Makers of Moments

by Beth Houf

I’ve had the opportunity to truly unwind over the days of our winter break. It’s been a time of rest, relaxation, reading and reflection on the events of the past year. I’ve had so much going on in my head, I’ve struggled to even attempt to blog, but after reading the book, The Power of Moments by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, I’ve found focus. I’ve connected deeply to the book for many reasons, but mostly because it parallels so much that I know to be true about education and what Shelley and I wrote about in Lead Like a PIRATE. When we want to make impact on our school community, it’s about breaking the traditional script…it’s about creating moments that make a lifelong impression. It’s also about recognizing and encouraging those moments of compassion and spontaneity that happen naturally.  I needed this reminder. To be honest, I needed the reminder a lot.  

You see, the weeks before school paused for winter break left me exhausted. To the bone. That kind of tired that sleep doesn’t help. I pushed myself daily to keep creating those moments of motivation for everyone around me, but I definitely wasn’t feeling it myself. I was letting the negativity get me down and losing my focus. I slid into break on fumes. Timing is everything for sure. A good friend sent me a blog post on the first day of break by John Spencer about the value of truly resting over this time off. The words were powerful and rang so true to me. I needed to be unproductive.

I took the break to truly be that person. I went into power-saving mode and I am so glad that I did! When we take time to silent the noise in our lives, it’s amazing how energized we can become. I opened up The Power of Moments that I had started at Thanksgiving but had let get lost in the shuffle. And then, I couldn’t put it down. It was that jolt of energy that brought me back from that hitting that wall. It reminded me so much of that time I was feeling the same way in the summer of 2014 when I was introduced to Teach Like a PIRATE  by Dave Burgess. Through the pages of #TLAP, I had also reconnected with my WHY of education. As Dave says, it’s not about just about raising test scores, it’s about raising human potential. It’s about creating those experiences that make learning stick past the bell at the end of the day. YES!  I made a conscious promise to myself after finishing #TLAP that no more would I stand for the status quo of the way we’ve always done it in schools or leadership. I wouldn’t settle for mediocrity in myself, in my staff or in my students. Fast forward to the present. I let the noise and negativity stifle my mission. Through The Power of Moments and then re-reading Teach Like a PIRATE, I’m definitely revived and ready to go!

There have been challenges and roadblocks and I know there will be more as I continue to strive for greatness. There are others in the world that do not like tradition being broken. There are people that are close minded and just plain mean. There are people within our very profession that ridicule and make fun of many of the things I do to get students and staff excited about learning. There are some that solely seek to be understood instead of taking time to listen and understand the views of others.  As Shelley and I shared in Lead Like a PIRATE, there’s always room for constructive feedback. But destructive critics? No way! Spend the energy you are wasting making fun of my grass by spending more time watering yours. Here’s the deal…I’ve learned that when I’m creating those moments for students and staff that the words of critics don’t matter. I do what I do the way I do it to be a difference-maker for others.  I never expect other leaders to lead in the exact way I do. But I do expect others in our great profession to never settle for mediocrity.  As Jimmy Casas says in his outstanding new book Culturize, “Simply put, we can not allow average to become our standard. Our kids deserve more than the status quo, they deserve the very best.”  Our kids deserve better, our staff deserves better, our communities deserve better and, as leaders, WE deserve better. When we stay parked in our our comfort zones, we miss out on the amazing that we could be for sure. Our unique styles, when centered around creating exceptional learning experiences for students and staff, only enhances our collective work as educators.

I shared this quote with a dear friend this past week as she was dealing with some of those same critics. I have printed it and put it on my desk. Play your drum. Do great things. Turn off the noise. Keep doing what you are doing to make the world a better place. Be a Maker of Moments. No apologies.


Other Notes of Personal Inspiration from The Power of Moments

  • Responsiveness=Understanding+Validation+Caring
  • What Matters to YOU? (taking time to ask this question of those around us)
  • With the right moment, relationships can change in an instant.
  • If we want more moments of connection, we need to be more responsive to others.
  • Relationships don’t deepen naturally. In the absence of action, they will stall.
  • Our good intentions to create these moments are often frustrated by urgent-seeming problems and pressures. (i.e. STATE TESTS)
  • Our charge: to defy the forgettable flatness of everyday work and life by creating a few precious moments.

Is our school…


–>place for employees to work?

–>place for teachers to practice?

–>place for students to learn?

Is our school ultimately THE BEST school in the universe?

(Adapted from a hospital example in chapter 10)


Honoring the Moment

by Beth Houf

As educators, we tend to take information in at breakneck speed. Our brains are constantly on overdrive and it feels as though there are at least twenty tabs open at any given moment. I had the privilege to serve as a facilitator for our state leadership academy’s outdoor leadership experience this past week. From Wednesday to Saturday, I spent my time in the Missouri woods. In 75 hours, eleven strangers became lifelong friends. Truly an amazing experience that will never be forgotten. The days were filled with team building, experiential education activities, rock climbing, rappelling, orienteering, canoeing, journal making, reflection, campfires and an eleven mile hike where participants had to use compasses and maps to find 13 markers in the forest. My co-facilitator and I were tasked to teach specific leadership tools through the experience while ensuring both physical and emotional safety of each participant.

Filling the Toolbox

  • Articulate the Plan (Does everyone know the plan?)
  • Shared Mental Model (Does everyone know what the plan looks like?)
  • Phantom Rules (Have we made up rules that could hold us back?)
  • Rule of Three (Trying a plan three times before changing often increases likeliness of success)
  • Rule of Thumbs (Building consensus-thumbs up means fully support, thumbs sideways means I can live with it, but not completely on board, thumbs down means I do not support the idea and have questions that need to be answered before moving on. Any thumbs down means we continue working on the plan/idea)
  • Failing Forward (Do we learn from our mistakes to propel us forward?)

Each initiative was brought back to parallel the work we do each day in our buildings. The connections were definitely powerful. Although I’ve facilitated for several years, I’m always amazed at how much I learn with each group. Our participants developed norms for our time together. Most of these were the traditional norms we see in education, but one was developed that stuck with me…Honoring the Moment. WOW! How often do I forget to do this?!? While this was specific to our time together in the woods, this norm hit home for me. How often do I honor the moments that are happening around me? How often do I instead race from moment to moment until they each become a blur?

As educators, it seems as though we work to honor the moments for so many others. But can we say the same for ourselves? More often than not, I spend more time taking care of everything but myself. This experience reminded me of several things:

  • Slow down, breathe, smile
  • Feed the body, feed the soul–be purposeful in my wellness habits
  • It’s going to be ok–spend less time worrying about what could go wrong and let people work through solving problems with your support
  • Love your people–relationships matter
  • Email can wait
  • Text messages can wait
  • Social Media can wait
  • Family and self-care can not wait.

My time in the woods also had significant connections for me to the current #IMMOOC ( that I have been participating in this month. Connecting with educational trailblazers such as George Couros, Katie Martin, Tara Martin, Jo Boaler and Alice Keeler as well as all of those that have contributed via the hashtag has helped me to reflect on my own practices and work for continual improvement. The blog prompt for this week that grabbed my attention was what is one thing that you used to do in education that you no longer do or believe in? Why the change?

I used to think I had to do it all as a leader. I used to think that anything less than that was not acceptable. Always the first to get to school and last to leave. Always accessible to everyone at anytime. Now I realize that shared leadership is a much more valuable tool. If I am the only one that can truly support and help, sustainability will never happen. Building the leadership skills in our staff and students (and parents) has to be an utmost priority, all the while still supporting each of them. When I am doing everything for everyone, I rob them of building their own self efficacy. I also rob myself of truly honoring the moments that are happening around me.

The challenge I pose in this post is to share ways you can honor those moments that can go by in a blur. What suggestions do you have for educators to slow down and close of few of those open tabs in their brains? What can you intentionally do to make this a reality for yourself? For your staff? For your students? Please share your thoughts and ideas to the #LeadLAP hashtag. Shelley and I can’t wait to see all of the amazing ideas from our PLN to help us all honor the moments that happen each day. 


Guest Post by Mandy Ellis

You can follow Mandy Ellis at @MandyEllis as well as check out her blog here:

When I logged into twitter for the first time, I never knew the trajectory it would take me on. The value of twitter is not in the tool, but in the relationships and connections I have developed as a result. I find daily doses of inspiration and motivation in the people I learn and connect with.

As I was scrolling through tweets at #LeadLAP, I saw an amazing idea from @BethHouf. Beth is a co-author of Lead Like a Pirate and had the idea to leave “Fairy Gotchas” to staff tweeting about her school with money attached for the soda machine. The goal is simple: recognize and reward staff for being self-motivated learners by connecting and growing their personal learning network or celebrating their classroom activities and achievements at their school hashtag 

It was one of those ideas that was quick and easy to implement and came at the perfect time! I was seeking ways to honor my staff for the added work they do to learn and grow for the benefit of our students. With a quick search through images and a Word document that I whipped up, I was ready to go. I logged onto twitter and scrolled through our hashtag, #dgsroyals and was ready to make my mark.


With plastic “Royal” wands left over from a previous activity and some candy, I made my rounds to leave some twitter dust in classrooms. The feedback was positive as teachers tweeted their sweet surprises!


With such feedback, I decided to spread some twitter dust to other buildings in my district and staff that used our district hashtag, #323learns. Baggies filled with a note of appreciation, chocolate, glitter and a wand were sent through interoffice mail to celebrate the tweets of colleagues across the district!

A little twitter dust to recognize and celebrate the staff in our district for growing, learning and connecting brought a little joy and glitter to all our days while promote the development of a PLN and sharing resources!


The Power of the Positive Office Referral

by Beth Houf

You are summoned to the principal’s office. No matter if you are a student, teacher or parent, you typically have the same reaction. Fear! As a school leader, I have worked hard over the past several years to help take this negative stigma away from these visits. One practice that has helped to make the shift is the implementation of the positive office referral. We started using these with our students four years ago. The goal is to recognize our students for going above and beyond with our school expectations by sending them to the office…for a good reason. We’ve found at our school when we focus on the positive happening instead of just getting hung up on the negative, amazing things happen. When positive referrals go up, negative referrals go down.

We’ve committed as a staff to writing one positive referral per day. We feel strongly that we can find at least one student going above and beyond each day. We use the following paper
form, fill it out and send the student to the assistant principal’s office. Students can also refer peers with positive referrals. Our bus drivers utilize the same practice as well. WOW! Driving a bus and finding time to celebrate students…so amazing!Our Process at FMS

  1. When the student gets to the office, they are celebrated with a high five, impromptu dancing and excitement by administrators or the office staff. Students then call or email parents or someone special to them about why they are in the office.

  2. Our students earn Hornet Bucks for positive referrals (much like a bonus for a job done above and beyond). These can be used in our school store, The Thrive Hive (items included needs and wants) as well as toward House Points for our House Cup.

  3. Students hang up referrals on our FMS Brag Board. These are displayed for a week and then sent home.

  4. We log all the positive referrals into our student information system. This helps us to check to see which students aren’t being referred as well as to monitor our goal of 4:1 positive to negative referrals.

Lessons Learned:

  • Avoid competitions between staff. This causes animosity as well as a pile up of referrals that aren’t sincere. Instead, we have individual conversations with staff that aren’t taking time to write referrals as well as shout out those that are fulfilling our collective commitment.

  • If a leader isn’t in the office, the referral is left and then the student is called down at a later time. We want to be sure that at least one administrator has the chance to celebrate with the student.

  • Take time to share the data and celebrate accomplishments!

  • There is nothing better after a stressful day in leadership land to the excitement of a student ready to showcase their amazingness! One of the best parts of the day for sure!

As learning leaders in the building we work hard to also model what we expect by committing to write positive “referrals” for staff each day. These are notes of genuine appreciation for the outstanding work done by the adults in our building. We also write student referrals as well, but we know that the first step to putting students first is to support, motivate and inspire the adults that teach them each day.  Want to get positive referrals going in your building? Feel free to reach out and we would be happy to help get you started!

Caldwell Elementary School – Back to School Scavenger Hunt

Guest Post from PIRATE Leader Kate Ashmore

As a follow up to yesterday’s post on Back to School Like a PIRATE, we wanted to highlight an amazing experience designed to welcome staff back to school in Auburndael, FL. Last week while perusing the #LeadLAP hashtag on Twitter. A few Tweets caught my eye and made me curious about what was going on in the #CaldwellHunt hashtag on August 3rd.  I popped on over and saw a flood of Tweets from Kate Ashmore (@KateAshmore) and her team enthusiastically sharing their journey as they participated in a back to school staff scavenger hunt. It looked simply amazing! In true PIRATE fashion, Kate designed an experience for her staff to welcome them back to school and even got the community involved!  She has graciously agreed to share with all of us the details of the day. Thank you so much, Kate!

Caldwell Scavenger Hunt – Kate Ashmore

The beginning of a new school year is a pivotal time! It sets the tone for staff, which in turn sets the tone for students. While reading Lead Like a Pirate, I came across the idea of a staff scavenger hunt. We had never done anything at that level before! Within seconds, my brain started creating various versions and scenarios of endless possibilities for our staff. What would it look like, where would we go…what would we do…what kind of impact would it have on our staff and in turn our students?

The following explains the goal, plan, execution and results of our scavenger hunt!

Goal for the Hunt:

  • Strengthen the spirit of each House
    • We use the “House System” from the Ron Clark Academy at our school – in essence our staff is divided into 5 houses/teams – for the hunt the houses were in competition against each other.
  • Give Back – Caldwell Elementary School is located in Auburndale, Florida and we have an exceptionally supportive community! We wanted to use the hunt as a way to say thank you and to give back.

Planning the Hunt:

  • Staff members were charged with either picture or performance tasks – each task had to be shared via Twitter and Periscope using #CaldwellHunt.
    • Sample Scavenger Hunt form 
    • Example of picture task – find the official seal of the city and take a selfie with it – 10 points.
    • Example of a performance task – go to the community center, shoot some basketballs and make 5 baskets – 15 points.
    • There were two tasks that were directly related to giving back to our community.
      • Saying Thank You – each house was assigned a specific business partner to visit and deliver a thank you banner.
      • Random Act of Kindness – each house was challenged with the task of performing kindness towards a business partner who has given to the school.
    • There were a total of twenty tasks for staff members to complete – four of those tasks were individualized for each house.
      • QR Codes were created to keep the individualized tasks a surprise.
        • I used QR codes because we are exploring teachers utilizing them during instruction and I wanted them to have a first hand experience for the simplicity and engagement QR codes provide.

Executing the Hunt:

  • Each House was given an envelope with copies of the hunt and any materials needed to perform tasks.
  • Houses were given 5 minutes to plan their course.
  • They were given an hour to complete as many tasks as possible.
    • The goal was to be strategic and see how “your house” could earn the most points.
  • Bonus points were given for arriving back to school before the official end time – points were deducted for being late.


The Sans Peur house was tasked with performing a random act of kindness for the fire department. They grabbed bags of candy and collected cash from the house members so the fire fighters could have lunch on “their house”. The fire fighters were so shocked to see our teachers and grateful to be gifted with lunch.

The Forte house was intentionally assigned to visit a business partner at Edward Jones Investments. They were assigned this task because one of our teacher’s husband is also an investment broker with Edward Jones. I thought it would be a meaningful connection.

When they arrived they introduced themselves to the secretary and asked how she was. She openly shared that she wasn’t doing well because her family recently experienced a loss of a loved one. They sat with her for a few minutes and poured love and kindness into her. At the end of their conversation together they realized the secretary’s husband works for our school district, serves our school and works closely with the leader of the Forte House! Out of 20 tasks…out of all of the business in our community…the scavenger hunt lead them to give back to a county employee’s wife in a time of need.

Once everyone arrived back on campus, we pulled up a few of the periscope videos and had a great time laughing and celebrating! At the end of the event, the points earned from the hunt didn’t even matter to the competing houses! Not one person asked which house won. We knew each house won something more meaningful than merely points! Our staff got to act silly and have fun with their colleagues and friends while spreading kindness to our community. Excitement and joy permeated the school! Our staff shared that it was the best first day back they ever had! A scavenger hunt across the city of Auburndale for sixty minutes has lead our school into the best opening we’ve ever had! I can’t wait to see how it will impact the next 180 days for our students.

Check out this  Twitter Moment which captures tasks and performances of each house.

Back to School…Like a PIRATE!

Beth Houf

Back to School….Like a PIRATE! The Challenge is ON!

Update: I wrote the original post below on the eve of becoming our district’s new middle school principal in the summer of 2015. Our building wanted to do something big on those first days of school to show our change in our mission to create a school that our students, staff and parents are beating the doors to get IN, not out. We wanted to get our kids so excited about learning on day one, that they couldn’t wait to come back the next day.  What I can say, without a doubt, is the first day of our first year together at Fulton Middle School was one of the favorite, most memorable days of my career. I watched our staff pour their hearts into teaching and showcase their passions for the subjects they teach. I experienced our students enjoying learning, from the first minutes of class. I experienced all of us trying new things, some successfully, some not, which laid the beginnings of a foundation of growth mindset. These first few days set the tone for our year, which truly was amazing! The original blog is as follows and then I’ve added some BONUS material to the end. Thank you so much for reading and making this year the #BestYearEver for your students, staff, parents and YOU!

What is most exciting to me is seeing this foundation alive and well two years later. We continue to push ourselves as a staff to make the first days of school more BAM and less blah. We refuse to get stagnant and are truly dedicated to creating a school that our students and staff are running to get in, not out. This year, after seeing the success other middle schools were having, we decided to start a house system in our school. (Here is the background info on house systems: We started with the WHY, which is to create a school environment that is both emotionally and physically safe so that students can thrive at high levels. Of course we want our students to learn at high levels, but it is hard to do that when you do not feel safe. The summer was spent planning and organizing. We also had our students help with the foundational pieces. Seeing the excitement for the possibilities in the faces of our staff and student was truly priceless!

I CAN NOT WAIT to kick this off in our first day assembly! Big plans for another big first day assembly at Fulton Middle School! (also a special shout out to our amazing art teacher, Craig Chapman @ArtFMS for his work on this!)

Instilling a pride in our school and community is another big goal for our year. One way we have started to do this before the first days is a building makeover. After seeing a post on Twitter, our staff was inspired to do something similar for our students as well. The walls and bathrooms of our school got a big makeover focusing on empathy and empowerment…two traits that we will focus heavily on this year.

Something that Shelley and I feel that is so important is to not forget to make school amazing for our staff these first days as well! We can’t push teachers to change first day practices and continue to do the same old boring inservice. I can’t give away all my secrets yet, but here’s an example of an alternate to sit-and-get staff pd that I did with our new staff. We took a field trip with our treasure map below. This was a great way to build relationships and help our new staff navigate our large building.

(You can use this map by going to the following link:

Our challenge to you is to rethink the traditional back to school…for staff…for students and for parents. How can you create experiences that will keep the positive momentum going all year long? Please take a moment to share your thoughts and actions on the #leadlap hashtag. Shelley and I will be featuring all of your wonderful ideas on our blog over the next month! We can’t wait to see how you will make school amazing!

Original Post, August 2015:

Sometimes an article finds us at exactly the right moment. Moving to a new position next fall, I have been in back-to-school mode all summer. First impressions are the most important, so I’ve been constantly thinking and brainstorming about how to start the year for students AND staff with a bang. My personal mission is to collaboratively create a school that our students, staff and parents are running to get IN rather than out. I knew the traditional first day of rules and rules and more rules would not work.  Then I stumbled upon this treasure:

I immediately shared it with my leadership team on our Voxer group as well as a few PLN members for feedback. As Dave Burgess says, the snowball began to roll. I had immediate feedback on a Friday night from everyone. An overwhelming WE MUST DO THIS came back to me loud and clear. (on a Friday night in July, I might add!) I shared the article, as well as the amazing quote by my friend Don Wettrick, author of Pure Genius to my PLN and I found there are several others ready to make this happen as well! Then I found a blog by Don on this very topic as well. YES!! Create culture FIRST! When the right culture is cultivated, it’s amazing how the need for specific rules diminishes.

I had a conversation with my PIRATE principal pal Jay Billy about how awesome it would be get our colleagues to take this Back to School…Like a PIRATE challenge with us, not just teachers, but school leaders as well. This challenge is to not only make the first few days of school an EXPERIENCE for our students, but to extend this thinking to our staff learning. How can we minimize the mundane and maximize the excitement for our profession; for our passions in education?

Our theme for our school year at Fulton Middle School is Together, We CAN! This works perfectly for our challenge as well. Jay and I created this Google Doc to collect ideas to KICK up those first days of school. We would LOVE it if you would add your amazing ideas as well. Imagine the possibilities of a year that starts in such a positive way. That snowball will continue to roll into the BEST YEAR EVER! Together, We CAN change the way things always have been those first few days of school. The challenge is ON! Let’s make it happen!

Google Doc for sharing:

Opening day assembly with a principal dance off!
Mr. Kerr had a mean stanky leg!


My whip and nae nae was pretty sweet!
But I definitely went down in defeat!

Take the #Kindness180 Challenge

Guest blog post from Staci Erickson

Recently on Twitter we saw a member of our PLN, Staci Erickson, posting acts of kindness she was doing personally, and she was encouraging others to join her in her #Kindness180 Challenge.  In Lead Like a PIRATE we emphasize the need that while we are all so busy in our roles and there is a never-ending “to do” list, it is critical for us to slow down once in awhile and take time to notice and appreciate the great things that people around us are doing each day.  Staci’s call to action to take a few moments from time to time for acts of kindness fits right in with our #LeadLAP philosophy. We asked her to share with us, so we could share with all of you, some background on the #Kindness180 Challenge and information about how we can get involved.  As this school year gets underway, we hope you are able to build some of her wonderful challenges into your day!

Here’s the Challenge from Staci:

I recently started the #Kindness180 challenge, and I hope you will join me!  

What is #Kindness180?

#Kindness180 is about building relationships through acts of kindness. When we are able to build authentic relationships with our students and teachers we build trust. When that trust is in place, those we lead are more willing to take risks, embrace change, and have an overall positive outlook, even when things get tough.

One of the first steps in building those relationships with teachers and students is to simply show kindness. Showing kindness is an act of showing gratitude, giving attention, and encouraging those around us. When we show others kindness it does something wonderful for the recipient (it makes them feel good) and it also does something great for us, too because it makes us stronger and happier.

Why the 180?

Two reasons… First, there will be a total of 180 acts of kindness posted throughout the year. While I hope you join me for as many as possible, there is no requirement to do one each day, and they don’t need to be completed in any particular order. Basically, you just pick the challenges you want to do on days you want to do them and go for it!

The second reason for the 180 is that when someone has “done a 180″, it means they have changed their behavior or thoughts about someone or something. There will be kinds acts that may challenge you to do a 180 throughout the year. As an example, while it is often easy  to show kindness to those we love or care about or when we see others in need, it may require a 180 in our thinking to show kindness to someone who has hurt us. Let’s be honest.. we may not always feel like showing kindness to a particular person, but it is important to remember that kindness is not a feeling, rather it is an action. If we can get past our pride and show acts of kindness, even to those who have hurt us, the healing can begin for all involved.   When we hold onto anger,  bitterness, and resentment towards those who have hurt us, we are unable to experience the joy and beauty this life has to offer. Instead, we begin to build up walls to protect ourselves. In turn, this affects our ability to foster genuine relationships with others.

Types of Challenges

Over the course of the year, there will be four different types of challenges that we will complete during the #Kindness180 challenge. Some of the challenges will be easy and some of them will push you out of your comfort zone, but each one will be completely worth it!

1. Random Acts of Kindness

One kind word or kind act can change a person’s entire day!  A random act of kindness is doing something for someone else without the expectation of a thank you or something in return. These acts might not necessarily be random on your part. In fact, you might have planned these acts out very carefully. We call these acts “random” for the recipient. The kind gestures are unexpected and can help brighten their day. A random act of kindness might be buying someone a cup of coffee, giving out popsicles at the park, or giving someone fresh flowers. The possibilities are endless.

2. Helping others in Need

These types of challenges may take a little longer than some of the other challenges. This is often a sacrifice of time. For example, we may see someone on the side of the road who needs a tire changed. This may cause us to be late to wherever we were headed, but you are willing to give up your time to help this person in need. Another challenge may be mowing your elderly neighbor’s yard. This doesn’t cost you anything but time. Time is one of the most valuable things that people often have a hard time giving up. Myself included!  However, showing people we are willing to give up our time and help them with a need is one of the greats acts of kindness we can show each others.

3. 180 Challenges

There are two types of 180 challenges. These challenges will push you out of your comfort zone and challenge you to think differently on when to show kindness to others.

Acts of Kindness to Those Who Hurt You

The first is showing acts of kindness to those who have hurt you. We have already talked about this but it is worth visiting in more depth . It is important show kindness to those who have hurt us. It allows us to let go of bitterness which only causes us to build up walls. These walls  keeps us from being at true peace. Remember, many times people who are acting unkind are the ones that need to be shown kindness the most.  You might not be the person who started it, but you can be the person who ends it. The road to healing has to begin with someone. One of the challenges is to do something for someone that has hurt you. This shows that person that you are different. It shows them that you are able to forgive and move forward. Even forgiving this person, as hard as it might be, can be the act of kindness you do for them.  Remember kindness is not a feeling it is an action.

Acts of Kindness to Those YOU have hurt.

The second type of 180 challenge is showing and act of kindness to those YOU have hurt. There are times  we are the ones causing the hurt. We may say or do something we regret and there is no taking it back.  We may ask for forgiveness and sometimes that is enough but sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes we have to prove through our actions we are sorry more than we do with our words. Whether it is asking for forgiveness and/or completing an act of kindness to show we are sorry the bottom line is we can’t avoid it and must face it head on.

4. Helping others in Need

Self kindness opens your heart to love yourself. It is about taking a break instead of pushing through life stresses. It is believing that we are worthy to enjoy the goodness in this life. These challenges include exercising, unplugging from technology, listen to music that inspires you, creating a gratitude list, or writing an encouraging letter to yourself 3 months from now. In order to show kindness to others we must remember we have to show kindness to ourselves.

5 Ways to Complete the #Kindness180 Challenges

The great thing about #Kindness180 is you can use the challenges in any way you choose! 


You may want to complete the kindness180 challenges as a personal challenge. I am doing a kindness challenge every day for 180 days. However, you may want to do only two or three a week. The challenges aren’t about checking one off a list. They are about growing as an individual and doing acts of kindness for others.

Passing out popsicles at the park

Family Challenges

Do the challenges as a family! When I first started the Kindness180 challenges I knew I wanted to involve my own children. They loved being able to complete the challenges with me and it was great time strengthen my relationships with them. It was also the perfect opportunity to teach them that we can do something kind for others, without the expectation of something in return. You can also send these challenges home with your students and encourage them to do the challenges as a family!

Classroom Challenges
It is important to create a classroom community that is supportive, respectful, and KIND. What better way to promote these beliefs then to do a kindness challenge as a class. For my school I have created a bulletin board in the hallway that has 7 different kindness challenges that will be changed out every week. My goal is for the teachers to complete just one challenge a week as a class. The challenges can last as long as they want and they have the freedom to choose exactly how they want to complete the challenge. The teachers also have the freedom to complete a challenge with their class that is not on the board. We want the teachers and students to have the autonomy to complete these challenges in their own unique and personal way.

Campus wide
Choose a kindness challenge once a month, grading period, or semester that you will do campus wide. It may be that you collect bottled water for the fire department, raise money for a project in the community, or do something to beautify your campus. Whatever you choose, get all of the students, teachers, parents, and other community members involved!

#Kindness180 for Discipline
I am really excited about this one! As an assistant principal I have struggled with doling out punishment to students when they come to my office. I learned very quickly during my first year as an AP that detention, in-school suspension, and out of school suspension had little to no impact in changing the student’s behavior. My repeat offenders were usually  back to their shenanigans within a few days after they were released back into the classroom. Why? Because the “punishment” didn’t mean squat to them.

What if we changed our approach? Instead of giving students a punitive punishment, like detention, have them do a kindness challenge. For example, if a student trashes the bathroom have them clean it up after school (on their own time), and then write a thank you letter to the custodians for making sure the bathrooms are cleaned everyday. The students then goes to the custodians, looks them in the eye, hands them the letter, and they verbally thank them for all of the hard work they do to keep the bathrooms clean. You are no longer handing out punishments that mean nothing. Instead you are turning the situation into a learning opportunity through an act of kindness.

I hope you will join us in completing the #Kindness180 challenge! You can visit the kindness180 blog for a list of challenges. I also post a new challenge each day on my Instagram: @principalteacher or on Twitter:@staci_erickson2 and using the hashtag #Kindness180. There are currently over 20 challenges to get you started and I am adding to the list daily! 

#LeadLAP 5 Commitments Challenge

In Lead Like a PIRATE we talk about “Setting Your Compass”. We believe wholeheartedly that a long term vision should be the driving force that moves your work forward as a leader. We also know that for that vision to become a reality in our schools and districts that we have to be deliberate about breaking that vision down into actionable steps that give us and our teams clarity about what we need to do this year, next month, next week and even tomorrow to help make the vision come alive in our schools.

Just last week we wrapped up a Twitter book study on Lead Like a PIRATE (special thanks to Jay Billy @JayBilly2 and Nili Bartley @nbartley6 for taking the lead and running this chat – they and the entire crew they recruited to help did such an awesome job)!  Over the course of the eight weeks or so the chat was running, educators from around the world shared incredible ideas of the types of things they wanted to do this year to up their game as PIRATE leaders and to make this school year even more amazing for students and staff than last year.

With so many great ideas floating around, we know that it can be a challenge to focus… we want to do it all, but the reality is we can’t do it all in one year. Making the shift to creating schools where students and staff are running to get in rather than out is a process. It’s a series of steps we take over time grounded in the commitments we make to ourselves and our stakeholders to continue to grow and get better.

With that in mind, we invited our book study participants, and now we invite all of YOU to take our 5 Commitments Challenge:

“Take some time to reflect on your summer learning… learning from your reading of Lead Like a PIRATE or another book that inspired you… learning from a summer conference or blogs you follow or learning from anywhere else that has pushed your thinking about the type of leader you want to be this school year.  Think about it, reflect on it, and then make 5 commitments to actions you will take this year as a result of your learning that ultimately support the vision you have for the kind of classroom, school, or district you want to create.

Blog about it and share it in the #LeadLAP hashtag on Twitter and tag @BethHouf and @burgess_shelley in the Tweet so we can follow your journey.  We also hope you will read and share the blog posts of other PIRATE leaders and support them in keeping their five commitments this year! For taking the time and making the commitments, we will send you some PIRATE swag as our way of saying “thank you” for working to make school AMAZING!

Shelley and Beth


Launching the #LeadLAP chat


This blog is dedicated to the amazing educators we are blessed to interact with every week in the #LeadLAP and #satchatwc

Several years ago, I was honored to become connected with Scott Rocco @ScottRRooco, Brad Currie @BradMCurrie and Billy Krakower @Wkrakower They were sharing great things on Twitter and running an inspiring chat (#satchat) on Twitter on Saturday mornings at 7:30 am EST… it’s awesome and if you ever get the chance to participate, please do!

Unfortunately, that 7:30 am EST time was a challenge for this west coast girl, so with Brad, Billy and Scott’s encouragement the #satchatwc hashtag was born and the west coast chats started to run every Saturday at 7:30 am PST.  What a blast it has been – thanks to YOU and all the other participants who have made #satchatwc a vibrant place for us to share ideas and refine our thinking about what works in schools.

Over the years I have had a variety of wonderful co-moderators for the chat and about a year and a half ago when Beth and I were working together on #LeadLAP I asked her to join me in the moderation of #satchatwc and she graciously agreed.

Since our book, Lead Like a PIRATE has been released, the #LeadLAP hashtag has emerged and that, too, has become a dynamic community where educators are sharing ways that they are making school amazing for students and staff.

We have had several requests to start a weekly #LeadLAP chat on Twitter, and what we realized over the last several weeks as the #LeadLAP book study was taking place during the #satchatwc chat time is that these two communities have really blended together to become one powerful, inspirational and energized group of educators committed to making a difference in our classrooms and our schools.

So starting this week on Saturday, August 5th we will no longer be using #satchatwc to host our weekly Saturday morning chats… we will use #LeadLAP instead, and we hope you will join us!  Our chat will continue to focus on the idea that we can lead and make positive change from any position in our school systems. Leadership is not about a title, it is a way of thinking and acting.

To kick us off, we have an incredible chat for you this Saturday from a student leader!  Isaiah Sterling (@isterlingn) will guide us in a chat on the importance of student voice and push our thinking on ways we can incorporate more student leadership in our schools.

Isaiah is a junior at Cape Central High School in Cape Girardeau MO. He strives to give educators the student view they don’t always get on an everyday basis. Check out his blog here: and please join us as he hosts the #LeadLAP chat on August 5th at 7:30 am PST.  If you haven’t met Isaiah yet, you will be inspired by this young man’s voice and perspective and what he can help us learn as educators.

So with much appreciation and gratitude to all of you who have contributed so much to the #satchatwc and #LeadLAP communities we are excited to launch our first official #LeadLAP chat this Saturday, and we personally invite you to join us!! You have so much AWESOMENESS to share, and we can’t wait to hear all about it.



Supercharge Summer Staff Retreats

Part 1 of our Building Culture and Commitment Over the Summer Series

Over the past few weeks, we have received several emails, Tweets and direct messages from PIRATE leaders interested in hosting summer retreats. YAY!  

Summer months are definitely time to relax, recharge and refresh after a year of hard work and learning, but don’t let these months slip away without taking full advantage of several ways to continue to build rapport with your staff.  We believe there are three types of summer experiences for your team that are well worth the time they take to put together: retreats, summer learning, and socials. Today’s blog post is all about the retreats!! But before you pop open your laptop to start the planning, you’ll want to think about the goals you have in mind for the time you will have with your team to make sure a retreat is the right type of event for you!

Summer Retreat Goals: 

  • Culture building
  • Relationship building
  • Rapport building
  • Team building
  • Goal-driven and FUN

Staff retreats are a perfect way to build trust, connect with your team and have some fun. When implemented well, they are a great way to spend some time together with your crew.  When planning a retreat, think about fun ways for your team to collaborate, rely on each other, and tap into their collective problem-solving skills. Retreats are a perfect time for a little healthy competition mixed in with the fun.  Scavenger hunts, BreakoutEdu activities, group selfie contests etc. are all great ideas as part of a retreat.

Retreats aren’t the time to learn new curriculum or hear about the latest mandates, but they can be a great time to have some more relaxed opportunities to build and/or refine your collective vision.  Activities that reveal passions and best hopes for the school going forward are perfectly appropriate for a retreat.

In a powerful blog post, principal Jimmy Casas shares his thoughts about retreats:

Summer Retreats: “This may surprise you a bit, but when district or building leaders do not come prepared with specific agendas and a specific focus to what the retreat will entail, we risk our folks not investing in the process and therefore leaving the experience disappointed. If this experience is repeated the following year, the retreat becomes nothing more than a check mark that reflects an item taken off the summer list. And by the way, if you are going to call it a retreat, then leave the campus; include some activities that promote teamwork, bonding, and genuine investment in each other. Holding all-day meetings does not constitute a retreat.”

If you are planning a summer retreat, we would LOVE for you to share some of your ideas and resources with all of us here: Lead Like a PIRATE: Summer Retreat Ideas   and of course, share them with us in the #LeadLAP hashtag.  One of the best parts of being a PIRATE is our willingness to share and then pillage from each other! We look forward to learning with you!

Shelley and Beth