I knelt down to pet the woman’s dog. The dog was scared, maybe hesitant is a better word to describe her. She didn’t run away but she wasn’t ready for me yet either.

As we began to exchange pleasantries, it became clear to me that this woman that I never met before was a beautiful soul. She had experienced loss and yet it hadn’t hardened her to the world. Her outlook was one of hope and faith. Never once did she complain about the hand life had dealt her. I was moved to say the least.

We talked for at least fifteen minutes. Towards the end of our conversation, I knelt down to attempt one more time to pet her dog. The dog approached me, calmly and quietly. And allowed me to pet her. Not for very long. But it didn’t matter. She trusted me.

Why? Well, I am not a dog whisperer so I can’t say for sure. I think it had much to do with the dog observing her owner and I talking and sharing in a relaxed, comfortable manner. That’s all it took.

I walked away from that moment last week with a renewed sense of purpose. Now this doesn’t mean that I will always be successful, but I am going to make more of an effort to slow down and simple take in moments—almost as if I am letting them unfold.

Yes, I am an educator and this site and my work is dedicated to helping teachers feel better and be better. No, my conversation with this woman last week had nothing to do with test scores or performance objectives. But it had everything to do with connecting with a fellow human being. It had to to with slowing down and taking the time to connect.

Did I arrive at the high school fifteen minutes later than I had planned? Yes.

Could those fifteen minutes been spent helping a child, analyzing data or planning professional development? Possibly.

So what?

I was able to slow down and connect with a fellow human being. We often talk about the importance of relationships and connecting and yet we are always on the go. Always driving to check off that next item on our to-do list. I have been guilty and I am sure at times I still will be. But I think my wake-up call last week opened my eyes to what can be if I just slow down. I think we can all do this and I think we should all try to do better. Below are three suggestions I have for slowing down and allowing moments to unfold.

Start Your Day Without Technology

Why is it that as soon as we wake up in the morning we feel the urge to check our our phones, go on the internet or watch the news? Do we fear the possibility that something important could have happened while we were asleep?

I believe that if something happened while we were sleeping that we just had to know about, then we’d know about it. Friends, family or colleagues would have found a way to contact us. Phones, doorbells and good old-fashioned door knocks have the ability to get our attention if necessary.

What if we woke up and did something other than go on some sort of device? We eased into the day with a cup of coffee and a book. Or maybe we go for a walk and enjoy the fresh air and the morning calm. Believe me, I am not always able to do this. There are mornings when I go on Twitter, Facebook or check my email. But the mornings that I don’t? Those are the ones that feel the best.

Talk to Your Colleagues

It is easy to teach a full day and not have one conversation with an adult—if we’re not careful. Rushing to the copier in the morning we barely notice the people around us. Lunch can become a time where we either get work done or relive the most difficult events of the morning. And we are often in such a rush to get home, or wherever we have to be after school, that we barely say more than a quick goodbye to those in our path.

What if instead of rushing to the copier in the morning, we stop and ask our colleague how their daughter’s ballgame went last night? We don’t need to linger and we are not asking for a play-by-play. But stopping long enough to show interest matters. It shows you care and it starts your day off with a connection. Something we have forgotten how to do. Maybe not forgotten, but something we have pushed to the side.

And yes, I get that lunch can be a time to get work done. But it can also be a time to slow down, relax and just talk about anything other than school. Maybe you talk about Game of Thrones, maybe you talk about your weekend or maybe you don’t do much talking at all. Maybe you just sit and listen. It won’t be long before you will have students in front of you and you will be doing plenty of talking then. So why not take this time you have to eat slowly, listen quietly and sit calmly?

Finally, I get that we all have much to do after school. And some folks have to rush to day care, ball practice or a second job. But why not, on the way out, slow down long enough to connect with a colleague? Maybe you talk a little trash about their sports team that lost last night. Maybe you ask what they’re up to that evening. Or maybe you simply smile at them, look them in the eye and tell them to have a nice evening. You can do that.

Slow Down Before You Miss Out

How many times have we been in such a rush to get somewhere or do something that we missed a wonderful moment happening right before our eyes? I know there have been times when I was so concerned with taking a photo of a moment that I missed experiencing the moment itself. Yes, I have the photo on my my phone. But wouldn’t it have been nicer to have fully taken in the moment itself?

About 7 years ago, The Washington Post conducted an experiment involving Joshua Bell, one of the greatest violinists in the world. He went down to the subway and performed for free for 45 minutes. Only 7 people stopped to hear him play. Seven! More than a thousand just walked by. I’d like to think that I would have stopped. But hindsight is 20/20.

Slowing down takes practice. Slowing down takes time, literally. But slowing down is almost always worth it.

*If you would like to have my next article and my latest podcast episode delivered to your in box just click HERE. And as an extra bonus, when you sign up for my newsletter you will receive “A Teacher’s Blueprint To The Best Week Ever”. This is a free, 40 page pdf designed to help you have an awesome week. It’s not what you think, trust me.

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