Advice to a New Administrator – 3 years later


I was just re-reading a post that I wrote three years ago entitled, Advice to a New Administrator. This is the bit on which I have received the most hits since I began blogging. After I wrote that piece, I moved to a different high school within the same school district. Now…as I begin to bid farewell to this school <big sigh>, I have some thoughts running through my head and I feel that I need to add to my original post. I could go and edit the original post but I believe that a blog should serve as a journal. It is interesting to see how I have grown as an administrator with a different experience. I look forward to my change for next year as I will be working at a K-9 school. This is a little bit out of my comfort zone having worked in high schools for the past 19 years.

Anyway, here are my additions to my advice…

Relationships are definitely the most crucial thing for any administrator. Positive relationships built on trust…not only with students and staff but with everyone with whom you work…bus drivers, custodians, maintenance workers, contractors, the list goes on. No…I didn’t forget about PARENTS. Your relationships with parents are paramount! These people are trusting you with their children. I know, as a dad, that this is not an easy thing to do. If you build positive relationships with parents, those hard-to-make phone calls are not as difficult. I had a parent say to me the other day, “I don’t necessarily agree with you, but I trust that you are doing what is right for all involved.” Powerful!

Show people that they matter -just as Bill Ferriter talks about in this post, take the time to look into the eyes of the people that you are dealing with…they matter. As I mentioned in my original post, administrators get interrupted many times throughout the day. If someone comes into your office…even if you are working on something that has a deadline…stop what you are doing, look them in the eyes, and LISTEN to what they are telling you. You can tell so much from looking someone in the eyes…anxiety, fear, anger, peace, etc. Learn the names of the kids in your school and find out what kinds of things they like. Get to know your staff…find out the names of their children, where they grew up, etc. I guess another way to give this advice is to simply say, “be there…and care”

Try not to solve people’s problems for them – Help and support students and teachers that come to you with problems. If you solve problems for people – which is very easy to do – they can blame you if the advice you give them blows up in their face. Also, having people solve their own problems works to build leadership capacity and confidence.

Enjoy time spent with kids – they grow up so fast! I can’t believe that the kids that I met as grade 10 students when I first came to this school are graduating already…where has the time gone? We all entered the field of education because we enjoy working with and inspiring young people…never lose focus of that! Some of my students refer to me as their “school dad” and I think that is an honour. I guess in many ways, I am like a dad here at school. Wow…I have a lot of kids!

Communication – let people know what is going on. More importantly, tell people the reasons why decisions are made. People like to be informed…especially parents.

Take time to breathe – sometimes you have to take time to yourself…whether you go for a run, a workout, or into a student/staff common area to hang out and to laugh. Reflection is the key to learning and growing. Spend time in quiet reflection – blogging and journaling are great ways to record your thoughts and the things your have learned. Don’t feel bad for spending quiet time alone – you deserve it.

There are very few emergencies in education – I can only think of a few things in my entire career that needed to be dealt with immediately…and those situations involved student safety or medical emergencies. Most things that we deal with as administrators can definitely wait. Take time to make the right decision…the decision that is best for all involved.

Health trumps education – in terms of priorities, health (mental and physical) is far more important than education. We have had many situations in which students have had to take some time away from school to get their health in check. In these situations, try not to talk about school – instead talk about getting the student some help. If a student is not well – school will be a struggle.

Share – share your experiences with others…as I am doing through this post. Find a great article…tweet it! Have some teachers who are doing amazing things in their classrooms?  Get them to share it at a staff meeting. Work with other teachers…share ideas…do some team teaching. We will all get better if we collaborate and share.

Never stop learning – you work in an environment where you are one of the lead learners. It is important for educational leaders to model lifelong learning. We live in a world where there is so much to know and so much to learn. It is absolutely impossible to know everything but you should have a pretty good idea of where to access the information that you need. Find out who your experts are in your building and use them as a resource. For example, I have learned so much about autism from some of my colleagues over the past three years.

Step outside of your comfort zone – if you do what is comfortable, you will never grow and learn…and your job will get old. Try something that is new and different – you will be amazed at how refreshing it is. Yeah, your brain will hurt at first but you will be better for it.

And last but certainly not least…in fact, VERY IMPORTANT…

Trust teachers – teachers care about their kids and they will always do what is best for them. Many tasks are labelled as “admin tasks” and I don’t understand why. Teachers are extremely capable of doing many of these tasks. In fact, they are honoured when you ask them to do something…they feel empowered. Wouldn’t you have been flattered when you were teaching if an admin asked you to do something that you thought was an “admin duty”? Need some insight into a situation? Ask the teachers involved. Teachers know their stuff and can give you tons of insight. We had a situation here recently which was solved by going to the teachers involved and asking, “What do you see as the solution”. Empower the teachers in your building to be leaders! Don’t be afraid to give up the power.

Well, that’s all I have for today. I hope this was helpful. Please feel free to leave a comment.



How do you want to be remembered?


In my role as a high school Assistant Principal, I am also a grade coordinator. I met my “class” almost three years ago when they started grade 10. These kids (almost 300 of them) are now in grade 12 and they will be graduating this month. Over the course of the last three years, I have asked students many times (individually and at student assemblies), “How do you want to be remembered when you leave this high school?” I go on to explain to them that they are in charge of how they will be remembered by their attitude and their actions.

Now, as I leave this high school as an administrator (yes…the phone rang and I am moving to a different school), it is time for me to answer the question, “How do I want to be remembered?”

  • I want to be remembered as an educational leader who trusted teachers, empowered them to be better, and gave them opportunities to lead.
  • I want to be remembered as a technology leader who showed teachers (and students) that technology does not have to be scary. Hopefully, I was able to show that technology is a tool which helps us to learn.
  • I want to be remembered as a guy who had positive relationships with the entire school community…students, parents, staff, custodians, maintenance employees, contractors, bus drivers, neighbours, alumni, etc.
  • I want to be remembered as a leader who had vision and values.
  • I want to be remembered as a guy who was easy to talk to and was approachable.
  • I want to be remembered as a guy who “got things done”.
  • I want to be remembered as an administrator who could help learners of all ages solve their problems without jumping in and solving the problem for them.
  • Most importantly, I want to be remembered as a guy who cared about kids.

I guess it is only fair that I answer my own question. How do you want to be remembered at your school?

Yes George, School Counsellors Do Have A Hashtag

Wow…my re-tweet triggered a great blog post!

Counsellor Talk : Creative Collaborative Connections

Thanks to @hatcherelli I saw this post today and it got me to thinking about the many times I have seen this kind of post! There has been hashtags for school counsellors for a very long time, but many are not aware of them.

The longest standing hashtag for school counsellors is #scchat, a great place for school counsellors to gather. Thanks to @ecmmason and @sch_counselor this is a great place to share and learn.

After our time in ETMOOC  @EHordyskiLuong and I tried to get Canadian School Counsellors to join in using the hashtag #CSCchat. We know you are out there school counsellors and we still want you to join in using all the school counsellor hashtags. It is the best PD ever …

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The Power of a PLN

This morning, I attended our Tech Coach PD and something really cool happened. As tech coaches, we use Twitter to have a back channel discussion and share resources/ideas. As I was multitasking (listening and sharing), these are the tweets that I saw…I didn’t see them all at once as they appear here, but now that the conversation is complete…they all show up together.

Power of PLN


When I saw George’s first tweet, I wanted to help him out because he has helped me out a TON! I quoted the tweet and sent it on to some people who I knew used Haiku Deck more than I do. I love Haiku Deck and I use it but certainly not enough to call myself a guru.

Over the next few minutes, I saw the magic happen…as you can see by the subsequent tweets.

So why did I think this was cool?

Someone asks a question. A number of people jump in to help. Problem is solved. WE ALL LEARN!

I made sure to “favorite” the tweet so I could go back and find the ratio calculator…just in case I ever need it. When I get a moment, I will forward it to evernote and tag it so that I can easily retrieve it.




P.S. That was the end of my original post. After I wrote this post, I was so pleased that I sent a tweet to George, Jeremy, Shawn and Haiku Deck to let them know that I had mentioned them in my post. After that, I check my feed reader to discover that George, that rascal, had beat me to the punch…definitely not the first time, or the last. It was certainly cool to read his perspective of the event. I was also impressed that I was able to create an “a-ha” moment for him. Learning can happen any where, any time.

#ecsdtransform defeats #edcampYEG to win Hatcherelli #edhashtagology bracket!!

This post will make no sense unless you read my first #edhashtagology post from last week. Thanks to Bill Ferriter and his creative idea, I had the opportunity to reflect on the hashtags that I use in my own learning and sharing.

Here is how the final bracket looks (I thought I would post this before Spring Break):

Final #edhashtagology bracket
Final #edhashtagology bracket

I have to agree with Bill when he states that some of the most popular hashtags are being overused and the stream is becoming a little overwhelming. For me, hashtags are used as a filter to find information that is relevant to my own learning. Isn’t that selfish of me?

Here are some general comments that helped me to decide my winners in the bracket:

  • As a math teacher, I have always found #mathchat interesting. When I find something that is math related, I post to #mathchat. It was a clear favourite going into the tournament. Its toughest game was against #techcoach.
  • #anthemsmackdown was a ton of fun but since the Olympics it hasn’t had much use.
  • #ableg was interesting in the past few weeks leading up to the resignation of our Premier.
  • #rethinkhs is a favourite of mine. In our province, we have government project looking at High School Redesign. As a high school administrator, there is always some good stuff here. Definitely, this year’s Cinderella.
  • #techcoach contains information relevant to all kinds of technology and its use in schools. As a technology coach for our school district, I share and read lots of resources and cool ideas here. A clear #1 seed.
  • #ecsd is the hashtag for our school district, Edmonton Catholic School District. This tag allows me to share and get information which is relevant to the school district. The only down side is that, with 90 some schools, the information is sometimes overwhelming and contains information which is not at the high school level. In #ecsd, there are way more elementary teachers using Twitter.
  • I am very proud to be a member of Connected Principals created by a fellow Albertan, George Couros. I find that I will use #cpchat to post but I rarely use it to search. George is one of the first people that I connected with on Twitter and I have learned so much from him…in person and online. #cpchat was a definite favourite going into the tournament. It has been great to watch the hashtag grow, which shows the impact that George, and other school leaders, have had on the learning of others.
  • As one of the founders and organizers of #edcampYEG, this tag has always been near and dear to me. I have met most of the people who use this hashtag, so it serves to “keep the conversation going” between our annual local edcamps.
  • For the past two years in our school district, we have been working on a district project called Transform! This project involves sharing ideas that will better prepare our students for the world in which they are going to live. The hashtag #ecsdtransform always contains innovative ideas which are linked to this project. This hashtag was my winner because it was the one that I have used most in the past year or so.

So there you have it. The end of #edhashtagology for this year. Please roll, “One Shining Moment“!



Let the #edhashtagology Games Begin!

In his most recent blog post, Bill Ferriter (who is one of my online mentors) has started a game called Hashtag Bracketology. As a huge basketball fan, I cannot resist the #MarchMadness style competition. Bill is right…hastags have changed the learning that is available on Twitter and they have enabled us to “zero in” on certain topics and discuss them as a PLN.

Here is my bracket! To create this, I looked over my tweets from the last few months and I randomly (no seeds) entered the hashtags I used into Bill’s template. I don’t know how I will decide the winner of each “game”. If you click the bracket, it will get larger so that you can actually read it.


I invite you to accept Bill’s challenge and come up with your own bracket.

So you just had your PD…what now?

We just wrapped up our annual Teacher’s Convention…two days of learning, sharing, and attending great sessions by some pretty high caliber presenters. It is awesome to get together with teachers from both school districts in Edmonton, as well as teachers from Ft. McMurray. Every year, teachers are buzzing about the new things that they have seen and learned. For example, a few of my tech coach colleagues attended a session called Raspberry Pi, where they learned about a credit card sized computer which can be programmed to do all kinds of things. They were tweeting their creations during Thurday’s session and when I talked to them on Friday they were still buzzing about how cool it was. Thanks to Daniel Espejo for the great tweets!

Can’t wait to take a #RaspberryPi home! #getca


— Daniel Espejo (@danielespejo) February 27, 2014

Some other colleagues went to a session entitled, “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lecture”, in which Rick Smith described many techniques which could be used to engage students in their learning. After this session, I received a text from one of the teachers on our staff, “It was awesome…would like to do a staff PD on this.”

Thanks! RT @thescamdog: Handout for 50 Ways to Leave Your Lecture. #getca2014

— Daniel Espejo (@danielespejo) February 27, 2014

I attended some great sessions and I had the opportunity to share some ideas with teachers and administrators from all over Edmonton. I had a conversation with another high school AP about some of the things that they were trying at his school. Some of these things, I would definitely like to explore. Many of us were following the #getca14 hashtag and learning things from sessions that we did not have the opportunity to attend…so much good stuff!

This is the best convention I’ve had in 10 years! Thanks to all the presenters and organizers! #getca2014

— Daniel Espejo (@danielespejo) February 27, 2014

OK…so we had a great convention and we learned a ton of stuff. Just like every PD session that we go to…now what?

Let’s make sure that we go back to our schools and put some of these ideas into practice. Let’s try some stuff. Let’s share some of this great stuff with our students, and our colleagues! Let’s not just pack away the notes that we took and the ideas that were shared with us and forget about them. How many times have you found the bag of notes and convention trinkets months later totally untouched? Let’s take these ideas back into our schools and grow them in our classrooms! Even if we just take one idea away and try it with our kids…that would be great. Let’s take some risks…let’s make some mistakes…let’s make learning interesting for our students! Let’s keep the positive energy from convention alive in our schools!