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Mix Tape: The Hits of the 23/24 Soundtrack


This is my last new letter of the 23/24 school year, and what a year it’s been!

I wanted to take a moment to spotlight some of the posts for this year in case you missed them and want something to peruse over the summer. Think of this as a mix tape that might encourage you to dive deeper into any of the other posts from this or previous years!

September 2023

  • Better For Everyone - I attended several professional development events for women in leadership during the summer of 2023 and reflected on the importance of supporting other women and the power of women working together. These events also highlighted some challenges women face, such as the fact that most school superintendents are men and someone’s sex doesn’t determine their ability to harm or help. One of the takeaways is that we can and should choose to be people who help others lead.

October 2023

  • Surrounded by Idiots - After listening to an audiobook called Surrounded by Idiots which discusses different personality types and how to communicate with them, I shared how the book discussed two different approaches to conflict - harmony and conflict outlook - and how understanding these can improve your interactions with others.

November 2023

  • Get In the Game - Do you ever notice that in sports, practices are harder than the games? Why? Hard practices allow players to develop their skills in low-stakes situations (practices)  so they can easily use those skills in high-stakes situations (games). In this post, I use this sports analogy to explain why schools should make learning challenging through assignments and projects, so tests become easier and students gain confidence.

December 2023

  • All of Us - On the eve of starting my seventh semester teaching a class for future administrators, I reflected on leadership. Every semester a student says they want to be an administrator who remembers what it's like to be a teacher. This is because I, and likely you too, have seen terrible administrators. However, I, and likely you too, have also seen terrible teachers. But the good news is a title doesn't define a person. Great leaders can be found at any level, and leadership is about behavior, not a job title.

January 2024

  • On Target - This post was inspired by building-level administrators who said they didn’t feel supported by district office administrators. At the same time, these building-level administrators said they felt like their teachers said they didn’t feel supported by building administration. Here I wrote about how I used to see myself as the "lead teacher" focused on student results, but I realized my job is to support the teachers who directly impact students, creating a system where everyone supports the one below them. There’s a bullseye image I created that really drives this home. Please check it out.

February 2024

  • Missing the Mark - After reading the post, “On Target,” I received an email from a colleague who said her school supports teachers but they don't feel supported. This post ponders if the problem is that administrators might think they are giving teachers what they need but it's not really what teachers want. The key is to ask teachers what they need and want.

March 2024

  • The Pen, the Throw, and the Mindset - I threw a pen in anger but it landed at my feet because I never learned how to throw. This made me consider the difference between nature and nurture. My husband exposes our kids to sports and they are athletic. In this post, I write about if I could have been athletic too if someone had exposed me to sports as a kid. The impact of exposure is connected to a growth mindset where one believes ability is both a function of skill and hard work. 

April 2024

  • Get in the Game: The Importance of Challenges to Learning - This post is the fifth in a series about grading and I argue that grades hurt learning because they discourage challenge. People expect to fail at video games and keep trying. Why? Games provide achievable challenges but require failure before success. Schools should do the same by offering challenging tasks and letting students learn from their mistakes. This will create a love of learning that is inclusive of failure which is better than giving kids failing grades.

May 2024

  • It's Time to Do Better: Alternatives to Penalizing Late Work with Zeros - The traditional way of punishing late work with bad grades needs to reflect how well students learn the material. This post shows there are better ways, like giving timely feedback and allowing extensions that focus on helping students learn and take responsibility for their work. This way, they are better prepared for post-school experiences where deadlines are flexible and communication is key.

June 2024

  • The Educational Lottery: Without Systematic Supports, Children Lose - I noticed a widespread practice in schools called "educational lottery" where student success depends on factors like who their teacher is, not their actual learning. This is a lottery where there are a lot of people who lose because so much is dependent on the luck of the draw. This isn't fair. Instead, schools should use data and consistent systems to support all students so everyone has an equal chance to succeed.

I hope your school year was wonderful and that your summer is fantastic! See you in Septemeber!


P.S. My Catch of the Week is Jennifer Breheny Wallace's book Never Enough: When Achievement Culture Becomes Toxic--And What We Can Do About It,  a thought-provoking read about the unintended pressure adults/society can create for kids.

The book posits that we push kids to do things like take advanced classes, chase higher grades, and specialize in sports – all in pursuit of "achievement." But, to what end? A vicious cycle of "more" detracts from the virtuous cycle of mattering. Beheny Wallace writes, “Mattering is not mutually exclusive from high performance. When we matter, we are more likely to participate in positive, healthy ways in our families, our schools, and our communities.”

Social media, competition, and constant comparison fuel a culture where value seems tied to being perceived as the best rather than finding ways to do and give your best. “[Our] kids are absorbing the idea that their worth is contingent on their performance—their GPA, the number of social media followers they have, their college brands—not for who they are deep at their core. They feel they only matter to the adults in their lives, their peers, the larger community if they are successful.” But Breheny Wallace argues that true "mattering" comes from feeling valued for who we are and contributing to something bigger than ourselves.

Here are some examples of ways we feel connected, recognized, and capable -- to build a foundation for self-worth beyond achievements.

1. Being someone who others can rely on.

2. Demonstrating resilience when things don't go as expected.

3. A willingness to try (and fail).

4. Offering genuine support to friends when they need it most.

P.P.S. Please remember to...

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