Author: Evan Robb

Leadership- Hey, It Was Ok For Me

For any organization to become successful, employees must let go of thinking that is detrimental to themselves and new employees.  In education, this can be the assumption that if an experience worked for you for many years, it must be good. I call this “the it was okay for me mentality,” and it needs to stop.  Kids deserve much better.  


What follows is a list of poor advice shared with me by teachers and administrators during my career.  All of these are bad. Do not believe them when they come your way. And I guarantee that some will definitely come your way.


Don’t Smile Until Christmas:  This is a ridiculous statement that lives in schools and is often communicated by veteran staff.  Would any adult want to come to work and be scowled at for half a year? Of course not.  A smile is universal; it works anywhere on our planet.  All students and adults should be greeted every day with a smile.


I Taught It, They Didn’t Learn It:  This is an excuse that should never occur in a school.  It is the job of an educator to help students learn.  If an assessment shows students did not learn, then take the professional route and find a new way to help students understand.   


Start the Year Hard:  This is sometimes used to scare students about the year ahead, and to allow the teacher to assume a very dominant, controlling position in the class.  This is also silly! Who wants to start a course with failure?  Adults and students always do better when we build on success. Lift others up instead of tearing them down!


We All Have a Bad Class:  This is an unfair comment that lumps students together in a negative way.  Successful educators never lump students together and pass group judgment.  Often, the students who give you the hardest time need you the most.


Plan Out Each Day of the Year:  Once I was told that I should have each day planned for the entire year before the year started.  This makes zero sense.  Good planning is based on the needs of students, and each day and throughout the year they will be different.


Our Demographics Give Us Bad Scores:  This is an excuse and worse yet, a racist comment.  Great educators believe all students can learn, they do not accept the color of skin, where they live, of their families lack of money as reasons to be less than nurturing and supportive.  


I am sure you have heard some or all of these.  They may seem funny but they hurt students and have for a long time.  My list could be from the present or from 100 years ago, it is time for these beliefs and slogans to stop.  Collectively, we want to be seen as professionals. When you hear these sayings, remember each one erodes the professionalism of our field and does not support students’ growth and learning.  

Read the options that follow carefully, before choosing. You can remain silent when you hear such comments, but this choice is a slippery slope for handling situations you do not agree with. You can agree and then do the opposite. However, consider the importance of being true to yourself.  This choice will not help such a goal.  The option that I favor and have adopted is to ask the person to not say these words anymore. Make sure you explain why, so the person understands your reasoning.  This may be the most challenging way to respond, but I assure you it will make you feel better about yourself, your professionalism, and your commitment to students.

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Leadership: Communication Reflection


The summer is an excellent time to reflect on how the prior year has gone and what new ideas can be implemented for the new school year.

In this blog, I am posing some questions for educators to reflect on.  How we communicate and how our communication is interpreted is important.  Certainly, we can all find inspiration from Eric Sheninger’s well-known quote, “ Either you tell your school story or someone else will.”

How you tell your story requires you to be intentional; communication will happen no matter what but without some thought and planning, it might not be the communication you want. So, how is your school telling its story?  What do the current communication methods say about your school?

Reflect on my top 7 questions and decide which you and your team do well and where you could improve.  Pick three new focus areas to be part of your communication plan for the new school year.

  1. When a person comes to the front door of your school does signage say visitors please report to the main office or does it say visitors must report to the main office?  This may seem small but words send messages.
  2. Does your front office staff give a great impression to all who enter the office?  Remember, how they communicate tells people a lot about the principal. Do office staff have training on customer service?
  3. Is there an updated calendar on your school website?  Who updates the calendar and how often?  
  4. If your school is using Google, are staff use Google Sites or Google Classroom?  If yes, have you communicated standards for updating and formatting?  Or, are some staff using this great way to communicate while others are not?  
  5. Does your school have a schedule for parent newsletters?  Do grade levels or teams send parent communications home on a set schedule? What message is sent when schedules are not followed or one group in a school communicates much more than another group?
  6. Consider a school-wide positive communication effort.  I have no doubt that all schools have some staff who make positive calls to parents but imagine the impact if all staff make a commitment to making at least one positive call during the year for each student they teach.
  7. Is your school using social media to effectively connect with families and tell the story of your school?  Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are all free and can communicate messages the school needs to send.  Do you have a plan for who manages social media in your school along with defined expectations including a minimum number of communications per day?  

I started my list with an easy change the others are more challenging.  Communication is like a garden it needs sunshine, water, and sometimes some weeding. I suggest choosing no more than three focus areas for the year ahead.  It can be tempting to choose more but too much with all a school needs to manage may not allow for successful change. I encourage a purposeful plan to communicate in a coordinated manner.  A well-coordinated plan will communicate your school’s story and also the important message, communication matters to us!


Check out my book The Principal’s Leadership Sourcebook

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Leadership: Summer Letter To Staff

In this post, I am sharing the letter I sent to staff last summer.  A summer communication to staff is a great way to recapture the year and set the stage for the year ahead.  My focus for the year ahead was greatness, team, and belief.  All are personal choices we make every day.  I share this letter in hopes that it can help you to frame this important communication for your staff whether new to the job or a veteran, communication will always be a critical component of leadership.


Dear Staff,

I  hope that each of you has had a restful and enjoyable summer break.  Summer is a great time to reflect and make adjustments for the year ahead. As I look back on the previous school year, I am proud of what our school accomplished, our professionalism as a staff, and most important, our collective commitment to doing our best for every student, every day. The staff of (School Name) has always been a great team!

The speed of change is fast and every year it gets faster. How we meet the challenges that inevitably come our way is our test of greatness personally, professionally, and collectively as a team.  We understand the need to be fast and progressive to meet the changes and challenges we and our students face.  Together our initiatives, commitment, and team focus have given us outstanding student achievement and a progressive and rewarding teaching environment.

For the past several years we focused on 21st century skills: creative thinking, creative problem solving, communication, collaboration, active engagement, higher level questioning, non-traditional class structures, and using unit-based planning to create lessons using backward design to create engaging units framed by pre-tests, formative assessments, and summatives to confirm what has been learned. The list may seem large, it is by no means exhaustive, nor is our work done. Initiatives we have worked on together and elements of great instruction are seen in our classrooms daily. In concert with great instruction, we see the enthusiasm students exhibit as we teach them for their future, not our past.  This year we will continue to find our instructional greatness; view challenges as opportunities, and understand that being great is a choice, not an inherent trait.

In addition, at the end of last year, we launched a large initiative, research-based grading practices.  Each department has established grading criteria based on best practice to create equity and to motivate students to succeed!   

The end goal in education is always present; it can be summed up with the word “all.” A simple three letter word that forces us to look at everything we do, evaluate, adjust, and re-focus to achieve a great education for everyone.  Being focused on greatness has never, nor should it ever be a faux definer of our school.  We have always found greatness when we focus and make adjustments to ensure success for all students and our school.

As you think about the new school year take the time to find the greatness that resides in you and use your personal greatness to create magic for our students. Please link the video below. After viewing, please return to the letter.

Nike: Find Your Greatness

As you near the end of summer I ask that you consider this:

People are inspired and drawn to you when they have a clear understanding of why you do what you do.  Your personal why is where you will find the greatness that is in you.

We have learned the value of surrounding ourselves with exceptional people who are 100% committed to doing their best for children: people who have a desire or even desperation to be great, people who believe in the magic that can occur in a classroom and school.

In the future, our students will serve as corporate leaders, lawyers, teachers, anchor the evening news, and maybe even serve as President of the United States.  Believe that in front of you every day are students who can achieve these goals or whatever goals they need to make them feel successful and find their personal greatness.

When we work together, there is no challenge that we cannot meet!  Our students deserve the absolute best and we have the team to make this happen!

Enjoy the last days of summer and begin gearing up for another outstanding school year.