When You Know Better #KidsDeserveIt

When You Know Better

This post initially appeared on the Kids Deserve It blog. To find out more about Kids Deserve It, take a look at #KidsDeserveIt on Twitter or check out their newly released book here

When we meet students under the most ideal circumstances, we know a lot about them. We know about their interests, their family life, their academic performance history, and their behavior at school. We know about what books they like, what works for them, what not to try with them, and what might really push their buttons. When we’re working in the ideal, we know enough that we don’t have to make any assumptions as we prepare to educate the student.

But, all too often, life is not so ideal.

So we set out to do our best with less than an ideal amount of information about students. We try to get to know them as well as we can as soon as possible. We try our best, and in most cases, achieve remarkable results in rapid time. Teachers–you are incredible in your ability to work with so many variables that seem to always be changing as you educate the students you are given.

At some point, though, assumptions begin to creep in and fill the gaps in what we know about our students. I think they’re even made with the best of motivations so that we can serve students as well as we can as soon as we can.

Maybe it’s when things get busy. Maybe it’s when we get tired. At some point, we slip up and do the thing we said we wouldn’t–make an incorrect assumption about the student, and we have to work our way out of the unintended consequences of that assumption.

I’m not going to spend time listing out the ill advised assumptions that are sometimes made. They are out there, and they are too common. What I’d rather focus on is what we can do differently.

What if we committed to making these two assumptions about everyone we interact with at school?

People are doing the best they can.

When you know better, you do better.

I’m not asking you to be naive or to live with your head in the sand. I know that there are exceptions to nearly every rule, but this isn’t a post about those outliers. This is about the everyday. This is about how granting grace to each and every person with whom we interact–even if they’re the fiftieth person who’s doing that thing that annoys us that day.

Operating out of these two assumptions is about not letting little things get to us. It’s about believing that kids can (and will) do better when we teach them. It’s about how we should stop looking at the half empty/half full glass and get busy filling people up.

What if you approached each and every day with the attitude that students were doing the best they can? What would change?

Think about it. Tomorrow, what would change if you moved through your day with those two assumptions?

People are doing the best they can.

When you know better, you do better.

How would you respond to misbehavior?

How would you intervene when you noticed academic struggle?

How would you handle minor misbehaviors that you allow to get to you over time?

I’ll be the first to admit that changing a habit isn’t easy. But this is worth it.

If we made this change, I think our schools would be different. I think they would be better.

Even if things aren’t bad now–even if they’re great now–defaulting to these two assumptions changes our posture as we educate students. Every kid deserves a fresh start with us each morning. Every kid deserves a chance to learn in an environment that’s going to push him and support him as he takes on new challenges. Every kid deserves to be known. Each kid deserves a chance.

We can be the ones to make the difference. We can imagine it better. We can change their world for the better at our schools. Our kids deserve it.

A Different Call To The Office

A Different Call To The Office

It’s May. While all eyes turn to the end of the year, I think it’s time we start counting up some of the end of year conversations we need to have before summer starts and we’re not seeing our students each day.

I’ve written before about my belief that we are wired up so that things outside us tell us who we are (here’s the link if you’re interested). That’s neither good nor bad; for me, it’s reality. Without getting into the whole logic behind it and whether or not that sits well with you, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say there is great value in speaking truth into the lives of our students.

My role as a assistant principal puts me in conversations with many students who have failed to meet expectations. I realized late last week though that a student who I visited with quite frequently last school year had a reasonably good fall and a fantastic spring semester. It didn’t take long for me to realize that it was time to call him to the office for a different sort of conversation.

This student is the one who is nearly unrecognizable from himself last year. He’s turned it around in terms of behavior, and that’s led to him being a totally different academic student. Here’s what he’ll hear from me:

Last year was not your year. We had a lot of conversations–too many–in which I told you that you were the only one who could turn it around, that you had to want it. I meant it when I said that. I was serious. And you did it. I’m impressed with the young man you’re becoming. Let me know if there’s anything big of small I can do to help you out.

Once I started through this conversation, I realized there were more students I needed to visit with. I’d like to share a few of the conversations that I realized I need to have with some of my students. Maybe one or two will remind you of a student you work with. If so, I challenge you to go and share a word of encouragement with that student. Be specific with the growth you’ve seen and share candidly how students have made an impact for the better this year.

The “Invests In Others Well” Student

This student is the one who gets along with everyone. She’s popular, but she really doesn’t care about that popularity. She treats everyone as equals. She is present with each person she interacts with, and each person’s day is better after interacting with her. Here’s what I’ll tell her:

“You’re a popular student who is successful academically. Really, it’s hard to find something that’s not going well for you. But what’s most impressive to me is the way you value people. I notice that you do a great job investing in others. You make little conversations a big deal, and the way you interact with everyone I see leaves them feeling better about themselves afterward. Thanks for investing in others.”

The “Always Positive” Student

This student is the one who always says hi. The one who is busy, who has plenty going on, but who always takes time to say hi. Even to this assistant principal. I’ve written before about the value of those little interactions, and seeing her interact with others reminds me to go back and be better about those little interactions because, on the other side of them, they really do make a difference.

“Thanks for taking time to be positive. I see your positivity each and every day. I know that it probably takes a concerted effort on some days to stay so positive. But I want you to know that I’m thankful for the way you interact with others so positively. It makes me better, and I’m thankful when we cross paths.”

My Challenge

So, who do you need to speak into this month? Time is ticking. Summer will be here soon. When you hear the countdowns that too often creep into conversation at school, remember that with each day and each hour, we have less time to invest in our students. Take the time to do that well over the next few weeks.

What Does This Mean For My Students? #WGEDD


I had the privilege of attending the What Great Educators Do Differently conference in Katy, TX recently. It was a wonderful experience all around. The sessions were great, and the people were even better. Really, I don’t think I could have asked for a better time. At the end of our two days together, I ended up with a wealth of new information, new challenges, and strengthened relationships with a fantastic group of educators.

The weekend was one of those that leaves you with so much information that you don’t know where to start with implementation. It’s also one of those times that you know you have to organize your thoughts because the ideas were too good to leave as talking points over a weekend; they need to hit the ground at school.

In his opening remarks, Jimmy Casas challenged us to keep this question in the back of our mind throughout the conference: “What does this mean for my students?” I’ve been turning over what seems like a countless number of great ideas from the conference in my mind ever since.

I’d like to share some of those contagious ideas I came across over the weekend. They’re a mix of encouragement and challenge, but there is a huge upside to us taking each of these comments seriously as we serve students.

We are wired to be risk averse. Brave is uncomfortable. – Angela Maiers

I love this idea. We are faced with challenges each and every day that are uncomfortable (or at least I am). Hearing the encouragement that it’s not something wrong with me that causes that reaction, rather it’s something that is hard wired into me that creates it was encouraging to me. I know that I need to work to be brave for my students, and this comment from Angela Maiers is already helping push me toward being bolder for what’s best for each and every student on my campus.


We can’t change the kids, but we can change the way we teach. – Pernille Ripp

We all have obstacles to overcome. Some are new at the beginning of each school year; some are consistent for longer periods of time. All too often we focus on the things we cannot control rather than the things we have great control over. Most of this blame game, for me at least, is the result of me wanting to put some distance between me and my problem, especially when I recognize my shortcomings. Pernille Ripp’s reminder that we can change our actions is exactly what I needed to hear. I am in control of so many of the variables at school; I should worry about those and not dwell on that which I cannot control. I love our students, and the more I take on the responsibility for creating positive change for them, the better off they will be.


In a great teacher’s classroom, everything happens intentionally. – Todd Whitaker

Have you ever been in a great teacher’s classroom who can’t tell you why things are going well this year? Didn’t think so. This idea from Todd Whitaker reminded me that our work doesn’t happen by accident. I need to be better about planning out my day to maximize my output. Just being busy isn’t enough. Our students deserve quality effort from us, not just a lot of effort.


Never pass up the opportunity to say something great about your school. – Joe Sanfelippo

This is something that I’ve known (and probably even told other people to look at), but I still need to get better at this. Over the next few days, I need to sit down and target when I think students, teachers, parents, and community members will be on social media and look seriously at what I can share to tell our story well for each of them. Sanfelippo is a master at this, and I’ll definitely be checking out the #GoCrickets hashtag for models of what I can do to share my school’s story well.


Want to double your credibility with a student? Offer a sincere apology when the time calls for it. – Jimmy Casas

In the middle of all the technology and pedagogy and leadership conversations that happened throughout the What Great Educators Do Differently Conference came this comment from Jimmy Casas that offered an incredibly empathetic, human response to students. It might be my favorite thing I heard all weekend. Students learn so much from their interactions with adults, but we are quick to place blame and slow to take ownership for our mistakes. To me, this is one thing we just can’t afford to get wrong. Especially for our young men, accepting ownership of our mistakes and taking responsibility for our actions is imperative. I’m thankful this idea was shared with me.


So, there it is. There’s plenty to ponder, but I’m enjoying thinking through these ideas and considering how each of these ideas can change school for the better for our students!

Also, it’s worth your time to take a few minutes to explore the #WGEDD tweets. So much brilliance and wisdom wrapped up in 140 characters there!