Category Archives: jimmy casas

10 Easy Ways To Create an Amazing #SchoolCulture as a Principal This Year

Based on a comment I received on my post, “10 Easy Ways To Create an Amazing #ClassroomCulture“, I was asked to write a post about what a principal can do to promote school culture.  Thinking about my own past practice, but also by many that I have been inspired by, here are some simple ideas that could really set the tone for a year.

  1. Be outside and welcome people in the morning. One of the best ways to start the day as a principal is to be at the front of the school (or in a central place) to welcome students and staff every single morning (not just the first day).  Dave Pysyk, principal extraordinaire, was known for welcoming people every single morning at his school. It set an amazing tone for the day and was an immediate investment in people.
  2. Go into classrooms and hang out. One of the things that I truly believe in, is that principals should be in classrooms a lot more than they are currently.  Not just stopping by and saying hi (although this is hugely beneficial), but just spending time and hanging out, observing the environment.  The world is so mobile now, that we are not tethered to an office, so take your laptop, and answer your email or do your “paperwork” in a classroom. Your presence means a lot to the school community.
  3. Make a YouTube video to welcome people back. A great way to greet people back, is to make a quick message like this one from Travis McNaughton on YouTube.  People get to hear your voice and see your face, and sets a different tone than any letter home would.  Or you could be like Tony Sinanis, and create a school newsletter on YouTube with your students.  Awesome way to make connections before families start your school, and continue them after.
  4. Twitter videos to share awesome things happening in classrooms. One of my favourite options on Twitter is using video.  It is a great way to capture quick moments in the classroom and make great teaching and learning go viral in your own community, not just globally. There is no need to wait for the next staff meeting to share awesome ideas happening in your own school when you have access to technology like this.  Former principal Carolyn Cameron told me, that as a principal, you can become one of the best teachers, because you can always see great teachers. Make sure you share what you see with others constantly and consistently.
  5. Learn the names of all students. If a student is ever sent to the office, the worst way to start off a conversation is “what’s your name again?”  Spending time in areas where students convening, and making a huge effort to know the names of your students, makes a huge difference.  It is not easy, but it should be a goal for every principal.
  6. Make a spreadsheet with every staff member’s name and list their strength(s). People that are new to the principal position always ask, “What would you change first?” My answer is always, “nothing”.  The best thing you can do is learn the strength of every staff member in your community, write it down on a spreadsheet, and share that you see that in them.  This reminds principals that people are more likely to move forward when they feel valued.
  7. Fill the halls with pictures of kids that are there right now. Schools spend a lot of time honouring the past (graduation pictures, principal portraits, etc.), but not enough time honouring the present.  Going into schools often, I notice that the ones that really stick out to me, are the ones that have active pictures and media of kids plastered all over the school.  It is a great reminder for all of the students that you are there for them.
  8. Have lunch with students. I am all about having food together.  Having lunch with the principal is such a great way to get to know your students and connect with them.  Sometimes you might do it to find out what kids want from their school, but sometimes it is just about finding out about the kids.  Very simple, yet very powerful.
  9. Call families of colleagues to thank them (Thanks Jimmy Casas). I remember when Jimmy Casas told me about the time he spent calling the parents of his staff, to tell them how awesome their children were. No matter how old we get, we are always somebody’s kid, and parents never get tired of hearing about the accomplishments of those that they have raised.
  10. Treat the school like family. Schools can be tough places to be.  There are lots of emotional ups and downs, and people have shed many tears being a part of a school community.  This is why people need to feel that you will push them, but always have their back.  When schools become like family, what the community can do is absolutely amazing.

One of the elements that is not on the list is to simply be available.  Don’t be the principal that needs an “appointment” to connect with others.  You have the mobility to move around the school in ways that many staff can not, and it is important that you are visible. Amber Teamann is very transparent principal, exhibiting her continuous learning in her role, modelling her willingness to grow for her school community. Patrick Larkin had his desk in the hallway of the high school in which he served as a principal, and it was an awesome reminder of who he was there for. Principals like Sanee Bell, seem to go out of their way to make kids feel like part of their community.

To be a principal is a true blessing. My best advice is to enjoy every minute you can openly, as you see that your joy will become infectious with others.


Getting Proper Permission for Posting Student Pictures Online

A lot of educators ask me about posting student pictures on social media, to be able to celebrate the great things that are going on in their classrooms and schools.  Not only does it share the learning, but it also helps students to understand their presence online and what it tells people.

Usually the process is that through some vetting, a school or district will provide some type of form.  There will be discussions with parents, and hopefully there is a process where parents sign that they are okay with what you are doing.  Ongoing discussions with staff also may discuss what are some good things to post, and things that you might not want to.  Yet, I have noticed that sometimes there is something missing.

Asking the kids for their permission.

Now I am not saying all teachers do this, but I think that if we want to model something to our students, we need to constantly ask them if it is okay if we post their picture online, even if we have their parents permission and even if the student signs off on something previously.

There are a few reasons that stick out to me on why you should ask students for their permission…

First of all, each day is different and there are days where maybe a student is not up for you sharing their picture to the world.

Secondly, we need to model that if we are going to post something online of someone, that we should ask permission.  Even if a student is younger and may not understand the full breadth of how many people can actually see the picture, it is still a good practice to model.

Finally, tying into the last point, how comfortable would many teachers be of students just taking a picture of them with their phone and posting it online without permission?

I appreciate the educators that make this a common practice, no matter what forms are signed. If we do not ask the student for their permission, do all of the other forms and permissions matter as much?

What we modelis whatwe get.

Say Hello To Tony

My friend Tony Sinanis is like a brother to me…I love the guy to pieces and have only met him face to face once.  He has been a good friend for years and I trust him like family. As I was texting him the other day about something we didn’t agree on, I actually said, “Hey! My mom is here and she would love to talk to you and you can drop some Greek on her.” Immediately we FaceTimed and I just handed the phone to my mom, and her and Tony talked like he was one of the kids that I grew up with, not someone I met on Twitter.  I just walked away and did other things while they talked Greek and had no idea what they were saying (obviously both complimenting to no end!).

This isn’t the first time that this has happened with my mom.  My good friend Jimmy Casas, also who I connected with through Twitter, called my mom last year unbeknownst to me, to talk to her and say kind words about me.  She told me and I kept saying, “Who?”  Then I figured it out and was blown away.

Little things like this mean a lot to me and there are people that I have connected with on social media that are not just “friends” to me, but they are family.  Although I am known as a “speaker”, I could go months without talking to people and be fine with it, and we could just pick up one moment and talk like we never skipped a beat.

I know this also means a lot to my mom as well.  The email I received yesterday from my mom (english being her second language) said the following:

Say hello to tony if you Hempen to talk to him same-times. Have a great day.

It was also followed by her signature “emoticon guilt trip” about not calling more:

  Love mom. 😡📞😰😰😰.


There is nothing more I could say after this than how grateful I am for so many amazing people that have come into my life because one day I decided to pay a little more attention to Twitter. I know my mom is pretty happy about it as well and with all that she has been through there is no one I know that deserves to smile more than her.