Daniel Gardner

Principal, Randolph Elementary School

Reach Out to Reach In

With winter break and a multitude of unexpected snow days, I was able to finally read Lead Like a Pirate, a book by Shelley Burgess and Beth Houf. It inspired me to invest in a little reflection time I’m calling “Reach Out to Reach In.” The premise, you need to reach out to authors, common practitioners (principals), teachers, and your local colleagues in order to reach within yourself to refresh, renew, and revise where you are headed.

Lead Like a Pirate pushed the reader to connect to the #LeadLAP Twitter Community. As I started to post my thoughts or the authors’ quotes I was encouraged by direct replies by @BethHouf and @burgess_shelley. I realized that posting quotes served several purposes. It made me look for nuggets that spoke to my own practice (usually ones that would sharpen my craft). It served as a journal of sorts that I could go back to. It reminded past readers or introduced new ones (on Twitter) to the content. And lastly, it grew my professional learning network (PLN).

I was amazed at the snowball that happened while reading the book and tweets. It reminded me of when I took health care law and became addicted to cascading from one court case to the next when they referred to previous court rulings. As people would notice my tweets I would follow them. Active educators I met at the 2016 NAESP conference were all still active (@TechNinjaTodd, @danpbutler, @PrincipalNauman, @RossCoops31, @PrincipalStager, @PrincipalMS, @TonySinanis, @Joe_Sanfelippo, @GustafsonBrad, @awelcome, @Joe_Mazza) and cross-promoting publications of active colleagues (@PrincipalJ, @casas_jimmy, @burgessdave, @TechNinjaTodd). My Amazon Wish List exploded – (The Wild Card, Culturize, Stories from Webb, The Coach Approach to School Leadership to name a few). I started learning the Twitter Chat schedule for networks such as #LeadLAP, #TLAP, #NAESPchat, #dadsasprincipals, #PIAchat). Participating in the chats would lead to following 20 more people. And then I added some personal interests too with regard to NPR programs, dad stuff, and local connections.

One specific connection that was powerful to me was to Kim Marshall. I had subscribed this summer to his Marshall Memo. If you haven’t, I highly recommend it. He takes away the guilt of never getting to all of the monthly publications I should be reading. He gleans the best/current articles, summarizes them, and then archives them into pertinent topics. As we are exploring the teacher observation process heavily in our county I was drawn to a lot of resources. I emailed him back and he was happy to connect to talk on the phone. My book list expanded further (Leverage Leadership, Thanks for the Feedback, Rethinking Teacher Supervision and Evaluation).


I was reflecting with my wife on all these things I wanted to do, all these things that other people were accomplishing, pondering how these authors were fitting it all in, stressing out about keeping up with the Twitter feed, doing my job more than well, being a dad, being a husband. Of course, many of these authors have a chapter related to improving oneself comfortably – but it’s one small piece of all their other advice and magnificence.

Amazingly that very morning of brain dump I ended up clicking on an Educators Lead podcast with Jeff Zoul (http://www.educatorslead.com/jeffzoul/) (@Jeff_Zoul). Out I went on a 30-minute run – and boy was it spot on. I could not have asked for more karma. Just like Lead Like A Pirate his speaking style and advice was approachable and resonating. He answered many questions that were popping around in my head and his words and the run calmed me. They also excited me and lead me to get up at 4:30 am on a Saturday to write this. But it fed my soul in a way that gave me room to breathe.

And so where am I this morning with everything, realizing that it may change tomorrow due to new inspiration, fatigue, one of my awesome teachers, too many emails, my wife/kids, or the unexpected? For now, I give myself this advice – and perhaps something for you to reflect upon:

  1. Don’t feel guilty about not reading all the Twitter feed, professional Facebook feeds, blogs, articles, and books. Know that at any moment you plug in there is likely something to inspire or soothe. Those moments are part of the connected amazingness.
  2. Take Jeff Zoul’s advice of dedicating time several mornings to reflect and grow.
  3. Take Maya Angelou’s advice to heart as when I worry about not becoming a better leader faster “You did the best that you knew how. Now that you know better, you’ll do better.” (Thanks Jeff Zoul for this quote).
  4. Keep reading without the goal of trying or remembering it all. All of the authors’ stories and advice will become of your being that will positively shape future decisions.
  5. Use ANCHOR from Lead Like a Pirate (especially the A – appreciate others!) This means write notes to teachers/staff, praise kids, and thank members of your growing PLN when they inspire you.

By reaching out I have been motivated to reach in. I feel more inspired and more supported. I hope that I can do the same for others!

1 Comment

  1. Great post Dan! I’ve been inspired by some many of the the same people you listed. I’ve met a ton of them via Twitter and couldn’t be more grateful for those connections! Keep on keeping on!!

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