Monday, February 25, 2019

Creating Hope

Creating Hope
      As a former middle school principal, I have devoted my life to education and leadership. I always encourage my students to follow their passion through love & leadership. This year, I have an opportunity to teach a leadership course at Stockton University. Our class contains a service-learning component.
      Just a few blocks from the casinos and boardwalk in Atlantic City, is Adelaide’s Place, a drop-in shelter for women. It provides a safe & secure environment for homeless women. They are treated with dignity & respect. These ladies participate in a variety of programs which include life skills.
When I entered, a group was seated at a table. Clothing donations were stacked up in corners. Sr. Patty and other women were preparing food. Sr. Patty explained their daily routine.
Two clients asked if I wanted to meet the mud girls. MudGirls Studios is remarkable. The director, Dorrie, was excited to show me what the women did. MudGirls is a nonprofit that empowers at-risk and homeless women through job training, pottery making &
selling ceramic ware. They are committed to helping women earn income & transition into a pathway of self-sufficiency while inspiring change.
While looking for service opportunities, my heart filled with what we all need: HOPE. These empowering stories need to be told.

With more resources, Sr. Patty & Dorrie can make an exponential difference by continuing their visions of empowering women.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

I Keep Running Into These People

I Keep Running Into These People
     I keep running into these people, and these people keep running into me. There are some people that make you feel good about yourself every time you see them. These are the people I like to hang out with. Likewise, I hope I bring those same possibilities to the room when they see me.
     If you don’t keep company with these people then keep different company. I’m not talking about fake fluff. I’m referring to those humans that allow you and encourage you to step outside of your comfort zone. When you do, it may not turn out perfectly but these people will laugh and cry with you then take you places you never thought possible.
     One of the highest compliments you can receive as a leader will come as an affirmation that you empowered the confidence in others that broke their mold. They never plateaued. They are still embarking on possibilities. By breaking down parameters and soaring past the sky, you inspired others. It becomes an exponential journey. I choose to keep running into these people and so should you!
     Never sell yourself short by saying the sky is the limit.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Identity Theft

Identity Theft
     I wish every teacher took the time to let me know I was important. Those that told me I was important, also convinced me that I was a smart, kind, and powerful leader. I committed to acting accordingly. Then there were those educators that stole my identity by telling me I could not achieve. When anyone tells a student he/she cannot accomplish something, it’s the biggest form of identity theft.
     Because of my modest upbringing and the high work ethic of my parents, the identity thieves prompted me to become intrinsically motivated until I figured it out. Some students never had that ability. We need to work harder and together for those students to look differently in the mirror.
     You already know what I’m about to tell you but I’ll tell you anyway. Relationship building is one of the keys to a positive climate and culture. Making those connections will allow our students to not only look in the mirror to see who they are but to look in the mirror to see who they can become.
      There are hundreds of ways to connect but they all must be sincere and build trust. Trust leads to trustworthiness. With a long break coming up, I hope everyone is excited to spend time with friends and family. I also hope your students are excited to come back to school and see you!  
     Start building: High fives, stopping a kid in the hall for positive reinforcement, show up at events, positive calls home, thank you card, smiles, participation in spirit days, let the students facilitate, let them tell their stories through differentiation, give them jobs in class, talk to them, let them talk to each other, start and maintain traditions,
More ideas from 50 Great Things Leaders Do: Let’s Get Fired Up! (Appendix B)
Appendix B
Inspirational & Fun Ideas for Building Relationships
1.       Have a Yearly Theme 
2.     Welcome Forward (Happy New Year) 
3.       Halfway Celebration 
4.       Roll out the red carpet (many ways)
5.       Start traditions
6.       Declare a service learning platform
7.       Yearly Staffulty Picture on the first day
8.       Photoshop your head on the shoulders of your favorite superhero
9.       Staffulty field trip
10.    Tip of the Week
11.    Question of the Week
12.    Power Clap
13.    Secret Handshakes
14.    Design, create, trade pins from each yearly theme
15.    Create temporary tattoos promoting your theme and organization
16.    Renaissance Someone: Student, Staffulty, Parent, Community Member
17.    Core Boards - give one, keep one- What’s your core word?
18.    Pass around a beach ball and marker. Have each person write a power word on the ball.
19.    The Starfish Story & other stories of character
20.    Paint your walls with murals and quotes
21.    Paint your bathrooms with quotes and murals
22.    Paint your parking spaces
23.    Let your students draw with chalk all around the outside of your school
24.    Build A Legacy
25.    Leave A Legacy
26.    Leave A Legacy and memorialize it on a tile wall
27.    Name your hallways
28.    Take A Number (Deli Counter Character) with inspirational quotes and actions
29.    Put a candy machine in the Staffulty Lounge then give everyone a quarter to use it
30.    Put fruit on the counter (5-star check-in)
31.    Make your staffulty meeting an event
32.    Have an exercise and/or yoga class
33.    Spirit Days
34.    Have A Leadership Summit
35.    Send a thank you note
36.    Welcome people on your campus – Greeter/Tours
37.    Brag Board- (hard copy and digital) Brag about your school or organization
38.    Make your own inspirational posters with pictures of people you know (students and staffulty)
39.    Hold up signs: You Are Awesome! Honk If You’re Happy!, Smile, etc.
40.    Invite a former student to be a keynote speaker on the first day for staffulty
41.    Have Popcorn Paydays
42.    Make breakfast for the first ten people at work
43.    Buy lunch for someone you rarely see
44.    Staffulty of the Month
45.    Create the abundance mentality
46.    Have a Leadership Exchange (visit another school and have them reciprocate with ideas)
47.    Retire a T-Shirt
48.    Have a secret pal week
49.    Organize a pre-pep rally picnic
50.    Have an academic pep rally to celebrate academic excellence, leadership, great character, and participation
51.    Create a Great News File
52.    Make Positive Contact
53.    Have an Ice Cream Social
54.    Have A Girls Only Day
55.    Have A Guys Night Out
56.    People’s Choice Awards
57.    Leadership Camp for Incoming students (or highest grade) or any stakeholder group
58.    Daddy/Daughter Dance
59.    Mommy/Son Dance
60.    Character Commercials
61.    Renaissance Television (RTV)
62.    Play music in the cafeteria (have people make different playlists)
63.    Play music when people enter your building
64.    Dance in the cafeteria during lunch
65.    “Dancing with the Staffulty” contest
66.    Renaissance Stamps 
67.    Pass the Lightsaber
68.    Lip Sync Contest
69.    Classroom makeover – for staffulty winners or surprises
70.    Door decorating contest
71.    Blue/Gold Basketball Game – students and staffulty on both teams
72.    Dress Down Paydays- for staffulty rewards
73.    Penny Wars- for service
74.    Make your yearbook an event – no one should be sitting at a desk for their picture, use your yearly theme
75.    Almost Anything Goes (AAG) – silly and fun relays for students, parents, and staffulty
76.    Pie a teacher, supervisor, or co-worker with shaving cream
77.    Staffulty Leadership Relay Olympics
78.    Celebrate everyone’s birthday on their door and hallway bulletin board
79.    Outline the perimeter of your building with American flags to celebrate patriotism
80.    Diversity Day -use your imagination
81.   Dear You, You Are Awesome- inspirations that can be torn off a poster (smile, you rock, you are talented, you are beautiful, etc.)
82.    Create a Year in Pictures and post to social media
83.    Define your organization with ten pictures
84.    Stand up on top of your chair or desk and yell: “I am alive!”
85.    Collect Smiles
86.    Pass Out Smiles (like the free compliments)
87.    Make envelopes and write on them, “open when you want to smile.” Put things inside that make people smile.
88.    Designate a “Friendship Bench”
89.    Create a “come sit with me” table
90.    Create a “5 Star” restaurant table in the cafeteria
91.    Have a guest waiter and waitress dinner
92.    Fitness Community Night – fun and diversified
93.    Community University
94.    Barbeque hot dogs and hand them out at dismissal and to people in cars picking up people
95.    Meet and Greet Bingo
96.    Affirmation Bingo
97.    Diversity Bingo
98.    TGIM- Thank Goodness It’s Monday
99.    High Five Friday- with a big spongy hand
          100.  Icebreakers and team building activities should be a regular part of your repertoire.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

5 Things To Do Over The Holidays (updated version)

 5 Things To Do Over The Holidays (updated version)
This list is in no particular order, and it’s not too late to start. With all the hustle and bustle, I am impressed that you are even reading this blog post. My first goal is that you are inspired to follow through on these suggestions. My second goal is that my family and I are inspired to follow through on this list. Love, kindness, character, and leadership are not one-time events. Nothing on this list should be a one-time event, either. However, if you need a reason, I’m giving you one. Life is short even if you live to be 100. Even though there is always next year to succeed or fail, time is nonrenewable. Don’t let the ghosts of “I wish I would have” get in the way.

1)      Do Something with Your Family You Would Not Normally Do
When was the last time you all sat down to play a board game? When was the last time you all went to a movie in a theater? These are two things I aim to do with my family. We already went to a movie (Bohemian Rhapsody). So now, put down the phones and play a game! Who gets to pick? You all do!
2)      Start Another Tradition
Our family has traditions that span over the lives of our children. Some hit road bumps as everyone gets older. It’s important that our busy lives still encompass the love we share for our families. We get at least one new ornament a year. We decorate our tree while listening to holiday music. We sing out loud. We still put out reindeer food on Christmas eve. We still read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. I hope those never stop as we keep adding!
3)      Serve
Look around. We can always do more, and there will always be people with less opportunity than you. Let’s help them this holiday season. During the holidays, food banks get replenished but they are in dire need after that. Make a commitment to sacrifice one thing to give. It always helps. Giving your time always benefits especially to the elderly. I always understood that concept with the aging population but not as much until it affected me with my dad. When I visit his assisted living, people just want conversation and acknowledgment.
4)      Do Something Silly
Many Christmas Eves for us, that silliness has been karaoke. We always know the song my wife is going to pick (Thunder Road). I think this year it will be Bohemian Rhapsody. It’s a blast, and we step out of our comfort zones.  Sing loud and proud!
5)      Do Something Special For Yourself
Sleep late one day. Buy yourself a gift. Watch a television show. Do something you’ve wanted to do but the proverbial busyness of your life has prevented it.
I hope this is your best holiday season ever. I hope it’s mine, too!

Wednesday, November 7, 2018


            Chances are, no matter what time you are reading this post, you have already made dozens or even hundreds of choices. Some choices about today you even made before you went to bed or in the middle of the night. Some choices were made weeks, months, or years ago. Some choices did not start until this morning when your feet hit the floor.
          Because you have the power of choice, some very remarkable things can happen. Because you have the power of choice, some extremely unremarkable things will happen, too. Every time you choose, you have an opportunity cost. This occurs when you relinquish an alternative to your choice. What did you give up? What can you gain?
          Sometimes we wait too long to choose. We may be reluctant, or we may be underinformed. Some decisions can be calculated, like where you go to college, or what you are wearing to a party. Some choices may be instantaneous like an emergency. Either way, we can be prepared to lead ourselves and the people around us.
          Leadership is not popularity, position, or a one-time event. Leadership is a choice. Every day, we need to make that conscious choice that we are going to be that person we want around us. Be that person, be that leader. Calculate the opportunity cost of not making the choice to be a leader. Someone else will make that choice, and you may not like the outcome.
          Together, our leadership abilities increase exponentially by the number of leaders we create. In a leadership organization, you can see and feel hundreds of leaders walking down the hall. It is not a question of how many leaders but the question will be, “How many positive leaders?”
What leadership choice are you making today?

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Unconditional Love and Unconditional Leadership

Unconditional Love and Unconditional Leadership
Here are some thoughts from one of my last storytelling sessions:
I figured it out, and I want you guys to figure it out, too.
Happy people outperform unhappy people. So how do I get to that happy place?
Climate and culture have a profound impact on teacher and student performance
Leadership has a profound impact on climate & culture
I never woke up one day and said, “I can’t wait to get started, this day is going to be sooooooo mediocre.”  And either should you.
When I was in first grade our teacher, Sister Hellen, told our class that someday by the grace of God, you’ll know your vocation. We had no idea what she was talking about. I figured it out as my meandering path in life enabled me to become a street magician, a teacher, a middle school principal, and now a storyteller and author. I figured it out- your vocation is your calling. It’s where you’ll make the biggest impact on yourself and the people around you. It’s your passion, your WOW factor and magical “ta-da” moment.
Leadership isn’t position. Leadership isn’t popularity. Leadership isn’t a one-time event. Character isn’t a one-time event. Kindness isn’t a one-time event.
Leadership is a choice, and because it’s a choice, you need to make a conscious decision every day that you are going to be the kind of leader you want around you. When you do, your life will be on a higher level. You will have figured it out.
Everything you need to know about leadership you already know. I’m going to make those connections and I hope you make the connection too.
Unconditional love is a lot like unconditional leadership. Without love, there is no leadership. And when you treat love and leadership as verbs instead of just nouns and feelings, the “amazing” happens. You can raise the bar, set goals, never ask anyone to do something you wouldn’t do, lead by example, create a team, think outside the box (then throw it away, empower other people to be leaders, have integrity, always treat people better than you want to be treated, and have fun!
And the question isn’t if you’re a leader but the question is if you’re an effective leader. You can walk into any school and within a minute you can tell if it’s a leadership school. The world’s most amazing schools are leadership schools. They are a collection of hundreds of leaders.
There’s a Maya Angelou quote, “People may forget what said. People may forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” I can’t tell you one book I read in 8th grade but I can tell you the name of every classmate, I can tell you how every classmate made me feel every day, and I can tell you how they made every other kid feel.
I can tell you the name of every teacher I had from kindergarten through graduate school I can tell how they made me feel and I can tell you how they made every other student feel. You will be able to do the same.
Perception is reality. Sometimes challenges to our ideas force us to rethink our position. That may come from peer pressure or from someone that doesn’t fit our norm. Heck I’m a 60-year-old guy with braces and Vans and the that doesn’t fit some people’s norms but the reason I have braces is to straighten my teeth. I wear Vans because I thought my daughters’ shoes were cool. Some people my age think its weird because its away from their norm, and I should dress and look a certain way. Sometimes I do dress a certain way.
The worst thing I can do is try and adapt the world to me. I must adapt myself to the world around me without compromising the “whole person” with body, mind, heart and spirit. Most importantly I must proceed with unconditional love and unconditional leadership.
For me, perception changed when I met my seventh-grade teacher and first basketball coach, Mr. Tamagni. He was the first teacher that made me feel important. He told me I was intelligent and important so I acted accordingly. He invited me to be on the basketball team. I played every day for 12 years because it became one of my passions and kept me out of trouble. He showed us that there was enough leadership for everyone, not just the top few.
Make that conscious effort, make some noise.  
Your role models shouldn’t be Barbie, a truck that folds out into a robot or a cartoon character that lives under the sea. Maybe they’re funny and adventurous but you shouldn’t model yourself after them.
And by the way, Barbie is evil. At one time, we had 250 Barbies (because I have two daughters. She waits on the floor at night. When you walk by in the dark, she stabs her plastic hand through your feet. Your role models should be your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, older brothers and sisters, teachers, neighbors, and principals. Or how about an inventor, Nobel Peace prize winner, or record breaker?
Those follower and management models went out the window decades ago because they are ineffective and uninspiring. The face of leadership is walking down your hallways and streets and sitting in your classrooms. It is essential that we bring the heretics, outliers, and disruptors to the leadership table because we simply can’t move forward without their ideas. Everyone now has the opportunity for leadership but they need to make the connections to effective leadership.
Our students are being trained for jobs that do not yet exist. Even the traditional jobs will not look the same. Don’t sell yourself short by saying the, “sky is the limit.”
I figured it out and I want you guys to figure it out, too. Happy people outperform unhappy people. Unconditional love is a lot like unconditional leadership and when we include both, we give the world what it needs right now HOPE. You are smart, strong, and kind. Accept your role as a leader and act accordingly.

   I salute the greatness in you!

Sunday, August 26, 2018

The Top Five Things Educators and Students Should Do

The Top Five Things Educators and Students Should Do (at the beginning of the school year)
Adapted from the book 50 Great Things Leaders Do: Let’s Get Fired Up!
Happy New Year! Welcome forward to another epic year. I figured it out, and I want you to figure it out, too. Happy people outperform unhappy people. How do I get to that happy place? Climate and culture have a profound impact on student and teacher performance. Leadership has a profound impact on climate and culture. An essential component of your repertoire will be to create as many leaders as possible.
Get rid of that follower model. Flip the pyramid to give opportunities for the nontraditional leaders. Leadership has been moving along a different paradigm for decades. So why are some people still using the old model? We need more ideas from the heretics, outliers, and disruptors. Bring them on board. Allow them to look in the mirror differently. Let them bring people to the table that you do not even know exist.
1.       Raise the Bar
Expect a lot from yourself or no one else will.
      When people challenge themselves, their high expectations are contagious.  No matter what your age, the learning process is endless and still occurs through events, people, research, and fun. An integral part of “raising the bar” includes learning from your failures and using that knowledge the next time.
2.      Set Goals
Your life is calling. How are you going to answer?
      It works. You might think goal setting is common sense, but most people do not do it. Do you write down your goals?
3.       Never Ask Anyone To Do Something You Would Not Do
Positive culture is synonymous with positive leadership.
      Some people have positional power, and they are great at designating everything. Those people hoard the power. A high-ranking position does not make you a leader; it makes you a person in a high-ranking position. There’s enough leadership for everyone.
4.       Lead by Example 
Walk the talk or don’t talk at all.
Always demonstrate the behavior you want the people around you to emulate. In other words, lead by example. Walk the talk, and be that person others want around . Keep self-communicating that concept.
5.      Create a Team
If people are not connected to your organization, they’ll be connected to something else.
When you put together a team for any organization, you must consider the strengths and weaknesses of the individuals that collectively make up your squad. Strengths eliminate weaknesses and create cohesion where accomplishments and problem-solving are achieved daily and on a high plane. These differences must be appreciated and welcomed.
By creating more leaders, your leadership ability increases exponentially. Everyone deserves opportunities for leadership. Bring in those nontraditional leaders in order to throw out the follower model. Some people do not see themselves as leaders. Change their perception.

I hope this is your best school year ever. Make it happen! Climate and culture begin with your attitude. Choose yours.
Be Epic Not Ordinary!