Thursday, December 21, 2017

20 ‘18’ ways to start the New Year.

Happy (Early) New Year! As you are wrapping up the last few days of 2017, taking in those last hugs, smiles, high fives and waves for a few days we (Lindsy, Eric, Jessica, Andy, Todd and Nick) wanted to challenge ourselves-and our PLN-to think about how to ring in 2018 when everyone returns. 

This post started as a conversation while preparing for the final days before break. We realized that there is much time spent on celebrate the last few days before the winter break, but not as much time focused on how to kick off the rest of the school year when staff and students return.

The start of the new calendar year can be an opportunity for us to set new resolutions that will benefit our school staff, families and students. Here are just a few ideas-feel free to try one, or more and let us know how it turns out!
  1. Return to Routine - Don’t stress yourself out over break coming up with new things and ideas to start the first few days back. Instead invest time connecting with students and staff and reviewing routines to ensure the foundation you secured in 2017 is still there to start 2018. (Jessica)
  2. Healthy Habit - When setting resolutions for the new year for your students-don’t forget about yourself. Pick one new habit (eating lunch everyday, getting to bed each night, going for a walk/run each workday) and stick to it through February. One the habit is routine, you have a new strategy for fighting winter blues and supporting your own health. (Jessica)
  3. Breathe - There is so many stressors that feel like they are attacking us every day. It is imperative that you have a strategy to calm down and refocus. Consider destressing by concentrating on your breathing patterns. This will directly affect your emotional state and the way you view the world around you. Need more energy? Inhale for longer than exhaling (ex. inhale 5 seconds, exhale 4 seconds). Need to relax? Inhale for less time than exhaling (ex. inhale 4 seconds, hold, exhale 6 seconds). Breathe slower to help you calm down when you get stressed. I was a skeptic at first, but it really works! (Andy)
  4. The power of a personal note (postcard to students, notes to staff or families of staff) - I’ve started my day with this practice for the past couple of years. Best. Thing. I’ve. Ever. Done. Paying gratitude to others comes back to you - bigger and better. (Eric)
  5. Random Acts of Kindness - Take a day to intentionally choose to be kind to one another. Read a story, have a class discussion or take time to model ways to care for one another. (Jessica)
  6. Mindful Moments - Reflecting, refocusing, and self-regulation are great skills to enhance as you come back after a break. At #WoodsonK one of our teachers created this create menu of ideas that we used right before break-and will continue to use after: (Jessica)
  7. One less thing - Instead of adding to your to-do list and winter schedule don’t invite extras onto your plate. Think of saying “no” as an opportunity to take a deep, much needed, breath. (Lindsy)
  8. Something to look forward to - Conference? Vacation? Winter break has come and gone; January and February can be long, dark, and cold months (especially here in the midwest). What are you looking forward to? Find something to keep you going. For me, I’ve got a list that continues to grow; professionally, I’ve got ASCD Empower ‘18 in Boston and the National Principals Conference in Chicago. Can’t wait! (Eric)
  9. Set goals - As we start a new year, it is important to set some goals we would like to accomplish.  These can be short-term and long-term but the importance is to strike a balance.  Make sure you are setting personal goals as well as professional ones.  Want to get more exercise?  Set a weekly date night with your spouse or significant other?  Schedule monthly adventures with your kids?  The point is, as school leaders, we are usually pretty good at setting professional goals, but one of the best ways to avoid burnout is to have goals that focus on family, friends, and health...make time for you and your loved ones as well! (Todd)
  10. Adult genius hour/passion projects - Find something that inspires you. Don’t let mandates run your day. Incorporate a passion to keep things from becoming mundane. I’ve been working and will continue working on empowering our students as social media interns. Figuring this out has been a challenge, which has been fun - and it’s allowed me to spend a lot of time working with kids, which is the best part of being in education. (Eric)
  11. Refocus on your ‘why’ - Work isn’t as stressful when it’s something that you love and are very passionate about. This is true for your staff as well, so set time aside to discuss your why, your purpose, and your real motivation with each other. Be specific and let this inspire you. Do this together and share in team or staff meetings. Make posters and have everyone put them up in the classrooms and offices. (Andy)
  12. Spend time/work w/ kids - Let’s be honest...your office is a black’s where time can get sucked away from you either with paperwork, emails, or parent complaints.  It’s much more fun to be out with kids, whether it be in the classroom or the playground or the lunch tables...the point is GET OUT OF YOUR OFFICE.  Go read to kids, have lunch with them, or organize a kickball game.  Offer to help a teacher introduce a new app or strategy.  Capture the awesome moments in classrooms and share it on social media.  The point is, the emails, paperwork, and complaining parents will always be waiting for go where the adventure is! (Todd)
  13. Prioritize visiting classrooms - When you are making your daily schedule, make sure to literally type/write this time in every day to ensure you do this. If it’s not on your calendar or agenda, then it isn’t really that important to you. Make a point to get to as many classrooms as you can every day. Can’t get to them all? Try 18 classrooms every day for 2018. Don’t just pop in and out, though. Slow down, make personal connections, and be present with both the students and the teachers. (Andy)
  14. New music playlist - Music makes everything better! The New Year is many times greeted with long dark days, download a new playlist to keep kids and adults spirits high! My newest favorite is Meghan Trainors, Better When I’m Dancin’ (Lindsy)
  15. Making that necessary change - Sometimes a little change is needed other times it is something BIG.  Reflect on the change that needs to happen for you or for your kids.  Sometimes the smallest change can improve your health, your wealth, your mindset or even a kid’s life. 
    The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” -Socrates (Nick)
  16. Getting Ahead of the Winter Blues - In my town they put on a great event called “Beat the Bitter”.  We live in Iowa and this is outside in February.  People play kickball, run a 5k obstacle course, have Snuggie Crawl to local establishments, and even jump into frozen ponds. (I did this last year. It was COLD.) The purpose though is to escape the routine of winter and be out with friends and having a good time.  Get out of the house and find opportunities for Joy. (Nick)

  17. Welcoming Kids Back - Many kids need special attention and love after a weekend, but after an extended break they need it even more.  Don’t start the first day back reviewing rules.  Find a way to show your kids you care and that they are loved. (Nick)
  18. Cover a class - This serves two major purposes: first, it allows you the opportunity to connect with kids in a meaningful way and reminds you of what it means to be a teacher.  Second, it allows a teacher an observe a colleague, work on a passion project, or get caught up on grading.  We would give away GOOSE (Get Out Of School Early) cards as part of Twitter challenges, raffle prizes, etc.  The best part is that they are free and allow that teacher to take care of what they need to take care of! (Todd)

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Movie Connections - Chef

Recently, I managed to find time to watch a non-Disney movie (that opening line is for you guys - Andrew, Nick, and Zack).

Chef - written, co-produced, directed, and starring Jon Favreau.

Excellent movie. I loved it, and I highly recommend it (maybe you’ll find (make) time to watch it over the upcoming winter break)!

Photo via

There were so many good lessons embedded within the movie, but there were five ideas that stood out to me as being related to our jobs as educators:

  1. Love what you do
Previously, I’ve written entire blog posts about tips that help me continuously find joy in what I am doing - Don’t Go Down the Rabbit Hole (linked). We spend a large portion of our lives at work/working. And life is too short to spend so much time doing something that we don’t enjoy. So If you don’t love it, leave it (and find something else - no shame in change).

  1. Autonomy and creativity
In-order to thrive, people need autonomy. They need the freedom to think for themselves, and make their own decisions. As Daniel Pink claims, this is one of three keys to unlock the motivation within us. Having autonomy allows us the opportunity to unleash our creativity.

  1. Leadership
What kind of leader are you? Do you inspire others? If you left, would people want to follow you? Would your presence still be felt without you?

  1. Power of Social Media
This is really simple. These are branding tools that can serve us well. So behave appropriately. Take the high road, and let certain things go; don’t engage in negative conversations. Things can go viral, quickly. And while our “digital native” children certainly don’t know everything, let’s not be ashamed to lean-on our kids when they may know more than us.

  1. #DadsAsPrincipals
As much as possible, get your kids involved. Let them hear about your passions. Show them what you do; bring them into work with you, take them to your school’s events. Like I said, earlier, our jobs are a huge part of our lives; find the opportunities where our jobs can strengthen our relationships with our children.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Cruise Control

I was waiting to see the next mile marker. It had to be close.

I was waiting for the turn around. It had to be close, too.

13.1 miles leaves a lot of opportunity for your mind to wander. Sometimes it takes you places that are energizing, but not always. Sometimes your thoughts can become your own worst enemy. And that’s where I was headed.

I knew that my race time was past the point of achieving a negative split. The miles were starting to feel longer, and the urge to check my watch was becoming more frequent.

I was needing to find my second wind. I still had over three miles to go. I was needing to get my mind right.

And then the woman patrolling the street said,
“You look like you’re on cruise control.”

That was it. Those were the words of encouragement that I so desperately needed to hear. It was a boost of adrenaline that allowed me to find my stride. All of a sudden, I forgot about the suffering. My mind was cleared of the negativity that was creeping into my thoughts. Instantaneously, I felt good.

I hadn’t felt like I was on cruise control, but she told me that it looked like I was. So I believed her.

One woman said one thing to encourage me. A stranger, nonetheless. She didn’t have to say anything, but she did. And that’s all it took. It changed my attitude, it changed my performance, it changed my outcome.

We have multiple opportunities to make this same type of difference in other people’s lives, daily. We never know when our words may break or make someone. Choose them wisely, and don’t ever pass-on an opportunity to offer words of encouragement. You might not know it, but it might be just what someone needs.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Look for the Signal

Some years ago, I read Nate Silver's book, The Signal and the Noise. There is a lot of noise that gets in our way. Listen and look for the signal.

Our recess (and lunch) para supervisors have one of the most difficult jobs at school. We ask them to keep everything orderly and everyone safe during our most unstructured times of the school day. We ask them to do this during a time that some of our students feel is their only opportunity within the day when/where they don't have to worry so much about the routines and and structures that are expected of them.

Last month, I overheard something that one of our own recess supervisory said after conversing with a substitute recess supervisor that was at our school that day. She said how they'd had similar experiences being in/working in other schools, and the other schools just have different environments than Van Allen's. She went on to say, "They're more negative."

This was music to my ears as culture is something that we've been emphasizing for the past 15 + months since I've become the principal at Van Allen.

Nowhere is perfect. We are not perfect. We make mistakes. We have bad days. We have plenty of things that we are trying to make better. But, nonetheless, it is pretty good here. Actually, it is pretty great here.

The grass isn't always greener on the other side.

Perspective is easy to lose sight of when you are living it each and every day.

Slow down. Breathe. Relax. Tune out some of the noise, and look for the signal.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Don't Go Down the Rabbit Hole

Most educators can relate to the above graphic. Regardless of your experience, you've been on that rollercoaster. Regardless of your position/title, you've been on that rollercoaster. Regardless of the varying degrees of achievement within your school, you've been on that rollercoaster. Regardless of the socioeconomic status of the students you serve, you've been on that rollercoaster. Regardless of circumstance, we've all been on that rollercoaster.

It's November 2nd as I draft this post. You'll notice, on the graphic, we should be in the midst of Disillusionment.

Don't go down the rabbit hole!

Last month I blogged about ways to prevent yourself from becoming cynical (Don't Become a Cynic, linked). Below are the original seven tips (plus a few new and updated ones) that help me - can help you - remain in the anticipation, reflection, and rejuvenation stages of the chart.
  • Be balanced - Education (life) can be stressful. Find things that provide you with an outlet. Exercise, read, write, spend time with family and friends; whatever it is, do the things that you enjoy.
  • Be connected - Find your tribe. find your like minded people, find your people that inspire you, find your people that push you to be a little better each day. Lean on these people, problem solve with these people, share with these people, and most importantly celebrate with these people.
  • Be grateful - Think about all of the things that you have. Not everyone has all of these things. We sometimes get so caught up in all of the stuff that it can be easy to lose sight of this. Don't forget, perspective is key to life.
  • Be kind to others - Assume others are giving their best effort; assume others have positive intent. Always seek to understand.
  • Be kind to yourself, too - "Give yourself the grace to be imperfect." You aren't going to be perfect; no one is. Focus, instead, on getting better, bit-by-bit, day-by-day.
  • *NEW - Be the educator that you want for you kids - I don't think that this one needs any explanation.
  • Choose your attitude - Life happens. Situations occur that are outside of our control. Furthermore, we don't have control over other people. We do, however, always have control over how we respond. We have the power to choose the attitude that we embody.
  • *NEW - Engage in your own Genius Hour - Find your passion project. Engage in it. Implement it. Revise it. Master it.
  • *NEW - Fake it 'til you make it - Smile and start giving out high fives. The energy that you get back will soon change the energy within you.
  • Look for the good  - Because the more intentional you are about looking for good, the more good that you will find.
  • *NEW - Remember your why - Why did you get into education? For most of us, this decision wasn't content related. Most of us (hopefully) wanted to make a difference for/with kids; so focus your efforts, energy, and time on building relationships. Content is secondary to relationships, anyways.
  • *NEW - Unfair advantage - a term that I've heard Dean Shareski use in his keynote - Stop worrying so much about what you don't know how to do and/or what you aren't great at. Find the one thing that you love, the one thing that you do really well and do more of that.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Make Their Day - Change Their World

Several weeks ago I had my School Administration Manager Project "shadow." For those of you who are unaware of the "shadow" experience, he/she shows-up to your school wearing all black clothing and follows your every move. Every five minutes, the "shadow" notes what it is you are doing; deciding if the task is related to instruction or management. All the while, from the time the "shadow" arrives until the time the "shadow" leaves, they are not supposed to talk.

Depending on your choice of adjective, you might describe one of the days that I was being shadowed as: bad, busy, stressful, eventful, etc. For the record, in my mind it was an eventful day.

You see, on this particular day, I had multiple communications with our local police department concerning multiple incidents. At my site, interaction with law enforcement is a rarity. To have two incidents involving the police in a year AND especially not twice (in a year, let  alone a day)

Anyways, at the end of the day, my shadow said (to me), “You did a good job. You covered all your bases; you handled everything very calmly.”

Day, flipped.

I don’t usually have someone following me around to see my every move. I don't usually have someone that is able to give me this type of authentic feedback. However, on this day I did (and it meant the world to me). She made my day.

Two mornings later, I received an email from a parent. Her email expressed her gratitude in regards to an individualized comment that I had made to her son when walking through classrooms. She went on to say, "I just wanted you to know that your presence isn't going unnoticed and you're doing a great job."

I didn't make the comment to her son in hopes to get anything in return. I did it because I LOVE interacting with kids. I did it because while I might not change the world, I can make one comment like this to change someone's world. I can make their day.

Inspiration from Buddy Berry's keynote at ITEC 

It is amazing how when we act kindly towards others, kindness finds its way back around to us. Why don't we do this more often?! Why aren't we more intentional about this?!

Being frantically busy is not a good look, not for you, not for me, not for anyone.

My first "official" principal mentor emphasized how very rarely is there an actual emergency in education. Most of the issues that we face will still be there, waiting for us, the next morning. Yet, (a lot of) our actions don't always reflect this. We tend to treat everything as urgent; when we do this, we miss the little things that can bring such joy to our profession and our life.

So stop what you’re doing. Right now. It’s not that urgent. Take a moment to say thanks to someone, show them that they are appreciated, celebrate them.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Don't Become a Cynic

As Ferris Bueller famously said,
"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." 
This is especially true for educators, which is why reflecting (and blogging) is an important aspect of our job. Years come and years go at an ever increasingly rapid pace. I often times find it hard to pin point certain events that have influenced who I've become.  Yet, surprisingly, I can still recall sitting at my desk during my first year as a principal while having a phone conversation and thinking - I'm becoming a cynic.

This is NOT who I was. Nor was it who I wanted to become.

As a district and a school, this year, we've been spending a lot of time talking about our why. Why do you do what you? What drives you? What inspires you? What motivates you? What is your why? At the simplest level, mine is to make a difference in other people's lives; to inspire them.

We have to always keep that (our why) in the forefront of our minds. Because if we don't, it's easy to lose sight of our why. It's easy to get bogged-down with the day-to-day grind, and consequently forget about our why.

I like to think that I am a pretty positive and optimistic person. This doesn't happen by accident. We have to be intentional with our actions to remain positive and optimistic. We have to be intentional.

How? Here are some tips that help me always stay positive and optimistic.
  • Be connected - Find your tribe. find your like minded people, find your people that inspire you, find your people that push you to be a little better each day. Lean on these people, problem solve with these people, share with these people, and most importantly celebrate with these people.
  • Be balanced - Education (life) can be stressful. Find things that provide you with an outlet. Exercise, read, write, spend time with family and friends; whatever it is, do the things that you enjoy.
  • Be kind to others - Assume others are giving their best effort; assume others have positive intent. Always seek to understand.
  • Be kind to yourself, too - "Give yourself the grace to be imperfect." You aren't going to be perfect; no one is. Focus, instead, on getting better, bit-by-bit, day-by-day.
  • Be grateful - Think about all of the things that you have. Not everyone has all of these things. We sometimes get so caught up in all of the stuff that it can be easy to lose sight of this. Don't forget, perspective is key to life.
  • Look for the good - Because the more intentional you are about looking for good, the more good that you will find. 
  • Choose your attitude - Life happens. Situations occur that are outside of our control. Furthermore, we don't have control over other people. We do, however, always have control over how we respond. We have the power to choose the attitude that we embody.

Friday, September 22, 2017

#DotDay Reflections

Recently, while visiting classrooms, I was invited to participate in a project alongside our students in Mrs. LaRoche's 4th grade classroom. This had me reflecting...

It was September 15th. That's International Dot Day, the "holiday" that celebrates the book that Peter Reynolds wrote, The Dot. Mrs. LaRoche was introducing a Dot Day activity with her students. I should mention that The Dot is (at least one of) my favorite picture book(s). So I was honored that the Mrs. LaRoche invited me to stay longer AND participate with her students.

Taking a break from the busyness, which is the norm for school principals, was time well spent.

This was an investment in regards to the relationships that I have with this teacher and these students.

So as I sat in the classroom, designing my dot(s), I was showered with praise from the students telling me how good (and other adjectives) my creation looked. The celebration of my creation didn't come as a huge surprise. This is my sixth year as an elementary school principal, I'm aware of the celebrity status that I have with kids. Nonetheless, their praise had me thinking.

My experience in Mrs. LaRoche's classroom
mirrored this page from The Dot.

Like Derek Sivers claims in the video (above): what's obvious to you, is amazing to others. I didn't think that I was creating anything special, but the students in Mrs. LaRoche's class thought it was kind of special. This had me thinking, it is imperative that we find ways to share our work with others. You never know, it might be just what someone else needs.

The other thing is, until fairly recently, I never considered myself to be the creative type. I certainly did not think that I was much of an artist. It is just easier this way. I can just say, "I can't (insert art skill here)" or "I'm not good at (insert any skill here)."

But those responses are a cop-out. It's easier to say that you can't. It voids yourself of having to make any effort. It strips away any responsibility that you would have to take-on. It is a safe response, but no risk equals no reward. It is a weak response. It's represents a fixed mindset.

I take pride in regards to embodying a growth mindset. I believe that when we practice, we get better. I believe that when we give our best effort and persist, we can produce results that we might not have thought possible.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Dear Linda Sue Park

Dear Linda Sue Park,

Hi, I am Eric Ewald, and I am the Principal at Van Allen Elementary School in the Iowa City Community School District. I believe, before I was the Principal here, that you’ve actually been to our school as a visiting author in 2012; however,  I don’t know if you remember us (although, I think that we’d be hard for you to forget). We are a great school with great facilities, a great community, a great staff, and an especially great group of students.
In fact, one of our great students is co-writing this blog/letter with me. I’ll let her introduce herself.
Hi, I am Jaelyn Perry, and  I am 10 years-old and in fifth grade. I live in Coralville, Iowa and go to school at Van Allen Elementary. Earlier this year I read your book A Long Walk to Water. After I read it, my dad and mom both read it as well; we immediately decided we had to do something for all the people who do not get clean drinking water. We thought that other people should read the book so they could help, too. We ordered books for my whole class, my teacher, and my principal.  
Jaelyn gave me the book on the last day of school. I assumed that she had read the book as a part of a reading group, or something. Regardless, when a student gives you a book. You read the book. I did. I was inspired on multiple levels.

Then on June 2nd, 2017 (we finished the book on the 27th of May, 2017), we had a lemonade stand for two hours. We raised almost $600 to help the people in South Sudan build wells!  
Over the summer, I found out that Jaelyn’s teacher had nothing to do with this. She had read the book, and then bought a copy for each of her classmates, her teacher, and myself! My mind was blown. Then I heard how much money her and her family raised at their lemonade stand. As impressive as these acts were, I knew that we were just beginning to scratch the surface in regards to what we can potentially do.

During the summer my principal sent me an email saying that we should do something about this as a school project. On Wednesday, August 30th, we had a school-wide assembly. We have seven big water jugs that we plan to fill up with coins during the school-year! Every Friday, we are going to do “Caps for Coins” - where you donate coins and get to wear a hat at school. We will do this as a part of the Iron Giraffe Challenge. We hope to raise more than $1,000!
We’d love any opportunity to reconnect you with our school as we make these efforts for this good cause. A letter back, a phone call, a Skype, a Google Hangout, a Tweet a visit, anything. We’d love your support.

When I read this book I knew we needed to do something. It made so sad to think that all these people around the world get almost no water while we waste hundreds of gallons of water everyday! So even though I might be little, I know I can do BIG things!


Jaelyn Perry and Eric Ewald

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Your Volume Doesn't Define You

An elementary school age version of me gets an autograph from former NFL quarterback, Erik Wilhelm
Jim, "Don't call me Chris," Everett pauses to take a photograph with my brother and me
What do the above pictures have to do with education and/or leadership?

Throughout my childhood, I accumulated a fairly impressive collection of autographs from my favorite professional athletes. I was relentless in regards to the letters that I wrote and sent to them. And I was strategic with how I would maneuver myself to the front of any crowd to acquire the autograph that I wanted.

I've tried to pass-on some of these same strategies to my son.
Here he is, as a four-year-old, after acquiring Alex Rodriguez's autograph during a spring training game.
I didn't have to be loud, which is good because I consider myself to be a quiet person. Typically, I prefer a rather introverted lifestyle. This has always been the case. 

You don't have to ask everyone. But you have to be willing to ask one person. And you have to be persistent to get what you want.

Currently, I'm trying to link-up with Arizona Cardinals head coach, Bruce Arians, for a #DadsOnDeck podcast that #DadsAsPrincipals and #MakerDads are creating (see previous blog post, linked). Connecting with him is a long shot (although, I have received an initial email response from his assistant!), but it's kind of fun trying. It will probably go nowhere and if that's the case, I'm out nothing but my time. But what if it does go somewhere?

There is a lot out there for our taking. In regards to this, social media is amazing. The doors that it opens for us, throughout the world, are limitless. We have tools at our fingertips that allow us to connect with anyone.

I've done that. And I'll continue to do that. I've connected with educators from coast-to-coast and everywhere in-between to grow my Professional Learning Network (PLN) in-order to benefit the staff and students within our school at Van Allen. Going forward, I have BHAG (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals) to connect with authors and other individuals that can lead to impactful experiences for our school. It's a brave new world.

So don't call me shy. Don't call my kids shy. Don't call students shy. Don't call people shy. That's a label. Labels are judgments that people make; they're not helpful.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

My Leadership Shelfie

If you're gonna talk the talk, you better walk the walk.

So I am following-up my last post #LeadersAreReaders with My Leadership Shelfie - I stole all of this inspiration from Beth Houf (her post, My Leadership Shelf UPDATED, linked).

What I'm Reading Now:
My office door shows what books I've read,
and lists what I'm currently reading

  • Empower: What Happens When Students Own Their Learning, by John Spencer
  • Lasting Impact, by Kostya Kennedy
What I'm Reading Next:
  • Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, by Walter Isaacson
  • Collaborative Leadership: Six Influences that Matter Most, by Peter DeWitt
  • Creativity Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration, by Ed Catmull
  • Ditch that Textbook: Free Your Teaching and Revolutionize Your Classroom, by Matt Miller
  • Social LEADia: Moving Students from Digital Citizenship to Digital Leadership, by Jennifer Casa-Todd
  • Teach Like Finlad: 33 Simple Strategies for Joyful Classrooms, by Timothy Walker
  • Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, by Doris Kearns Goodwin
  • Unselfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World, by Michele Borba
What I've Recently Finished Reading (over the course of the summer):
  • Uncommon Learning, by Eric Sheninger
  • Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable, by Tim Grover
  • March: Book One, by John Lewis
  • A Long Walk to Water, by Linda Sue Park
  • Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution that's Transforming Education, by Ken Robinson
  • My Cubs: A Love Story, by Scott Simon
  • The Wild Robot, by Peter Brown
  • Starting a Movement: Building Culture from the Inside Out in Professional Learning Communities, by Ken Williams
  • Wonder, by R.J. Palacio
What's in My Cart at Amazon:
  • Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, by Trevor Noah
  • The Kickstart Guide to Making GREAT Makerspaces, by Laura Fleming
  • Lead Like a PIRATE: Make School Amazing for Your Students and Staff, by Shelley Burgess and Beth Houf
  • The Quarterback Whisperer: How to Build an Elite NFL Quarterback, by Bruce Arians
A collection of (most of) my favorite professional books that I've read. 
Read. Inspire Learning.

#LeadersAreReaders and Readers are Leaders.

Thursday, August 10, 2017


"Yes, we have very busy lives. We have time for exactly what we choose to make time for." 
I'm pretty sure that it was Todd Nesloney (@TechNinjaTodd) who spoke those words during a session at the National Principals Conference this past summer.

We all have the same amount of time. Yet, we all prioritize our time differently. What are your priorities?

Two books recommended to me by my friends:
 Jessica Cabeen and Lindsy Stumpenhorst
We can probably ALL agree that reading should be a priority for our students. Few would argue that kids need to read. However, students aren't the only learners in schools. In schools, learning starts with us - the adults, the educators.

Reading is a way of learning. Reading is how we grow. Reading is a way to develop empathy. Reading is how we become inspired. Our kids must see us as readers. Our kids must see us as learners.

So if we're asking our kids to read, which we are (or probably should be), we better be reading. I believe that we should never ask our kids to do things that we aren't willing to do, ourselves.

Are you assigning your students independent reading for X amount of minutes throughout each week? This is an assignment for most of our Students. I am not questioning this assignment. In fact, I think that this is one of the more logical homework assignments that we give our Students.

However, what I do question is the educator that assigns 20 minutes of reading, each night, to his/her students...or 100 minutes of reading, each week, to his/her students, but then claims to not have the time to read him/herself. We're busy. Kids are busy. We're all busy. If it is important, we'll make the time for it.

So when do you read? When do you learn? When do you grow? When do you develop empathy? When do you become inspired? And how do you do it? Wake up a little earlier. Listen to an audio book.  Figure out a way to consume books while you commute and/or exercise. Be creative, and share your hack for how you make time.

This image was taken from Chris Doyle's Twitter feed.
He is constantly inspiring learning through his sharing the books that he is reading.
Read. Inspire Learning

#LeadersAreReaders and Readers are Leaders.

Friday, August 4, 2017

ThingLink - Summer 2017

After seeing a blog post written by Melinda Miller (@mmiller7571) - A Non-Traditional Back to School Letter - ThingLink (linked), I was INSPIRED to TRY something NEW. Here is the interactive image that I CREATED, which includes some highlights from my summer.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

#DadsAsPrincipals - Dear Coach Arians:

Dear Coach Arians:

First off, I am a football fan. I love it. It was my first love (see the strand of pictures at the bottom of this post). Throughout elementary school, middle school, and high school football was my priority. Football was what motivated me to perform adequately in regards to my academics. Football kept me out of trouble. Football was what inspired me to adopt a lifestyle of health and fitness that has continued into my mid-thirties. Football taught me character traits that I credit for shaping me into the adult that I've become. Football, and the possibility of coaching football, is why I got into education. I owe football. I love football.

But this letter isn't about my love for football.

This blog post is about my love for something that I love even more than football. Being a Dad.

Recently, I stumbled across an article (linked) that quoted you from a recent Sirius XM NFL radio (linked) interview as saying,
"For our coaches, I tell them, if you miss a recital or a football game or a basketball game, I'll fire you. You can always come back and work."
Thank you.

You see, I'm an elementary school principal. I stay pretty busy with work. Probably not quite as busy as you, however. My job is important, nonetheless; children's futures are at stake, which coincides with our society's future being at stake.

If I let it, I could be consumed by my work. It's a struggle because I love my work.

Anyways, thank you for making it okay to prioritize being a father and a parent. I am involved in a couple of newly created movements made-up of educator Dads that are working to keep this focus in the forefront of our minds as the school year gets underway. Traditionally, the narrative only allows us to be great at one or the other - home or work. That isn't something that we're okay with. That isn't something that we'll settle for - we want to be great in both roles. We think that it is possible.

So I know that you're extremely busy as the football season is getting underway, but if you're interested, we'd love to connect with you.

On behalf of the #DadsAsPrincipals, #DadsOnDeck, and #MakerDads - thanks in advance for reading this, and good luck with your upcoming football season.


Eric Ewald

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

#DadsAsPrincipals - Legacy

Last summer, my friend, Hamish Brewer shared a book, Legacy, with me.

I think about that word, Legacy, each and every day. What do I want my Legacy to be? How do I want people to remember me?

My son doesn't (and my daughter won't) attend my school. We (my wife and I) entertained the idea (me maybe more than her), but the appeal of the neighborhood school was just too strong. I'm good with that. He ended-up at a school down the street from me; in a building with a principal and a staff that I highly admire. Eventually, he (as well as my daughter, who isn't school-aged (yet)) will end-up in a junior high and a high school with all of the Students that I serve at Van Allen Elementary.

His (their) friends will be the Students that I serve.

My family is my inspiration. It's what drives me to be the best possible Principal that I can be. To make them proud to say that I'm their Dad, I'm her husband, etc.

I am not a perfect Dad, just like I'm not a perfect Principal. I sometimes work too much and don't always devote enough time to my family. On the flip side, I sometimes put off work in-order to spend time with my family. There are times when I multi-task in an effort to get it all done, only to short change everything that I am doing. I sometimes get distracted and don't focus on the right things. I sometimes struggle to truly engage in the individual moment. I sometimes struggle with being present.

Despite these struggles, I'm trying. I'm aware of them, and I'm working on them. Unfortunately, it's not linear. Fortunately, #DadsAsPrincipals is a movement to help remind me of this focus.

I want to be the very best Principal for Van Allen Elementary. I want to be a positive influence and a difference maker for the kids that I serve at school. I also want to be the very best Dad for Ryne and Olivia. I want to leave a Legacy so that my kids will be proud to say that I am their Dad. That's what #DadsAsPrincipals is about for me. It's striving to be great in both roles. It's forKeeps.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

#DadsAsPrincipals - A Movement

Being a Dad is hard. Being a Mom is hard. Being a Parent is hard.

Being a Principal is hard. Being a Teacher is hard. Being an Educator is hard.

Life is hard.

But life, and being all of these things is also great! In fact, I might argue that the struggle that these things entail is one of the reasons why they are so great.

This movement - #DadsAsPrincipals - isn't about celebrating Dads over Moms, or Principals over any other position.

This movement - #DadsAsPrincipals - is about creating a community of people that all have commonalities that don't only need shared, but instead need celebrated.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

#DadsAsPrincipals - Work or Fun?

(In my best ESPN Films 30 for 30 narrator's voice...) "What if I told you that work is fun?"

In a recent conversation with my six-year-old son, we were talking about my trip to Philadelphia for the National Principals Conference. And he asked me, are you going there for work or fun.

Why does this have to be an either/or question? Why can't it be both? Why do some people look at me like I've got  a third eye when I tell them that I think work is fun?

I like working. I think that it is fun. And I am being 100% honest when I say that.

I feel bad for the people that don't have fun at work. We spend a lot of time at work. We spend a lot of time still at work even when we aren't physically at work. Life is too short. You've got to be passionate about what you do. You've got to love what you do. Love it or leave it.

This is especially true when it comes to working in schools.
"Adults need to have fun so children will want to grow up." - Erica Bauermeister 
Back to my experience in Philadelphia at #npc17...

My experience attending conferences is a whole lot different than what it was when I first started as an educator. No longer do you need to attend the conference to acquire the learning that is being presented (see my post re. #DadsAsPrincipals - Our Prequel). The primary purpose of the conference is to connect, and then learn from and with those connections. This is accomplished through the relationships that we build before, during, and after the conferences that we attend. And if building relationships isn't fun, then what's the point in anything?

Going to Philadelphia, it was for work. But it was also fun. A lot of fun.
This was my tribe from #npc17 - #DadsAsPrincipals
(L to R): @_AndyJacks@tsschmidty, @Brewerhm, Me, and @Nick_Proud

The quote is from the closing key note via @kckatalyst

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

#DadsAsPrincipals - A Prequel

We're connected educators.

We Tweet, we Vox, we write, we talk, we blog, we share. We're not hiding our best strategies. We're not saving our best ideas. We are a communal economy. And we are better because of each other.

@PrincipalsConf (the '17 National Principals Conference) only solidified things that I already knew:

  • There is power in the conversation that takes place over a meal, walking across town, etc.
  • There is power in the connection.
  • There is power in the relationships.
  • There is power in the inspiration.

So you want to know what happened next,? At #npc17, while connected with some amazing friends and principals (my guys - @brewerhm, @_AndyJacks, @tsschmidty, and @Nick_Proud) an idea was born. Check-out the post #DadsAsPrincipals

Monday, July 10, 2017


When the content lacks meaning and/or is presented in way that doesn’t connect, learners disengage. Adults are NO different than kids.

It happened while sitting with not only four of my favorite principals, but four of my favorite people - Hamish Brewer, Todd Schmidt, Andy Jacks, and Nick Proud. Hamish simply snapped a selfie of our group. The photo was shared and a hashtag was born.


I don’t think we expected much of anything besides a little joke with the #MomsAsPrincipals group that we are connected with.

But all of a sudden, it was game-on. Next thing you know, we’d created a Voxer Group, Twitter and Instagram pages, and a flood of other ideas were born. We got a profile picture taken as the "Founding Fathers" in the "City of Brotherly Love." We put-out a challenge on Twitter for people to share a picture of them with their kids using the hashtag #DadsAsPrincipals - and tweets have been streaming in for the past several hours!

We went to lunch and met up with Danny Bauer, who we had just met for the first time earlier in the conference. After sharing our idea with Danny, we did an impromptu episode with him for his podcast, Better Leaders Better Schools, talking about being a principal, a dad, a husband, and how to ATTEMPT to balance all of those things. Check-out the podcast, which Danny told us would probably release sometime next week.

It has been an exciting afternoon. Between the Tweets, the podcast, the ideas, and in-general conversation - it has been energizing!

I don’t know what this will evolve into. I don’t think any of us know. But I do know that it is exciting to talk about these two topics that we are very passionate about and are deeply personal to us. We don’t think of ourselves as being great Dads and/or Principals. We know we are not perfect. We’re aware that we all have areas to improve upon - and we want to! Which is why it is so much FUN to talk about these topics - being a Principal and a Dad with such a great  tribe of like minded friends.