Kevin talks about his background, family, and career path (2:30)
When and why Kevin decided to go into education (5:00)
Kevin’s very first job in education (7:00)
How Kevin knew education was the right career choice (11:10)
Balancing work, school, and family during his master’s degree education (14:25)
The benefits of a cohort master’s degree program (18:00)
Some of the lessons Kevin has learned since making the move from teacher to administrator (21:50)
People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care (25:30)
Kevin shares a story about the powerful impact administrators can have (28:12)
The biggest difference in the impact you have as an admin compared to the impact you have as a teacher (31:45)
The best leadership advice Kevin has ever received – be yourself (36:26)
The huge importance of creating and nurturing a positive culture in your school (37:14)
Here are Kevin’s top three book recommendations for current and aspiring school administrators (38:25)
The tools and apps Kevin uses and recommends (39:42)
Kevin’s favorite educational quote (42:07)
Here’s Kevin’s advice for admins when it comes to working with students (43:00)
Kevin’s advice for admins when it comes to working with teachers (43:55)
If Kevin had a time machine, and could go back and give advice to himself when he was just embarking on the past to becoming an education administrator, here’s what he would tell himself (49:39)
Books mentioned in this episode
Apps and tools mentioned in this episode
Connect with Kevin Shelton
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Educators Lead Ep. 26
Constantly Be Visible | Relationships Are Built Little-By-Little Over Time
Show notes: http://www.educatorslead.com/kevinshelton
Welcome to Educators Lead when we interview leaders in education to offer inspiration practical advice to help launch educators into the next level leadership. I’m your host Jay Willis and I want to thank you for subscribing to our show.
Intro: Kevin Shelton is in his tenth year as principal of Johnsburg High School in Johnsburg, IL. He earned his bachelor’s degree in English and Secondary Education from Loras College and his Master’s degree in Educational Leadership from National Louis University. Kevin was an English teacher and multi-sport coach for eight years, prior to becoming an administrator for the next sixteen years. Kevin was recognized as the 2012 Illinois High School Principal of the Year and has been an active member of the Illinois Principals Association even serving as president in 2013 and 2014. Kevin was also a member of the National Association of Secondary School Principals delegation in 2014 that traveled to Finland to learn more about their educational system first hand. So that’s just a brief introduction Kevin but tell us a little bit more about yourself.
Kevin Shelton: Oh thanks Jay I started out. I grew up in Marengo, Illinois and ended up going to Loras College undergraduate where I met my wife Wendy. We’ve been married for 22 years this year and well and she’s really just been a phenomenal friend and supporter of mine throughout our entire time together. So we met actually, I played football in Loras College she played volleyball we met in training room and then the rest is history. We you now have two kids. And actually when we got married we were up here in Wisconsin for 2 years where I taught junior high English and coached Football and basketball. And then came down to Johnsburg both of our hometown. More closer to family where she started teaching 3rd grade and I taught high school English and coached Football and Basketball & track. And then back in 2000 crossed to the dark side as some people like to call it, administration, went over to Westview Hills Middle School in Westbrook, Illinois where I was the associate principal for 4 years before changing over for 2 years as the principal there and then I was able to come back in Johnsburg High School in mid-2000 as the High School Principal and as you said I’ve been there for the last 10 years so it’s been a great ride and had some great people along with family and friends.
Jay Willis: Yeah. So what is maybe one fun fact about you that most people wouldn’t know?
Kevin Shelton: One fun fact about Probably even though a lived in Illinois I am a die-hard Green Bay Packer fan. So I take a little bit of flak for that every once in a while. My Dad went to Marshall University and most of his family still lives in Wisconsin so that’s something that I tend to get a little flak from.
Jay Willis: So I guess kind of backtrack just a little bit I know you went through it pretty quick but tell us about your career path so you actually got a bachelor’s degree in education. It was in English and secondary education so I guess at what point did you kind of make the decision and know that you want to go into education.
Kevin Shelton: It was an interesting story and that’s why I tend to promote Loras College any chance I get. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do college and thought I might want to go to journalism route and about midway through my sophomore year realized it just was not the right call and I ended up walking up to a particular floor in one of the buildings in Loras College and ended up running into Dr. Andy Augy who ended up one of my favorite professors in the English Department. And I must’ve had a look of despair on my face wondering what about I’m gonna do with my life and he just kind of pulled me aside and said “are you okay?” pulled me into his office and we sat down just basically started a conversation he basically became my advisor that day and just kind of helped and guided me on the path of and checked to see if I wanted to work with different kind of people and if I liked working with students and have you ever thought of being in education and by the time I left his office I had a list of classes that I need to sign up for with English and really the rest is history and. I’m very grateful to him as well to Loras College for those experiences because it really kind of guided me to a career that I just really fell in love with and just really realized that you have such an opportunity to impact throughout that process. So that’s really kind of the tipping point. I’d thought about teaching prior to that but that was really tipping point to kind of guide me in that direction.
Jay Willis: So then you graduated from college and what was your first assignment like or your first job after that.
Kevin Shelton: My first job. I was really lucky first of all my student teaching experience. I was in Jefferson Junior High school in Dubuque Iowa and I met a couple great administrators and had a chance to see firsthand just what you great admins do under pressure. Just how well they communicate and handle things and they actually talked to me about potentially putting my name in with the dean of students. At the end of my student teaching and after talking with them for a while they were gracious enough to say you know what. Why don’t you go get your feet wet by teaching a little bit first and then maybe we can talk down the road.
So I went to Pepin schools up in Pepin, Wisconsin a very small town in Wisconsin along the Mississippi River and I was a Junior High and high school English teacher. And just a great place to get my feet wet and the people there were awesome and again just had a great opportunity to connect with people like Greg Corning who’s now a principal up in Menomonie and he is one of my colleagues as far as a coach and that kind of got me thinking along the line of maybe administration might be something to look into.
And then when I came down to Johnsburg high school Pat McCrystal the assistant principal at a time pulled me aside he said “You should think about get your master’s degree soon. I would strongly suggest you look at educational leadership, you know a lot of people here are talking about your leadership at the the school.” At the time I was coaching three sports I was also the MC for pep rally, I supervised Lunch periods every day and I supervised the parking lot in the mornings so I was kind of doing quite a bit but it was just something that I just thought was normal and found out the I guess it wasn’t. So thanks for Pat He really kind of guided me in that direction.
Aand so I sign up for class and started in a cohort that was nearby and are really not even knowing if I was going to use my educational leadership degree I was very happy teaching and coaching just around great kids and just really enjoying things. And then in 2000 I got a letter which is kind of shows you how far back it was I didn’t get an email or tweet it was an actual snail mail letter from my principal at that time there saying “ hey there is a principal job opening here is this incredible job opening and I tried to open in you’re one of the few people that have the administrative degree I just want to let you know in case you’re interested” And I really wasn’t. It was at the end of July, we had just finished Football camp and anybody who coaches football know that football starts in early august so it was a pretty tight timeline. I really didn’t want to leave the coaching staff hanging so I ended up going to check out the job. I have to talk to my wife and she said, “Why don’t I just go check it out an experience.” And then I found out during my second interview “Holy cow! I think I’m going to get the job now what?” And it really ended up being one of the best moves I’ve ever made. You know as I mentioned, my wife has been such a phenomenal support system for me and these are great clarifier of what we’re supposed to be doing in in life and our jobs. And so that’s what led me into in the administrative was about 8 years after I started teaching so an 8 years teaching experience in. When I finally made the plunge.
Jay Willis: So what do you think it was that caused that shift because I mean obviously when you even were working to get the degree. You weren’t convinced you’re going to use it so. I mean I know that obviously some things fell into place and an opportunity came up and then you got the letter. They kind of encouraged you to apply but I mean obviously for you to actually take the initiative though in apply. And then to accept position when it was offered to you. There had to be a different conversation that was going on inside your mind so what caused that shift. And what made you feel as though you were ready to take that step.
Kevin Shelton: At the time I wasn’t sure it just seem to like the right thing to do. I don’t know any other way to explain it; it just seemed like the right step to make and when I look back in hindsight I think that I was really blessed to have leadership opportunities leading up to that in the various forms that I played as a teacher and a coached. And I’ve been a head coach a few times and so I’d gotten my feet wet with that and throughout my educational cohorts one of the classes that stood out and one of the phrases that I learned was the whole continuous improvement aspect to our Dr. Demming when he was working with Japan and rebuilding them and what that whole concept was about. And you know looking back I think in hindsight I had a better perspective. I think that was I was ready for the next step and I kind of sensed that I was ready for the next challenge and that was something that I feel by taking those steps and kind of preparing myself. I had a saying when I was I was a coach luck is what happens when hard work meets opportunity. I prepared myself to the point where I had enough confidence in myself to at least put myself out there and then once I got into it and started talking with the superintendent and principal I was going to be working with, when they were interviewing me… I didn’t really prepare because I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare for the interview, and it felt good like things naturally just flowed and seems like I was able to handle the situation and it felt good to know that I will be having 2 solid mentors going into the situation as well.
Jay Willis: That’s great. Well see what I’m taking from this is application for my own life is that you really don’t need to worry about….I know one of the constant concerns that everybody has is like. “What if what I do is unnoticed?” Or you know “what if I’m not ready?” and just a lot of questions kind of along those lines and I guess what I get from your story from that is that like, if you really work on you and building you up and making yourself better and preparing yourself for the role. Then you don’t really have to worry as much about going out and just pursuing it super hardcore, because opportunities are naturally just going to come to you because people are going to see qualities in you of leadership. And so you know it’s you have done all that it wasn’t just a matter of being in the right place at the right time, it’s that you had done a lot of preparation. So that you were prepared to be in that role because obviously if you hadn’t had the degree, then you wouldn’t be able to apply or even have been looked at for that position but I would say you had done the preparation necessary for you to be well suited for that role.
So that’s good. So tell me because you are super busy. Now, were you married, were you coaching, when you’re doing that, you know taking classes. Getting your master’s degree – during all of that you’re married, you’re married and then had a child at home yet or no?
Kevin Shelton: Not yet. But our first son Michael was born midway through my cohort class experience so it was something where I have mentioned earlier I married very well. My wife Wendy and I made decisions like this together and we came to a determination there really is no ideal time to do certain things in life you know. We talked about maybe we’ll start a master’s program here and it basically came down to you just really need to get a jump in and hang on for the ride and there is a great quote that I heard in a conference once about “Living your life off balance on purpose” because you hear a lot of people talking about our need to find balance with your life and this speaker had a different take on and he said you know you really never going to have that total balance of the kind of you know sometimes the scales going to tick one way sometimes the scale going to the other. And the more you know that and plan for that and prepare for it knowing it’s going to be off balance so that it doesn’t stress you out as much or it doesn’t cause much havoc for you your life is not going to necessarily make it easy that it will make it easier and I think. Going in knowing for the both of us that that is going to be the case it was by the board you know jump in and hang on and that was definitely a challenge though I mean it was definitely something where I slept well on it the whole night. But definitely worth it.
Jay Willis: Yeah. Well so how did you manage all that just with just the time management I would think would be difficult so I mean obviously you just bit the bullet and did it but were there any tactics or strategies that you kind of used to help you succeed through that time
Kevin Shelton: Definitely one of them was I was lucky enough to take the cohort with some colleagues from my school Johnsburg High School when I work there and so the fact that we were able to collaborate. A lot of our group work was easily done together because we were in the same building. I had a great administration in that, whenever we needed to do different projects or things like that they were more than willing to help. At that time, with coaching, that was probably one of the more challenging things there were times where you know when we’d be finishing up practice on a Wednesday evening and the defense coordinator and I would be sprinting to our cars to get in and get over to our classes. I’m so in it really came down to trying to find ways to consolidate. Maybe giving up certain things. But also just generally focusing on what really are your priorities what is really important. And it really helped that because I‘d been teaching for a few years that I didn’t have to come into a new situation and create a whole new curriculum, and my department chair was very understanding about keeping me consistent with those classes so that I can continue to build on my experience in those classes instead of trying to create something new which was very helpful as well. And I think those are things that pop in to my head as far as being helpful
Jay Willis: Yeah well sounds like you had a great support system there to you had your wife who was very supportive and then the cohort. You’re talking about as well right.
Kevin Shelton: The Cohort was great because it was very practical. It was not a lot of philosophy. It was very much take this back your school and apply it. And so the fact that it was intermingled with what we could go back and try in our schools or apply with different aspects that were close to us t was incredibly helpful as well. So I really felt well prepared through the program at the time and felt that that was one of the keys as well. Elizabeth McDonald was one of our professors as well. She would actually work with us on the weekends if we needed to, if we needed to miss our class because we had a game or something like that. And she’s such a sweetheart. She’d say listen you need to come in and make this up this weekend come in for a few hours we’ll sit down we’ll get things taken care of so that’s really essential I think to helping people out especially with how busy people are today.
Jay Willis: Yeah. So talking about some of the challenges what would you say were some of the biggest challenges for you transitioning from being a classroom teacher to being in the administrator
Kevin Shelton: The biggest challenge for me with my first year as an administrator and not having that built in connection time with kids, as an English teacher I had at approximately 120 – 150 students that came in to my classrooms every day that I could talk with so 5 days a week for 15 minutes a day we definitely got to know each other and were able to build that rapport. So that if I needed to challenge them to a certain level they respond in a positive way and not take it in a negative way.
As an administrator I learned very quickly that you don’t have that built in time, you have to create that time. That was one of the tougher challenges that I had going to a school where nobody knew me right out of the gate my first year, whereas I had spent my 6 years at Johnsburg high school and had relationships with folks both student and athletes and parents and as administration. And now I really didn’t know anybody in the staff I don’t know anybody in town and so there was a transition there that it was very challenging and one of the things that I needed was as I mentioned the two people I interviewed with Judy who was my principal and George who was my superintendent. They were really hands on in helping me, iIn showing me here’s how you handle difficult conversations with 1. A student. 2. A parent. 3. A teacher. And really guiding me through that so I was helpful number one. And number two I also learned very quickly what it meant to be myself and allow my personality to be part of what I did and that is where I adapt, “OK Well this is like picture of what the teacher is not as an assistant principal who’s going to you know. Really bring the handle on things that is supposed to do not be entitled with discipline so on and so forth And I learned very quickly there’s a difference between being consistent with students and discipline with respect. Compared to just following the handbook and not necessarily trying to build a personal relationship for those students that’s coming back to school again the next week you’re going see in the hallway might even be a frequent flyer. I learned very quickly that it was really important to establish those relationships and to try to keep it as positive as possible.
Jay Willis: So what are some of the other lessons you felt you feel as though you’ve learned through. Just the journey from teacher to principal and maybe even through that first year as administrator. Would you think are some lessons that you’ve learned
Kevin Shelton: Glad you asked that. The lessons I learned from a situation – as I mentioned, I have to shift my thinking on how can I build in opportunities how can I be visible? I was really lucky and blessed to have a just a rare opportunity come my way as administrator, as an assistant principal, and as athletic director. By a fluke, one of our coaches happened to be sick the last minute and there was nobody to fill in and the choice was cancel the game or somebody needed to fill in so I have some experience with basketball coaching so I filled in and it gave the parents and students who were involved in that team just a totally different opportunity to see me in a different way. from that it just gave me a different life lesson that I need to figure out more ways to do that and so some other thing that I learned that we now do in Johnsburg High School is we actually build in time for students to come see me for positives. We actually take an article, a student was mentioned in a newspaper, we laminate it. We have the student come to the office and whether it’s myself or one of our assistant principals, we will have that student, have a face to face, congratulate them on being recognized in the Newspaper and give them a pat on the back and say Nice job.
And a lot of times when they walk into the office. They’re not used to being in the offices. So they’re coming in thinking that they’re in trouble and then they find out ‘Oh wait a minute it’s a positive.” You know it really makes a huge difference and we’ve even extended that, because we’re a K-12 district, we send articles to any of the students k-8 that are mentioned in the local paper for spelling bee or for honor roll things like that. We laminate some of the articles with a little handwritten note on it as well, like “That’s awesome! Great job! Looking forward to seeing you at Johnsburg high school.”
I find that those little things that you do really make a huge difference in building those relationships and putting the positives out there. We’ve even done things at lunch time where we go out and we have prizes, we challenge students to a game “Rock-paper-scissors” You know Rock- paper-scissors for a gift card or whatever it maybe and I’ve got some really neat pictures of that. Where you see the kids’ reactions, they’re like “really?” Sometimes the cheesier the better because it gets that laughing reaction. It’s a bond in a different way so really just try to do that because it really just makes a huge impact so the lessons I learned there are just constantly look for ways to engage the students and community members in more positive ways and the more creative the better.
Jay Willis: Yeah that is great! I can imagine some of the looks you get I can’t wait I’m actually cooking up several ideas now I have a nine year old a four year old a two year old and already kind of thinking of things that I can do when they’re a teenager to help them not take themselves too seriously. So yeah I like the rock paper scissors idea that’s fun.
Kevin Shelton: And it just comes back to a very well used phrase but it’s so true – people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. And it’s so true – you can be the biggest expert in the world but, especially when you’re talking about teenagers and they just got their senses in there where they just know are you there for them or are you there for other reason. So it’s great when they get a chance to see how much you care because they just open up to you. They just come to tell you things are not going well, or “hey you know what, this student has something they shouldn’t”, or “Hey btw Mr. Shelton here’s a rumor on the street or something’s going on not sure if it’s true but I just want it let you know” those types of conversations have increased exponentially since we started doing some of these things there’s a plus factor that they know that you’re in it for them and they want to help reciprocate on that.
Jay Willis: Yeah and something else you said in that conversation. Just little things really do make a big difference when it comes to relationships. I’ve kind of learned that I don’t know if I’d say the easy way probably the hard way. In marriage and as a parent. It’s really It’s the culmination of a lot of little things that really make a great experience for you know for your spouse or for your children and I’m sure it’s no different in a school environment.
Kevin Shelton: Exactly and I was lucky growing up with 2 phenomenal parents who kind of lived that example every day. My dad if you live in his hometown, you know that that usually on St. Patrick’s Day -he use to teach English before he got into selling insurance – but he still has a lime green polyester suit and a velour green bowtie that he wears. It’s really great unless you’re a senior at your sports award dinner and shows up like that and that’s Ok I had a couple years of counseling to get over that (laughter). Another thing he’s always done is he will get a bunch of green carnations and go around the clients and people in town and just thank them for a variety of things and little stuff like that. I was lucky enough to grow up in a household where that was norm so I look at scenarios I grew up with and try to just lead using the example what my mom and dad have shown over the years because if I ended up doing that I usually end up on the right things
Jay Willis: Yeah! Well that’s neat. So you’ve been in education in and then in school administration for a while and I’m sure that you have some great stories to share about the impact you had a chance to make or at least be a part of in some way. But if you could share with us maybe just one of the most significant stories of the impact you had a chance to make.
Kevin Shelton: It’s tough to choose because again, when I look at the blessings… I have been blessed to work with people who allowed me to be a part of some things as a group. You know and there’s a couple of things going through my head. There’s my first year as an actual Principal. When we had a bunch of administrators, we had a bunch of staff cuts. We class sizes of 30 to 44 students per class and somehow some way we are all in this together we raised their test scores and then we rocked it out… that’s something that pops to my head.
But if I look at Johnsburg High school I look at just a lot of little types of things that pop in my head and we has a scenario where at a Pep rally, we have a variety of programs at our school, and we have we an ALFs program, an assisted living program, where we have students that are trying to learn how to function as best they can in the outside world and really trying to make sure that they have program was accepted by our students and recognized by our students as being important. And so we had a 3-point shooting contest where I challenged the students if they could make a 3-pointer they could hit me in the face with a pie. There’s a lot of things that motivate teenagers but food or being able to throw food apparently is pretty high on the list.
We had quite a few students that were quiet interested but what I had done prior is I had talked with the ALFs teachers and asked if they have a student that can make a basket and they said “yeah, we’ve got one of our students that can do that.” I said well here’s my plan if we can if I can set it up to where basically this student will be the hero where he can be the one to make a basket that allows him to put a pie in my face do you think that would work and so we waited about a week we talked about it and finally decided we think this will work so we ended up doing this and sure enough – I figured some other students would make a shot but as luck would have it they didn’t, and sure enough we get to the point I say it looks like we’re going to have to bring in a ringer. So we brought him in, and he was able to go up and make a basket and as he is getting ready to shoot he students they’re on their feet they’re all clapping and cheering and the crowd goes wild and he was able to put the pie in my face. I still see him around every once in a while and he’ll be like “hey! How’s that pie taste?” So you know things like that where you are able to make an impact. But we’re only able to do that because you’ve got teachers that are well known, who put themselves out there. I was not able to do that if I didn’t trust our students in a situation like that but I really feel a balance and memorable situation for everybody involved. And that was thanks to them it was happened to be the greatest part of it.
Jay Willis: yeah. So kind of backtracking just a little bit. But you had mentioned earlier just how difficult it was maybe gone from being a classroom teacher to then moving into administration or the dark side as people refer to it sometimes. But obviously you know you’re in that position now. And what would you say you’ve noticed is the difference between the impact you had then. I mean I guess just to give people hope who are looking to move from the classroom to administration like. What’s the difference in impact that you had as a teacher and an impact that you have now as administrator?
Kevin Shelton: I remember someone telling me that exact question you just had. They said, “You will have more impact as an administrator than you ever had as a teacher.” At the time I was a teacher and I didn’t believe it but I firmly believe it’s true and I really feel, when I look at the scenarios that we’ve been able to accomplish, with the different hiring committees that we’ve had, with the different curriculum committees that we’ve had, the different programs we’ve been able to start and it only happens with groups of people. But as a principal or the administrator so many times you are the main facilitator of putting it out there and being the one competent enough to go out and say “hey, you know I’m really looking at trying to push things forward with this, and is anyone interested?” And then having Most people respond and then being able to move forward with an educational initiative or even just a hiring aspect…even with just a hiring aspect you have such an unbelievable opportunity to bring in quality people that will just make a difference in kids’ lives.
I’m so lucky to have that opportunity and I view that as my main responsibility, just bringing in those positive change agents into people’s lives so that their experience at Johnsburg high school can be the best it can be. From a coaching standpoint as well I really feel as an administrator I have an opportunity to coach people in their role as students, as parents and as teachers and help make situations better. We all know there’s gonna be a situations out there are they’re just not good. But hopefully by our involvement we can make it better by doing what you do in a positive way as far as you would have been about. If there’s hope there’s a ton of hope and really an administrative ground where people that are willing to as I said they are jump in and hang on. And I hope people out there that are considering it have enough confidence to give it a try because the best thing that I found if you do the support system that’s there is unbelievable – the administrators, the state organizations. I’m so lucky to be in Illinois, I’m involved in the Illinois Principal Association, they have really made my job so much easier and it was something i totally do not anticipate that when I ran into problems as administrator I wasn’t alone. As a high school teacher you sometimes find yourself, depending on what your schedule, is alone most of the day. You’re with the kids, you don’t necessarily interact with a lot of the faculty. Depending on when and who you have lunch with and who you interact with outside of the classroom. And so you can sometimes find yourself on an island a little bit, as a teacher.
Same thing can be said with the administrator standpoint. However they’re really – with the state organizations as well as other administrators I was shocked and pleasantly surprised and very grateful that those groups are out there. And everybody is more than willing to help; people are not as protective of their programs as they were when I was teaching. When I first started teaching I might go in with a question, “hey what did you do with Romeo and Juliet.” And I get a smile and “I am sure what you decide it will be fine” because everybody always had kind of their pet projects or assignments that they wanted to keep to themselves. I have to tell you in administration I have yet to find anybody that’s not just an open book willing to share. And that have a phenomenal part of the job.
Jay Willis: So I’m going to run through some rapid fire questions if you’re ready for those. So what’s the best leadership advice you’ve ever received.
Kevin Shelton: Be yourself. You got to be yourself. For example if you’re applying for a job somewhere. You don’t want to portray yourself as something different than any other job and then try to be yourself when they try to hire to match your personality. So be yourself. It might mean you don’t get a job here or there but eventually you’ll find a great fit.
Jay Willis: What would you say is your biggest strength as a school administrator?
Kevin Shelton: Building a positive culture. We always start the year where some sort of team building scenario we’ve done scavenger hunts I put together an indoor mini putt courses, we’ve done team building, field trips, we’ve done minute to win it, I’ve stolen a lot of great ideas on that as well on faculty meetings buying a bunch of flowers and having those available for people to give to each other as a token of appreciation. I’ve taken a picture of a teacher, Pat McGorsky, he gave me his permission. I took his picture, plastered it to a big long wooden dowel so people could give each other a “pat” on the back. But I think that’s something that I was able to bring to the table and. If I could have one strength I think that would be.
Jay Willis: So is there a book or two that has been influential in your life in your journey as a school leader that you could recommend to others.
Kevin Shelton: 2 of them are somewhat old and one of them is just new. one that has probably the most impact in me as administrator is called “The Servant” Simple story about true essence of leadership by James Hunter and then “The Hod Carrier: Leadership Lessons Learned on a Ladder” by Mark Kimbell those are two really good ones that are older . The most recent one is “Coaches of Chicago: Inspiring Stories about Leadership and Life” by Paul M. Pryma. Dr. Pryma is someone that I got to know thru my sister in law Jean who worked with him over at Glenbrook North. He just retired. Basically just really put some great leadership messages and something that I think an educator, coach, or administrator should read. I feel it’s an all-encompassing leadership book. So there’s a bunch out there but those are the 3 that I might go to.
Jay Willis: Is there a technology tool like an app or software that you would recommend to other school leaders.
Kevin Shelton: I think Twitter is something that you really need to be a part of. If you’re an educator whether you’re an administrator or a teacher or superintendent. I found more easily accessible and more practical professional the development through Twitter with our goals and ideas it’s just phenomenal. I would strongly suggest people check out various educational talks that are called “EdChat” Each state has one at different times and I know and I for example Cathy Middleton and her group they run one on Monday nights at night at nine o’clock and there’s another one by a phenomenal principal over in Iowa. I believe he has his Sunday night. A great principal in Nebraska has one, and more. So check those out – they really allow you to not only get some good ideas but connect with other educators, administrators. Not just nearby but throughout the nation and sometimes throughout the world. It’s very very powerful. If you’re looking at apps, what I found there’s 2 things that I use. I use Socrative for faculty meetings, which is a way for people to answer questions and give their feedback. For faculty announcements I use PowToon. I just started using it this year. I use that as presentation and giving cartoon message to your staff in a more creative way than just typing an email or I use to kind of talk to them on a video.
Jay Willis: And how is that spelled?
Kevin Shelton: P-O-W-TOON
Jay Willis: So it’s like POW! Okay very good what would you say is your favorite educational quote?
Kevin Shelton: Going back to the servant leader book I was mentioning there’s a great quote on the back of that that I really like and it says “Whether you are chosen for the local neighborhood association or you’re elected to Congress, before you can lead you must serve.” I like that a lot so I think that applies no matter what you are doing or whatever your role in education it is important for us to remember that we are servants to your babies, your kids, your students to each other sometimes.
Jay Willis: What advice would you have for a school administrator for working with the students that they serve?
Kevin Shelton: A leader needs to be visible. So many relationships are built with just the “hello, good morning, how’d you do in the game last night, really liked the play, went to the concert you were awesome, etc.” I try to be out in front of school every day. It doesn’t always happen but I’m a big believer in trying to greet the kids as they get off the bus, out of their cars, and just constantly be a presence.. So any populations you serve if the students are seeing you and it’s a positive interaction…that’s number one. Building relationships from the ground up.
Jay Willis: Yeah. So along those lines what advice would you have for a school administrator for working with the teachers in the building?
Kevin Shelton: I don’t want to sound like a broken record but I would say that the visible aspect is incredibly important too and I learned this the hard way as I mentioned earlier. My first experience in administration there’s a lot of…sometimes there’s a lot of paperwork that goes a long with a lot of tasks and you could easily spend all your time in your office with those type of tasks and it’s really important that you find ways of getting out to the classrooms, getting out in the hallway. Someone I talked to a while ago mentioned a phrase that I like – leadership by walking around. In other words, it’s important that people get to see you out and about interacting with them as well and getting to know you as a person rather than you just coming in just a few times to do their observation and evaluation.
Jay Willis: So are other things you have in place to help keep you grounded in that and remind yourself that you really need to get out and connect.
Kevin Shelton: That’s really a good question and it’s again kind of following the Kevin Shelton model for a while and that’s a hit or miss model and I’m not sure I’ll recommend that! There’s no scientific basis to it. However I would recommend for any new administrators…the thing that is not always taught in cohort classes is how to manage your time, How structure your time, how to delegate, etc. Find some sort of professional development program on how to go about doing that… reason being my secretary Rose does a phenomenal job of helping like put my calendar together and keep everything on task and we went to a program, I’m sure there are others out there, but the one we went through its called “the breakthrough coach” and it’s a 2 day program where the administrator attends alone the first day, and then the both secretary and the administrator attend on the second day so they are both on the same page on what are the tasks that should be done. A secretary or an aide or somebody from a technical standpoint. And what are those tasks that should be done by the administrator? The goal that I have is to get out in the classrooms a full two days a week. I’m not saying I’ve been a 100% successful, but by basically scheduling yourself for this, saying “this is nonnegotiable I’m going to be out in the classroom that this particular time don’t schedule me for anything else”, that really has been the most effective scenario I should and so far and I’ve been much more successful at this year than I’ve been in the past.
Jay Willis: What was that training called again?
Kevin Shelton: It’s called the “Breakthrough Coach”
Jay Willis: That’s interesting I hadn’t heard of it before.
Kevin Shelton: It’s a lot of – we talk about little things in the office, where do you keep your files, what do you have on your walls. She really breaks it down into a little things and there’s one thing when it comes to trying to talk about creating time in which time management is very essential. That’s definitely something I would recommend to folks.
Jay Willis: Yeah. I learned a little bit about the former C.E.O. I can’t remember his name off the top of my head, but the take away that I got from him was just how focused they were on the attention to detail. You know really training their people. Make sure that there’s not a… like people shouldn’t see trash on the ground they shouldn’t see this and when you know what you want to create a magical experience for people from the moment they walk in the door. And you want the whole experience to just be you know top notch. Because then they walk away from the whole thing and they think wow that was just awesome and it was what really stood out to me about that was just. It’s all about the little things. You know
Kevin Shelton: I agree. That is a really great example you know Disney has been the best of customer service.
Jay Willis: So if somebody wants to reach out to you after the show what would be the best way to connect with you?
Kevin Shelton: I would say with Twitter that is the most consistent for me and that’s @sheltonskyhawk on Twitter. That would probably be the best. They can also e-mail me directly if they want to that’s kshelton(at)johnsburg12.org so if you go to our website you’ll be able to see any connections you need as far as owner things like that. But I would strongly recommend Twitter.
Jay Willis: So last question. If you had a time machine and you could jump in the time machine and go back to the point in time. When you were a teacher and you had just made the decision to move into school leadership. If you could give yourself. Advice. What advice would you give to your younger version of yourself?
Kevin Shelton: That’s a good one I would say that this is going to be the most challenging and rewarding journey you’ve ever taken and there’s going to be times where you’re going to wonder why you went this route. But it’s more than worth it in the end and it’s gonna be okay just keep on plugging away and be yourself. If there’s anything I can tell my younger self is be yourself and trust your gut. In regards to what you feel is right. As far as interactions of people, decisions that needs to be made and you’re going to be just fine.
Jay Willis: Great advice. Edu Leaders this has been a great interview today. For the show notes of Today Show and other resources visit EducatorsLead.com and type the word Kevin into the search tool to find the show notes. Kevin thank you for sharing your journey with us today. And that wraps up another episode of educators lead.
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Educators Lead is a podcast created to help launch educators into the next level of leadership. This show is for you if you are interested in educational leadership as an assistant principal, principal, superintendent, teacher or someone who hopes to be a school leader one day. Educators Lead offers inspiration and practical advice to help you lead more effectively. Jay Willis interviews school leaders three days a week to discuss why and when these educators made the decision to move into school leadership, challenges along the journey, and stories that made it all worthwhile. Educators Lead is a great resource for any educator looking to make a greater impact.
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