Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Reflections on the first season of #PrincipalCast

I cannot believe the end of the year is here, and I am sure I'm not the only one.  PrincipalCast began as a project: a way to gain information and experience from principals who have been in the field, a way to help others who may also be in my first-year situation, and also a way to connect.  When Jessica Johnson and Dr. Spike Cook agreed to take this on, I was elated.  I have always enjoyed broadcasting and I love talking (those who know me will not take that as a surprise) so I could not wait to start this journey.  

I truly believe that the only way to get through your first year of ANYTHING is to become friends and/or colleagues with someone who has already been there.  Someone to let you know that what you are going through is (or is not) normal, that it will pass, that it will always get worse before it gets better, and that it WILL get better.

I love this job.  I love every moment of it.  I think part of what helps me to appreciate it even more are the people who travel the #PrincipalCast journey with us.  I have learned an immense amount from the principals, retired administrators and teachers who join us every Sunday night for the live PrincipalCast show, those who tweet through the week, and those I Vox with daily.  Side note - if you do not have Voxer or don't use it, you are missing out.  It gives the ability to connect even deeper.  You can send voice messages (in a group!), texts and pictures.  We do all of our show planning on Voxer, and even a lot of our support coaching as well.

We have been honored in 13 episodes to have special guests Todd Whitaker (@ToddWhitaker) and Dr. Bill Sterrett (@BillSterrett) and in our first episode back in 2014 we will welcome Eric Sheninger (@NMHS_Principal).  We have had amazing chats during our live broadcast with Craig Yen (@craigyen),  Chrisopher Nesi (@mrnesi), Tony Sinanis (@tonysinanis), Peggy George (@pgeorge) and SO many more.  We have an audience of collaborators who join us without fail every Sunday night at 9:30PM EST to engage in the conversation and help Jessica, Spike and myself see all different views of the conversation and sometimes see things in a different light.  Our Professional Learning Network (PLN) continually helps us think and grow as administrators and as individuals.

We have been blessed to meet and work with the amazing Jeff Bradbury (@TeacherCast).  Jeff has been an amazing producer for our show, and he works very, very hard to make sure we are not only successful but that we are moving forward and continuing the mission of this podcast.

Spike and Jessica have become my mentors, and I have never met them in person.  It seems odd to many, but makes perfect sense to me.  Twitter and Voxer allow us to plan our shows, vent, and most importantly, support each other.  I think this school year would be going much differently for me had it not been for Jessica, Spike and Jeff.

One of my favorite things is receiving replies on Twitter on the PrincipalCast account.  

"Having a blast listening to your podcasts!  Thx for keeping it relevant and real." - @bretdom 

"You all are the best.  Love the stories.  2013 Highlight: Electrified Fence!" - @CraigYen (Episode 10/20 "When the principal sneezes, the school gets a cold")

"Thanks to the @PrincipalCast team for a great discussion tonight" - @BillSterrett

"I am really missing @PrincipalCast tonight!  All I want for Christmas is that it is Jan 12!" - @mrnesi

Knowing that others are getting something out of these conversations means the world to us.  Thank you to those who listen, those who participate, those who subscribe and those who support.  We couldn't (and wouldn't want to) do it without you.  Celebrate 2013 and let's bring in 2014 with a bang. We will see you on January 12 when we begin our second season of #PrincipalCast with Eric Sheninger.

To all, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.

How #PrincipalCast was Born

My educational and professional goal was always to be a principal.  I love teaching, but I also love helping others to improve their teaching.  It is something that I am very passionate about.  

I have been on Twitter for a while with the hande @theresawhite (changed to @theresastager when I had gotten married).  I utilized Twitter mostly for professional reasons - starring and favoriting every idea I could possibly use in my classroom, knowing I would never, ever be able to use them all.  During grad school, I spent a lot of time online learning about administration - what questions were asked during interviews, how to hire new staff, common issues in the career, etc.  I stumbled upon Scott Elias (@ScottElias) and Melinda Miller's (@mmiller7571) podcast, Practical Principals.  I thought it was awesome, and I loved to listen to them every month.  I remember not being able to wait until the next one was available because I always learned so much.  Plus, they were really techie, and I loved that.

Scott received a job offer from Apple to work for their education team, and Practical Principals abruptly ended.  I missed listening to them, but more than that, I missed having a "real" group of administrators share the things I didn't learn in school and provide me with a PLN of administrators that I would never have met otherwise.

Fast forward to July 2013, and I have received my first job as a principal.  I immediately created a new handle - @PrincipalStager - and ran with it.  I also decided we needed a new administration podcast - and I was going to find people to help me start it.  I contacted Melinda Miller to see if she would like to jump in where she and Scott left off, but she was concerned about having enough time to do so.  She suggested Jessica Johnson, a principal from Wisconsin - the prolific @PrincipalJ.  Jessica was next on my list anyway.  Jessica was in and also suggested trying to get one more in on it, and that is where Dr. Spike Cook (@drspikecook) joined the crew.  We decided we would start within the next two weeks, began communicating on Voxer and sharing ideas for a show, and we did a Google Hangout the following Sunday.  I recorded it, and all that showed was me through the entire show.  Not a great plan.

Luckily, in our lack of GHO experiece, Jessica contacted Jeff Bradbury (@TeacherCast) for help, and he immediately added us to his network.  TeacherCast TV has been producing us ever since show #2.

Please subscribe to us at @PrincipalCast on Twitter,, or subscribe to our audio or video feed on iTunes.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Short on Time, Long on Resources

short on timeI am so thrilled that William Sterrett will be joining us on PrincipalCast this Sunday, 12/14 at 9:30PM EST.  Please join us!

Article written by Dr. Spike Cook 

ASCD is venturing into a new market through theirarias publications. These books are designed for the busy professional that can be read in less than an hour, but can provide resources for improvement well beyond the time spent reading. Short on Time: How do I make time to lead and learn as a principal? by Bill Sterrett was a great read! It took me about 38 minutes to read it. I found myself hooked from the beginning.

Short on Time will help you with the following:
- Help you take action and realize change in school and professional life
- Gain insights into specific steps that you can apply to your situation
- These action steps involve teaching, innovating, and leading which will require planning, action, and reflection

Sterrett developed a  4 point acronym DISC (District, Instruction, School, Community) to help educational leaders manage their professional schedule. Each of these areas require the educational leader to determine their own allocation of time, but all are important. According to Sterrett, all of the DISC activities should be placed in your master schedule, which should be accessible to key stakeholders.
  • District – Any requirements from your central administration such as BOE meetings, presentations, or meetings 
  • Instruction – Referred to as the heart and soul of your job, these activities include walk-throughs, faculty meetings, school level meetings
  • School – School activities can make the school the center of the community
  • Community – These activities include developing and managing partnerships external from the school

ASCDapp_iconIn addition to providing tips and resources for the educational leader’s own time, Sterrett spends a considerable time discussing the importance of maximizing instructional time for students and teachers. He suggests leaders develop a collaborative scheduling team to examine the master schedule to maximize time for collaboration, reflection, outdoor learning, and time for the whole child.

Sterrett posits that teachers should be provided time for their personalized and school-based learning. In order to use time effectively, leaders should provide time for teachers to improve instruction through meaningful faculty meetings, Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), peer observations, and collaboration.

sterrett-w124x160Understanding that we are all “short on time,” Bill Sterrett provides an amazing resource in this arias book for educators to maximize their time on what matters most. Once you read this book, you will see that becoming organized, communicating effectively, and prioritizing your day is not as hard as you might imagine. Although the book is titled “Short on Time” it is long on resources!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Mentor Program #SAVMP #EdBDaily

I am setting up a mentoring program for my teachers in our building.  I loved having a mentor but disliked the need for an extra meeting.  I've decided to edit our staff meeting schedule to include PLC and Mentor time as well as a full staff meeting.  It's exciting, but I'm afraid it might be too much.

We have 5 returning teachers and 4 new teachers in our building.  One of the returning teachers is heading our iPad pilot program so she will not be a part.  The other 4 returning teachers will be mentoring the 4 new teachers.  I am very excited for this, but our school does not have a program set up so I'm starting from scratch.  A little nervous - any help would be appreciated!


Friday, October 4, 2013

A Gentle Nudge #SAVMP #EdBDaily

Remembering to sit down and reflect can be so difficult in this job - and for good reason!  There are SO many things happening at the beginning of the year; standardized testing, students getting used to the classes, enforcing dress code, reminders of our processes, conferences with parents - the list goes on and on.

I find myself thinking through most of the day of all of the amazing things I could and should be doing, and also thinking of purely what I NEED to be doing.  All the while, I'm thinking about what happening through the day, how it could have been handled better, and what to watch for next time.

My #PrincipalCast crew (@PrincipalJ and @DrSpikeCook) have been chatting with me on #Voxer (  It's a great place to air concerns, reflect on ideas and discuss challenges.  It's nice to have a "safe place" to talk about the craziness of administration, but I think writing it down is just as important.

Our #SAVMP program has been kind of a bust for my group - not many of them are very in to Twitter, but I have created my own support group with principals I have found on Twitter, podcasts, blogs, etc.  It's nice to feel like we're not alone!

Thank you to all who continuously support me no matter how boring my blog posts or how mundane the situation.  I appreciate it ALL and think the world of each and every one of you.  Blessings on an amazing weekend!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Introducing PrincipalCast!

This is a guest post from Jessica Johnson regarding our new #PrincipalCast.  Thanks, Jessica!

Podcasts have been a great tool for my personal professional learning, because it’s so easy to download and just listen while I’m getting ready in the morning, cleaning the house, walking the dog or in the car. I share with you several of the podcasts that I listen to on my Podcasts Page. For several years I enjoyed listening to the Practical Principals podcast, was sad that it discontinued and that I couldn’t really find any other podcast with principals that filled that void.
Principal Theresa Stager invited me to help her start a Principals Podcast, which we also invited Principal Dr. Spike Cook in on. Our first live podcast was quite interesting with many tech glitches, so Jeff Bradbury at offered to pick us up under his broadcasting network.
You can now find the #PrincipalCast Podcast live every Sunday night at 8:30 PM CST on You can join in the discussion on the chat box of that site or tweet using #principalcast in your tweet.
Each week we will be using the following format for our agenda:
  • What’s been happening?
  • Question from the newbie (new principal) or a hot topic for principals.
  • Something awesome
  • Keeping Current
  • Principals to Follow on Twitter
You can find the #Principalcast Podcast at Other ways to follow/connect with the podcast:
  • Email
  • Use the hashtag #principalcast on Twitter
  • Follow @PrincipalCast on Twitter

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Everything Happens for a Reason?

In the last week, I have had more staff turnover than I care to admit.  My admin is leaving due to home obligations, my music teacher has decided she can't teach my band (a brand new program in the school) and a whole host of other things.  It's been a very, very long week.

A few of my colleagues have reminded me that everything happens for a reason, it's not the people but the process, etc., etc.  It's true, but it's still difficult to handle as a first-year administrator.  I feel like I'm so exhausted learning the process of my own position, let alone the process of hiring more people and teaching them their positions.  Not to mention the good people we're losing.  I have never been one who was good with saying goodbye, so this is a part of the job that will be difficult for me.  Sometimes it feels like everything is piling up around me!

Luckily, everything does happen for a reason and everything WILL work out.  I truly believe this.  "God only gives you what you can handle."

I sometimes wish he didn't trust me so much!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Catching my breath

Ok, so I've totally bombed my first week of trying to blog every day.  I'm not giving up!   We can do this, we can do this, we can do this….

One exciting thing that happened last Thursday is I finally got the final approval for my iPads!  The program was approved in July and the financing in August, but there was one more approval and now we're IN!  I am placing the order tomorrow morning and I cannot wait!

What was exciting that happened for you this last week?  I'll catch up today and tomorrow on my "missed" posts and re-hash everything I learned this week, but for now, thanks for the support!!

- T

Monday, September 9, 2013

Never let your guard down! #SAVMP #EdBDaily


It's the first Monday of school for me.  I woke up this morning refreshed (after our first #principalpodcast last night!) and ready to start a new and full school week.  It is my son's 4th birthday today, so we had snacks ready for him - it's gym day so everyone is in sweats (uniform sweats, but sweats nonetheless) and the coolest principal ever changed dress-down days from Friday to Monday this year.  Yes, it's a good day to start the week.

Never let your guard down!

Just when you thought it was going to be the perfect day - life gets in the way.  The doors are locked when I get to the building.  Latchkey substitute overslept, secretary isn't in until 9:30AM (which I knew about yesterday) and the kids have just spilled fish food on the floor.  Every question anyone had I either didn't know the answer or couldn't find it.  Then our new automated communications system test went out (it was planned, everyone knew, and the message was "This is a test of the SchoolReach System.  THIS IS ONLY A TEST) and I had people calling the office making sure everything was ok because they just had received a call from the school.  My normal composed self was having a little trouble keeping it all together this morning.

Image courtesy of idea go /

If God brought you to it, he will bring you through it!  (I'll remind my school kids of this one day!)

The day WILL calm down, and I will get out of this pile of papers so I can get into the classrooms today to see the learning happening.  Until then, we take it as it comes.

I'll remember the next time I wake up ready and refreshed that I should be prepared for anything and everything that may come my way.  And I'll make sure to not let my guard down.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Dreams Continue to Come True #SAVMP #EdBDaily

For the last few years, I have really had the bug to podcast.  I can't see how my babbling for an hour (or even a half an hour) would be interesting for anyone to listen to.  Plus, I need some sort of accountability system (like the #EdBDaily crew!) so the answer to that was having a partner.

Enter +Jessica Johnson (@PrincipalJ).  She thought it would be fun to jump on the project with me as the "experienced" principal in our duo.  But how about a third?  Throw a little more excitement into it, and in comes +Spike Cook (@DrSpikeCook).  We have been using Voxer for the last week working with each other and getting to know each other.  This is a SUPER fun group!

Our first podcast recording is tonight.  We will be the "Principal's Podcast" and are most definitely hoping to have it on iTunes soon.  We'll be utilizing Google Hangout, and I can't wait.

I feel so truly blessed that there are so many people in my life that continue to jump on my crazy wagon and join in with me.  This is going to be an amazing group and I hope you get as much out of the podcasts as we do.

- T

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The first week is over #SAVMP #EdBDaily

I spent a TON of my time today putting out fires (figuratively of course!), answering parent concerns and handling building/scheduling/budgetary issues.  I guess this is what administration is ACTUALLY about, right?  A day in the life of an administrator, or "it's lonely at the top."

I'm kidding, I love this job.  Even a week in, it's awesome.  Today was an odd day - it was like the first three days everyone let me settle in to the schedule, and on day 4, it was time to hit me with the hard stuff.  It's ok - I can handle it!

Especially since it's Friday, there are 2 days to regroup, and a Michigan football game in my future.

Ahhh….the first week is over and we've all survived.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Week 4: The Importance of Trust #SAVMP

  1. How do you work to build trust starting in a new place?
  2. In a world with social media so evident, how do you use that technology to create a transparent culture within your community?

Trust is a touchy thing - not something to give away lightly and most people have a difficult time trusting those who are new.  I can't blame them - we've all been "burned" in the past.  Remembering what it feels like when you had a new boss or a new administrator as a teacher definitely helps the situation.  It is imperative to really focus on being transparent and open with your staff members so they feel like you are an open book.  

I have spent the last 2 months trying to build trust with my new staff.  Sending emails, sharing personal stories and anecdotes, making connections.  It's hard, but every little thing and every little piece makes a difference.  Part of how I have done this is through social media.  I have a twitter feed (@principalstager) that my staff knows about and can follow if they choose.  I have a twitter feed for the community that is on our home page.  I post things that are happening in the school, announcements, quotes, etc.  It helps the community feel like they know me and us, and that they are a genuine part of the school and not just because they drop the kids off every morning.  It helps those who can't volunteer in the building still feel a part, and that builds a ton of trust in and of itself.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

#SAVMP Week 5 - Developing Leadership

Developing leadership is what I am most looking forward to in administration.  I don't know everything and I don't pretend to.  Our teachers are so unbelievably talented and have so many wonderful ideas, it would be a shame for them to be lead my me exclusively.

As far as developing leaders, I find that empowering them to feel comfortable enough to make simple decisions is the first step.  As soon as they feel confident in themselves, their leadership abilities begin to show.  Being a new administrator in a place that had quite a bit of turnover last year is difficult because most of us are just trying to remember which was is up and hope it stays that way for a little while.  Once the comfort has been achieved, it's going to be a whole new ballgame.

Batter up!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Week 3 - Starting Off Right #SAVMP

Starting Off Right

I think that just about every new principal, teacher, administrator, etc. always thinks they will be the ones to break the mold.  We think that those we lead will know that they are around greatness.  That nothing has ever been done before as we are able to do it now, and IT WILL WORK.

This year, my teachers will have concrete expectations from me from day 1.  They will know what I expect their lesson plans to look like, how their standards should be labeled, when I should receive their paperwork, what their classrooms should look like, and the dress code they are expected to follow.  They will feel comfortable with what is expected and what they should know.  The handbook will be complete and have everything they could possibly need.  I'm sure your back-to-school list as a new administrator looks just like mine....

Back to real life.  I am a new administrator.  I will make mistakes.  I will grow from them.  I will upset some people.  I will fix it.  There is no possible way this year will be perfect.  But I will try and I will be proud of myself for doing it.

Week 2 #SAVMP - My Vision For the School

My Vision For the School - #SAVMP Week 2

As a new administrator, this has been on my list of things to think about since I was hired.  Our school is a small Catholic school, Pre-K to 8th grade, but relatively low enrollment.  Not "low enrollment" like "in danger of closing."  Just a small school.  Last year there were 4 principals.  This year there are 4 (out of 10) new teachers due to retirement and one who has a job in a public school.  It is a wonderful school with a rich history, but if there is going to be a change in the culture and/or vision of the school, now is the time to do it.

I have to admit, I very much enjoyed watching the video that was posted on George Couros' blog (  If you haven't seen it, Seth Godin discusses the difference between what education used to look like and what it looks like now (or at least what it should.)  It is about 16 minutes and well worth every second.

The mission for our school is "Pray, Work, Study, Play and Serve Others in Christ's Name."  We are implementing a 1:1 iPad program this year, Pre-K to 8th grade and are so very excited to have the opportunity to bring these devices to the students.  We are looking forward to teaching the students not only what the information they need to learn is, but also how to find it and how to utilize technology to research even further.

My vision for the school is that it be a place where the teachers are empowered to teach and lead in their classrooms.  They can utilize technology to the fullest and help the students to learn how to learn instead of just memorizing facts.  The classes will be collaborative and the students will understand what it means to truly work together.  They will have every opportunity that they deserve to have and that we can give them.  We truly have a remarkable staff, and I know that they will be able to do wonderful things this year and beyond.  My vision for the school is that they are always able to do that.  "The object of teaching a child is to enable him to get along without a teacher."  - Elbert Hubbard.

Why I Lead #SAVMP

Why I Lead


Starting my #SAVMP blog is a difficult thing for me as I am not someone who usually enjoys sitting down to write, but I really want to be.  I reflect constantly on what I am doing and what I have done, but don't do it often in writing.  I would prefer to do it this way as you can always go back to re-read and re-reflect.  I'm a work in progress - or a blogger in progress, if you will.

My entire life, I have been a leader.  I always ran for class office, was the secretary for any organization who would take me, and the teacher when playing school.  I have known my whole life I wanted to teach - there wasn't a doubt in my mind.  Ever.

As I continued in education, I realized that I love the process of education - learning, teaching,'s all "fun" for me.  My interest slowly began turning from educating the students to educating the teachers.  After all, your best students are usually the ones who love to learn, so it makes sense to love teaching those who love to learn AND love to teach!  My absolute favorite thing to do is help our amazing educators problem solve.  What a better way to make a difference than to help those who want to teach learn the tools to help them do it even better. 

This is my first year as an administrator, and my first year back in education after a slight hiatus (layoffs in Michigan hit pretty hard a few years ago.)  I could not be happier where I am and finally feel like I have found where I am supposed to be.  Life is good here.  I truly believe I have rediscovered the thing that makes me never have to "work" another day in my life.