Edit what works.

You have to be willing to edit your life.

That recipe you wrote last year, but now you’re doing something different? Edit it.

That relationship you thought was going to work out, but didn’t? Edit it.

The job that started rough, but turned out great? Edit it.

Be ready to edit your worldview, your reality, the way you live, and the way you perceive those and that around you.

If you hold on to the old, and never let the new in, you’re in for a life of dissonance. If you edit instead, you end up with the most beautiful version of yourself.

So give it a try… no, wait, edit that! Just do it.

And you know what? Maybe edit isn’t the right word, either.

Update, perhaps?


Learn something NEW.

When it’s time to learn something new, what do you do?

Do you spend the time it takes, enroll in a workshop, get an instruction manual, or poke a stick at it?

For me, it depends.

What’s the purpose? Personal or professional?

If it’s for me, or for fun, there’s nothing to gain but the experience itself, and there’s a low risk level. What’s the worst that can happen? I go back to my old ways, and continue on.

Best case? I learn something new, add it to my toolbox, and share it with others.

Professionally, I tend to spend a bit more time learning before doing, and I often learn/experience something outside of professional projects before moving new skills into the realm that generates income.

Take web design, for example. You’ll likely see something new on my personal blog before I move that skill over to a school district’s website, for example.

And today, on Christmas Day, 2022, what am I learning?

I finally decided to take the leap over to Gutenberg – WordPress’ editor, and force myself to learn it. It’s the future, after all, and I’ve waited far too long to explore the many new content blocks, editing modes, and flexibility it offers.

My sister Maria, me, and my dad on his boat in the Torekov harbor.

The internet remains, like the boat above, but the passengers, captains, and oceans have changed. So should my skills.

So here’s to new beginnings, albeit a bit late, and I’m learning something new by forcing myself to give up the past.

I look forward to new abilities, new opportunities, and new realms. Perhaps you’ll sail with me sometime?

When was the last time you learned something new?

a real question…

This, for example, is a poem written by an AI, about the future. I asked it to “write a poem about the future”…

The future is a mystery,
A path unknown, yet to be seen.
It holds the hopes and dreams we carry,
And all the things we’ve yet to be.
A world of endless possibility,
Where anything could come to pass.

A time of great uncertainty,
But also great potential at last.
The future is a time of change,
Of progress, growth, and evolution.
A time to leave the past behind,
And embrace a brighter solution.

The future is a time to dream,
To imagine all that could be.
A time to rise and take the reins,
And shape our destiny.

So let us embrace the future,
With all its twists and turns.
For even though it may be scary,
It’s also a time for us to learn.


The future is endless and has just begun. It’s a time to learn.

Imagine 50 years from now – you’ll still be alive – what will the world look like then? Auto-generated content, that’s for sure, so who will write all the beautiful prose we’ve come to love?

Enjoy the next 24 hours.


Swedish cat grammar.

Swedish grammar is, well, easy for me… but I have NO idea how to diagram a sentence, what the various sentence structures are called, and so on. I could not identify a verb, adjective, or plural-possessive.

I can’t do that in English, either, so it’s all fair.

Here’s a snippet from this morning’s conversation in the kitchen while I was making myself coffee and talking to our cat. My spouse came downstairs from her workout, and walked in right as I was singing Meghan Trainor’s Louis Vitton to the redheaded beast in the front room.

“Kom, så, misen… kom här.” I motioned for him to come close for a scritch on the head. His eyes back from “the wild,” he moved closer.

“Aw, he’s such a cutie, isn’t he?” Jae said.

“He sure is. Did I ever explain the nickname for cat in Swedish to you, and how to bend it?”

“Bend it?”

“Yeah, you know, the grammar stuff…”


I’ve been known to switch topics lightning fast, from one to the other, mid-sentence even. Whiplash territory.

In Swedish we have words for the real thing, like cat, and then, of course, also ‘pet’ names, and nicknames for cat (a whole other word). The nickname for katt is mise. En mise. Like en katt. A cat. Kitty, of sorts, but not really. Or misse, depending on where in the country you’re from…

Here’s how the structure works:

En katt <– a cat
katten <– the cat
kattens <– the cat’s, as in kattens pajamas
katter <– many cats
katternas <– the many cats’, as in katternas pajamases

And so, we also call cats mise. Here’s how:

En mise <– a kitty cat
misen <– the kitty
misens <– the kitty’s, as in the kitty’s banana
misarna <– the kitty cats / notice the a, instead of e…
misarnas <– the kitty cats’

“Kom, så, misen… kom här.” <– “come here, kitten, come on…”

See how easy the grammar structure is?

“But how do you know if it’s ‘en’ or ‘ett’? As in ‘en katt’, or ‘ett djur’ (animal)?

“I have no idea. You just know. We never diagrammed anything. We just knew. It’s easy.”

Bananens katt.
Katten har en banan.
Misen vill ju ha en banan for sig själv.

One of those words is both a cat banana, and a racecourse for cats. And that’s all there’s to it. 😉 We, along with the Germans, love to combine words into new things…

Learning a language as a native is VERY DIFFERENT than learning it as a foreign language.

Did you know English is not my first language?

I guess you do, now… And English is infinitely more difficult to learn, and to use, than Swedish. So there’s that.

Enjoy your new knowledge. There’s no limit to what you can learn, or the pleasure derived from the company of cats.

“Kom, så, kisse-missen…” 🐈

Cat Photography Credit – Emelie Russ Johansson


Got plans?

I was on the shooting range last week and did some light competing with a buddy. We used a timer, and the pressure was on to get the hits in time.

I drew my gun, raised it towards the target, began taking slack out of the trigger, aligned the red dot optic on target, and pulled the trigger all the way… Click. Nothing. No bang!

When your actions don’t go as planned, are you ready with a backup? And not only a plan B – what happens if that fails? – but a whole series of immediate actions in a series.

Here’s how I plan for action, remedial actions, and emergencies… I use the acronym PACE to make sure I think through stages of failure, and what steps to take in case they actually materialize.

P – Primary – your main plan, the one you want to happen. No drama; everything goes as planned. I try to live here most of the time… Drive to work as usual, for example.

A – Alternate – this is your plan B, your secondary, “Oh, that didn’t work, so we’re doing this instead…” This is mandatory. You have to have alternate plans. Road blocked? What’s the next best route? Turn left instead of right, circle the block, try another angle.

C – Contingency – what do you do when your alternate plans don’t run? You keep this set of plans in your back pocket for when the going gets tough. Maybe a whole different method? A different team? You work from home, maybe, cause all the roads are bad?

E – Emergency – this is the last resort, call in the Cavalry, and get some help to save something bad from happening. You’re upside down in a ditch. So what do you do? You grab your go-bag, dig yourself out, and make it back home safely. No work today.

So, click, and no bang. Easy!

Rack the slide, load a round (which I had forgotten), trigger slack, full squeeze, boom, boom, recover. Less than a second for that to happen. On the range, we call this remedial action… and it’s the alternative to a ‘no bang’.

Because there was a plan. I knew what to do.

What’s the worst that can happen? You don’t have an alternate plan, and you freeze. 

And heaven help you if you haven’t even thought about potential power outages this weekend (-2F air temps), stocked up on food for the holidays, or filled your gas tank. It’s too late now…

One more thing. Have you reviewed your PACE with the team around you?

“Here’s what we’ll do when this happens, and if this happens, we’re taking this action.”

Then, when you’re trending towards emergency, you can calmly follow your plans and execute them safely.

Spend some time planning your life, and stay safe out there.


On Dancing.

Det spelar ingen roll hur bra jag dansar när du tittar på nån annan… // It doesn’t matter how good I am at dancing if you’re looking at someone else…

So what are you going to do about it?

Are you going to learn a new dance? Are you going to go to another club? Are you going to quit dancing altogether? Maybe the music’s no good?

Lots of options.

Maybe stay for one more song, then head out…?

Swedish lyrics and inspiration from Molly Sandén.


Those who went before me…

My dad Mats and I talk every Sunday afternoon.

Yesterday, we spent more than an hour chatting about various topics – his boat that he’s working on, my childhood, societal class differences, and his educational journey.

“I think my parents spent a considerable amount of their income in sending me to school, realskolan (school after 6th grade). I was the only one from my town going. Everyone else joined their parents in farming or something similar.”

School wasn’t free back then, and my dad’s classmates were all sons and daughters of doctors, lawyers, and academics. He was from a small village in southern Sweden and knew no one.

Later on, he joined a merchant vessel to continue his education and sailed to South America a few times during his internship there.

One week ‘on duty’ and the next in class (on the boat). It was here he forged his path forward, on the sea, towards what would be an excellent career in the Swedish Coast Guard.

“My father, Harald (my grandfather), only went to school through 6th grade, and his principal visited his parents to let them know he had the aptitude for school. But they couldn’t afford it. So he didn’t go. And he spent his whole life in carpentry.”

“And my grandfather, Hjalmar (my great grandfather), probably had the same level of education. He worked on a sailing vessel transporting street stone and pavers.”

At one point, we talked about how I had struggled in math, and my dad told another story about Harald:

“I struggled in math, and my dad didn’t know how to help me. So he signed up for a math class for adults and was able to get me ‘over the hump’ in understanding the basics of math. I ended up with a ‘small a’ in math. I don’t think many got a ‘big A’. It was very hard.”

Last week I successfully defended my oral and written comprehensive exams in a Ph.D. program at Kent State University, and I am now officially a doctoral candidate.

Oskar is still in 6th grade.

I wonder what he’ll accomplish on the shoulders of the Johansson men that have gone before him in education. I can’t wait to support him in his journey to find out.

Hjalmar –> Harald –> Mats –> Andreas –> Oskar = 140+ years of legacy.

The opportunities are endless with the right support. We all do our best with what we have to support those who follow.

I am thankful for my lineage and for what it has afforded me – full of experiences and opportunities.

Pictured above – Oskar, my dad, and I on his boat in the Blekinge archipelago a few years back.


A Critical Review & Reflection of Professional Development

The Jennings Foundation Workshop Series 2022 – A Critical Review & Reflection of Professional Development

Undoubtedly, continued efforts to develop oneself as an educator benefit many – students, colleagues, and the overall professional cadre of teachers who staff classrooms all around the nation.

Several researchers have found that “sustained and intensive professional development is more likely to have an impact” (Garet et al., 2001, p. 935) than a scattershot approach.

While many teachers engage within their districts in mandated sessions, professional learning communities, or quick snippets in staff meetings, others venture towards other sources of deep learning and refinement, often on their own time.

It can be challenging to design effective sessions of professional development for a wide variety of teachers in a school district (Garet et al., 2008) and reach optimal performance across all grade levels and schools. Districts may choose to adopt various models for how to train and develop their teachers continuously.

Traditional models of professional development are often top-down and look for ways to close gaps (Diaz-Maggioli, 2004), or fill content needs where deficiencies are either apparent or assumed by the district’s central office or building leadership.

In many cases, professional development is required by state law or board policy as a measure for continued improvement in the district (or across some geographical boundary like a state) (Pritchard & Marshall, 2002). Still, programs are only loosely connected to initiatives to increase student performance in a specific area.

Many of these mandates are connected to licensure, contract language, or requirements set by a district’s central office.

In some cases, the professional development offerings by a district or school building are not enough for educators seeking to improve themselves, so they go looking for opportunities and “solutions wherever they can” (Rebore, 2012, p. 141) in order to better themselves, build skill, gain new content knowledge, and partner with colleagues, real-world professionals, or higher education or university faculty.

Rebore (2012), in his seminal work on human resources management, argues that it is a challenge for any district to identify and recognize what effective teaching is, much less how to prepare professional development around those challenges.

Thus, a reliance on the educator’s professionalism to keep up with any and all initiatives, best practices, and current research can be an Achilles heel at best for many districts.

My own desire to stay up-to-date on best practices in education led me to the 2022 Jennings Educators Institute, hosted by the Jennings Foundation and the Office of Professional Development & Outreach (PDO) at Kent State University, and here I share some of the takeaways, critique, findings, and reflections.

The Institute ran in the fall semester of 2022 in Kent State University’s new DI Hub and was filled with educators primarily from Northeast Ohio who had sought out the program after learning of it from PDO. Altogether, we attended three Saturday morning sessions of a few hours each which were led by various professionals, educators, or facilitators.

First, I will review the format of the Institute itself, the setup, the space, and the methods. Next, a few of the activities we took part in, and finally, some reflections on growth, the value of professional development for me as an educator, and for those that follow.

The 2022 Jennings Educators Institute was designed around “deep learning, purposeful teaching, and thinking that matters” and challenged participants to “acquire strategies to cultivate creativity, critical thinking, trauma-informed approaches, and targeted capacities of thinking” (2022 Jennings Educators Institute | Kent State University, n.d.) in a series of workshop-style sessions.

Most of the participants were classroom teachers from across grade levels, along with school psychologists, intervention specialists, and school district personnel or central office staff like me.

All chose to show up early on Saturday mornings to continue the life-long work of getting better at what we do as educators, regardless of role, and sought to learn, grow, and connect with other like-minded professionals.

Prior to the Institute’s first session, resource materials were distributed electronically, along with suggested and required pre-reading materials to better prepare for the day. While this was helpful, I found some of the readings difficult to connect with in the first session as they mainly pertained to classroom teaching and practice, which is no longer my role.

I made the active choice to pivot most of my thinking to staff development instead, swapping students / kids for adults / colleagues. My frame of mind and perception now lies in educating staff and growing teams, more so than K-12 students, and while the content may differ, many methods carry over successfully regardless of who the learner is.

I prepared a binder for all materials containing the readings, handouts, drawings, eventual materials to organize and keep handy, along with notepaper and blank filler pages. This is a bit of an executive functioning hack I have used over the years to assist with my own learning that helps me to better prepare myself in my journey, and I am always willing to share with students and colleagues alike when asked.

The Institute took place in the DI Hub at Kent State – a new area for design innovation, connected growth, and flexible learning spaces. With a group size of about 50 educators, we were hosted in the Hub’s main rectangular room designed for multiple setup options, and as a nice surprise, we were offered breakfast and coffee for each session.

The seating was mixed on purpose and forced us to make new friends around a table, and while it would have been helpful for networking to continue to mix it up over the workshop series, most of us sat with the same familiar team from day one.

Each table was supplied with materials for each session, often containing scissors, paper, various building materials, permanent markers, highlighters, and such.

This made the sessions better as each required engaged thinking, critical application of concepts, and a renewed sense of being a student – sitting in the learner’s seat, charged with a challenge to create, revise, discuss, and grow.

Modeling is one of the better ways to learn a new task – as in, show me what you’d like me to do with my students – (Willink, 2020) in a classroom-like environment.

I always enjoy participating in these kinds of workshops for two reasons. One, it allows me to learn something new. And two, it forces me into a new perspective – the perspective of the kid in the classroom, or the learner in a workshop, or the adult in a meeting learning something new for the first time.

If not forced, sometimes I remain outside the learning activity itself, often studying the methods, the resources, and the actions, all with the intent of taking it back to my own practice to refine then re-deploy it with my own team, instead of actively participating.

The Jennings facilitators did a good job of making sure everyone was truly engaged. However, it can be hard to face a challenge like “build something you’d like to see in the future” prompt using only popsicle sticks, coffee filters, and paper clips.

But we endured, designed, created, and shared our successes with those around us, and learning was facilitated regardless.

This method of learning suits me, and while it is a bit unorthodox, it beats the “sit-n-get” method so many professional development sessions end up being.

I often take back inspirations to my team of operations professionals and throw at them the wildest of ideas or new learning, often to their surprise, methodologically at least.

Still, we always learn something new – either about what we do, who we are, or how we react to various challenges.

Leadership in professional development is key to long-term success (Waters & Marzano, 2006), and I don’t ever want to run out of ideas for how to develop and grow my teams.

Professional development, too, needs to be systematic and productive (Skrla et al., 2009) to matter much. During the sessions at Kent, I kept thinking about how to approach the coming months back at work, and how I could re-energize those I work with using some of the simple methods from the Jennings sessions.

Being asked to solve a problem with scissors is often a good opener to something more complex. Starting off a session with what typically would be classified as “child’s play” certainly opens the door for more critical work once everyone’s a bit more relaxed.

Technology was a large part of the Institute, and all presenters used some form of slide deck to convey their message, keep the session on track, or to show or highlight resources to the group. The room was equipped with three free-standing monitors that displayed the content from the presenter’s laptop.

Due to frequent interruptions of the connected signal (displays seemed to be wireless) this setup resulted in more of an interruption than an overall benefit.

In one session, the presenter became so flustered by this tech issue that they veered off track and had to spend considerable time fixing their laptop, the connection cords, and the wireless displays. Each session ended up with technical support personnel in the room trying to troubleshoot the displays.

From a pedagogical perspective, this probably impacted our learning. From a realistic perspective, however, it only reinforced reality – nothing will work according to plan (Willink & Babin, 2017), so you’d better have a backup!

This offered up a good conversation (around our table, at least) on classroom management techniques, how to deal with technology that doesn’t work, and horror stories of technology gone wrong.

I am always the first one to defend technology use, and bristle at folks who by default lead with “oh, it must be the technology again… maybe the WiFi isn’t working” when they clearly didn’t prepare enough for their presentation.

In this case, the combined efforts of the technology staff at KSU and the presenters’ ability to remain calm, cool, and collected, and our professionalism at the tables, kept us moving forward. In the future, I would take steps to avoid that distraction again.

One of the sessions focused on taking care of ourselves as educators. Teacher burnout is a real thing (Chang, 2009; Farber, 2000).

Examining what some of the vectors and variables are in burning out, losing control, and ultimately leaving the profession is a helpful exercise for anyone working within the system – not just teachers.

Our pre-reading for that session came from Aguilar (2018a) and her work on cultivating resilience in educators. The section was a copy from the book, and I had to hunt for the source before finding it, ultimately adding it to my cart online for immediate shipping.

Her book, Onward, examines practical advice on how to build resistance to irritants, the pressure of work, and unexpected events so that we as educators, can fulfill our own desires that initially drove us to the profession in the first place.

Aguilar uses a conceptual framework to explore who we are, where we are, what we do, and how we are. There’s a workbook (Aguilar, 2018b) too that allows teams or individuals to grow and learn together, and once I have fully absorbed her material, I plan to implement a few things with those I lead.

The section of her book that was shared in the workshop came from chapter 6, which focused on taking care of yourself and started by identifying why we don’t.

Aguilar (2018) suggests that there are four reasons – we’re missing information, we don’t know how, we don’t think we need to take care of ourselves, and we don’t feel we deserve it (p. 150).

Powerful words and eye-opening for me and others at my table and among our whole group. She shares the reasons, too, behind us not acting to save ourselves, and all of them hit home for me.

I work hard and often put everything else on the back burner, including family, hobbies, or downtime.

I kept churning with this material in the session itself, have since shared some of the takeaways with others in discussions on self-care, and have made plans to fix a few things for myself.

As a side note here, this behavior is what I think effective professional development should accomplish – review and exploration of something new, different, and perhaps effective.

I mostly ended up with more questions (not a bad thing, I think) about what steps I could take to better care for myself in the future.

What am I missing? Is there information about self-care I don’t have? I want to do better, but do I know how? Aguilar (2018) stresses that “self-care is learned” (p. 150) and achievable. Do I want to, then? Do I have the will to help myself improve by becoming more relaxed, less stressed, and ultimately a better version of myself?

I have explored just this topic before (Johansson, 2022a), and just recently have begun to re-examine my youth and how that made me who I am today – both as an educator and as a person.

The most important question of the four – whether we deserve to take care of ourselves – is the hardest one to come to terms with.

The answer, objectively, should be ‘of course,’ but many educators put others first, along with all the other things in their lives, until one day, there’s no more energy for self. And that’s a bad plan.

But is there a plan to make it all work, or is it just a bunch of hard work? And if so, who wants to do that? Who will tell me what to do to get it right? What’s the best source for self-care? Is it a manual of sorts, or will it be a life-long journey?

Here are some of my thoughts from earlier this year (Johansson, 2022b), when I explored just that topic:

I’ve been doing what I do now, at work, for well over ten years. I still do things every day I’ve never done before. There’s no manual in sight, and if there is, I haven’t found it. So, how do I survive, and get stuff done? Experience?

Most of us (in my field) spend some time in school after high school in college coursework, then some professional development, then another degree, then some more conferences, sessions, workshops, then another degree… and nowhere is there a document that shares “what to do when…” Self-care is no different.

You have to write your own manual of care. Your instruction manual, perhaps? You have to document what works, and what doesn’t. You have to keep a running log of how to keep the wheels turning, and when those wheels need maintained, replaced, or improved… Who will tell you to do all of this? No one.

But here’s a hint when it’s time to write some of that stuff down: Are others asking you for advice, for what works, for how to do what you do, for answers to questions you’ve dealt with already? Yes? That’s when it’s time. But why share with others in the first place? Imagine how well they’ll perform when they know what you know.

I appreciate all the work by Aguilar. Her work has already set me on a path toward improvement, and what started with a workshop session at Kent State has now led to weekly appointments with a mental health professional.

I feel much better already.

So, over the three sessions, about 12 hours in total plus the pre-reading, the post-session reflections, and discussions with colleagues as a result, did I grow as a professional and educator? You bet!

And best of all, I was able to learn on my terms and apply the new and novel to my own journey in my own way.

There was no pressure to perform, which allowed me to embrace activities and invitations for conversation fully, and I felt safe among my fellow educators.

The presenter and facilitators, too, were open, honest, and were able to connect with us in a way that really ‘left a mark’ whether we discussed art, classroom management strategies, or team growth exercises.

Over the three sessions, we came together as one, everyone felt comfortable in their learning journey – at least in my observation – where collective participation grew tremendously from session one to session three.

Professional development is all about building capacity (Schmoker, 2013) for school personnel and those who serve students or staff to do something more than what they are already doing.

Whether that means some silly activities to get your team going in a meeting or complex content knowledge to better help in learning design creation, so be it.

Professional development should be a constant in our schools, but perhaps it’s time to reflect on the format, the methods, and the delivery vehicles.

Professional development that is mandated is often not effective. Professional development that comes with vague expectations is not helpful. If we build in “token days” (Kozol, 2005, p. 18), hoping time spent together will automatically increase performance, we’re probably on the wrong track.

We as educators need to continue the push together for open discussions (Skrla et al., 2009) about what school is, could be, and should be.

Professional development plays a big role in how we perform, how we think about improvement, and what we find important.

Top-down is one approach. Finding what works is another. Being willing to look for alternatives is paramount.

Professional development will only ever be effective if all of us commit to a sustained model of improvement (Nystrand & Gamoran, 1987), where all educators, and all those who support other school functions, work to drive progress forward in whatever format works best for them.

If some of that happens to take place on Saturday mornings (and breakfast is served), it’s probably going to work out just fine.

This paper was edited and reworked to fit on this webpage, which includes extra paragraphs and whitespace for ease of reading, hyperlinks, blockquotes, etc.


2022 Jennings Educators Institute | Kent State University. (n.d.). Retrieved December 9, 2022, from

Aguilar, E. (2018a). Onward: Cultivating Emotional Resilience in Educators. Jossey-Bass.

Aguilar, E. (2018b). The Onward Workbook: Daily Activities to Cultivate Your Emotional Resilience and Thrive. Jossey-Bass.

Chang, M. L. (2009). An appraisal perspective of teacher burnout: Examining the emotional work of teachers. In Educational Psychology Review (Vol. 21, Issue 3, pp. 193–218).

Diaz-Maggioli, G. (2004). Teacher-Centered Professional Development. Teacher Centered Professional Development, 1–15.

Farber, B. A. (2000). Treatment Strategies for Different Types of Teacher Burnout. In J Clin Psychol/In Session (Vol. 56).

Garet, M. S., Porter, A. C., Desimone, L., Birman, B. F., & Yoon, K. S. (2001). What Makes Professional Development Effective? Analysis of a National Sample of Teachers. American Education Research Journal, 38(4), 915–945.

Garet, M. S., Zhu, P., Cronen, S., Wayne, A. J., & Yoon, K. S. (2008). Experimenting With Teacher Professional Development: Motives and Methods. Educational Researcher, 37(8), 469–479.×08327154

Johansson, A. (2022a). Am I a better dad? – Learn. Adapt. Do. Eajohansson.Net.

Johansson, A. (2022b). The Missing Instruction Manual – Learn. Adapt. Do. Eajohansson.Net.

Kozol, J. (2005). The shame of the nation: The restoration of apartheid schooling in America. January, 423.

Nystrand, M., & Gamoran, A. (1987). Instructional Discourse and Student Engagement.

Pritchard, R. J., & Marshall, J. C. (2002). Professional development in “healthy” vs. “unhealthy” districts: Top 10 characteristics based on research. School Leadership and Management, 22(2), 113–141.

Rebore, R. (2012). The Essentials of Human Resources Administration in Education (1st ed.). PEARSON Education; Upper Saddle.

Schmoker, B. M. (2013). Tipping Point: From Feckless Reform to Substantive Instructional Improvement The Rise (and Fall) of Strategic Planning. 1–10.

Skrla, L. E., McKenzie, K. B., & Scheurich, J. J. (2009). Using equity audits to create equitable and excellent schools.

Waters, J. T., & Marzano, R. J. (2006). School district leadership that works: The effect of superintendent leadership on student achievement. Journal of Leadership in the Education Sector.

Willink, J. (2020). Leadership, Strategy, and Tactics (1st ed.). St. Martin’s Publishing Group.

Willink, J., & Babin, L. (2017). Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win (Second Edi). St. Martin’s Press.


How to help with behaviors…

If you’re like me, sometimes you have to get pretty direct with someone because they’re doing something unsafe…

Here’s a model that keeps me on track by first getting their attention, then letting them know what it is they’re doing, why that’s a bad idea, what I need them to do instead, and why.

Try it next time your kids can’t get what they want… I use it when I drive a school bus all the time! 😉

AIR-DR (Air Doctor?)

  1. Address – “Hey, John Armstrong…” (WHO)
  2. Identify – “you’re out of your seat…” (WHAT)
  3. Rationale – “it’s unsafe, against bus riding conduct, etc…” (WHY)
  4. Direct – “please sit safely in your seat” (HOW)
  5. Reason – “so we can continue driving the bus..” (WHY)

A lot of people, and kids, in particular, need help with the identifying part a lot… they don’t know that what they are doing is a problem – otherwise, they wouldn’t be doing it!


Was there anything else?

How often do you have a conversation with someone, and when you walk away, wondered if there was anything left out? Left to chance? Unsaid. Something you missed?

Try this sentence out. Especially if you’re speaking with someone over the phone, and even more important, if it’s someone you don’t know, like a new business partner, client, parent, or community member:

“Was there anything else you wanted to share?”

Thoughtful, right?

Offer the extra, the “hey, did you mean to say something else before we disconnect?” or “I know I talked a lot, so what did you want to say before we go?”

Just a touch of extra.

A kind, helping hand. In case they forgot, or felt they shouldn’t have, or were too afraid to ask…

And if you’re in a conversation, and someone has asked you a question, but instead you drone on because you weren’t really listening, but oh shoot, you forgot to answer…, here’s a phrase that might help:

“Could you repeat the question? And thank you for repeating the question, as I had not answered it completely.”

Help others communicate with you.

And help yourself by making sure you communicate effectively, clearly, and fully with others.

It’s better that way, and everyone’s understood. The way you and they intended to.

Thanks to Steve Inskeep at NPR for keeping it real, and for inspiring me to be a better communicator.


The Prince of Scents…

More choices were made this week.

“Dad! What’s that thing you say all the time?”
“Let’s make it happen!”
“No. The other one…”
“Here we go!”
“No… The other one. The one about smells.”
“Ah. Yes. That one…”

Emelie and Oskar have adapted well to public school over the last few months, and their learning environments couldn’t be better – filled with teachers who care, with staff who supports, and in a district that really gets it.

Both are now teenagers.

And while we knew we’d have this conversation sooner or later, Emelie figured it out on her own, but Oskar needed some help. Emelie is a big Krakengard fan, if you’d like to know…

“Hey, Oskar, tomorrow, let’s go see what they got at Target, ok?”

The time had come. Time to share some age-old wisdom with my son passed down from generations… well, actually, no, not really.

I was told in teacher pre-service by an old-timer who had very strict rules for male educators.

“You either smell nice, or not at all.”

Solid advice. Worth passing on. Especially to a middle schooler who loves to wear the same hoodie all week. But hey, Oskar was awarded Defender Team Student of the Week last week, so we’re doing something right…

Off to Target!

Shopping for scents is a bit like reading poetry by Shel Silverstein. It’s rich, delicious, and ultimately overwhelming. But in a good way.

Eighteen luscious, scrumptious flavors—
Chocolate, lime and cherry,
Coffee, pumpkin, fudge-banana,
Caramel cream and boysenberry,
Rocky road and toasted almond,
Butterscotch, vanilla dip,
Butter-brickle, apple ripple,
Coconut and mocha chip,
Brandy peach and lemon custard,
Each scoop lovely, smooth, and round,
Tallest ice-cream cone in town,
Lying there (sniff) on the ground.

Like ice cream, scents are on the shelf, all over the place, and you have to know if you want sweet, savory, musk, or lemon drop.

What about deodorant or antiperspirant, or both? Aluminum? Red, orange, yellow, black – and we haven’t even considered branding and performance yet.

Oskar’s eyes trended towards Bearglove by Old Spice – a solid choice, and picked out Nighpanther, too.

We grounded ourselves with Juniper & Ginseng from Native, and a stick of Citrus & Herbal Musk. I threw in a can of AXE Phoneix body spray, too, just for nostalgia’s sake.

“Now I’m ready for all the smells,” he said, “day or night!”

Another step on our journey, Oskar has now entered into that part of life where how others see us can be important, and how we smell, even more so.

“Do you have to use this every day, dad?”
“I think it’s a good idea, don’t you?”

Ready with an armory full of flavor, he’s now the Prince of Scents… Tallmadge Middle School, watch out!

And me? AXE isn’t really my style anymore. I’m a Native guy, and go to WSP for scents.

What’s your signature scent?