Intro to Doug Timm (1:40)
Doug shares some personal information about his family and pastimes (2:15)
Doug’s unusual career path into educational administration by way of Seoul, Korea (3:40)
Some of the benefits of taking a new admin job halfway through the school year (11:00)
How Doug decided he wanted to be a school administrator when he was 12 years old (13:59)
Getting his master’s degree in school leadership (16:05)
Some of Doug’s biggest challenges on the path to becoming a school administrator (16:31)
Doug shares a story about helping a student who was having a rough time get on a better path (21:20)
How an administrator’s impact is much different than the impact teachers have (26:20)
How living and teaching English as a Second Language in Korea influenced Doug as an administrator, and why Doug thinks every college grad should spend the first six months after graduation in a foreign country (28:40)
The best leadership advice Doug ever received and the importance of making big promises and working hard to make them happen (33:17)
Some great ideas for really getting to know your teachers and students (34:00)
Be willing to say yes and take risks and not worrying about the consequences of trying something new (36:10)
Doug’s top five book recommendations for Edu-leaders (38:26)
Some apps and tools Doug uses and recommends (40:39)
A great quote about education from Albert Einstein (42:15)
Doug’s advice for how to work with students (43:30)
Doug’s advice for how to work with teachers – let them know you care and that you have their back (46:00)
If he had a time machine, what Doug would go back and tell himself when he was first starting out as an administrator – spend more time in the classroom and don’t take on too much outside responsibilities (50:45)
Books mentioned in this episode
Apps and tools mentioned in this episode
Connect with Doug Timm
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Podcast Session #17
Win Teachers Over By How You Handle Trouble-Making Students in the Classroom
Show notes: http://www.educatorslead.com/dougtimm/
This is the Educators Lead podcast with Jay Willis, Session #17. Let’s go!
Intro: Douglas Timm is in his second year as Principal of Carrie Downie Elementary School in the Colonial School District located in New Castle, Delaware. He has been a school administrator since 2005 and now leads a school community that supports each other, takes academic risks, and accepts all challenges to unlock the full potential of their 21st century learners. Doug truly believes in systems, processes, and using technology to enhance learning and to create student entrepreneurs. That’s just a brief introduction Doug but tell us a little bit more about yourself and your personal life.
Doug: Well I’m currently married. I have 3 children ages 4, 6 and 7. My son is the oldest and I have two younger daughters. So many things that I really I’m a big sports guy so I am enjoying watching sports. It doesn’t really matter which sport for me. I’m a big music person. Music is a part of everything that I do, whether be it for professional development which I might get into later to driving the car to cleaning my garage and so no matter what it is usually music is prevalent in my life. And by the way, I’m just playing with my kids, walking my dog, spending time at home and as much as I can although I’m busy at home with my children and wife, hang-out with friends. So that’s kind of who I am as of today.
Jay: Yeah, so what kind of music do you listen to if you don’t mind me asking?
Doug: It’s very eclectic; I was a college DJ at a night club for a semester and also ran a college radio show when I was a goalkeeper on Elizabethtown College. So the backup goalkeeper and I, we had a radio show once a week and then I DJ’d at a night club so I played, early in the night it was country and rock n roll, and then late at night it was rap and hip hop so I enjoyed everything. I don’t really like country but everything from rock music to dance music to rap and hip hop so and everything in between.
Jay: Yeah, that’s neat. So tell us a little bit about your career path, the journey.
Doug: Sure. I graduated college in 2001 and didn’t have much of a focus on what I wanted to do, but I knew I didn’t want to get right into teaching in a regular school district like that so I searched the world and found the job teaching English in Sun Gap Poo, Seoul Korea and spent about 11 months teaching English to students in a private school. A gentleman named Mr. Dy was my, I guess you call it principal or manager. I really just kind of immersed myself in their society within you know, within a mile radius there were about 7 English speakers. We lived amongst the Koreans. It wasn’t like a military base. We lived totally in what they call, my neighbors called it “Dongs” and we lived in one of those. My roommate was from New Zealand and some from Australia and two Canadians, couple of Americans and you know, we just kind of do more things for 11 months and had a lot of fun. So learned a lot from that, definitely when you’re very much an outsider, you know you’re treated much differently than you are when you’re in America so that’s my life experience I would share with anybody.
Doug: After that, I came back to the states and the spring of that year, got a job as a substitute teacher for about 3 months because it’s hard to find jobs in the spring. I was at that point then had gotten the itch to travel and kind of explore out of the way and I substituted at a number of different schools from 6th grade all the way down to 1st grade, but never had the pleasure of teaching kindergarten. But did everything great in between and all sorts of schools everything from very low SES schools to the more high social economic schools. And then found a job teaching 5th grade at Southern Elementary School the following year, just a regular 5th grade class with you know, 27 to 28 student. I taught there for 5 years and then got a job as a student adviser which is sort of a pseudo-administrator though, at that point I wasn’t doing the school discipline issues. Then it was on to a middle; I worked there for 3 months and then 1 day, the Deputy Superintendent came in the middle of a hall change and walked over to me and said, “Doug, are you ready?” and I thought to myself, “Ready for what?” and I say, “Yes, if you’re ready” he goes like, “Are you ready for the next step?” I said, “I feel like I’m ready” I was 27 years old and about a week later I got an email from the secretary of the superintendent saying that he wanted to meet with me. And that was back then you understood that that was code for you’re getting a new job. So I didn’t think “Oh, are you getting me fired?” …something in between there you know that.
Doug: I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong, so I went in, met with him and he told me that I was gonna be the assistant principal at Georgia Middle School which is also in Colonial and not far from where I was. But it was a different school, a much larger school. At that point the superintendent that we had was not in the interview process, a lot of times, people are just appointed to different positions so that’s what happened to me. I’m not gonna say that I was ready, I know I told the Deputy Superintendent, I was ready but then again when he asks you that question in the middle of the hallway and you’re not prepared, you know you have to say, “Yes.” You can’t say, “No, I’m not ready”. So I was appointed there the day after Thanksgiving break. They were doing a change right at the beginning of the year sort of. The principal that was there and the assistant were being moved elsewhere and a new principal and myself were going to join another student advisor and a 2nd assistant principal. And I started the Monday after thanksgiving break with having about 3 hours of transition time, the Tuesday before that break started. So I walked in not knowing one staff member’s name, not knowing any kids’ names. I didn’t even know the principal’s name although I had known him from some previous things but I didn’t quite realize that right away and hit the ground running that first day. Had to break up a fight in the first 5 minutes, yeah, I did the best I could in the 15 minutes before the students arrived to kind of talk to them and you know we had some introductions but you know with a big group of people, you’re just explaining, “Hello I’m here” you don’t get to meet people necessarily.
Doug: So it was like you know baptism by fire. Made it through the first week, I don’t know if I enjoyed it or not but I made it and then on, I just kind of fit in there. I had an awesome fellow assistant principal who really helped me through the first really 3 years. And then our principal was there obviously to support as well but her and I, we were really were a team that worked pretty tightly together and she had been there for a year and a half and kind of taught me the ropes. And then after that, I continued there for actually about 8 years. The principal later left and a new principal came in with a sort of new focus in direction. That was a great transition. She really kind of steered us in the right direction. She really kind of held us to be very accountable but was very very much more supportive. I’ve been there already 3 and half years kind of found my niche for what I am really good at. She encourages me to try new things. I really took on things like school climate and the English Department and try to try to help mold those things to be better than what they were. So, that was pretty successful for the next 3 and a half years or 3 years or so and then you know I basically told the higher ups that I was ready for a principal’s job. So they had said to me, “You need some more experience” because I wanted to be an elementary principal. And I said “If you want to be an elementary principal then you need to go to the elementary schools” so I was again appointed or moved to an elementary school for 3 months. And the whole while I’d been doing some interviews for principal jobs at elementary level within the district and had not gotten any of them. Probably interviewed 3 or 4 times and not gotten any of those positions. Spent 3 months at this other elementary school and I taught at Southern and then a job came up what I’m currently now at Carrie Downie, the lady who was the principal here, who coincidentally was the same principal that was at Georgia Reed was the principal here which was interesting. And she was retiring, so she retired in December, I got the job in late November and then I had about 2 weeks to transition with her which was much better than 3 hours.
Doug: And then I started officially on the first day after break in January of 2014 so and I’ve been here ever since and it’s been about 2 and a half years.
Jay: Yeah, still made a year though (laughs…)
Doug: Yeah, you know what though; I got to say I think coming in in January is the best thing for a principal. I would argue anyone…you can get to know…and you don’t have to necessarily set up a schedule. You don’t have to necessarily get things – like a lot of the management things were already established and you just have to continue them whether I liked them or not then didn’t really matter. They were working and I just had to continue that and I could spend a lot of time getting to know my staff and the students and the community and the parents and all of the different stakeholders that you have to build super relationships, your strong relationships with if you’re going to do anything.
Jay: Yeah. So I can see that.
Doug: Yeah, that’s the story.
Jay: It’s great. So yeah I could actually see how that could be a benefit because you know if everything’s already kind of set in motion for the year then you could really just kind of get the lay at the land and then you feel for how things are going on and probably spend more time like you said, developing this relationships instead of spending all your time like making decisions and hoping that you weren’t gonna step on thier toes.
Jay: You could just kind of jump in were somebody else had already made a lot of those decisions for you so, I could see …
Doug: Yeah, and I’ll answer that. The one benefit you know, my staff is super supportive, they’re a great group of teachers that I have here and the added benefit to that was you know, in the Spring after I’ve been there a month and kind of I knew who was I was a little bit and I knew who they were, you know I can have this conversations with them and say, “What kind of direction do we want to take the following year? What do we want to do? How do we want to push ourselves? What do we want to change? I mean can we develop that together?
Doug: If I came in in the Summer, a lot of vision and direction maybe just decided by a small group or just by myself and then if it doesn’t work, you have that whole year, you kind of have to through with it and then restart again. I had a, you know I had a head start. I could really get the pulse of the building and the staff. That way, with 2015 that September, that next year had you know we can hit the ground running and not have to think about you know is the staff gonna be ok with this? Is this change gonna be ok? Is this modification gonna be ok? You know, “this was good, that was not good”, etc.
Doug: Let’s go with it.
Jay: That’s great. Yeah, you know that’s great. I’m sure you had a chance to collaborate with those people instead of just kind of making executive decisions and hoping they’re ok with it so.
Doug: Yeah, we really use an extra space you know the management team approach to do that. We just identified problems that were having, came up with possible solutions and then built consensus from that of which one of these solutions will actually make sense.
Doug: And that’s kind of what we did, I really believe in that process so that’s what we went through. It took you know, many meetings but it was all worth it. And we also develop our vision, part of our vision as a whole, risk taking, 21st century learners, that’s kind of…it was all developed in that time.
Jay: Right, so at what point, I mean I know you mentioned the hallway conversation, maybe that’s it but what, at what point did you make the decision to move into school leadership?
Doug: I made that decision when I was about 12 years old.
Jay: Wow. Ok.
Doug: Yeah, I was a camp counselor at a summer camp and I’ve been sort of a pseudo-camp counselor since I was like 10 for the little guys and I think it was no pay you know it was a volunteer and then at 12 I was allowed to have my own group. And I just kind of felt love I know it sounds like being a teacher but at 12 years old, when you have power over you know to 5 or 6 years old, and by power I mean you know, you ask them to do things and you expect them to do it. It kind of, it show me you know what, people will actually follow me and maybe they follow; a 6 years old and I’m 12 years old but it was something that kind of told me, I always knew I wanted be in Education but I think at that point I really realize you know, my path was towards administration in school leadership and I just, I like sort of being upfront and having this support behind me but having people you know around me that really believe in the same things that I believe in and building consensus like that and then go away with it. You know, I’m not afraid to take a lot of chances and I’m not afraid to take risks. I’m not afraid to say, “You know we are the best school and we are what we are” and I think my staff is taking on that same sort of mantra and it kind of it to me, it’s powerful, you know I have a little bit of an edge to self. You know and I guess that’s I’ve had that since I was a little kid and I guess that’s why I felt like I wanted to get into leadership and kind of work with it.
Jay: So, along the journey, you know I guess once you, because you got what your undergraduate degree. I don’t know if you shared that; what is your or where is that from or what was that it?
Doug: It was a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Ed from Elizabethtown College in.
Jay: Ok, so then once you had decided, were there extra classes that you had to take in order to move into school administration?
Doug: Yeah, I had to get my masters. Well you can go a couple of different ways; I chose to get amasters in school leadership so that’s a 2-year program. I went to Wilmington University. Did it all after school, I taught at the same time but we didn’t have kids. My wife and I at that time so I wasn’t, you know no big deal.
Jay: Yeah, that’s good, so I’m sure that somewhere along the pathway, you know just taking the extra classes, you know while you’re a teacher maybe taking those classes. I’m that there were some ups and downs as you are preparing to become an administrator? What do you think were some of the biggest challenges before you actually became an administrator during that you know on the pathway?
Doug: I think a lot of biggest challenges for me are internal; you know for me a lot of it, I’m not someone that enjoys school, I love working in schools but I’m not a natural student at all and for me it was an internal struggle. I needed to get through this to be done in order to become an administrator. And that’s really the only thing that kind of drove me with needing, knowing that I had to have the Certification. By doing that I had to have to these classes and finish them so for me it was a constant reminder that, you know you have to get this work done. You have to get through it. Like I said, I didn’t have you know I know a lot of people go through school and have kids at home and everything else. You know my wife and I, we were married at the time we got married pretty young but we didn’t have some of those outside of things that you would say, “Oh that would have kept me” …we could have both been going to class the same night, the entire night every day each week and wouldn’t really matter to anybody. You know, we would have never seen each other but you know sometimes that might be a good thing those but I will say you know, just for me it was just the motivation to get through classes and get the work done. And I know that sounds horrible coming from a principal of a school but it’s something that I always struggled with and if I have a passion for it like my job, I’ll do this job you know from 7 until 12 everyday but 3 things that I will think are important, I really struggle to get through those.
Jay: Yeah, you say that but I bet you can, I bet you can empathize and relate with a lot of your students better probably as a result of that. You now like you not necessarily being super excited about school, itself, you know like you’re you going through school and taking those classes and all that. I would guess that you probably can connect with a lot of your students who feel you know similarly in ways that you wouldn’t necessarily be able to, if you’re always in A student and you just love school and couldn’t wait to get back and just love studying and all that so.
Doug: Yeah, I definitely think so. And I think you know it probably helps me more in the middle school that it does in the elementary school. Because in middle school, you tend to build those kind of relationships that are different than in elementary. You know maybe my 5th graders and some of the 4th graders. But you’re right. In middle school, when I was an 8th grade, I was in charge of 8th grade discipline for a little while and then 6th grade discipline for a little while and primarily 7th grade discipline and yeah you know, they could come in say, “Mr. Timm, I just don’t like working today” you know I’d say, “You know what’s going on? Let’s talk about this, let’s talk about what’s going to happen that if you choose not to work because I felt like you. You’re right, you’re absolutely right” And we would talk about consequences and decisions and choices that could be made and what would be, what would be the natural consequences if get in through the work and I will always say to them, “You know, you’re absolutely can choose to not do the work, you can go back and put your head down. We cannot force you to work. No one in here can” and I always ask him that question, “Who can make you work?” and then they say like, “My mom” “You know, your mom. No your mom can’t make you work” “Well, my teacher” “No, your teacher can’t make you work” “Well, you can Mr. Timm” “No. really I can’t make you work” and I think once they realize that they have now an ultimate power but then also realized that with that ultimate power comes ultimate responsibility and then they start to think “You know what, who am I fighting here” Why am I turning this into a power struggle. Let me just get this stuff done. Because often times when you find out with the middle school kids, it becomes a part of a struggle between the teacher and the student. And there, it’s not about necessarily the work, it’s about who has the power over what they’re doing. And I think if you can allow the kids to realize it, no matter what, they have ultimate power. Then they’re ok taking some commands from people. But it’s not something you just had in one conversation with them then they get it. I mean, their hormones are crazy you know, and they’re all live in the place right there.
Doug: Most of them never get it but the ones that do this, really tough kids that didn’t do the work and then start doing it, making improvements, I mean that’s what you have to hold on. And I think that’s why you know, as a middle school person, you go home at night, you really smile and say, you really mean a difference. At least one kid’s attitude a day this year, so I do miss that quite a bit. I mean, I would never trade for that but I do miss having those sorts of conversation. That was a real conversation with kids. Like I said, I can have a few of those of my 5th graders but the most part in middle school that was something special.
Jay: So, kind of to dig a little bit deeper into that. I know you’ve been in school administration for a while and you probably have just some really neat stories where you’ve had a chance to directly or indirectly impact the lives of a student or a teacher or you know and sometimes maybe both. But take us if you don’t mind, if you could share just one of the most meaningful stories that you’ve had, of the impact that you’ve been able to make.
Doug: That’s a good question. A lot of them unfortunately had ended…let me think, let me get out of my negative brain here and get some positive. We had it for a long time in the middle school that I was at didn’t have the grace reputation, it’s since very much turned around. But we had, we had many difficulties. I say probably one of the things, one of the ones I remember, this is from earlier on. It was a young lady who, not into much detail but she had a drug problem even in 8th grade. And had a really poor attendance, she had just absolute poor attendance and it was horrible. And what would happen is that when she tended to get in trouble, she would, the only person that she would really talk to to calm down and talk was me. She just trusted that what I told her on many levels would be understood and then also sort of kept between us unless it was something that obviously I needed to really share with somebody else. She trusted that I wouldn’t judge her or treat her a certain way because of what she told me.
And I think what ended up happening towards the end of the year, she kind of got her act together and sort of the reason why I picked this as my success story is… just the final sort of last few months, the realization that you know I was that was person for her that kind of got her through 8th grade and she, she never really thanked me, but she did make it through. She went on to high school, and I kinda lost track after a year or two, so I don’t know how the story end. But she would come in and just say certain things to me and like she shared about, “Today’s going to be a good day” you know like early in the morning. And ok that’s great. You know, that was her way of saying, “Thank you, I know you’re there for me” so let me know, let me know how I’m doing this was what she was kind of asking and I would check on her frequently and just kind of walk in her room, you know kind of give her like a look and she’d kind of give me like a you know, like everything’s good and I’d turn around and walk out and yeah I just I don’t know, that was probably the one that I can remember and it’s been something like I guess I really hope she gets through that because it started off really poorly and I didn’t think we were gonna make it through the first month so that – don’t get me wrong, she got in trouble for the last few months, yeah, definitely got suspended a few times but we always welcomed her back with open arms, but she definitely still continued to make poor choices. This was not something where she turned herself 100% around.
Doug: But going from someone I didn’t think was gonna make it at all. To someone that made it through the end of the year and was there that on last day in school. That to me was a success.
Jay: Yeah, well and it sounds like you probably were able to through your influence in the environment she was in there at the school probably be the primary positive impact on her life. If I would guess just with a lot of things maybe in her home life or other things, I mean who knows exactly but obviously you’re the reason that was positive for her.
Doug: Yeah, I think too. I think, you know sometimes I think what a position of power assistant principals are to kids. I think when they realize that the person who is in the utmost power who makes the decision on whether or not they can attend school by suspending them or calling their parents or whatever. I think when they can trust that person, there’s a big weight lifted off their shoulders. I mean, she had great, we had great teachers and she had great relationship with those teachers. But I think her relationship with me was like “he’s the ultimate power. The buck stops with him. If I can trust him, then I can make it through this year because I know that if I make mistakes, I will still come back in this building.” Because I think some administrators and I’ve seen this attitude. It is, “No, this kid can’t go here, he can’t be successful or she can’t be successful. It’s not gonna happen here. They are just too ruined or too messed up,” and that’s an attitude that I don’t take and I think she was hoping, you know she was sort of self-destructive and hoping that that was the attitude I was going to take and when I continue to say, “No, we’re good. You know we’re still good no matter what you do, we’re always gonna be good.” I think she finally started to realize that. That’s what kind of turned it around because I, I mean like I said, I think she had great relationships with the teachers. She just, she wanted to self-destruct and we just kind of we wouldn’t let her.
Jay: Yeah, that’s great. So, I have what would you say is probably the biggest difference between the impact you had as a teacher versus the impact you have now as an administrator?
Doug: I mean just in my current role as a principal here at Carrie Downie. I think the biggest difference is you know, as a teacher I could, the beauty of being a teacher is that you can get really detailed with how you are dealing with kids. Whether it be academically or behaviorally. Whether it’s the behavior plan or academic plan, whether it be the added teachings that you’re asking them to do or taking things off their plan or whatever it is, you can be very detailed in that. I’m very much surface level with my student’s except I would say there’s probably 4 or 5 that I have you know regular contact with on a daily basis through checking with me or check out with me or me checking with them. But for the most part of the 400 students in this school, you know I have a very surface level of high fives, how are you doing, kind of relationship with them. I know most of their names, if not close to all of them. But it stops there, I think the difference in what I like about being a principal and the influence of that, is I can have an umbrella over everyone or cloud or whatever you call it and people can look at me and say, just like with that girl, things are going to be ok. But knowing that if I continue to stay positive, and push the message of the good things that are about school. I mean we had a very active social media presence but on top of that within the school building, I mean things like you know, smiling at kids, high fiving them and you know asking them how they’re doing. I mean just simple little things, you know meeting them where they’re at. You know, for example when I talk to a kindergarteners, I never, I always bend over and I’m I don’t mean I bend over I you know get in like a catcher’s stance and talk to them because you know they can’t talk to you. I mean, I’m 6’3, I mean they can’t, literally I can’t hear them, if they’re talking to me in a crowded room. So, I think just showing staff that you know that’s how again, you know my staff knew this stuff but just continuously modeling that and kids realizing that “This is a great place to be because Mr. Timm loves his job.”
Doug: You know, he loves his job so much that how could we not like to come here as well. And I think that’s the kind of attitude that the kids had taken on.
Jay: Yeah, yeah that’s great. Set the example. That’s great. So another question I had because you have a really unique experience and you had a chance to teach in another country, how do you think that experience impacted you as an educator?
Doug: The teaching part probably not so much. I mean the educational system that I was in was a private school. Like I said, the kids came in and I talked them for 45 minutes. Interesting story from that, as we got new groups of kindergarteners, I literally have to name them; I gave them their American names. I mean, they all have Korean names.
Jay: Oh wow!
Doug: Obviously, so I did name them and I would give them names that my friends at home. In a couple of classes, every single friend that I had from home were with their names so like Brandon and Danny and like the kids had no idea but it helped me remember their name number 1 but that was cool because I literally name them to their American name and they keep those name forever so as the American were English name, I mean obviously like I said they go by their Korean names but that was an interesting thing. But it was just a life experience. It was a life experience of meeting different people working with – there are Korean teachers there. We do 45 minutes of Korean instruction and we do 45 minutes of English instruction. We all taught in English but they were there to help me translate at their end. At my end I was in the classroom, like I said I would go into a brand new group of kindergarteners by myself. Whenever I spoke in English, just getting them to say “Hello” you know, you have to model it. And I guess that part was interesting because you would say things like “Great teacher, I’ve been there before” and I told the kids “Repeat everything that person says” so I get in there and say “Hello” and they get “Hello”. “Ok everybody” then “Ok everybody” I’m like “No, no no” and like “No, no no”. Don’t repeat everything you know and so. I had to kind of get used to that. And how do I teach because I never taught ESL and this wasn’t ESL, this was I don’t know, I don’t know what you call it. The opposite of ESL but anyway that part was interesting. But it was just really just a life experience and I think being a, you know, I’m a white male and Koreans are very a homogenous society in South Korea. I mean, there aren’t many people living in Korea that aren’t Korean and being different you know and being looked at differently was definitely eye opening and being like I said, a white male in America.
Doug: And that was something I think that I can take with me forever and says, “You know I at least have an understanding of what that means” as well as just having to overcome all sorts of things. I mean Korean language. It doesn’t even used there’s no letters, I mean just Korean symbols that are you know put together. So I had to learn that. I mean, there was no handbook I mean, I was picked up and dropes off by this guy from New Zealand who had been there for six months so he kind of knew the lay of the land and I could kind of rely on him for a little while but you know there wasn’t an orientation. I started the first day after I got there. Yeah, so I was constantly just being dropped to places and told to perform and that’s kind of how I learned that. I don’t think that’s the best way to learn.
Doug: Like I said, I think my transition here at Carrie Downie was 2 weeks with the person who was here was a much better way to do it but you are not always afforded that opportunity so.
Jay: What do you think that landed to you, I mean just having that experience on another country where you just kind of fly by the city do you think that, that prepared you for some of the you know, the challenges that you might have been prepared for you know as a school leader.
Doug: Yeah, I mean I would suggest anyone that leaves college, the first six months after college, you should spend in a different country and live there where there’s a language that you cannot speak or do not know how to speak.
Doug: I mean, I didn’t speak Korean, I didn’t speak any Korean nor can I read it so I would suggest, every single person leaving college or high school or whatever spend six months on another country and you will not be afraid of anything at that point as far as what it is on life challenges. There’s nothing that I don’t think that I can’t conquer. I mean, there’s a certainly physical challenge that I could not conquer but as far as living situation, you know I think that I can probably get through 99% of situations that you put me in.
Jay: Yeah, I would think that helped you develop really a very healthy problem solving mindset, kind of like you know what you’re talking about.
Doug: Yeah, I mean I think it did. I guess so I would not have traded that experience for anything.
Jay: That’s neat. So I’m gonna roll through some rapid fire questions, if you’re ready for those.
Jay: So first of, what’s the best leadership advice you’ve ever received?
Doug: The best leadership advice I had ever received was number 1, get to know the building and your staff and be yourself.
Jay: Ok, you want to elaborate on that, go ahead.
Doug: You know and being yourself, just being authentic. I also another piece actually, another piece of leadership advice is you know; make big promises and then work with it, act with it to make them happen. So I always kind of last 2 years I make big promises to my staff and this is what I want to do. One issue was eradicating all state testing; you know so how do I do that? Well, there are steps along the way to kind of get there. How do we eradicate state test, and when we have this come up with another means to show that kids are learning and how do we do that, well the steps to get to that is where you learn. Do I think we’re actually gonna eradicate state testing in one year? No, absolutely not. But that’s our goal. We have to come up with lots of creative ways for kids to produce products to show mastery to get there and that’s kind of you know the vision if you’re just looking to say, let’s create some greater project as well. To me that’s not a big enough goal so anyway, that will be and that’s me and that’s me being me and that’s the explanation of being authentic to yourself and being honest.
Doug: Getting to know your staff part of that is just being in their rooms, seeing their styles, seeing who they are and I mean, getting to know them personally is great as well. But you really want to know what the tendencies are on the classroom. I spend very little time in my office. That’s always frustrating to some people. I know my secretary would love me to be in my office more but I do carry a radio so she can call me on that and I can run down here if I need to. But I do discipline in the hallway, if I needed to talk to a kid who has a referral, I go and I always pick them up. I never call for a kid unless there are already kids in my office. So I want to see the teachers in action to see what they’re doing so that when I talk to them and give them feedback, there’s an understanding and a trust and a basis of what I’m talking about. You know if I know it was just something what wasn’t a great lesson, then I’ll say that wasn’t great. I’ve seen you ten other times. If it’s even for 5 minutes, I know that that kind of situation is abnormal for you. So when I say, get to know the staff, I don’t go out to happy hour with them. I mean be in the classrooms, as much as possible, I mean you can do that, that’s good too but being there with them and live the struggle with them. I mean they need to see that you have seen the struggle. And I’ve taught lessons – I haven’t done any this year, the last year. I’ve taught a couple of lessons and allowed the student teachers who were in there to watch me. I recorded myself and show the staff so little things like that can help but it’s really just that consistency day to day being in there. I challenge myself from time to time with a hashtag. And I challenge myself from time to time and get into every classroom in that day and tweet a picture out from that class so that kind of keeps reminding me that that’s important.
Jay: Yeah, it’s good. What would you say is your biggest strength as a school administrator?
Doug: My biggest strength is probably my work ethic and my ability to say yes. Just do it, I mean there’s no reason why we can’t try and not care, I mean I make that attitude of not caring what’s the consequences are while you’re trying something that you think would be totally awesome. I think that’s a strength, and I’m not talking about being reckless I mean but you know, you’ve never done simultaneous multiple – one thing I blogged about was doing multiple rooms and having kids and having these rooms going at the same time and with all sorts of …. in the background. You know, let’s just try. We’ll see what happens you know. Through this process we might learn something pretty cool. So that’s I don’t know, I guess that’s kind of the one thing I think that the strength of mine and just … it’s definitely not laissez-faire, its focused and passionate but it just the work ethic with passion.
Jay: Yeah, so when you say, I don’t care you don’t mean you don’t necessarily care about the outcome, it’s just more. If I’m reading that right, you’re saying, “Be willing to fail” like “Be ok with it if it just completely blows up in your face and bombs” because I think the big thing is, a lot of people are just so afraid like what if this fails that there unwilling to try and so what I’m I’ve taken from that and correct me if I’m wrong but is just like when you say not care just just be willing for it to just blow up in your face but at least try. You know give it a try and see if it’s gonna work.
Doug: Yeah, absolutely right. Give it a try, see if it’s gonna work but if it doesn’t work, I’m not gonna ding you for it. I know that’s a complaint that I’ve heard from teachers in the past well, what if it doesn’t work and I get a bad you know bad whatever observation or walk through or I get dinged for that. Well. I’m not dinging you for anything. I mean, if you deserve to be dinged, you’ll get dinged but if you’re taking that riss and we understand that that’s what’s going on and no that’s not gonna happen.
Jay: Yeah, yeah and at least you’ve learned something from it even if you do you know, “fail” you know something in the process so.
Jay: So is there a book or two that had made an impact on your life, your role as a school leader that would recommend to others?
Doug: Yeah, I mean this one’s probably a retread that probably most people enjoy but I really like the Jim Collins book Good to Great that’s one that I really enjoyed. I really enjoyed Seth Godin’s book, Tribes which is a very good one and one that I just recently finished this summer actually Dr. Carol Dweck’s book Mindset is really good as well but the one I just finished this summer by Josh Waitzkin was The Art of Learning. Lots of really good things in there about how important it is for practice to become perfect and a certain you know, his whole idea is the more you practice, the more automatic things become so that when challenges arise or when you challenge yourself, it becomes much easier to overcome those challenges because all the pre-work is already accomplished and finished and you’re ready to move on so it kind of helped me as a school leader because it made me think about not only my delivering, talking with staff but also about how I want to talk to them about how they deal with their students so.
Jay: Good. You know I’ll make sure to put in the show notes, I’ll add those books so if people are interested and check on those to see that …
Doug: Well actually one more book.
Jay: Yeah, go ahead.
Doug: I’m looking my bookshelf and Lincoln on Leadership by Donald Phillips. It’s a short read about some of the things that Abraham Lincoln did and one thing I learned from him was sometimes you write that email and you never send it. You really want to send it but you write it anyway because it needs to be written and to get it off your chest but then you just leave it draft mode or to delete it or printed it and put in in a folder for later reading but never send that email. Do not send it.
Jay: But sometimes it so therapeutic just to write it, you know just to get it out you know so sometimes I just actually I address those to myself just so I don’t accidentally hit send.
Doug: Oh that’s really funny.
Jay: So yeah, that’s great so is there any kind of software, technology kind of tool that you used that maybe most people wouldn’t be aware of, that it’s really a great tool for you.
Doug: As far as productivity stuff, I’m really I mean we’re a Google Apps for Education School District so I am familiar with all those different things. We as a school use LMS which is you know, very good, I don’t think there’s anything totally off the beaten path. I use Voxer a lot to communicate and collaborate with people outside of well, actually within my school building too but also outside of my school building. I had a very active Youtube channel but again nothing that you know totally different than anyone else that I could think of. So yeah, there’s I mean we use School Messenger to get messages to parents, reminders, you know we have a Twitter, a kind of Twitter hashtag, Facebook. I’m looking at my phone and yeah there’s nothing really shocking or different I think, I think you just have to be really good and efficient with what you got. I mean I have like 6 or 7 go to’s and you know especially Voxer I’m talking to people on Twitter, and you see stuff like 21 newest apps! and 22 different things! I don’t need like I don’t know if I’m really really good at loading things up to YouTube from iMovie. Isn’t that good enough? DoI need to learn WeVideo and all those other ones and you know Camtasia, I don’t know? It just seems to be overkill after a while.
Jay: Yeah, just use a few that work. Yeah I agree, you can you can kind of get muddled down with and this stuff that does all these different things. So, do you have a favorite educational quote that you would share?
Doug: Favorite educational quote, I don’t know if I have a favorite educational quote that I will share. I don’t know I can’t that’s a part I guess I’m looking at some of the things that I had sort of thought about. And none of them speak to me as much as I would have hoped. I guess, you know one from Albert Einstein was always good you know education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school. I mean that’s kind of interesting because I was someone that never enjoyed school but I don’t know you know and there’s also that Winston Churchill quote. I don’t know exactly how it goes you know; to change often is to be perfect. Something along those lines. I always like that with as well. So you know, I’m not a big quote guy although I read one every day. I read one every day to my students. So I you know, I also talk out of both sides of my mouth a lot …
Jay: That’s great. (Laughs)
Doug: We often times do things differently than what we say.
Jay: Right. (Laughs) So what advice would you have for working with the students that you serve?
Doug: Care about them. I mean, let them know that you care about them. Make it you know, make it something that everybody knows that you care about them. I often thought as an early administrator, I’m being watched by staff 24/7 when I’m in the building. I’ve never eaten lunch sitting down in my office except on teacher appreciation day, ever. in 8 years. I’ve always eaten either standing up or sat down with a group of students and ate with them in the cafeteria while it wasn’t my lunch duty because I think that little things like that, I never want to appear as if I’m doing something that is not school related. No, I’m not gonna sit here and say that I’ve never done anything in school that’s not school related, I do, absolutely 100%. But I don’t want it to appear as if that’s going on and I don’t want to leave my screen, when a teacher comes in here and I leave my screen Amazon buying you know movies, you know I don’t want that to happen. If that is occurring, I’m hiding that tab before they walk into my office. Appearance and perception is a lot of what you are as a leader. You know I think you need to understand that you are being looked at all the time by the staff and particularly the students so you know you’re sitting in there during lunch duties, talking to them and joking around and you’re expecting them to be quite. Well that may not be fair. If you’re walking around the hallway sipping on a soda, and you tell them you can’t drink soda that may appear to be not fair to kids. So, again I do break this rules all the time because I’m an adult and I’m not perfect but the mindset is to always be watched or act like I’m always being watched and try to live up to that.
Jay: Yeah, I was in other leadership roles and in some of the leadership training that I’ve been a part of, I had heard you know people are only gonna do, people that you’re leading, typically are only gonna do about half of what they see you do, not what you tell them, but what they see you do, so in other words if you want them you know, If you want them to in my case, If you wanted to work a certain number of hours or you probably better at least create the perception that you’re working twice as hard as what you, you know whatever as you want, you determine what that is and then you try to at least create the perception that you’re doing twice what you’re expecting of them.
Doug: That was great. I never heard that. That’s sounds absolutely anchored.
Jay: Yeah, so what advice could you have for working with the other educators in the building, the other teachers?
Doug: You’re talking about for new administrators or just anyone in general?
Jay: Just any administrator, yeah. What advice would you have for them?
Doug: I think it’s just building a common understanding that things are going to be ok. You know teachers have a tendency I think to get really stressed out about things that may not be important, the other part to that is I would say, everything that’s compliance related that you can take off their shoulders to make things much easier, do that as well. So I screen cast – I have a hundred plus screen cast of those mundane tasks, you have to do once a year that aren’t important but will take 6 hours trying to figure out how to get through the website like when somebody could just screen cast the directions for you, you could be done in 15 minutes. So those are some of the things that I do for my staff that I send out as they need them to kind of show them, and I also use that to kind of show them the tech tools that they might be interested as well but so screen cast is one thing that I would say as on the technical side, is very helpful to get that help. But I think it’s just you know, be there for them and be supportive and just remember that no matter how much of an instructional leader and I want to share this thing about servant leaders and lead learners and instructional leaders and I agree with all of that (I don’t know if I necessarily agree with servant leader but that’s a whole ‘nother topic). But no matter what, the teachers want you to be able to take care of the students and their classroom if they’re having a problem with them. That’s the number 1 job of a principal. I don’t care who you are, where you are at. That’s the number 1 job for every teacher everywhere, if you can show that you can do that, and it doesn’t mean you have to have an iron fist, I mean you can do it in a loving way, I’m not any sort of an iron fisted principal but when they ask you for help with somebody you better help them. And if you don’t your gonna not be able to do anything else that you want to do. So I think to me that’s the backbone. Dealing with kids, being proactive whenever possible, working with them to try to figure out solutions if the kid’s a repeated problem, coming up with a whether it be a behavior plan or an intervention plan or whatever it is, you know being that support first and then once that sort of settles then I think – and that can happen very quickly. I’m not suggesting that’s an ongoing process forever, and these things can certainly coexist but once that has occurred, once they have that trust that you’re gonna be there for them for that, then all the other stuff just becomes gravy and you can, you know push that as much as you want.
Doug: Because if they think you care about them and their class and their students and their wellbeing teachers will do anything for you. I think when they think that you don’t care, and you’re just there for your paycheck and you’re just there to collect or you’re just there to get them, or it’s just like it’s us versus them, to me that’s when things break down so I try to avoid that as much as possible sometimes it’s inevitable and sometimes you have to make really hard decisions and sometimes you’re going to make some people angry.
Doug: And sometimes that’s actually ok and beneficial to you. You know I don’t remember who the to give this quote to something along the lines of your staff will try to get away with as much as they think the worst person in the building will get away with it, something along those lines so that’s all important as well.
Jay: Yeah. Well so what you were saying early there, it sounds like if you, if you show them you’ve got their back. But that has really a good way to get them on your team. Is that kind of to summarize what you said – is that fairly accurate?
Doug: Yeah. I think so, absolutely, you got their back and you might even push them a little bit further than where they want to go but you still got their back. Yeah, that’s the idea. Absolutely!
Jay: Yeah, that’s good so what would you say is the best way if people after the show wanted just reach out either on Twitter, Voxer or whatever. What’s the best way to connect with you?
Doug: Twitter is a good way @dougtimm34. I have a blog that’s on there; I mean you can always respond to blogs. I’m on Voxer just doug_timm so if anyone’s looking me up there. That’s I mean I’m on Google Plus but not super super active. I don’t really I’m not really active on Facebook, the school Facebook page. So I would say, if you really want to get in contact with me, just start with Twitter and then you can break a chat from there.
Jay: Ok, so last question.
Doug: And I do constantly have conversation. I have constant conversations; I was just looking at my phone and I have about 7 different Voxer conversations down here so it’s just …
Jay: Wow. I’ve just tiptoed into the Voxer community right now so.
Doug: It’s different.
Jay: So the last question that I have and it’s kind of interesting question but I think it’s valuable for our listeners to be able to hear the answer to it. If you had a time machine and you could jump in it and go back to the point in time when you were a teacher and you now obviously you made the decision to become a school administrator much earlier than that but the point at which you started moving toward maybe a more aggressive pace towards becoming a school administrator and you could give yourself some advice, like what advice would you give to your younger self?
Doug: Stay in the classroom longer. Get a little bit more experience in the classroom is probably the advice I give.
Jay: And why is that?
Doug: Well, because I pushed myself really hard. I mean I became the team leader by 2nd or 3rd year. I ran summer school for the entire elementary thing like my 2nd and 3rd year. I was the lead technology liaison person in my 2nd or 3rd year. My 1st year, I was along the, I was like the vice president of our union. I mean, I don’t know, I pushed myself too hard I think at first, and didn’t do some of those things in my classroom that a really good teacher does. I think my planning was probably suspect for a little while. Yeah, not probably it was definitely suspect for the first couple of years. I can say that now because all of my administrators that broke me up, not wrote me up I mean, wrote me up as far as observations. I know we got a referral right off but as far as observations, they’ve all since retired but they probably agree with my statement. And looking at this, everyone is probably gonna take ‘me out and look at them and say, “Wow that was pretty harsh.”
I would just say yeah “Just continue to stay at it, I mean because I did everything you know to prepare myself but I just really a little too fast, I think” I think if I really had enjoyed, I’d loved being a teacher. I don’t want to say it like that – if I really had taken the time and thought and stopped and just relaxed and lived in a moment of teaching without looking so far ahead to my goal. That I would have gotten much more out of it than my 1st three to four years of giving teachers feedback was really poor and I don’t think that I may made many people better as teachers with feedback. I had to relearn that process because I think that’s the number 1 driver for teacher improvement – observing them and then giving them feedback because we do that on a regular basis now. And that’s just been sort of a new revelation. I think I’ve gotten better at it. I’m still not great but for the 1st 3 to 4 years as an administrator, I was really bad and something I’ve struggled with and I think if I had, had more experiences that I could reflect on from my own teaching that I would have been better during that.
Jay: Yeah, the take away I get from that and it’s something that I have to costly remind myself of is “Be fully present” because like with my wife, with my kids, with my job just an even everyday conversations like I find myself just thinking ahead to Boy, in 10 years I want to be at this place, or in 5 years I want to be this place or you know next week I’m gonna be doing this or whatever it is. And it’s just, just kind of reminding myself to be fully present where I’m at and it’s kind of something I have to remind myself of daily, sometimes multiple times a day.
Doug: Yeah, absolutely! And I think where I’m at right now is where I want to stay. I have no further aspirations. I mean this is what I am, where I want to be. To me, this is my end game. I mean may or may not be and fate will tell me but then that’s where I feel now. I feel relaxed. I can work hard. Give it my all. Be in the moment. Be there for my staff and students and parents and community so it’s a good feeling. And that’s a very calming feeling for me.
Jay: That’s great. Well, edu-leaders this has been a great interview today. And for the show notes of today’s show and other resources visit educatorslead.com and type the word doug into the search tool to find his show notes. Doug, thank you for sharing your journey with us today!
Doug: Yeah Jay, I really appreciate it. It’s been a lot of fun. It’s kind of funny going through all that so I appreciate it.
Jay: Yeah, it was my pleasure. And that represents 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 weekly 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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