Building Relationships


It all goes back to relationships!

Relationships are the essential element in our schools. The old adage, “Kids don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” is true especially in today’s society when kids are used to so much choice in their world. Also, in today’s busy world, it’s important for teachers and school staff to make positive connections with students. We must be intentional and taking time with these relationships must be purposeful.

Members of the Compelled Tribe have teamed up to share practical ways for educators to build relationships with students. As connected educators, we also embrace the notion that it is the power of the team that drives much of what we do. How do you build relationships with those that you serve? See the list below for ideas to add to what you may be already doing in the buildings and districts in which you work.

  1. Greet students at the door. Smile and call them by name. Tell them you are glad to see them.
  2. Ask your students to share three things about themselves. Let them choose what they share. Keep them on index cards to help make connections throughout the year.
  3. Know your students families. As important as it is to know the students, make the connection to home. Great relationships with your kids starts where they kick off their day. As the year continues and both the good and bad arise, having that connection will be crucial to getting the results you are seeking.
  4. Journal writing is an activity to get to know your students well and give students a voice in the classroom.
  5. Make positive phone calls home especially within the first two weeks of the school year.
  6. Genius Hour/Passion Projects really give teachers an opportunity to learn about student passions.
  7. Have kids make something that represents them out of Play-dough and share.
  8. In the first couple of days of school, learn the first name of every student in your first class of the day, and something personal and unique about them that has nothing to do with your first class of the day.
  9. Be vulnerable!  Let your guard down and show your students that you are a learner, you make mistakes, and persevere.  They will see you as a person, opening the door for a relationship built on trust. Share stories about yourself as a learner or challenges you’ve faced when you were there age and help them see what it took to overcome it. It’s easy to forget how much a simple connection can make the difference.
  10. Eat together.  Have breakfast with a small group of kids or join them at the lunch table.  Gathering around meal time provides an informal way to have conversations and get to know your students.
  11. Hold Monday morning meetings (We call them “Weekend News Updates”).  Ask each student to share about their weekend – good or bad.  Ask questions.  Be sure to share about your weekend too!  Occasionally bring in breakfast or make hot chocolate.
  12. Laugh with them. Frequently. Show them that school, and your class, is just not about learning stuff. It is about sharing an experience. Tell them you missed them if they were out.
  13. Keep in touch with past students.  Show past students that you do not have a 1 year contract with them.  The ongoing relationship will also model to your current students the value of a positive classroom community.
  14. At the elementary level — hold morning meeting everyday as a class and stick to the routine of greeting, sharing, team building activity, and morning message.  This is a sacred time to build and maintain a culture of risk tasking and building relationships.
  15. Send positive postcards home to every child. Have them address it on the first day of the quarter, keep them and challenge yourself to find at least one thing each quarter to celebrate about your students, let them and their parents know.
  16. Find their interests and what motivates them! Sometimes it may take a bit to break down barriers and build trust, but through being genuine and authentic with them this will happen in no time.
  17. Make personal phone calls to parents. Find one good thing to say about the children in your class.  It can be how they contributed to a class discussion or how well mannered they are in class or in the halls. For older students it can be how diligent a student is at learning challenging content.
  18. Share something about yourself that they will find relevant or interesting to extend your relationships with students.
  19. Tell a story from a time you were their age. This approach allows students to see teachers as they once were and make connections easier to establish and maintain.
  20. Create a unique handshake or symbol for each of your students.  Use it when you greet them at the door or say goodbye.
  21. Eat lunch with a group of kids throughout the week. They will enjoy a time dedicated just to them. (And you will enjoy a peaceful lunch!)
  22. As a school, hold monthly celebrations to recognize students and educators their accomplishments.
  23. Take pictures with students. Print. Write a special note on the back to the student.
  24. At the end of a term or year, write a thank you to students telling them what you have learned from them. Be specific and honest – authenticity goes a long way. Try to make the note handwritten if possible, but email works well too.
  25. Each day write two students a personal  note about something that you have noticed about them.  Go into some detail and be specific. Keep track of who you reach out to over the year and try and reach as many students as you can. The time you spend doing this will deepen connections and pay off 10 fold.
  26. Have dance parties! It is so fun to let loose and get down with students. Students love seeing you have fun with them, and the saying goes, “The class that dances together, stays together”.
  27. Play with students at recess or during a free time. Climb the monkey bars, play kickball, or tag. Students will never forget you connecting with them on the playground.
  28. Hang out in the hall to give high fives or to have quick conversations with students. Relationship-building can be squeezed into any time of the day.
  29. Notice students having a bad day. Ask questions without prying. Show that you care. Follow up the next day, week, etc.
  30. When a student is having a rough day, ask if he/she has eaten. We are all more unreasonable when we are hungry. Keep a supply of snacks on hand (ex: breakfast bars, crackers, etc).
  31. Go see students at their events: sports, theater, dance, volunteering. Meet parents and families.
  32. When a student stops to say “Hello” and has a friend in tow, introduce yourself and be sure that the guest feels important.
  33. Stop class from time to time with a comment such as, “Hey, everyone, Katie just asked me a great question. I think you’ll all benefit from this. Katie, could you repeat that for everyone?”
  34. Sing “Happy Birthday” to students; send birthday emails (I use “Boomerang” to schedule my birthday emails each month).
  35. Say “I missed you yesterday” when a student has been absent. Be sincere.
  36. We have to make time to grow relationships with our students. This time can not always be in a planner or a calendar. Sometimes, this simply means just being there for your students.
  37. Mail them a postcard for their birthday. They are always amazed to receive personal mail!
  38. In a leadership position, learn as many names as you can. Greet students by their name as often as you are able.
  39. Music! Bond with your students over music. Play soft classical music while they are working. Incorporate music/songs into special events or lessons.
  40. Classroom: Start a compliment jar. Share comments at the end of class or randomly throughout the day. School: Do shout-outs during morning (or afternoon) announcements/news show.
  41. Smile and make eye contact.  “Good morning”, “Good afternoon”.  Something as simple as a greeting in the hall with smile and eye contact conveys both warmth & safety.  Try it tomorrow.  
  42. First day of math class have them choose 10 numbers that are significant to them (3 for number of cats, 1 for brothers, 20 for number of hours they work, etc.).  Everyone shares out.  You will learn lots about all your students in one day.  
  43. Cut them some slack every now and then.  “What were you doing?  What should you have been doing?  Can you do that for me next time?”  We all make mistakes.  
  44. Hold class celebrations and have students develop unique cheers for various accomplishments…these can be anything from a sports team victory, to being selected for something, to earning a grade, and they need not be school related.
  45. Allen Mendler’s 2×10 strategy for challenging students. Spend 2 minutes per day for 10 consecutive days talking to a student about something not academic.
  46. Share your own goals, successes/failures. Don’t be a mystery to your students.
  47. After morning announcements have students participate in a daily discussion question.  Have a student read the question and set a timer for two and a half minutes.  Each person turns to a partner and answers the question then volunteers share with the whole class.  Each question, in some way, will help you get to know your students.
  48. Halfway through the year, have your parents and students fill out a feedback form.  In my classroom, these forms look different.  Allow them to evaluate you so you can keep what works and change things that aren’t working.
  49. In your summer introduction letter, include a letter asking parents to write about their children in 1,000,000 words or less.  Keep the assignment voluntary and open so they tell you what is most important to them.
  50. Don’t be too busy to truly listen.  Listen to understand, not to respond.  Are you starting a lesson when a student interrupts and tells you they are moving?  Take the minute to hear them out.  That time will mean more to the student than the first minute of the lesson ever will.
  51. When students get stuck in class, teach the other students to cheer them on.  We do a simple, “Come on, [Name], you can do it,” followed by three seconds of clapping.
  52. Teach students call and responses to uplift each other.  When a student responds with something profound and someone loves it, that student gets to start the cheer.
  53. When you check in with groups to give them feedback or see how it’s going, make sure you are seeing them eye-to-eye.  If they’re sitting, don’t stand.  Pull up a chair next to them.  If they’re sitting on the floor, sit down on the floor next to them to avoid standing over them.
  54. Give honest feedback even when it may not be positive.  Your students will appreciate that you expect more out of them than they’re showing.
  55. Create a “You Matter” wall.  Take fun pictures of each of your students.  Print each photo and put each student’s photo in an 8×10 frame.  Hang them all on your wall under a “You Matter” heading.  At the end of the year, send the photos home with students.
  56. Tell them what was hard for you when you went through school and how you worked to overcome the challenges.  It shows they aren’t the only ones who struggle.
  57. Defend your students in front of other people.
  58. Take risks so students feel comfortable doing the same.  Don’t ask them to do anything you wouldn’t do.
  59. Create something that is unique to your class.  For us, it’s a house competition.  It’s something that connects my past students and current students.  It’s also a family bond that only the students who have been in my class understand.
  60. Apologize when you make a mistake.
  61. Cook together and then you can eat family style in the classroom. Some fun and easy crockpot meals: applesauce, vegetable soup, chicken and dumplings. Then, make cupcakes for dessert!
  62. Every so often, take the pulse of your building according to students. Convene a volunteer roundtable with student reps from various groups (athletes, scholars, quiet, loud) and ask them for critical feedback about topics you are working on. Some ideas I’ve seen discussed in this format include schoolwide incentives (assemblies, sledding event, etc.), dress code, and discussing recess options for winter.
  63. During your informal walk throughs, saddle up right next to students and ask them the purpose of the lesson they are involved in. Why do you think the teacher is asking you to work on this? You’ll be more than surprised with the honest feedback.
  64. Bring board games back! Add a few games like Checkers, Uno or Chess to your lunch table options. See if any students are willing to play a game or two with you and others.
  65. Use sidewalk chalk to decorate the entry of your building with positive messages to students. Have teachers help you write and draw the notes!
  66. Leave nice notes on post-its for students on the outside of their lockers. Recruit other students to help spread the kindness throughout many lockers!
  67. Forgive them when they make mistakes. Remind them that mistakes are opportunities for learning. Don’t hold grudges against misbehavior and don’t allow other adults to hold them either.
  68. Make time for dismissal. Tell them you can’t wait to see them tomorrow and share high fives on the way out!
  69. Notice which students still don’t have money to pay for lunch. Help them out when you can. Treat them to a snack they don’t usually get to purchase at lunch time.
  70. Find special projects that need to be done around school and recruit the most unlikely helpers.
  71. Remind your students you and your staff were all kids once too. Have your team bring in pictures of themselves as children (at the ages you have in your school). Post them and have a contest allowing students to guess which teacher is which. Those 80s pictures are the most popular!
  72. My favorite question to ask my students or any student I come in contact with is what are you into lately? This opens communication with your students and let’s them know you are interested.
  73. Allow students to do a job shadow. Give them a peek into what you do and how you make daily decisions.
  74. Host an ice cream social for students that meet certain goals.

The list will grow as our experiences and our connections grow. Feel free to reach out to any of the Tribe members listed below to learn more about the power of our team and how our tribe constantly supports each other in our teaching, leading and learning.

Compelled Tribe Contributors:

Jennifer Hogan, The Compelled Educator  @Jennifer_Hogan

Jonathon Wennstrom, Spark of Learning  @jon_wennstrom

Craig Vroom, Fueling Education, @Vroom6

Allyson Apsey, Serendipity in Education, @allysonapsey

Sandy King Inspiring The Light @sandeeteach

Gary Kidd Reflections and Rants from the Asst Principal, @hinotewailer

Jacie Maslyk    @DrJacieMaslyk

Jodie Pierpoint  Journey In Learning @jodiepierpoint  

Jim Cordery   Mr. Cordery’s Blog  @jcordery

Allie Bond   The Positive Teacher @Abond013

Angie Murphy ConnectED to Learning @RoyalMurph_RRMS

Karen Wood @karenwoodedu

Lindsey Bohler @Lindsey_Bohler

Starr Sackstein @MsSackstein

Debbie Campbell The Curious Educator @DebraLCamp

Michael McDonough M Squared at the Microphone @m_squaredBHS

Barbara Kurtz @BJKURTZ

Stephanie Jacobs @MsClassNSession

Michael Todd Clinton Motivated teacher blog  @MotivatedThe

Cathy Jacobs @cathyjacobs5

Reed Gillespie Mr. Gillespie’s Office @rggillespie

Molly Babcock Sweet Tea and a Live Oak Tree @MollyBabcock

Lisa Meade Reflections @LisaMeade23


Drink the Kool-Aide

Here’s Your Sign, Lindsey:  What Flavor is YOUR Kool-Aide?

  • Read the blog post, What Flavor is YOUR Kool-Aide, by Bethany Hill and Danny Steele
  • Read the chapter in Start Right Now about “Knowing the Way”

At the end of the blog post, the question was posed: “We are all in — day in and day out.  So… what is the flavor of your Kool-Aide?  And is everyone in your building drinking it?”

People are My Kool-Aide

Energizing. Through a survey in the book, Stand Out, my strength resonated true to my personality. Stimulator.  I always ask myself, “How can I raise the energy?”  At any given moment throughout the school day, I find myself thinking how can I make things better for not only our kids but our staff as well.  Sometimes I even get a little too ahead of myself and need to take a step back for the sake of my teachers. And I am thankful for those relationships because they know they can come tell me when I need to slow down!

lunchOur energy comes from morning music greetings and different classes leading the school with our kid mission song.  Last Spring, I began “Lunch with Mrs. Bohler” for the kids. Each Monday, I eat with 10 different kindergarten students (followed by Tuesday’s eight first graders and Wednesday’s eight second graders).  Selfies are taken and the pictures are given to the students at the end of each week.  The kids eat it up! (Ha!)

I am always looking for ways to encourage, motivate, and inspire the people around me.  I took on Danny’s “awesome colleague” challenge in February.  With some questioning the reasoning behind the challenge (just another thing we had to do), I chose to see the JOY that others were getting from reading their messages.  Some even said I read it over and over again…thinking someone thinks this of me? 

Missing a Few Kinder Teachers…


In January, I started Dinner with Mrs. Bohler. Since I do Lunch with Mrs. Bohler, some of my teachers thought I was inviting students over for dinner! Never did it cross some of their minds that their principal would have them over for dinner!  I feed off energy, so the more people together, the more energized I feel.  And so it began and continues…1st grade is up this month!  (Oh, and by the way…my husband does the cooking!)

February saw something new but filled with awesomeness! A school-wide Family Rally to celebrate our students and have fun as one big, happy family! It’s a time to celebrate and focus on being the best #seslearner possible. It’s encouraging.  It’s motivating.  It’s full of JOY. It will soon turn into a time to not only celebrate our students but our wonderful team of teachers as well.


These people aren’t ‘just’ students or ‘just’ teachers or ‘just’ staff members.  They are my kids, my teachers, my staff.  They are MY SES family.  I do whatever I can to become part of their lives.  I seek to know their passions, their likes, their dislikes, their strengths, their weaknesses, and more importantly their families.  I view this aspect of my job as number one priority.  

I spend time with my kids and teachers whenever I get the opportunity.  

Watching our boys play flag football
FullSizeRender 40 copy.jpg
Watching My Girls Perform (gymnastics)

Are they drinking the Kool-Aide?

I hope we are all drinking the kool-aide at SES where we put people first.  We say we are the best, and the best educators put people first.  I truly believe we are all drinking the kool-aide because we want to be full of JOY not only for ourselves but for our kids.

And if some aren’t drinking the kool-aide…

I got to keep on mixing it up until they are ready to take a DRINK!


Now: This Is For You.

Sometimes I wonder if a book is right for me.  Reading Start.Right.Now. The question came…Is this for me?  After reading the first chapter twice (yes, twice!), I knew this book was for me.  So…Is this book for You?

Read to Find Out More…


This Book is For You If You Have…

A Zest for Lifelong Learning.  Most teachers and leaders have a zest for lifelong learning. They never stop looking for reasons to grow and learn more to improve their instruction or leadership.  Ever since I got out of college with my first degree, I have continuously sought out opportunities to go back to school, attend conferences and professional development, read professional books, and participate in anything that would move my learning forward. I will always be a student at heart!

A Need to Share and Learn from Others. Most teachers and leaders have a need to share and learn from their peers.  They find the best resources with the teacher next door or down the hall.  I have always said teachers should be and are the best thieves.  I know I am! I am not afraid to borrow (steal) a great idea from another leader and implement it at our school!  And in return, I am willing to share the great things we do in our school so others can learn too!

A Desire to Connect.  Most teachers and leaders have a desire to connect with other teachers and leaders from all over.  They want to connect with others who are joyful in their position as a teacher or leader.  I connect daily through Twitter and Voxer to connect with leaders and teachers to learn how to be a better leader for my teachers and students. Through these connections, I have also had face to face meetings and gained awesome friends to learn from.

A Willingness to Change and Take Risks. Most teachers and leaders have a willingness to change and take risks if they know it is in the best interest of students.  They want to try anything that will help students be successful.  Though my learning and connecting with others, I have taken several risks to make things better at our school.  The risks sometimes are for the better and sometimes need to be changed to meet our needs.  Whatever the change or risk, we are willing to at least try!

#booksnaps for #StartRightNow


Excellent Teachers and Leaders Have these Traits in Common

Thank you, Todd, Jimmy, and Jeffrey for pushing EXCELLENCE in teaching and leading!

Join the Twitter Conversation: #StartRightNow or Join the Voxer Group Chat

Start.Right.Now. Teach and Lead for Excellence by Todd Whitaker (@ToddWhitaker), Jimmy Casas (@casas_jimmy), and Jeffrey Zoul

Through Our Lenses

Dewitt Jones with National Geographic said it best, “By being open to different angles, different mindsets, different backgrounds, we can open ourselves up to many more options and choices.”  As a member of the Compelled Tribe, we all have opportunities to see through the different lenses of each member.  We have district leaders, building leaders, and teachers that are part of the tribe and each bring their own expertise to the table. We hope you enjoy looking through each of our lenses as we take this journey together. Together we are better!

Lindsey Bohler (@MrsBohlerSES)

img_9744In my 6th year of leadership and 12th year in education, I believe I learn more and more each passing day.  Looking through my lens as a PreK-2 Leader Learner, I am 100% for KIDS.  I answer/ask each question with “how does this affect our kids?”  I make myself visible every day by being in classrooms, having lunch with kids, being outside at recess, on bus/car duty, and talking about instruction with teachers.  A #JoyfulLeader can’t lead from the office!  Relationships with my teachers and students are at the top of my list as I start each day. As you look through my lens as a lead learner, kids will always be around! Check out more through Bohler Reflections at

Allie Bond (@Abond013)

fullsizerender-32I am currently a Kindergarten teacher and this is my 4th year in education.  After living in Ohio for over 20 years, I fearlessly moved to North Carolina for a new experience. With each teaching experience, I fell more in love with literacy and giving kids what I believe is the best gift– the love of reading.  In 2016, I began my masters degree in literacy and strive to model best practices in my classroom as shown by Fountas and Pinnell, Jan Richardson, Donalyn Miller, Richard Allington among many other influential leaders in the field.  By providing students with a rich classroom library, choice, and time, I guide students towards becoming independent readers. I also strive to give my students an innovative education and took the plunge towards flexible seating in the classroom.  Being a connected educator gives me the opportunity to expand my PLN, gain new ideas, and most importantly, build relationships.  #wearebettertogether

Cathy Jacobs (@cathyjacobs5)

fullsizerender-37I am currently the principal at Matzke Elementary in Cypress-Fairbanks ISD.  We are located in the northwest corner of Houston, TX. It is a Title 1, PreK-5th-grade public school with just under 1000 students and 104 staff members. This is my fourth year as a principal, 12th year in leadership and 18th year in education. I believe in servant leadership and keeping the main thing in mind, the main thing being what is best for students. I would consider myself a “Principal in Action” and believe that building relationships with students is our number one priority.  Along with teaching kindness, tolerance, and collaboration. I blog through the lenses of principal, lead learner, educator, and mom. I truly believe that working in education is a life calling and a mission.  I absolutely love what I do!

Hal Roberts (@HalLRoberts)

fullsizerender-35I am a retired superintendent after 38 years in education.I worked in 5 different districts in Texas and served in mostly Title 1 districts and campuses. However, when I was superintendent, there were approximately 10% low income homes, which is a whole other set of problems and issues. I taught from 4th through 12th grade. Of the 38 years, I  served 30 of those as athletic director, elementary principal, high school principal, assistant superintendent, & superintendent. To borrow a phrase from a well known insurance company, “I know a thing or two, because I have seen a thing or two.” I use to say I have seen it all, but I am here to tell you I never saw it all and I feel pretty certain you will never see it all. A few things I have learned: 1. It’s all about relationships 2. Your classroom/campus is the only level playing field that your students have 3. The best thing about education is that every day matters; the scary thing about education is that every day matters. 4. The study of neuroscience is a passion I have acquired in the last couple of years and I believe every educator needs to know & understand its impact on teaching & learning. (I’m presenting on this at the National Title 1 conference in Long Beach later in February.)

I am currently writing my second book (Pirate On! Was the first) and currently the title is Leadership Lessons from Vineyard. This title could easily change as I try to follow the prompting of the Lord, as I write and finish my manuscript.

I value your input, innovation, & desire to enhance kids’ lives. Prayerfully I hope I can add value to you and your area of service.

Stephanie Jacobs (@MsClassNSession)

fullsizerender-34I invite you to take a look through my lenses! This Blog Is Why I want to share my story with you. I have been a member of the education community for over 18 years. My journey began as an eager, first year teacher working with elementary school students. Through the years, my career has evolved in many ways. By pure coincidence, I was offered the opportunity to teach college courses at our local technical college and have never looked back. What an amazing experience to facilitate discussions and assist those looking to change the path of their lives. About five years ago, I made the decision to take the next level in my career and plunge into administration. As an administrator, my goal was to bring positive, innovative changes to my environment. Maybe I was ahead of the game. Maybe my vision was misunderstood. One thing is for sure, my passion and drive were ignited more than ever. I now find myself back in the classroom, making the changes that I envisioned and impacting lives in a positive way. Want to hear more about my story? Check out my blog at This Blog Is Why to get a closer look through my lenses.

Jennifer Hogan (@Jennifer_Hogan)

fullsizerender-29I’m currently the Assistant Principal of Curriculum and Technology at Hoover High School, and I have been an educator for 23 years. My journey has been interesting, as I have been a teacher, coach, assistant principal, and principal, and not always in that order. I believe in the power of a team, and I try to join or create a team when I can because I know that I do my best work when I am part of one. I pull for the underdog, believe that we all have to fail our way to success, and know that every child needs at least one adult that they can depend on. What do I bring to the table? I bring encouragement, coaching, a “just do it” philosophy, and a desire to help others be the best that they can be. I blog at

Debbie Campbell (@debralcamp)

fullsizerender-25My lens resembles a kaleidoscope, as my role is not a traditional one in most schools. I currently serve as the Director of Communications and Instructional Technology at Bellaire High School. My adventure as an educator began over 25 years ago teaching third grade & then moving into instructional technology. After 17 years at the elementary level and raising three children of my own, I moved to the high school level. First focusing on communication between school and home and the transition of students from middle to high school and then adding the lens as an instructional technologist to support teachers as our campus went 1 to 1. I continue to strive to find the answers to how my school can communicate beyond our walls so that our families are informed and can increase their level of involvement while supporting teachers as they learn to integrate technology into their pedagogy. Continuing to learn new ways to leverage the use of technology is key in supporting all of these systems on our campus. You can follow my learning and journey at

Craig Vroom (@Vroom6)

fullsizerender-26A teacher for 7 years and an administrator for 15, I have been fortunate to work as both in both the Elementary and Secondary settings. My passion is leading and learning. I believe that the world in which we see and therefore embrace is a collection of our experiences. The rich opportunities we are provided each day offer a look into the depths of our teaching, learning and leading. Like you, I am only as good as those in which I have served and with whom I inspired by. My lens in education begins and ends through the power of the relationships we keep with others. Being a middle school leader I have fully embraced the spirit of the teacher and the student. Minds that explore. Bodies that morph. Spirits the glow. We lead change. Our relationships with others will always be the difference. Read more at   

Jodie Pierpoint (@jodiepierpoint)

fullsizerender-30I am currently a high school special education reading teacher, although my journey in education has been diverse. I started as an elementary special education teacher and as I saw the struggles and social/emotional needs that my students faced I decided to get my master’s in school counseling.  I then worked in an urban high school for three years as a senior counselor. My journey returned me to the classroom and diving more into the specific reading needs students struggle with.  I have taught a specialized reading program at both the elementary and high school level. What I have learned through my teaching experiences is that all students, no matter what their age, or their environment, just want to be heard and cared for.  Relationships matter.  Kids need an advocate in their corner. We need to encourage, mentor and support.  My blog, Journey in  Learning is found at

Michael McDonough (@m_squaredBHS)

fullsizerender-27I am enjoying my 25th year in education and currently serve as a High School Principal. I’ve been a teacher, coach, Asst Principal and Principal all at the secondary level within Houston ISD.  I am at my best when working with others and riffing on new ideas.  I strive to bring both creativity and ingenuity to current systems or practices and enjoy working with new principals and administrators. A common theme within my blog is the idea that our students, our kids, are far more aware and far more powerful than we realize. Finally, I will always approach a new idea with the thought of how powerful it can be versus what will lead to its failure. Read more at

Tim McDermot (@Tim_McDermott1)

fullsizerender-36This is my 20th year in education and my 7th year in leadership. I currently serve as the Principal at Alice Gustafson Elementary School and Early Childhood Center. This is my first year as principal at AGS and fifth in Batavia Public Schools, a mid size district in the western suburbs of Chicago. I have spent my entire career at the elementary level where I have been a teacher, interventionist, Student Services Coordinator, and Principal. I am passionate about all things leadership. I believe that as a leader I have a great deal of responsibility for setting the tone and creating that positive school culture that leads to high levels of collaboration. I recently completed my Ed.D. in School Leadership and my dissertation was about principal practices that influence teacher collaboration. I became a connected educator to continue to learn and grow. My blog covers topics like leadership, family, teaching, and my experiences in schools. You can read more at

Jacie Maslyk (@DrJacieMaslyk)

fullsizerender-33Now in my 20th year in education, I have worn many hats.  I’ve been a classroom teacher, reading specialist/literacy coach, elementary principal, Director of Elementary Education, and Assistant Superintendent.  In my current role, I am responsible for curriculum, instruction, assessment, technology, and just about anything else!  I am love planning professional learning for teachers, especially when it comes to literacy, creativity and innovative practices.  I am passionate about STEAM learning and Maker Education and even wrote a book about it.  Check out STEAM Makers  I joined the Compelled Tribe to connect with active bloggers and push myself to write more. I share my ideas at Creativity in the Making I’m addicted to Twitter and love creating global connections with other innovative educators.  

Allyson Apsey (@allysonapsey)

fullsizerender-28I try to look through the lenses of others as I lead Quincy Elementary in Zeeland, Michigan. I am a work in progress, always, and love sharing my journey with other passionate educators. As a principal, my first customers are my teachers and staff. They are the ones doing the real work in our school, they are touching the lives of our students and parents in a direct and profound way. I work for them, and through them. I strive to help them bring passion for continuous improvement and joy to every moment we get to spend with students. My blog, Serendipity in Education, is a collection of my thoughts as I work to get better every day as I stumble upon the fortunes of life as an educator, mother, and wife.

Molly Babcock (@MollyBabcock)

fullsizerender-31I am in my seventh year of teaching and I am lucky enough to share my classroom with a phenomenal group of fifth graders.  I believe that when you have high expectations for your students (and for yourself!) and teach outside-of-the-box lessons, it inspires scholars to achieve things they didn’t even know were possible.  I find joy in teaching the soft skills just as much as the academics and I am constantly looking for new ways to make my classroom more student-centered.  My fifth graders run their own discussions, give each other feedback and jump in and teach lessons.  They even tell me when it’s time to transition to a new subject.  We sing, stand on our chairs, drum, smile, laugh and cheer for each other.  But don’t let all of the excitement fool you.  We are focused and down to business learning tough material.  We truly are a family and I feel so fortunate to be able to learn and grow with my class every single day.  My journey can be found on my blog, Sweet Tea and a Live Oak Tree.

Celebrate Good Times…Come On!

After changing up my morning car duty music, “Celebration” was the first to come on the new Kidz Bop album.  Celebrate…shouldn’t we all be celebrating our story?  It’s our time to come together.  Tell OUR story to everyone around the world (especially our great state).  

Let’s all celebrate and have a good time
We gonna celebrate and have a good time
It’s time to come together
It’s up to you, what’s your pleasure
Everyone around the world
Come on!


While we are so busy with the everyday things, we quickly forget how important it is to share our stories with others and celebrate the good times happening at our schools!  

I love to tell our story about the awesomeness that is happening at our school and wouldn’t you know…I found someone right here in Arkansas who loves to tell her story just as much.  Bethany Hill.  Believe it or not…we met on Twitter!!  I am not sure how we really connected online or remember when, but things just clicked.  To make things even better than Twitter, we were both attending Arkansas Leadership Master Principal where we met face to face (which is funny if you really think about it…our schools are an only hour away from each other).  We soon discovered we were both ALL ABOUT OUR KIDS, and the rest is history!

After many conversations around pushing an Arkansas connection forward, an idea was born.  An idea out of my comfort zone but know with a sidekick like Bethany we could pull it off together.  Because aren’t we better together?  Through these countless conversations, we felt like this became our mission to complete.  A journey of two joyful leaders to travel together.  We want to celebrate everything that is happening right here in our great state by sharing and learning with others!  After all, a PLN is the best source of joy, support, love, encouragement, motivation, confidence, listener…the list could go on. Really all that just from a Twitter PLN and who knows you may just meet one day!

Along the way, we will be seeking out YOUR stories.  So, we hope you will join us on our new journey through Twitter, Voxer, and our Blogs!

Oh, I forgot to mention…You will have to continue to Stay Tuned for what is to come!!  


Get Out Now!

In early January, I asked an awesome friend of mine (you may know her…@bethhill2829) about how she told her staff she wasn’t going to be in her office anymore!  I was a little worried about how to approach it with my staff, so I took her approach to simply tell them in our weekly memo.  In fact, I was going to wait until next year to even start with my mobile office, but I was encouraged by Bethany to give it a try!

So, here goes… (sent to my staff on January 8, 2017)

Embrace. As I embrace the new year, I’d like to take on a new journey into the classrooms. So, from time to time I may come in sit down and get comfy just to be in the environment with you and the kids!  This doesn’t mean I am there to observe you (unless it is your informal time), but I may leave some reflective feedback, do a little office work on my laptop, interact with the kids, or help our students who are struggling. 


Here it is January 22 and my office became “not my office.” In fact my office is nothing more than a backpack that I carry around with everything I need.  I haven’t been in my office for TWO WEEKS (except to return a phone call), and I don’t plan on going back!  Between parent conferences, RTI and admin meetings, and PLCs, I have set up my office in over 20 classrooms.  Sidenote: If anyone needs me, they simply find me through my phone.

Why?  Because I can’t LEAD from my office.

I can’t see my students who are struggling.  I can’t teach.  I can’t see if my teachers are teaching the standards or our curriculum.  I can’t see my teachers learning from one another. I can’t feel the joy of students learning through their smiles. I can’t be engaged with my kids.  I can’t share ALL the great things happenings at our school.  I can’t tell OUR story.


Now in my office… I CAN!!

  • I CAN work with those students who are in the RTI process that my teachers talk about at all of those meetings.  I can really see what they are talking about when a student of theirs is struggling.  It makes me more knowledgeable about the student when I talk to his or her parents.  I can talk with those students who need to be challenged.
  • I CAN help teach when teachers need help! I walked into a room this last Friday, and I jumped right in to help the teacher teach! It was the perfect opportunity for me to help not only the teacher but the students work with Google Slides.
  • I CAN see the standards and curriculum in action.  While I am in the classrooms, I have opportunities to look at lesson plans and curriculum units to compare with what is being taught in the classroom.  I ask questions to my teachers for clarification and know that they are doing all that they can to teach our kids!!
  • I CAN participate in peer observations with my teachers.  We are #bettertogether!!
  • I CAN see how much fun our students have with learning.  Students are eager to write about polar bears because a teacher just happened to read a book about them, so she adjusted her lesson for a very teachable moment.
  • I CAN engage with KIDS. I made tangram puzzles,  helped write how-to’s, worked through a word problem with questioning, played a role in a readers’ theater, and watched a live cam of penguins with 1st graders!

AND I captured almost ALL of it through pictures/videos to share with our families and community through our Smore Newsletters!

I CAN share and tell our story!

Check Out some of Our Awesomeness below!

Smore Newsletter January 16-20, 2017    Smore Newsletter January 23-27, 2017

I encourage you to not wait…

I say Get Out Now!


What’s in Your Playbook?

While watching football tonight, I saw a commercial of a football team at a deaf school in California. That’s right…an all deaf football team.  Take a minute to think about how they communicate the plays and how they work together to make things happen on the field. They must have an astronomical playbook with a common vision that gives each player the best possible opportunity to succeed.  A playbook that spells out each strategy with the right people to make it happen.

So, I ask…What’s in Your Playbook?


A playbook begins with a shared vision, mission, and core beliefs.  It has goals to accomplish throughout the year. It’s the game plan to help each child be successful in all that they do.  Who do you call in to make it happen? Each player contributes to the team in different ways.

There is a different lineup to help with all the aspects of the game.  These special teams are in place to help achieve the goals. The instructional lineup consists of the grade level teachers or specialty teachers who collaborate on lesson plans, curriculum, assessments, and instructional strategies in the classroom.  The leadership lineup is the voice of the school.  They help the administration (coaching staff) make decisions about what happens within the school.  Within each playbook, there is a lineup of wellness and parent/community players who work together with input from the community.  One of the most important lineups are the members who make up the intervention team. This team works together with the instructional lineup to create opportunities for students to succeed. With all the teamwork…opportunities are created for success.


The team members need strategies (or plays) to provide guidance for success.  There are so many different strategies (or plays) that can be used to help teachers and students during the school year.  There are PLCs, ongoing-embedded professional learning, peer observations, data/RTI meetings, interventions, curriculum units, lesson plans…the list could go on forever.  It’s knowing if one isn’t working, then you reflect and try another.

So, I ask again…What do you and your team members have in your playbook for a successful school year?

Click here for the commercial: Football, Teamwork, and Technology