Monday, April 30, 2012

"When I Grow Up..." An Idea for Elementary Principals

During my years as an elementary school principal, one of the parts of the spring "Awards Day" ceremony was Kindergarten Graduation. Prior to the event, the kindergarten teachers asked each student what they wanted to be when they grew up and why, with emphasis on the why.

On Awards Day, the kindergarteners were lined up off stage, each student wearing a graduation cap. As I called the name of a student, he or she walked across the stage to receive a diploma from the appropriate teacher. As the student walked across the stage, I would read, "When I grow up, I want to be a ______________ because _____________________." The "because" was always the most interesting part!

I could stop there, and it might well provide someone with idea to add to his or her own end-of-year activity. The real purpose of this post is to tell you what happened six years later.

You see, each year I would aave the script from Awards Day. My 7th year as principal at that school, the first class of kindergartens were now 6th graders, the upper grade in our school. Prior to that last Awards Day for them, we would practice their part of the program. As we completed that practice, I would mention very casually, "Some of you have been with us for a very long time...every since kindergarten." Nobody had a clue was was about to happen.

I turned to a student and said, "Do you remember walking across this very stage as I said, 'When I grow up, I want to be a.....'" I would read from the script I had saved from six years before! Then I would mention another student and do the same thing. By the third student, they knew what was happening. We went through each one of them, what they said they wanted to be, and why.

One of the most memorable points came with two close friends whose names were adjacent in the alphabet, and whose goals were therefore read back-to-back. Each said he wanted to be a "policeman." Their "whys" were very different. While one wanted to be a policeman to "help people," the other wanted to be a policeman so he could "ride motorcycles." Amazing how two totally different rationales brought about the same future wish.

We all look for neat traditions that don't put a great deal of stress and strain on our already full agendas. Saving those Awards Day scripts and reminding students as they are about to leave what they had said when they began the journey was one of those easy ways to close their elementary school experience.

In the next post, I will share another one which was easy and meant a great deal to both the students and the staff.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Illinois Principals Association Online Academy

I had a great time Thursday presenting a webinar for the Illinois Principals Association Online Academy. Entitled Time Management: The 5 Keys to Total Control and Peace of Mind, the 3-hour interactive webinar was designed to give practicing administrators practical tools to help them accomplish more, stay on top of their workdays, and experience less stress.

Here are the comments from the participants:
  • I would enjoy more presentations by Frank, especially with regards to free tech tools and being an efficient digital administrator. 
  • Great presentation! 
  • The workshop was great! 
  • This was an exceptionally helpful presentation. Organization is essential. 
  • Great Job! I appreciate you responding to all the questions. 
  • Great presentation!
  • Thought it was great! 
  • Great interactive presentation. Thank you for all the great ideas! 
  • Great information and presenter. 
  • The Online Academy Time Management was presented well and the information presented is USEFUL information. Well done! 
  • There was a lot of useful information presented to us today. A great amount of time would be saved by just using 1 or 2 of the ideas shared. 
  • I actually do some of the organizational tasks that Dr. Buck mentioned. For example, the journal. I really enjoyed the detailed information and I will be using it. 
  • This was an excellent presentation. I will actually start using some of the items today and can improve on others such as Outlook with the “Drag and Drop.” 
  • I have over 1,000 emails and thanks to Dr. Buck I plan to have none by Monday. 
  • Thank you for providing organization ideas that are helpful in managing the flood of information. 
  • This was a well-organized and practical seminar. 
  • The Online Academy was great! This is my 2nd and I love them! 
  • This was so practical and oftentimes the practical gets lost to the theoretical. 
  • I feel that this has been the most informative academy that I have attended. I plan to put the information I learned today in place as soon as I sign out of the academy, 
  • Extremely practical and helpful! 
  • I gained many useful tools to help me get, and stay, organized in this profession. Thank you! 
  • I am literally taking this home to share with my wife so we can get organized at home also, given some of the business ideas we are working on for our companies! 
  • If you need time, make time for this! 
  • This information was very helpful. 
  • This was a great use of my time! I got some great ideas and will incorporate them immediately. 
  • Great ideas that were very practical and some I accomplished immediately. 
  • This workshop will make me a more efficient administrator. 
  • This AA offered very practical suggestions. I am eager to implement them!

Friday, April 27, 2012

How Google Docs Saved Us

About this time each year, high schools are busy planning graduation. One of those tasks is securing a graduation speaker, and in most cases is something that happens with little fanfare. April 29, 2009, almost three years ago today, an article broke in our local newspaper which shaped the course for the rest of that day, and paved the way for a great deal of excitement and hard work over the next month.

Months earlier, Superintendent Joanne Horton had the idea to extend an invitation to Dr. Condoleezza Rice to be the high school graduation speaker. Having left the office of Secretary of State several months prior and having ties to Alabama, we thought while it was a long shot, it was a request worth extending. Because it was a long shot, very few were told of the invitation. When a long shot became a reality, the plans remained confidential as many of the details were worked out. One of the decisions made was that our local newspaper, The Daily Home, would be the one to break the story.

And so on April 29 three years ago, the front page story was that of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice coming to town as the high school graduation speaker. And on April 29, the phone started ringing with people who ordinarily would have had no desire to attend a high school graduation asking how they could attend this one.

The ceremony was to take place in the stadium, but in case of rain, having a "Plan B" was a necessity. The school system had a 1,500-seat auditorium, which normally would have been a gracious plenty. Under these circumstances, that auditorium was starting to look very small. In addition, Dr. Rice was still under Secret Service protection, and the Secret Service wanted to know the name of every person who would be attending the ceremony. How in the world were we going to handle the logistics? Enter Google Docs.

I created a Google Docs spreadsheet and entered across the top row the information we would want to know about each attendee: name, address, phone, e-mail, and how many tickets. I created a "form" from the spreadsheet (Tools>Form>Create a form). On the form, I edited the field for "number of tickets" so that instead of being a short-answer blank, it became a drop-down menu with "1" and "2" as the possible choices. I took the link at the bottom of the form and used it to create a link on the school district's blog.

When people called inquiring how to attend graduation, they were simply told to go to the school district's blog and click the link. There, they filled out their requests. As soon as they clicked "Submit," their request automatically populated the next blank line of the spreadsheet, and the request was even date and time stamped.

The Google Docs spreadsheet was shared so that at any time, the superintendent, high school principals, appropriate central office clerical staff, and I could see all of the requests in the order they were received.

Communication needed to happen with every person who had requested tickets. If the event was being held in the stadium, each person needed to be holding a ticket because of the Secret Service requirements. In the case of rain, we had to notify people as to whether they could be accommodated in the 1,500-seat auditorium or whether they would be amongst the overflow watching the ceremony on closed-circuit TV in the high school gym.

We knew how many family members and close friends each graduate would have coming to see him or her, our first priority for seating in the auditorium. We knew how many teachers and their spouses would be attending, our next priority. Selected dignitaries had been invited, and we knew those numbers. Subtract the grand total from 1,500, and we had the number of people from our spreadsheet who we could seat in the auditorium.

We went down the spreadsheet to the point which would serve as the dividing line between who we could seat in the auditorium and who we could not. We copied and pasted all of the e-mail addresses above that line into the bcc line of one e-mail. We sent that group of people an e-mail instructing them where and when to pick up their tickets. The e-mail went on to state that in the event of rain, their ticket would allow them into the auditorium. We highlighted all of the addresses below the line and pasted them into the bcc line of a second e-mail. This e-mail told where and when they could pick up their tickets. But this e-mail stated that in the event of rain, their ticket would allow them into the high school gym where they could watch the ceremony on closed-circuit TV.

All of the requests and all of the communications were handled easily, all due to Google Docs. I had always though of Google Docs as a time-saver. In this case, it was more like a life-saver

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

In Case of Emergency, Reach for Your Blog

This blog post caught my eye. In times of emergency, communication is critical. Realize “emergency” is in the eye of the beholder. For the parent of a 3rd grader, a bus that is late coming back from a field trip constitutes an emergency is nobody has communicated that “all is well.”

In my final year as a principal, I started a blog as a communication tool with parents. The blog replaced the newsletter which accompanied report cards at the end of each grading period. The initial reason for starting the blog was a desire to deliver information in “real time.” What happened today was reported today rather than in a newsletter a month from now. But I quickly found blogging had advantages far beyond delivering the good news.

Anyone who has ever worked in a school setting knows that the one thing you can expect is the unexpected. Being able to broadcast good information instantly is your best way to prevent panic.

For the principal or central office administrator who is asking, “What good is a blog? Sounds to me like one more thing to do,” I would suggest reading the post which inspired the one you are reading now, “10 Ways to Use Your Blog to Manage a Crisis.”

After all, it’s not communication that is time-consuming. The clean-up work as a result of failure to communicate—now that’s the time-consuming part!

Monday, April 23, 2012

7 Seconds to Make a First Impression

Roger Ailes was a media consultant for Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush, and is now is president of Fox News Channel and chairman of the Fox Television Stations Group. In this video, you will hear Tom Peters talk about point about which Ailes has written.

According to Roger Ailes, a person has seven seconds to make a first impression. We have all known the importance of making a good first impression. We probably have not thought about how short our time frame really is.

What are the things you can do in those 7 seconds that can make that first impression a good one?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Can't Stay on Top of Twitter? Here's Help

The more content you read, you more good content you are likely to read. Would you agree? In the world of Twitter, the more people you follow, you more content you will see in you Twitter feed. Hence, the more good content you will have. So far, so good.

The only problem is that increased content not only means more good content, but also more bad content. Personally, I don't care who had lunch where, or how much traffic they encountered at the local shopping mall. I want quality. What can I do to get the good content without also being overwhelmed by a flood of all the other stuff?

Thanks, UberSocial
UberSocial is the Twitter client I have used on my BlackBerry for some time. An update of UberSocial featured something called "My Inner Circle." The idea was that you could identify certain people you follow as being in your "Inner Circle." From there on, any time you clicked on the "My Inner Circle" icon on UbberSocial, you saw the tweets from just those selected people.

Who are those people whose tweets you always want to read? I would imagine you have some, but they are the minority.

Inner Circle, Priority 2, Priority 3
You don't have to use a particular client, such as UberSocial, to establish your own Inner Circle.Twitter has a feature which it calls "lists." Next time your are looking at Twitter on your computer, notice the "Lists" tab. It is located just below the box where you enter your tweet. Click on it and then look for the option to "Create a list."

Create a list called "Inner Circle." You have the option to search for people to include in the list, but I would skip that step at this point. Instead, create two more lists called "Priority 2" and "Priority 3."

To this point, all you have done is create a name for each list. Now, let's add people to them. While you are at the Twitter home screen, click on the "Followers" link. You now see all of the people you are following. Beside each person, you will see a drop-down menu. One of the choices is "Add to list." When you choose that option, you will see the name of each list you had created. Assign the person to "Inner Circle," "Priority 2," "Priority 3," or no list at all.

I also have lists such as "Education," "Technology," and "National Figures." A person can be assigned to more than one list.

Setting Up Lists on TweetDeck
I use TweetDeck as a means of organizing tweets and allowing me to schedule specific dates and times for each of the tweets I compose. When you click the icon to add a new column, you are given the option to assign that column to one of your lists. I have a column on Tweetdeck for each of my lists. In addition, I have columns which search for particular hashtags, such as "#Timemanagement," and return every tweet which is using that hashtag regardless of whether or not I follow that person.

Staying on Top of Twitter
Now that you know something about my setup, let's look at how I how I handle reading Twitter on a daily basis. In short, I want to read everything written by those who are in the "Inner Circle." I can easily accomplish that during spare minutes in the day. For example, when I accompany Davonia to the grocery store and am pushing the cart down the aisle, I am reading Inner Circle tweets. When I start reading tweets I have read before, I know I am finished with the Inner Circle.

When the Inner Circle has been read, I can continue to Priority 2. Those in Priority 2 generally write good stuff, but I don't care as much about them as I do those in the Inner Circle. If I read all of the Priority 2 tweets, that's great. If not, that's OK too. If there is additional time, I continue to Priority 3. Priority 3 people, in general, could be Priority 2 or maybe even Inner Circle if they simple did not tweet soooooo much. Remember, it's quality, not quantity! 

Many of the people I follow, are not in any of the three priority groups. To be honest, I may never see their tweets. We all have to draw the line somewhere, and I have drawn mine. I can stay on top of the "Inner Circle," "Priority 2," and "Priority 3" tweets. It gives me a sense of completion, and we all need that feeling.

Since establishing the three lists I have addressed in this post, I have felt much better about my experience with Twitter.

How do you stay on top of Twitter?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

HootSuite Tutorial

In the last post, we examined TweetDeck as a tool for organizing your Twitter experience. This post examines HootSuite.

I started using TweetDeck more than a year ago and established a HootSuite account last month. Personally, I like HootSuite better. The primary reason is HootSuite is web-based, allowing me access from any Internet-accessible device. I found the setup to be incredible easy, especially since I had experience with the features of TweetDeck.

This tutorial shows you how to establish a HootSuite account and set up you site.

Anyone want to share their experiences with either TweetDeck or HootSuite?

Monday, April 16, 2012

TweetDeck Tutorial

Twitter can be overwhelming, but there are some strategies that make the the world of Twitter easier and more enjoyable. One of the most essential is using TweetDeck or HootSuite to organize your feeds.

This video is a little over 13 minutes and demonstrates TweetDeck in a user-friendly format. Just watching the narrator in miniature is a treat in itself. The next post will provide a tutorial for HootSuite.

Do you use TweetDeck? What has been your experience?

Friday, April 13, 2012


I have been extremely happy with an app for my BlackBerry called "Email++." It does not replace the native BlackBerry email app, but adds additional functionality. The email experience on any handheld pales in comparison to working on your desktop with Outlook, but this app does help to close the gap.

Turn Emails into Tasks, Appointments, or Memos
Those who have heard me talk about getting information from email messages into your Outlook task list or calendar through "drag and drop" know what a valuable tool this is. Email++ has that same capability.

When are You Available?
Think of how many times someone emails trying to set a date and time for a meeting or appointment with you and wants to know when you are free. Supplying this information, particularly if you are working from your phone, can be a real research project. You wind up scrolling through your calendar, jotting down available blocks of time on paper, and then going back to the email to transfer what you had written on the paper.

With Email++ , while reading the email which asks about your availability, you simply scroll to the top of the message, click a icon on the upper right corner, and choose "Availability." Choose a date (it defaults to the current day) and select whether you are interested in the availability for that day or that week. Your results display on the screen along with a button to click which copies those results. Now, click to reply to the email and paste the results into the body of the message.

The programs setting allow you to define when your "work time" is, so that the program doesn't say you are available at 2:00 A.M. or on Saturday morning. You get to choose the earliest and latest times you allow for availability and the days of the week on which you work. That setting only needs to happen one time. Email++ takes it from there.

Where Am I?
The same icon which let you choose you availability will also let you find your location. Clicking the "My Location" button provides an option for your results to be your GPS location (if you are outdoors) or the location of the nearest tower. With one button, you can copy those results as well as paste them into an email message.

As email comes rolling in, you see an auto-preview, just like you see on Outlook. This feature is handy for those times you are expecting a particularly important email. Just as with Outlook, you can turn off this feature if you wish.

How Much Is It and Where Do I Get It?
At $4.99 (or $2.99 if you catch it on sale) this app is a steal. You can even try it for free. Read more here.You can download it here at BlackBerry App World.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Dropbox Has Gotten Even Easier

When you use one tool extensively, even a small improvement can mean a great deal. For the more than 45 millions who use Dropbox, uploading files just got easier.

Users know that merely dragging a file into the Dropbox folder is all that is required to upload it. But what about when you are working on a computer which does not have the Dropbox software installed?

With this recent improvement, you can go to Dropbox on your web browser (Explorer, Firefox, or Chrome), and drag a file from your desktop into the window on your browser. Dropbox uploads the file. Similarly, if you want the file to go into a particular folder inside Dropbox, drag it to that file in your browser's window. Dropbox does the rest!

To help users learn about this new feature, Dropbox has posted about it on their blog. Even better, if you click the normal "Upload" link, the first thing you see is a box explaining the new improvement.

As of October 2011, more than 45,000 people were using Dropbox. If you are not one of them, there is no better time than now to create a free account.

Normally, you would get 2GB of free storage. Using the link above gives you an additional 500 MB and also gives me an additional 500 MB. As you set up your account, you will see how you can get additional storage (up to a total of 16GB for free) by introducing others to Dropbox.

I have said many times, we do what it easy. This new improvement makes a user-friendly service even easier.

Monday, April 09, 2012

"Like Us" on Facebook Page or Follow on Twitter

This blog is the heart and soul of my online presence. A blog post is long enough to communicate an idea, back it up with examples and supporting arguments, and leave you with an invitation as to the action you may want to take. Blogs are also ever-changing. New content appears regularly, and should.

Sometimes, the message is short, and that's where Facebook and Twitter come in handy. When someone else has posted content of interest, or when top news stories interface with the subjects central to this blog, those two avenues provide quick and easy ways to bring that content to you.

Secondly, I use Twitter and Facebook for short highlights about my day-to-day professional activities. Third, when new blog posts appear here, Facebook and Twitter are great vehicles to let you know, so that you never miss a post.

Finally, I hope to see the Facebook page grow into a place for discussion. For the most part, people seldom comment on blog posts, but regularly comment on Facebook. In addition, Facebook automatically brings the new information to your page, and once you comment, you are notified about other people's comments.

If you have a Twitter account, I invite you to follow me. If you have a Facebook account, consider "Liking" our page.  By the way, when the Facebook page reaches 200 "Likes," one of those 200 will receive a free copy of Get Organized! or Organization Made Easy!

I hope this blog brings you information that makes your life a little easier and more enjoyable in some way. I hope these other outlets will be helpful to you as well.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Happy Easter!

An Easter celebration from King's College, Cambridge,England

Saturday, April 07, 2012

How to Remember to Write Thank You Notes

In the last post, you heard Tom Peters talk about the importance of “thank you” notes. As you read it, you may agree with the sentiment. Yet in our busy day-to-day lives, we may not think about it. At least, we don’t think about it when we are seated with a blank note card in front of us!

Let’s change all of that. Let’s structure a system where we do think about it. Furthermore, let’s structure a system which causes us to think about it at a time when we are sitting down with a blank note card in front of us. It does not get any more convenient than that!

This idea actually came from a workshop participant. As we talked about tickler files and their various uses, this participant raised her hand. She explained that she had been using tickler files for some time. Like many of us, she wanted to get better about writing thank-you notes. Like many of us, it just never happened.

One January day, she took 52 blank note cards, one for each week of the year. She scattered them through her tickler files. She had structured a system that caused a blank note card to pop up once each week. That was her trigger…her trigger to stop and use that blank note card to thank somebody for something.

She was already sitting down at her desk. She had the note card in front of her. Now, all she had to do was write the note.

I suspect people began to think of her as more thoughtful, more appreciative. Actually, she was just as thoughtful and appreciative to start with. All she needed was a system which helped her let those qualities show.

If it worked for her, maybe it could work for others.

Friday, April 06, 2012

The Importance of the "Thank-You" Note

During our busy lives, we often neglect to take the time to say "thank you" to those who have made the road easier for us. In this video, Tom Peters explains how vital the simple practice of writing thank-you notes really is.

Who should you send a "thank-you" note to today? 
What are you waiting for?

Monday, April 02, 2012

A Pretty Good Student

I first heard this poem quite a few years ago. It's been a favorite of mime, and serves as a cautionary tale for those who set the bar for themselves increasingly low.

There once was a pretty good student,
Who sat in a pretty good class
And was taught by a pretty good teacher,
Who always let pretty good pass.

He wasn’t terrific at reading.
He wasn’t a whiz-bang at math.
But for him education was leading
Straight down a pretty good path.

He didn’t find school too exciting,
But he wanted to do pretty well,
And he did have some trouble with writing,
And nobody had taught him to spell.

When doing arithmetic problems,
Pretty good was regarded as fine.
Five plus five needn’t always add up to be ten,
A pretty good answer was nine.

The pretty good class he sat in
Was part of a pretty good school.
And the student was not an exception.
On the contrary, he was the rule.

The pretty good school that he went to
Was there in a pretty good town.
And nobody seemed to notice
He could not tell a verb from a noun.

The pretty good student in fact was
Part of a pretty good mob.
And the first time he knew that he lacked was
When he looked for a pretty good job.

In was then, when he sought a position,
He discovered that life could be tough.
And he soon had a sneaky suspicion
Pretty good might not be good enough.

The pretty good town in our story
Was part of a pretty good state,
Which had pretty good aspirations,
And prayed for a pretty good fate.

There once was a pretty good nation,
Pretty proud of the greatness it had,
Which learned much too late
If you want to be great,
Pretty good is, in fact, pretty bad.

—Charles Osgood

How do we guard against the words in the last paragraph becoming reality?