A Thing or Two on Passion

When I was in high school I dreamed of becoming an art teacher. I took every art elective our high school offered (and then some). To this day, I still catch myself doodling at random times during the day. One of the reasons I love being an educator is that I never feel I need to check my passion at the door. I've found a way to bring my passion for creativity, making, and the design process to most of the roles I've served in. Our school has a fleet of mobile MakerSpace carts that classrooms can check out like you would check out a library book. Another small example is the pumpkin painting we do each year. We affectionately refer to our creations as #LiteracyOLanterns because the pumpkins

3 Things Principal School didn’t teach Us about School Culture

Most of us have been conditioned to believe that changing school culture takes several years. While there's some truth to this, I'm learning it doesn’t have to be the nebulous process many people make it out to be. There are tangible steps school leaders can take to make meaningful change a reality in less time than you might think. (Spoiler Alert: #3 is my favorite!) 1. We can create “quick culture” by focusing on smaller groups or teams within the larger organization. By being intentional with how we are nurturing the culture in smaller group situations, we can demystify many of the complexities that are more difficult to change en mass. You might be thinking a focus on smaller groups with

Blind Spots

Last week I had the chance to facilitate a couple workshops at a conference center in Ohio. Over the course of the conference, two different employees shared something fascinating. More on this in a second… I need to point out that our conference center had an elaborate safari theme complete with animal statues, paintings, and the whole nine yards. On the last day of the conference, I was heading to the front desk to check my bags in and noticed the hotel music was fantastic. (Feel free to hit “play” on the music video if you’re interested in hearing for yourself.) The speakers in the lobby were pumping “Africa” by the 80’s band Toto. I noticed a loose correlation to the safari theme and ass

1 Thing that will Change Your Playlist

I was sitting on an airplane this week scrolling through old photos on my phone. A flood of memories filled my mind when I came across this photo. Earlier this year, my wife and I were invited to travel to a Ben Rector concert in Omaha, Nebraska to help celebrate a friend’s 40th birthday. I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but I remember being less than enthused about traveling across several states to attend a concert for a band I didn’t care about. If I’m being completely honest, I probably wasn’t my best self the evening of the concert either. I was fully expecting to dislike the music and had made up my mind that I would endure the experience because I cared about the people we were

A Place to Start

When you think about how you want to approach your work…where do you want to start? I know how I would answer that question, but if I’m being honest, the excitement and demands of the school year sometimes bump me into a lane I would not choose for myself. Or the students and staff I serve. Other times, I feel as though the work I’m doing is being framed as one or the other when I know it should be about both. Our work in schools is a prime example of this. It can seem as though testing, accountability, and content are the only tool (i.e. hammer) in which we’ve been tasked to build better learning experiences with. While these things are important, I’m not sure we can ever build anything tha

When Nobody's Looking

My friends give me a hard time about something and they're totally justified in doing so. It happens in museums (a lot) and it also happens at fairs and libraries. I suppose it even happens when I'm walking down the street and notice something remarkable. Basically, I get totally engrossed in things I find interesting, moving, or exceptional. I call it "engrossed," but my wife would probably describe it as, "Wandering off and spending waayyyy too much time reading or analyzing something." It happened again last week, but for the first time in a long time I wasn’t alone. Everyone around me was completely mesmerized by the same thing I was. And we couldn't get enough. Our school was celebratin

Dr. Brad Gustafson is an elementary principal, author, and speaker. He believes schools can be spaces where creativity and innovation thrive, but only when we prioritize relationships and a relevant, connected pedagogy. 


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