Leadership Lessons from James Bond

You may not know this, but I’m a huge James Bond fan. I’ve watched each of the movies more times than I like to admit and occasionally throw out a Bond quote at home to fit the occasion (often to only my own amusement:).  One of my favorite things about the character is that he always knows just what to say and the right way to say it…in other words, he’s smooth.

At one of my professional development sessions last year, I had the opportunity to hear Debbie McFalone, an educational consultant, speak on the topic of having difficult conversations.  As a principal, I sometimes have to have difficult conversations with staff or parents.  As a teacher, many of you often have to have difficult conversations with parents or students.  At the start of the session, she began with the most common ways that difficult conversations are handled…you guessed it, they are avoided!  When asked who has used this method, almost everyone (including myself) raised their hand.  We have all done it, whether at home or at work.  Sometimes it’s easier to ignore or avoid and hope the issue goes away.  We know how that usually turns out.  In place of avoidance, she gave us a simple and direct approach to give constructive feedback through the SBI method. In SBI, the S represents the Situation, B represents the Behavior, and I represents the Impact. The beauty of the process is that it takes emotions out of the conversation and focuses on a specific situation, the behavior that needs to be changed, and the impact the behavior had on others. It’s not about having the perfect words or being smooth, it’s about being direct, but respectful. The root of these types of conversations is honesty, trust, and a desire to help (not punish).  As a principal, this is how I want my interactions with staff to be. This is quite different from the James Bond approach…nothing smooth or clever and you don’t walk away after a glib remark. You stay committed, you listen, and you lend a guiding hand to work together.

As much as I still love the idea of being as cool as Bond, I would rather tackle the difficult topics and engage in meaningful dialogue than stick to the smooth talk.  I would rather wear a staff shirt with pride than wear a tuxedo.  I would rather spend time on school buses than in my Aston Martin.  I’d never trade a single moment as an elementary principal for the intrigue of being a secret agent…but I can still order my martinis shaken, not stirred;)



James Bond’s family motto is “Orbit Non Sufficit” or “The World is not Enough”

James Bond was married once to Teresa “Tracy” Bond.  Her tombstone reads “We have all the time in the world”

James Bond served as a commander in the Royal Navy before he served in the British Secret Service.





  • Monday, October 2: Parent Meeting (Haapala/Blazek/Zimes) 8:20 AM,  Student of the Month Assembly (Respect) 9:05 AM, PTA Board Meeting in Conference Room 2:30 PM
  • Tuesday, October 3: MET Meeting (Taylor and Achievement Team) 9:30 AM, Fire Drill 11:30 AM, IEP (Pisko and Achievement Team) 2:35 PM 
  • Wednesday, October 4: IEP (Benson/Blazek/Plakas) 10:00 AM
  • Thursday, October 5: Staff Meeting 8:05 AM
  • Friday, October 6: Student Data from Grades K-4 due in Illuminate, Skate Night at Riverside Arena 6:00-8:00 PM


  • Monday, October 9: Celebrate Monday Assembly 9:05 AM, IEP (Tanner and Achievement Team) 9:30 AM, Elementary Principals Meeting 1:30-4:30 PM
  • Tuesday, October 10: DATA DIVES in Conference Room (rotating subs – details to follow)
  • Thursday, October 12: Building CLT 7:50-8:50 (Working on IRIPs), Fire Drill 3:30 PM, PTA Meeting 7:00 PM
  • Friday, October 13: 5D Growth Plans Due in Pivot 


  • Wednesday, October 18: Students dismissed at 12:10 PM, PT Conferences 1:00-4:00 & 5:00-8:00 PM
  • Thursday, October 19: Students dismissed at 12:10 PM, PT Conferences 1:00-4:00 & 5:00-8:00 PM


The Worst Golfer

Early in the summer, I was invited on a golf outing with some work friends. It was an overnight two day event with 72 holes of golf. Now for those of you unfamiliar with the sport, that’s a lot of golf! I average about three times a year on the golf course and the most I had ever golfed in a day is 18 holes. The average golf score for 18 holes is 100 (according to Google). I average 126. That means I would be swinging the club 104 times more than the average golfer during this outing. And most of the people were above average. I had said yes to the opportunity, because I like to socialize and spend time with my colleagues, but quickly began to regret my decision when I thought about the actual event. I was concerned that I would be the worst golfer of the group and I also worried that my chronic back issues would flare up during the trip and leave me incapacitated.

The closer the date came, the more nervous I became. I even considered trying to find an alternate to take my spot for the outing. The morning of the trip I was a bundle of nerves. I was about to embarrass myself in front of my colleagues and also people that I didn’t even know. The day was long and I played with various teams. I quickly found that each team had strong golfers and average golfers. I didn’t fit into either of those groups, but each team I played with was very forgiving and helped me to focus on having fun and not the score. As we finished our last hole for the first day, we golfed near the area we would be having our BBQ dinner for the evening. I somehow managed to hit my ball in the air, landing right on the grill as some poor person was cooking. Fortunately, for me he had a good sense of humor and soon we were all laughing about the one in a million grill shot! By the end of the trip, I had made a few new friends and enjoyed my time with my colleagues. There was no doubt that I was the worst golfer on the trip, but it didn’t seem to matter. From best to worst, we were all part of the same group and had made some fun memories on the course.

As educators, we often talk about the importance of risk taking and trying new things, but are we modeling that for our students? When was the last time you tried something, knowing that you might not be successful? When was the last time you said yes to an opportunity that made you a little nervous? When I see the 26.2 stickers on people’s vehicles, I don’t wonder if they were the fastest or slowest runner. I just admire them for completing a marathon. In school, it doesn’t matter if all of the things we try are successful. What matters is that we are innovators with a desire to continuously improve. Innovators sometimes fail, but they learn from their mistakes and apply that knowledge. We don’t grow without risk. The next time an opportunity presents itself, take the chance and say, “Yes“! It’s not about whether you are the best or the worst, it’s about being a part of the action rather than sitting on the sidelines.



“I know I am getting better at golf, because I am hitting fewer spectators.” Gerald R. Ford

“Golf is a good walk spoiled.” – Mark Twain

“I have a tip that can take five strokes off anyone’s golf game. It’s called an eraser.” – Arnold Palmer




  • Monday, September 25: Celebrate Monday Assembly 9:05 AM
  • Tuesday, September 26: 504 Meeting (Mcguigan and Achievement Team) 8:15 AM, Lock Down Drill 9:30 AM, REED (Haapala and Achievement Team) 10:35 AM
  • Wednesday, September 27: Parent Meeting (Kurtjian/Blazek) 8:15 AM, Lifetouch Picture Day (Starting with Kindergarten), Elementary Principals Meeting 1:00-4:30 PM
  • Thursday, September 28: Staff Meeting 8:05 AM
  • Friday, September 29: Jon in Lansing for MEMSPA Board Meeting, iReady Window Closes, PTA Fun Run 6:30-8:00 PM (I will be back for the Fun Run:) 


  • Monday, October 2: Student of the Month Assembly 9:05 AM, PTA Board Meeting 2:30 PM
  • Tuesday, October 3: MET Meeting (Taylor, Blazek, Camin) 9:30 AM, Fire Drill 11:30 AM
  • Thursday, October 5: Staff Meeting 8:05 AM
  • Friday, October 6: Data due in Illuminate for grades K-4, Riverside Skate Night 6:00-8:00 PM 


  • Tuesday, October 10: DATA DIVES (subs have been secured – schedule to follow)
  • Friday, October 13: 5D Growth Plans due in Pivot (4 areas of growth)



The Million Dollar Pen

Recently, I was told a story about the early NASA space missions. One of the problems facing the astronauts was having a writing utensil that could be used in space. Due to the lack of gravity, traditional pens would not work properly. After dedicating teams of researchers and spending nearly a million dollars, they were finally able to produce a pen that worked in zero gravity. The mission was a success. The story continues with the Russian cosmonauts facing the same issue. Their solution? They used a pencil.

I can’t confirm that this story is completely accurate, but it certainly demonstrates a good point. Sometimes the most obvious solution is the best one. I think it’s human nature when confronted with complex problems to get a committee together, brainstorm ideas, and often pour a lot of money into fixing things. However, sometimes it just takes looking at things through a different lens for a solution to present itself. I think many times in education, we seek out the newest program or latest technology and spend time and resources chasing a silver bullet to help student achievement. In other words, we are looking to design that million dollar pen. Often, struggling students simply need more time on task, individualized instruction, or help dealing with social/emotional issues. New programs can be great, but it’s the personal interactions from caring and knowledgeable staff that really make the difference for students.

It can be overwhelming when we look at all the issues facing educators today. Legislation, mandates, budgets, societal issues…they all impact schools and can put a lot of pressure on school personnel. When we are feeling overwhelmed, we need to remember that it’s the simple things that will make the difference. Promoting curiosity, providing flexibility in the classroom, and ensuring a safe environment.  You, as the teacher make the difference. Ditch the million dollar pen and go with the pencil!


photo credit: Jack Zagoory Pen Holder (Amazon)


“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” – Confucius

“We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do.” – Mother Teresa

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” – Albert Einstein

Books worth Reading



  • Monday, September 18: Celebrate Monday Assembly 9:05 AM, Fire Drill 11:25 AMConstitution Day Recognized
  • Tuesday, September 19: REED (Ringler/Edwards & Achievement Team) 8:15 AM
  • Wednesday, September 20: Tornado Drill 3:15 PM
  • Thursday, September 21: Building PD (PBS) 7:50-8:50 AM, Jon to Central Office 1:30-3:00 PM, PTA Meeting 7:00 PM
  • Friday, September 22: 504 Meeting (Benson/Blazek) 9:50 AM, 5D Self-Assessments due in Pivot


  • Monday, September 25: Celebrate Monday Assembly 9:05 AM
  • Tuesday, September 26: 504 Meeting (Mcguigan/Blazek) 8:15 AM, Lock Down Drill 9:30 AM
  • Wednesday, September 27: Lifetouch Picture Day (Will start with Kindergarten), Jon to Elementary Principals Meeting 1:00-4:30 PM
  • Thursday, September 28: Staff Meeting in LMC 8:05 AM
  • Friday, September 29: iReady Window Closes, Jon in Lansing for MEMSPA Board of Directors Meeting, PTA Fun Run 6:30-8:00 PM (I will be back for the event)


  • Friday, October 6: Student Data K-4 due in Illuminate
  • Tuesday, October 10: DATA DIVES (Subs have been secured – Schedule to follow)


Stress vs. Passion

I’ve always liked this quote from Simon Sinek and I truly saw this in action as we prepared for school this year. I can’t think of a job where people would voluntarily come in on their own time to set up their work areas several days, weeks, or more before their start day. Yet, that is what I saw last month as teachers came in to organize, decorate, and design learning spaces for their incoming students. Through my office window, I saw teachers walking in carrying bags, boxes, and carts filled with teaching materials. They didn’t have looks of drudgery on their faces, instead they were smiling, greeting one another, and were truly excited to get back to start a new school year. Someone outside of education would probably look at that as bizarre behavior! Who comes in days or weeks early to work?

This phenomenon wasn’t just observed at the school. For the past several weeks, I’ve been running into teachers at the store and overhearing their excited conversations about deals they were getting on materials for their classrooms and students. Just this weekend, I listened as an excited teacher was telling her friend about the themes that she was incorporating in her classroom and what good deals she had gotten on supplies. Now, keep in mind that however great the deals were, this teacher was spending her own money on her classroom. An anomaly? Not at all. Every teacher I have ever met, spends hundreds of dollars (or more) each year on supplies for their classroom. Again, someone outside of education would look at this as absurd behavior! Who spends their own money on supplies and materials for their work? 

The answer to both those questions is quite simply, teachers! Now I understand that some years we need to come in earlier due to changes in assignments and some years we spend more money on our classrooms than others. But the truth is, educators look at this as the norm and not the exception. Why? Because we are doing this out of passion for our calling to be educators. Passionate educators can change the world, but more importantly, they can change a single life for the better. Thank you to all the passionate educators I work with and all those that go above and beyond not because it’s what you do, but because it’s who you are!



“Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” – Oprah Winfrey

“Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion.” – George Hegel

“Great teachers emanate out of knowledge, passion, and compassion.” – A.P.J. Abdul Kalam





  • Monday, September 11: Celebrate Monday Assembly 9:05 AM, iReady Window Opens for Grades 1-4, Book Fair Opens
  • Tuesday, September 12: Achievement Team (Adams) 8:15 AM
  • Wednesday, September 13: Elementary Principals Meeting 1:00-4:30 PM
  • Thursday, September 14: No Staff Meeting, Open House/Curriculum Night 6:00-7:30 PM
  • Friday, September 15: Kindergarten Data due in Illuminate, Bill Roberts from AXA in the lounge for interested teachers 8:00-9:00 AM, 504 Meeting (Benson) 9:50 AM


  • Monday, September 18: Celebrate Monday Assembly 9:05 AM, Constitution Day Recognized
  • Tuesday, September 19: REED (Edwards & Ringler) 8:15 AM
  • Thursday, September 21: Building PD 7:50-8:50 AM, Jon to Central Office for ABC Meeting 1:30-3:00 PM, PTA Meeting 7:00 PM
  • Friday, September 22: Self Assessment for 5D due in Pivot

A Word of Encouragement

I’ve been collecting comics for many years and one of my favorite features as a child was the letter to the editor section. In years past, readers could write letters to the writers and artists of the comic series and a chosen few would be printed in the comic book and sometimes include a response from the artist. In the late 60’s, a young boy wrote a letter to his favorite comic strip and received a response from the creator, Stan Lee. For those who don’t know Stan Lee, he almost single-handedly created Marvel Comics with characters like Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk and many others. Stan Lee wrote back to the child and said that he appreciated the support and that he was confident he was going places. That was the first time that the boy would ever be published, but it was not the last. That boy was George R.R. Martin and is the author of the omnipresent, Game of Thrones series. Martin said that the word of encouragement from his comic hero Stan Lee “changed my life“.

I think each of us at some time has received a word of encouragement, a note, or a simple smile that inspired us and kept us going. We don’t need to be a famous comic creator like Stan Lee to have a positive and dramatic impact on a child. As educators, you are already a hero and role model for many children. They look up to you for guidance and encouragement and often develop their self-image from the words and interactions you have with them. I think of Rita Pierson’s TED Talk where she talks about grading a child’s 20 point test with a Plus 2. In her words,  Minus 18 sucks the life out of you. Plus 2 says, “You ain’t all bad!” We have so much power in the way we provide feedback to students, so we need to use it wisely.

As a parent, I do my best to make sure I give encouragement to my daughters when they try new things whether they succeed or not. At school, we have many students where their only word of encouragement may come from us. To quote Stan Lee, “With great power, comes great responsibility“. As educators, we have the power and responsibility to encourage our students. If we are successful, they may go on to inspire others, just like Stan and George!



“Correction does much, but encouragement does more.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“A word of encouragement from a teacher to a child can change a life.” – John C. Maxwell

“Nine tenths of education is encouragement.” – Anatole France

Books worth Reading



  • Tuesday, September 5: All staff out front to greet students at 8:40 AM, Achievement Team Meeting at 2:00 PM to review incoming 504 plans
  • Thursday, September 7: Staff Meeting at 8:05-8:40 AM (Mandatory Reporting presentation)
  • Monday, September 11 – Friday, September 15: Scholastic Book Fair
  • Monday, September 11: Celebrate Monday Assembly 9:05 AM, iReady Window Opens for grades 1-4
  • Tuesday, September 12: Achievement Team Meeting 8:05 AM
  • Thursday, September 14: No Staff Meeting, Open House/Curriculum Night 6:00-7:30 PM
  • Friday, September 15: Kindergarten Assessment Data due in Illuminate

George Martin shares his encouragement story




Remembering What it’s like not to Know

Years ago, I heard a teacher tell a story about how she used students in her class to help other students with new concepts. One child in particular had a knack for helping others understand difficult math concepts. When the teacher asked the child how he was so good at helping the others, he casually explained, “I remember what it’s like not to know“. That perspective from one who had recently learned a concept was crucial in helping other students make that transition to understanding. I think sometimes as adults, we forget what it’s like not to know.

Recently, I started a new blog on WordPress. I had been using Blogger for the past four years and thought that a change in format and design was in order. Now, I assumed that this would be a pretty easy transition from one platform to another. I was wrong. Everything was different.  I found myself spending hours on things that used to take me minutes, I spent evenings online with tech support, and I called friends who used this platform.  It was essentially starting from scratch. Some days I feel satisfied with my new learning and other days I question my decision to switch! While the process has been tedious at times, it has helped me push my learning and helped me to be more patient and understanding when helping others learning to blog.

As educators, we need to remember what it’s like not to know. Let’s face it, most of us are in education because we liked school. We were good at it! We need to put ourselves in the shoes of the students that struggle at school, who need extra help, or lack support outside of school. One of the best ways we can do that is to try new things and push ourselves out of our comfort zones. When we are pushing our own learning, it helps us support students to do the same. As I have recently realized, learning is messy and sometimes slow. Help students to learn that this is normal, but that the results are always worth it in the end. Have you pushed your learning lately? 


Photo Credit: Breakthrough.org


“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” – Mahatma Gandhi

“Change is the end result of all true learning.” – Leo Buscaglia

“A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer.” – Bruce Lee


  • Tuesday, August 29: Building PD at Buchanan 8:00-11:00 & 12:30-3:30
  • Wednesday, August 30: District PD at Various Locations 8:00-11:00 & 12:30-3:30
  • Thursday, August 31: Teacher Work Day
  • Tuesday, September 5: Students Return (12:10 pm dismissal)
  • Thursday, September 14: Open House/Curriculum Night 6:00-7:30 pm


FullSizeRender (8)FullSizeRender (9)


Team vs Group

There is an old saying, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” I recently read that in Simon Sinek’s book “Together is Better“. This year is a special year as I move to a new building. A building that is blending two communities, staff members from several buildings, and the hopes and dreams of every child who walks in the door. Many people have been asking what plans or initiatives I have for the new year. What goals will be set and what measures of success will I use. My answer is simple. I have one goal. To develop a true team of educators that support, respect, and communicate with one another. If that happens, all the academic successes will come. But I think it’s important to define what a team is and how it is different from a group.

Rick DuFour shares a great analogy of team vs group using the examples of Michael Jordan (arguably the best basketball player ever) and Tiger Woods (arguably the greatest golfer ever). In 1988, Michael Jordan was voted the best offensive player, the best defensive player, and the most valuable player in the league (the only time that had ever happened). Yet, he did not achieve his goal of winning a championship. That would come later when the entire team worked with a synergy that would be remembered for years to come. On the other hand, Tiger Woods was able to win numerous championships on his own, through his effort and skill. Jordan played basketball with a team, where Woods played golf with a group.

DuFour also likens a group to marathon runners. They all have a common goal, but do not need to rely on one another to reach their goal. They are independent, rather than interdependent. I would argue that great educators in high achieving schools are interdependent to one another. They don’t just share a common goal, they support one another, learn from one another, and respect one another. When a TEAM of educators works together with passion in a culture of respect, students win!!

It’s easy to brainstorm a list of things that I would wish to see in school. Happy staff and students, high achievement scores, a supportive and collaborative community. Those are simply the results or outcomes that can only come if we achieve the one goal of becoming a team of educators. Now you know my goal for the year. What’s yours?


“A strong team can take any crazy vision and turn it into a reality.” – John Carmack

“The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team.” – John Wooden

“A captain is (only) as good as his team.” – Gautam Gambhir


  • Tuesday, August 22: Bounce Back Event at Riley 5:00-8:00 pm
  • Wednesday, August 23: Building Tours 5:30 pm
  • Thursday, August 24: Building Tours 10:00 am / Principals Meeting 1:00-4:30
  • Tuesday, August 29: Building PD Day 8:00-11:00 / 12:30-3:30
  • Wednesday, August 30: District PD Day 8:00-11:00 / 12:30-3:30
  • Thursday, August 31: Teacher Work Day