One Word: Word of the Year Idea

Do you choose a word of the year?  I know it is hard to decide on just one word!  However, over the last few years, I have made a focus on one word for the year.  Last year, my word was courageous.


Having courageous as my mantra and one word for the year, I was able to push myself to do and try new things.  Never did I expect my one word to be such a focus and guide me through the year as I did this last year.

As we approach just a day away from 2020, I want to share with you my word for the new year.  My word for 2020 is relentless.  I have several new things coming this year.  My biggest project is a book that has been in the works for several months.  My other books, Morale Magic™ and Morale Magic Mini, are ebooks and have been a big success.  I can't wait to share with you new project for school leaders and many other things.  To me, being relentless means there is no end to self-improvement.

In 2018, we did an activity outside and made a wish for the new year.  You can read more about that here.

If you are looking for ideas for the entire year, check out my Trello Board.  If you haven't heard of TRELLO, it is like a big Pinterest board but allows everyone to collaborate and share resources.  I have always said that the best leaders are leaders who work as a team!

Principal Principles Trello Board

Happy New Year!  I wish you great success and happiness.

Let's stay connected through social media.

Twitter: @principalsteph1
Facebook: principalprinciples
Instagram: @principalprinciples


your photo name

December Morale Boosters for Teachers

December is the perfect time of the year to let your students and staff know that you appreciate them.  It is also the best time to spread holiday cheer for all to hear.  I am very intentional about showing appreciation either in forms of treats or in affirmations.  I know everyone has their own love language, so I try and think about a variety of ways to show the staff they are valued.

As the leader of a campus you hold the cards to creating a culture in which every individual is recognized and appreciated.

Let's take a look at some fun ideas taking place this month on my campus.



We have the House System this year.  If you are unfamiliar with it, take a look back at this post or at Ron Clark's website.   This is an activity that my staff will be participating in after school.  The trees were provided plus a $50 gift card for each House (team).  Each team could purchase or collect more supplies, but this is all I was able to contribute to the team building activity.

After school, the Houses will join together and decorate their trees.  The trees will be on display in the school the following morning and judges will be around to award each House.  Every House is a winner.  The points will be given to the Houses.  In doing so, the students will win as well.

It's a tree-mendous event!

As I write this post the event has not yet taken place.  I will be sure to share pictures of the decorated trees and give you the scoop.  



On the first day of Christmas, my principal gave to me, a Starbucks caramel coffee.


Here is the menu for the Kringle Cafe.  
Large coffee dispensers will be filled with a variety of flavored coffees.  The cold drinks were Starbucks drinks from the local grocery store.  


On the second day of Christmas my principal gave to me, a chocolate mint.  The song says "two" but every item from this day forward is one.


On the third day of Christmas my principal gave to me, a fancy pen.

The pens will be provided along with a holiday card to read and another blank card to share. The goal is for the teachers and staff members to not only receive a card but to write a card to another colleague on campus using the pen.


On the fourth day of Christmas my principal gave to me, four amazing words (YOU MATTER TO ME.)  It can never be said enough.  The words You Matter to Me should be said often and with a sincere heart.  The staff will receive a reminder that morning how much they matter to me and an email with a inspirational video.


On the fifth day of Christmas my principal gave to me, cold drinks.

A drink cart or drink station will be provided with Oceanspray cranberry-flavored drinks.  December is the perfect time of the year to enjoy all things Cranberry!


On the sixth day of Christmas my principal gave to me, sweaters soiree-ing.  Soiree is not a word I typically use in my everyday vocabulary.  It just seems to fit the tune of the song.  Since the word "soiree-ing" really doesn't exist, I just made it up.  Why not just create a word?!

Instead of an ugly sweater this year, everyone is asked to wear something holly and jolly.  That just means wear something festive and cozy.  Points will be awarded to the Houses for participating.


On the seventh day of Christmas my principal gave to me, cookies baking.

Delicious cookies from the bakery are provided for the campus to enjoy.  Sister2Sister Cookies is a local bakery.  The cookies are made fresh daily.  Cookies can be shipped to you.  These cookies are like no other cookie.  They are thick, soft, and preservative free.  Grab some delicious cookies from the shop if you are in the East Texas area, or go online and have a box shipped to you.


On the eighth day of Christmas my principal gave to me, gifts-a-wrapping.  This is one exciting day.  Our teachers will have the opportunity to attend a Scholastic Book Fair and purchase books for the students in their class.  A wrapping paper station will be provided in the conference room so the staff can wrap the books if they choose to do so.


On the ninth day of Christmas my principal gave to me, lotto tickets for scratching.  I purchased the scratch off stickers from Amazon.  They have been so handy and easy to use.  I purchased a large set of them last year, and I still have plenty for additional projects.  If you haven't discovered these, they are a must for your Amazon list.

My tickets are for House points so teachers can help raise their team points.


On the tenth day of Christmas my principal gave to me, refreshments for mingling.  Pringles™ are a fun little snack plus they a bit unexpected.  In addition, Pringles™ rhyme with mingle!


Jingle written by McConnell and Schrubb


On the eleventh day of Christmas my principal gave to me, popcorn popping.  To cut costs you can pop microwave popcorn or use a popcorn machine.  If you have a workable budget, gourmet popcorn in a variety of flavors are an option.


On the twelfth day of Christmas my principal gave to me, students humming.

 This takes us up to the school Christmas program.  We have a wonderful musical this year planned, and I know it will be enjoyed by all.

I have compiled a few things to help you with any shopping needs.  If you would like to save some time, Amazon is a great way to avoid fighting the crowds.  Here is a list I started for next year:


your photo name

The Secret Sauce: Objectives and Key Results

As an educator, we certainly know about "objectives" in the classroom.  We also know the term "key results."  However, in many successful businesses, this is common as well. Moreover, these successful businesses such as Google, Intel, Target, Twitter, Linkedin, and many more use Objectives and Key Results (OKR) to create alignment and engagement within the company.

As a principal and edu-preneur, I tend to read a lot about other successful businesses and then I often find myself making connections with what we do as educators and leaders.  Therefore, my brain is just taking what big businesses do to meet their goals and what I can do as a leader to help my school meet our goal.

So let me tell you about OKR- Objectives and Key Results.

I first read about this in this book: Measure What Matters


The goal formula is very simple.

I will (objective) as measured by (the result).

Objectives are memorable qualitative descriptions of what you want to achieve. Objectives should be short, inspirational and engaging. An Objective should motivate and challenge the team.

Key Results are a set of metrics that measure your progress towards the Objective. For each objective, you should have a set of 2 to 5 Key Results. More than that and no one will remember them.

If it does not have a number, it is not a key result.


A school's success is tied to the school's focus or lack thereof.  I believe focus is the thing that makes the difference between excelling and flailing about in mediocrity.  It is important to point out that these businesses really only have a few OKRs.  Think about that for just a minute.  One Objective will have 5 Key Results.  If you have multiple OKRs and each has multiple key results, it can get really complicated really fast.  Keep it super simple.  Less is more.


These objectives fit right into your campus and district vision.  These work together to motivate your school with a purpose and an intentional direction.  


The objectives keep your teachers focused, inspired, and aligned to the overall goal.


Having a focus throughout the school helps keep students at the center.  There is nothing more exciting than seeing your entire staff work together to move your school forward.  Moreover, students thrive in this kind of environment.  


The simplicity of the process is great, but the benefits are even better. The method is designed to keep the vision, goals, and objectives of the company or school, team or individual in the forefront. People know what’s expected of them and how their work fits in with the larger tasks of the team or school.

The great thing about OKRs is that they don’t take much time to set up, and they’re easy to use.

Before you set these objectives, do you know your school's vision?

The vision is one of the most POWERFUL things that we as school leaders can create. The vision matters. It matters to the overall success of your school.

We want to help you create your vision. This is why we are so excited to announce that Discover Your Instructional Vision (DYIV) is now gone digital!

This eCourse is where we teach you how to make a plan to achieve your vision. Look at all the amazing things we are including in this online course.

Editable calendars, schedules, Response to Intervention (RtI), posters, a 70+ Transformational Guide, A Quick Reference Guide, THE PRESENTATION that we use at on-site trainings, all the presenter notes, Principal Reflection forms including all the critical components of effective schools, Planning Process Forms, activities for team building, and access to a growing folder!

Plus two coaching calls via #zoom and access to a private Facebook group for daily communication.

FOR 10% OFF, USE THE CODE: discovervision

Want to know more:
Ready to purchase:


your photo name

Creating a School's Vision as a School Leader: Digital Access

I honestly believe that a shared vision is the primary ingredient in the secret sauce to drive innovation in our schools. 

As a superintendent, principal, or other school leader, you want to implement important instructional initiatives for the school year. How much time do you really have to create this vision all while maintaining your daily tasks in your position? If you’re anything like me, then you probably can’t even count the number of hours you spend just preparing for the events that are already on your calendar or things that fall in your lap throughout the day. Adding these initiatives to your calendar is just unthinkable. Imagine if you were given a plan, all the strategies, and all the tools in your hand to creating a vision that will empower teachers to engage in meaningful reflection and move each individual student to personal growth.

How confident would you feel that you could really implement this vision and create a successful school culture that is centered on teamwork, coaching, and caring for each other?

The Importance of Having a Clear Vision

At any given point in time, there could be students and teachers in schools that are experiencing burnout, teaching, and learning in isolation, and lacking real systems to bring about change. This includes the very people in your school. Without a solid foundation in the right direction and systems to unite your teams, they are held hostage to an endless cycle from which they need to bring about change. A strong instructional vision is not something far from your reach; it is literally right here in this guidebook. 

We can’t wait for others to fix our problems. We can’t continue to wait until next week or next month to find the time in our schedule to create this vision. We are all stakeholders. We all have a part to play, whether we work at the district level or campus level. The solution to lack of vision and systems will happen when you are ready to put the boots on the ground and take steps to climb your summit. Helping your teachers and students see this vision improves their teaching and student learning.

Now imagine instead of staff and student disengagement, isolated learning, and always wondering what to do next, you stepped into a school where students and teachers are thriving, they’re eager to do more, and you have a system for serving all of your students from low performing to high performing. Your campus has improved in state accountability, and your energy is replenished. You now feel like you have your head above water. You are ready to achieve your campus goals. 


Each one of us can make this vision a reality. If you are a superintendent, set aside time to grow your campus leaders. If you are a principal, stop the mindset of “getting ready to get ready.” The time is now. Use your knowledge and skills to create the school you imagine. The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your school’s full potential- these are the keys that will motivate you to cross the finish line. Successful leaders know the importance of creating a strong and shared vision. With this vision, you can accomplish big things.

Are you ready to take your school to the next level? 

Join Morris Lyon and me on this journey with the Discover Your Instructional Vision.

All materials shown (and so much more) are ready for download!  

Want to see more?  Click Here  

Ready to Purchase?  Click Here


your photo name

Back to School Team Building

I found a wonderful video a few months ago.  I always save video links in a notepad on my phone.  You just never know when you might need it.

My good friend, Lauren, reminded me of this video just last week.  For simply watching the video, I knew I wanted to recreate the activity on campus with the staff.

So take a look at the video, All That We Share.


1.  Ask your staff to stand in a circle in the room.  

2.  Explain that we are all here together because we are connected to the same passions.

Our passion to serve. 

Our passion to teach.  

Our passion to inspire, motivate, and to make a difference.

3.  Explain now that we share more things in common that you just might not realize.  You will then read out a few statements.  If they have these in common, they will join the middle of the circle.  Ask them to take a minute and recognize the people standing around you that share the same things with you.

4.  The statements at the beginning are simple and lack little meaning.  As you reach the bottom of the list, the statements are more powerful.


Who likes coffee?
Who has ever travelled overseas?
Who is scared of heights?
Who has famous relatives?
Who likes to ride motorcycles?
Does anyone think Chic Fil A is overrated?
Who exercises at least 4 times a week?
Who has never had a speeding ticket?
Who has ridden on a subway?
Who has never been on a plane?
Who has ever taken on a restaurant's food challenge?
Who plays video games?
Who has never seen The Godfather?
Who is a step parent?
Who has a step parent?
Who said they would never be a teacher?
Who has ever been bullied?
Who has saved someone’s life?
Who has beaten cancer?

Who is here today ready to make a difference this year?

"The students placed in your classes are here for a reason too. Some student in your class needs you this year. It is our job to determine who that is and what that need is. Let's go make a difference."

your photo name

Back To School Transformations

Our campus is going through some renovations.  I couldn't be more happier for my students, parents, and staff.  They deserve this beautiful space.  The library needed a big makeover.  The library furniture was outdated.  The fluorescent lighting wasn't giving off the best light for reading.  The space just wasn't inviting.  The library wasn't a space where anyone wanted to stay for long periods of time.  Thankfully the community passed a bond, and we are now blessed with this beautiful space.



The library is divided into multiple sections.  (1) We have an upper elementary section that can be used by students and staff. (2) A lower elementary section for our youngest students.  (3) A reading cave; and (4) a lounging or gathering space.

Literacy Library 

Two years ago I started purchasing leveled books for guided reading.  Over the two years,  I spent as much money as I could investing in our literacy program.  The book bins were purchased from Ikea.  They are just heavy cardboard, but they really do the job.  I created the color-coded labels on my computer.  You can download them here.

The book cases were ordered from Amazon and stacked on top of each other.  I ordered 4 total.  Maintenance braced them together and then for extra safety measures we braced them to the wall.



Download Welcome to My House Presentation

We are excited to kick off the 2019-2020 school year and introduce the House System to our students.    At the end of 2018-2019 school year, we discussed this idea with the staff.  They were 100% on board.  Thankfully, I have had the opportunity to collaborate with some great principals who have already paved the way for me.  Heather Patterson and Trent Hamilton are both Texas principals and have implemented the House System a few years ago.  Through the use of social media and this blog, I am able to connect to other administrators and brainstorm ideas, share resources, and just build great friendships.

I also watched Ron Clark's Facebook Live presentation this summer.  I found about it through social media and marked it on my calendar.  This too was a big help.  You can watch the playback of the event here.

Ron Clark Youtube


My staff will be in a House.  I thought and thought about how to reveal their Houses.  A lot of school do balloon popping, spinning the wheel, etc...  However, I had forgotten I had these scratch off tickets until I was going through my supplies.  I immediately knew this is what I wanted to do.  So the entire staff will scratch off their tickets to review a number: 1, 2, or 3.  We have three Houses.  We have not named our Houses or assigned colors yet so adding a number under the scratch off was the best option for me.

These are the best scratch off stickers!  I purchased 1000 of them, and they will last forever.


Our maintenance, custodial staff, and construction crews have worked so hard this summer.  Since we are under a big renovation, they have been working even harder despite the dust, piles of tools and buckets of paint throughout the halls.  We decided to have an afternoon of ice cold watermelon as a treat.  Watermelon is affordable and delicious too.  If you need a great pick-me-up, this is the perfect one for a hot summer day.  

For more MORALE BOOSTERS, check out Morale Magic!  It has everything you need for many years of gifting and lifting spirits.


your photo name

How You Do Anything is How You Do Everything

How you do one thing is how you do everything.  

When one area of your health suffers, all the other parts suffer too.  Equally, when you develop one part of your life, all the other parts benefit too.

Let me explain how this relates to us as leaders.

This summer while on vacation in the beautiful mountains of Wyoming my courageous husband fell from a bicycle while riding down a steep mountain at a fast rate of speed.  He wasn't knocked unconscious, but he suffered from three broken ribs and blood-filled lungs.  This accident was just a few weeks ago.  His body is visibly bruised and low impact movements are the current norm, but he is doing much better now.  His healing is day-by-day and will take up to 8 weeks to fully recover.

I have always been some what of a person who does things all the way.  I don't cut corners on the work.  But to be honest, I have a junk drawer or two or even a closet full of "stuff" that I could really work on.  If things look great on the surface, I am totally fine walking by that junk drawer and closet and never skip a beat.

As I watch him heal from his broken and bruised body, I think about the quote- "How you do one thing is how you do everything."  When one part of your body is suffering, all the other parts suffer too.  He struggles to just to get dressed, to work a full day at work, to sleep a full night's sleep, etc...  A broken bone or three can make a big difference in how you function.

You might be thinking what does this have to do with me as a leader?

Well here is the answer.  The way we handle one thing showcases how we will handle the next hing.  When you are dedicated to the complete project, you will create habits that lead you to do the same in the future.

Creating that junk drawer at home and a closet filled with unnecessary items only clutters my house and takes up space.  The habit I have created will sprinkle into my work life unless I take conscious attempts to change my habits and behaviors.  These patterns of just throwing something in the drawer or shoving it into a closet of course will bleed over into my professional life and my leadership abilities if I am not careful.

As you begin this journey as a school leader either for the first time or as a seasoned school leader, I invite you to take a closer look at your own habits, particularly those that are not serving you.  Perhaps just one simple concept, like organizing your desk, or creating a filing system, or cleaning out your inbox every day before you go home, could be just the answer to a better year.

A simple shift in one habit can inevitability impact another.

How you do one thing is how you do everything.


your photo name

End of School Year Scavenger Hunt: Mystery Prize Box

Scavenger Hunts are great for all ages, and they are a great way to wrap up a school year.  Moreover, scavenger hunts after a week of state testing, trump all kinds of fun.  Here's the scoop on the details of the day.

Each classroom will end up with their own prize box after completing the hunt.  I recommend staggering the start times of the classes so they don't end up at the same location at the same time.  We staggered a 15-minute delay between each class.

I purchased the scavenger hunt from this website.  I printed multiples pages of each mystery puzzle.  Each puzzle was placed in an envelope with a different teacher's name on the front of the envelope.  As students arrived at the location, they opened their class envelope.  If they arrived in a place without an envelope, they did not solve correctly.  There are about 11 puzzles to solve before they reach the final location and locate their prize box.


Each box contained about the same items with a variation of a few items- a ball (football, kickball, or basketball), paint set, chalk, water guns, bubbles, spray chalk, frisbee, Little Debbie snack cakes, coloring books, markers, crayons, etc...

The box is a group prize and must be shared with everyone in the class.  Pictured below are items that were purchased for multiple boxes.


Assign different students leadership roles at each station.  For example, if you have 20 students in your group, have 3-4 students attempt to solve the mystery.  At the next location, I recommend switching and having another 2-3 students solve.  This gives everyone a chance to show their leadership skills and play the game.  Mysteries are a ton of fun, especially when there is a big reward at the end.  


Some of the puzzles were tricky.  The students had to use their critical thinking skills on some of the stations.  This struggle is good.  Don't be so quick to jump in and give them the answers or tell them how to solve the puzzle.  Problem-solving is the best skill we could ever give our students.

Prior to starting the puzzles, I asked all the teachers to join me for a quick meeting.  I went over how the stations were organized and the answer to every puzzle.  Trust me on this when I say you should do this.  I simply had a printed copy of all the puzzles in the staff room and showed the teachers how each puzzle looked and the answer to it.  


Students have worked hard all year completing study plans, attending tutoring, and diligently working toward mastering their goals in RtI.  I felt the need to reward them (and their teachers) with a Work Hard, Play Hard Day.  The items can be played inside or outside (mostly outside).  This day was filled with full joy and some very eager students.  We didn't expect the students to be perfect in the halls.  However, we did set ground rules about sharing the clues to any passing players.  We didn't want to spoil the fun for any of the remaining participants.  


your photo name
Back to Top