Why My Suits Hang in the Back of My Closet

I have suits, and lots of them. I used to wear one serveral times a week when I first entered administration. Before that, I was an elementary teacher with recess duty, after school car duty, and reading groups on the carpet. My kids would find comfy places around the room to read and write, and I would go sit next to them (usually on the floor) and confer with them. Thankfully I have always worked for administration who did not have a “No Jeans Policy”, or who didn’t allow tennis shoes. Teachers were expected to look and act professional, but nice jeans, a nice shirt, and comfortables were considered professional.

Entering the administration world, I immediately had to consider a shopping trip! My jeans, casual pants, various sneakers/loafers, and school shirts completed my wardrobe day in and day out! By the time I entered my new role as an assistant principal, the casual and comfortable clothing and shoes had made its way to the back of my closet. Taking their place were dresses, blouses, suits, skirts, and heels.

img_7522Over the last two years, I have changed my thinking on “the suit look” for myself. Many feel most comfortable in business attire, and that is wonderful! Upon entering a new role in a new school, I found myself feeling more comfortable when I dressed for comfort and mobility. I am not sure what happened to cause the shift, but it slowly shifted! As a lead learner, I go out to recess, I do afternoon car duty, and I visit with kids in classrooms about what they are reading, writing, and working on (often on the floor!). Days when I have deadlines to meet or emails to check, I enjoy going into a classroom and finding a corner to work on my laptop, just so I can be where the kids and teachers are. Normally the best place to be a wallflower in a classroom is…you guessed it…on the floor somewhere!

I like to go into prek classrooms and play in centers. Sometimes when we are shorthanded I help with custodial duties. I have done all of these things dressed in business attire, as have countless numbers of administrators all over the world. It can be done and it does happen! But…is it how I can be most comforatble and feel at my best? Is it best for me as I strive to be the best version of myself each day?

img_7608Not so much. I struggled with this…fear of being judged for wearing jeans, or having Converse on several days in a row. What might families think? What does my school family think? School board? Community? Will they see me as unprofessional? That would devastate me. Do they think I am setting a bad example by dressing casual? I worried, and still do. People can judge very easily. The fact is…some people will judge us no matter what we do! Those people are few and far between, so why do we sometimes make decisions based on this small population?

img_8498-1If you come visit Central Elementary in Cabot, Arkansas on any given day, there is a big chance you will see myself and other staff in blue jeans or casual pants, comfortable shoes, and some type of school shirt. Some days I may have business attire, and some teachers may as well. We have some set days for dress, such as our school shirt day each Monday, and Kids Deserve it shirt day on Wednesday. I dress according to what my plans are that day, and if I plan to be at school all day and around kids, my most comfortable self is necessary for me.

img_5196My suits are in the back of my closet, and I still wear them! I do not wear them most days, because I want to be in the floor with kids, or on the go and in a hurry down the halls. To the ladies who can make that happen in heels, I ENVY YOU! I cannot, and would most likely find myself with a broken limb if I tried. To the gentleman who can wear comfortable shoes, pants, and shirt with a tie, I ENVY YOU! you can look ready for a presentation and also be comfortable!

img_8500-1When I am spending a day with adults in interviews, at a conference, presenting information to an audience, etc., I will pull my business attire from the back of the closet. Every once in a while I may wear a dress to school! I may even pull out the wedge shoes. For me, there is a time for business, and a time for busyness!

We are doing all we can to ensure kids to be themselves and to never deny who they are. They learn to develop their own unique personality, style, and character! Sometimes I think we forget we need room in our world for adults to express their own unique qualities. We don’t always have to fit a mold, and being professional means much more than someone’s appearance.

img_2958So, my lead learner friends…can we be casual and still be professional? I think we can. Should we reconsider things like a jeans day, or free jeans passes? Perhaps, or perhaps not. Every school is so different, and has different needs. Every lead learner is different, and has different needs. Does it matter if sometimes people can’t find the principal because she isn’t “dressed up”? It might to some! Is there a fine line between what looks professional and what doesn’t? ABSOLUTELY there is!

No judgement here…be true to who you are, and head to school each day knowing you are comfortable in your own skin (and attire)! Take care of the kids, whether you’re in a business suit, or a school shirt, casual pants, and Chucks. That’s what we do, and that’s what matters most!



Standards Based Grading Made My Kid Average

This just had to be shared. I’m so thankful I came across it. Such wisdom and common sense in this post. Thank you, Lisa Westman, for writing this, and for sticking to the purpose of grading, which is to provide feedback to the learner so he/she can progress. It is not about the parents, it’s about the children. It’s not about the comfortability of age-old practice. It’s about being innovative in order to prepare our kids for what’s next. There simply isn’t a reason we should be continuing a practice of assigning letter grades and/or percentages simply because it has always been done and it is easier for adults. Its time to evolve into what works, and is proven by research to work.

"Put me in, Coach!"


This post was originally published in @PeterMDeWitt’s blog Finding Common Ground in Education Week.

Today’s guest post is written by frequent Finding Common Ground blogger Lisa Westman. Lisa is an instructional coach specializing in differentiation for Skokie School District 73.5 in suburban Chicago. She taught middle school gifted humanities, ELA, and SS for twelve years before becoming a coach.

Recently a friend called me in a panic. She was beside herself because she had just received her seventh-grade daughter’s new standards-based report card.  My friend relayed that her daughter (who was formerly an “A” student) was now “just average” according to the new report card.

I asked my friend if the report card had the word “average” on it and my friend said, “no.” She elaborated that her daughter had received all “meets” and no “exceeds” on her report card, and, therefore, her daughter…

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From the Mouths of Babes Comes Perspective

Over the 18 years I have served in education, I have collected pieces of conversations that grounded me in my beliefs and values in the profession. I have written hundreds of kid quotes down in journals, on sticky notes, in electronic documents, and in my phone. Kids say the darndest things! Some are hilarious, some are sad. Some are inspirational, some are painfully honest! There are those moments when kids tell you in their own words exactly what your purpose is. Those are the moments I treasure more than any of the others. The following list is a collection of kid quotes–excerpts from conversations I have accumulated over the years. I hope they warm your heart at least half as much as they have mine.

“Mrs. Hill, do you live at school? I want to know where your bed is.”

“When I grow up I am going to find you and give you some money from my job, since teachers don’t make much.”

“Is your name Mrs. Hill (with long, drawn southern accent) because you wear high heels?”

“If you wasn’t so tall, I wouldn’t have to hug your leg. I could at least hug your belly.”

“Why is your hair like that? It looks weird. Tomorrow will you put it back the way it’s ‘posed to be?”

“Nana, this is Mrs. Hill. She is the police of our school, but she doesn’t arrest us because she loves us too much.”

“Mrs. Hill, I just want you to know that you were one of my favorite teachers, and a big reason why I am studying to become a teacher myself. Thank you for inspiring me.”

“If I had a mom, I would want her to smell just like you.”

“Mrs. Hill, can I come stay with you? I promise I will not eat all your food or fight with your sons. I will be quiet and help you clean.”

“My dad said if he had a principal like I do when he was little, that he would have been in trouble every day. I don’t get him sometimes.”

Kinder Kid: How old are you? Me: How old do you think I am? Kinder Kid: Ummm probably like 28 or 32 or something like that. Me: Well, I am a little older than that. “Kinder Kid: It’s okay. If your  knees or back hurts, some days you can stay in your office and rest.”

“I love this school because people hug a lot, especially you and I never knew principals hugged before.”

“Can I call you Mom?”

“Sometimes when I am at home, I wish I could just live at school.”

“You smile more than anybody I know, and it makes me happy.”

“Thank you for making me feel important.”

“Sometimes I wish I wasn’t alive anymore because I stay sad all the time.”

“Mrs. Hill, I just really miss my mom and I was wondering if you could find out where she is.”

“When I grow up, I am going to be a teacher, and then I can come here and teach so you can quit and go camping or something.”

“I don’t understand why nobody will love my mom for very long, or wants to be my dad. They all leave, and she is always so sad.”

“Thanks for making me fall in love with reading. Until third grade I hated it.”

“Can you move to middle school and be our principal, or bring some 5th grade teachers here to teach us?”

“I will always remember you because you smiled and hugged me every single day.”

Perspective. Some cute, some funny, some heart wrenching, some inspiring. I cherish them all and so many more that I have tucked away in journals. Kids remind us each and every school day of our purpose. We are here to serve them at every level, no matter how much they need. All kids deserve adults in their lives who listen, empathize, celebrate, cry, mourn, and learn right along with them. It is humbling and empowering all at once to hear some of the powerful things they say, no matter what emotion they may evoke. From the mouths of babes…



Connecting for Kids

Kids Social Media

What do you do when you are trying to do what’s best for kids?  We CONNECT. We connect with kids. We connect with parents and families.  We connect as teachers.  We connect as leaders.  We find any way possible to connect, so we can do what is best for our kids. Education was once considered a lonely profession. Consider the one room schoolhouse, where one teacher served an entire rural community and everyone knew she was not to be seen after dark! Through the years a culture of connection and collaboration has slowly unfolded. Today, with social media at our fingertips, we have endless opportunities to establish connections with anyone and everyone. We have the ability to invite the community in via pictures and videos. We have networks with amazing educators to help us grow stronger in our profession.  There simply is no reason why we shouldn’t be connected educators…we have every reason to be connecting for kids.

Why (Bethany)

One of my favorite authors, John Maxwell, wrote a book entitled, Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: What the Most Effective People Do Differently. I read this book many years ago when I first entered the world of administration, and it opened my eyes to the importance of how we communicate, and the real purpose of it. My superintendent assigned the book for our team to read, and it was a game changer for me. If our communication isn’t reaching others, we are defeating our purpose. Authentic connections will not happen without authentic and purposeful communication. When we connect with others, we are validated, challenged, inspired, and our emotions are brought to the surface. This is what helps people become better versions of themselves. When we as educators connect, we become better educators. Our kids deserve nothing less than our best. Flying solo as an educator is no longer an option. When we struggle, we connect for support. When we succeed, we share to support others. When our beliefs are challenged, we share to ignite passion. There is power in connection, and connecting for kids is something we must ALL do. After all, it is about them, isn’t it?

So…remember the WHY behind connecting for kids!

  • To seek support and advice

  • To be validated for innovative thinking

  • To gather resources (blogs, images, podcasts, etc.)

  • To share our successes and thoughts

  • To strengthen our core beliefs

  • To inspire and be inspired

  • To celebrate the AWESOME we witness each school day

This list could continue, because the WHY behind connecting for kids is immeasurable. We owe it to ourselves, and we owe it to our kids…they are ALL OURS.


How (Lindsey)

If you want to make the best connections, you must be visible.  Visibility should be at the top of our “To Do List.”  As lead learners, our lists are full of emails, phone calls, meetings, and paperwork, but we must have visibility (in permanent marker) at the top of the list.  We should intentionally (put it on the calendar) be in classrooms, at recess, in the hallways, and out front during morning/afternoon dismissal to see first hand what is happening in our school.  When you are visible to all, relationships begin to bloom because you learn to know the people with whom you work with…your Kids, your Teachers, your Staff, your Families, and your Community.  What a positive feeling it is for parents to see you in the mornings greeting the kids with high fives and hugs.  What a rewarding feeling to enter a classroom of fully engaged kids and leave a handwritten note in appreciation to the teacher.  Through each of our actions as leaders, we begin to make connections through our interactions with kids, teachers, and families.  

You may ask…How do you do this?

    • Morning Greetings/Afternoon “See You Tomorrow”

    • Mobile Office to be in the classrooms

    • Eat Lunch with the Kids

    • Spread the news of what’s happening at your school

    • Give Kids a Voice on what happens at their school

    • Share with Kids are Awesome they are can day!

    • Go Beyond the School Walls

Bohler Quote

When (Karen)

When do we connect with/for kids. When do you not? We should be making connections and building relationships with and for kids constantly throughout each and every day.  Kid connections should be the unwavering compass needle pointing us to and keeping us aligned with our why. So often, lead learners get inundated with infraction forms, system issues and trivial problems that weigh us down and make us feel as though we are trapped in our offices.  Don’t let your office become a trap…get out and connect with and for kids. It must be a conscious, culture changing mindset to become a lead learner who values and insists on building relationships with students. The BIG question often becomes… when do we do this?

  • Through Celebrations!
  • Academic Milestones
  • Behavior Milestones
  • Character Milestones
  • Attendance Milestones
  • Positive phone calls home
  • Through Collaboration with Adults AND students about concerns
  • RTI (academic and behavioral) – Social/emotional concerns through formal/informal conversations during lunch, recess, bus duty, hallways…the list goes on and on.
  • Through Communication – Share, Share, Share
  • Face to Face with students (find their passion…their why), parents, ALL stakeholders…bring them into the school and put yourself out there.
  • Via social media – sharing our story and our why
  • Newsletters



Are we connecting everyday for our kids?  Is our story being heard around the state?  These are the questions that got us to thinking we need a movement to connect educators across the state of Arkansas for our kids!  And why not connect for our kids?  After all, it is about them, isn’t it? Kids deserve us to be the best version of ourselves, so what if we had a place where we could go for continual conversation, resources, great ideas from our schools, and…yes…a Twitter chat? This is the WHY behind #EduAr…to connect FOR kids! We need to learn together, from each other. Learning goes beyond the 6 hour professional development session, beyond the talks in your hallways and in team meetings, and beyond your district. Arkansas kids (and the rest of the nation’s kids) need us to learn from a larger source. We owe that to them. Let’s do this!

Information coming soon on a set time for the #EduAr weekly Twitter chat! Look for slow chat questions or images with a post for the day. Please begin sharing by using #EduAr in your tweets. Let’s get connected within our state, and reach out to other states as a unified group of educators. Ready?

Lindsey, Bethany, and Karen

Recharging Conversation: The Power of the Hashtag

We want you to harness the power of culture and the power of people so that you can develop teachers and schools that are better than ever before.

~Steve Gruenert and Todd Whitaker

Imagine gathering at a local coffee shop with colleagues and friends. You have all decided to set aside time for positive, intentional conversation. The time to meet is open, informal and not bound to typical meeting norms or protocols. We are gathered around tables with hot cups of coffee, sticky notes embedded in journals and currents books we are reading. This meet-up may be enhancing the kernel of an idea shared during a faculty meeting sidebar. Perhaps, it’s an opportunity for a deeper dive from a blog or tweet you quickly shared. Regardless, the conversation is positive, inviting and rooted in harnessing dreams and thoughts into action. These are the conversations that can ignite inspiring things in service and support of kids, educators and school communities.  

This is the premise for the #JoyfulLeaders Slow Chat, an ongoing, positive conversation where everyone is invited to share, dream, and connect.

The power of the hashtag is simply immeasurable. It has become a tool for connections and conversations. Many hashtags are established to promote something, so spread an idea or concept, and as an outlet for expressing thoughts around something particular. I (Bethany) had a dream of creating a hashtag where people could go to seek inspiration, be surrounded by positivity, and use their voice to impact others. I hesitated for many months, mainly because I was afraid it would not spread. One morning, I opened up my blog site and began writing. That is when #JoyfulLeaders was born (read the post here).My hope for this hashtag is for it to be an ongoing conversation filled with depth, celebrations, perspective, and reminders of our purpose as educators. I want it to be even more than a conversation…I want it to be a movement. Some days there is a slow chat question or a challenge of something specific to share, but each day is open for all things positive.


The opportunity of adding value to the #JoyfulLeaders conversation came about through a conversation with my friend and eduhero, Sean Gaillard. He is the brilliant mind behind #CelebrateMonday, a hashtag that is now a movement in education. We discovered the power behind both conversations, and each Monday these hashtags collide. It has been incredible to see the sharing and the great things educators are doing for kids.

F9B195B4-0B9A-47D2-BF95-E4B0EF83E328-8179-00000878B09CFC94_tmp (1)We (Sean and Bethany) want to take this a step further by collaborating to form a book study slow chat through #JoyfulLeaders. We are thrilled to facilitate this ongoing conversation on the newly released book, School Culture Recharged, by Steven Gruenert and Todd Whitaker. We feel this book is a game changer in our profession, and want to learn along with other educators through Twitter. The fantastic thing about a slow chat is that there are no specific times to be online. Respond when you can, and follow the conversation through the hashtag. Our hope is that people will share their thoughts regarding each question we push out, but also interact with others by retweeting, quoting tweets to add thoughts, sharing images, replying, etc. Daily reflection is huge when learning, and school culture is our biggest priority. We are better together, and through #JoyfulLeaders we can connect for kids.