Shane talks about his background, family, and hobbies. (1:44)
Shane’s career path, beginning at a small high school where he was a one man social studies department, coached three sports, and even got up early every day to drive a school bus. And he’s now the principal at the same high school he graduated from. (3:55)
What it’s like to be the principal at the same high school he attended (6:00)
The point in his career when Shane decided to move from teaching to administration (7:28)
Dealing with the steep learning curve that new admins have to overcome (9:00)
Juggling a heavy work load, family, and earning a master’s degree (10:20)
Why one of the biggest benefits of a master’s degree is learning how to manage your time effectively (13:40)
Shane’s challenging first year as an administrator (14:20)
Some valuable lessons Shane learned from the challenges of that first year (17:20)
Shane talks about two of his greatest successes as an administrator (18:50)
Shane’s advice on how to stand out when applying for admin jobs (21:25)
The best leadership advice he’s ever received: “Help out even when you don’t want to” (23:39)
Why having a lot of patience and being able to remain on an even temperamental keel are so important for school administrators (25:17)
Why Todd Whitaker and Jon Gordon are two of Shane’s favorite authors (26:05)
Two apps/tools that Shane highly recommends and why he likes them so much (27:04)
Two of Shane’s favorite quotations about education (29:40)
His advice for administrators on working with students (30:50)
His advice for administrators on working with teachers (32:00)
If Shane had a time machine and could travel back to when he was a young administrator just starting out, here’s the adcive he would give himself based on what he’s learned (35:00)
Books mentioned in this episode
Apps and tools mentioned in this episode
Connect with Shane Gordon
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Podcast Session #21
Do the Right Thing All the Time and Treat Each Person With Dignity
Share Notes: http://www.educatorslead.com/shanegordon/
Jay Willis: Hello Edu Leaders, Jay Willis here and Im excited to introduce our featured guest today Shane Gordon. Shane, are you ready to launch?
Shane Gordon: Yes!
Intro: Awesome! Shane is the Principal of Abingdon-Avon High School in west central Illinois. The district is in the third year of a consolidation and the second year of a 1:1 initiative. This marks Shane’s ninth year in education and his fifth as a high school principal. That’s just a brief introduction Shane but tell us a little bit more about yourself.
Shane: My first 4 years were spent in a small high school in West Central Illinois. Got in to administration for the last 5, personally owned. My wife Jessie, stays home with our 3 children four and under. My Lilah is 4, Bo is 3 and then our newest Matt he joined as over on Christmas break born on Dec 20th his 3 1/2 weeks old now. So, the three of them keep us on our toes and pretty busy around house.
Jay: Yeah. Well, so that made Christmas kind of fun, busy I’m sure?
Shane: Absolutely! Yeah, pretty good Christmas present there.
Jay: Yeah, no kidding. Well, that’s great! Yeah. So, well, I have three kids on my own so we have a 9 year old, 4 year old and a 2 year old and I kind a imagine all three of them being under the age, would you say under 3?
Shane: Four, a Lilah is four.
Jay: Lilah’s 4, ok, ok. Wow, so that’s busy. So, what would be something for our listeners to be interesting about you that most people wouldn’t know?
Shane: I would say personally, there’s a piece of information there I’m really handy around my house. Were just about complete with a basement renovation, so my spare time over the summer that’s how I spent most of my days off. From the school year down the basement, doing dry wall through that makes myself probably something I wouldn’t be very well known.
Jay: Wow! So, mostly doing it all by yourself?
Shane: Yeah, the whole project.
Jay: Yeah! Wow, so tell us a little bit more about your career path.
Shane: That was a high school I went to Mana College for my undergrad and like I said my first teaching position was in a small high school. The enrollment was around 140 kids so I was essentially the entire high school social studies department. I was there for 4 years and coach three sports football, basketball and tracks and I even drove a bus so I woke up pretty early to drive the AM bus around and teach all day whatever season where in, coach that evening and we were in a co-op athletically. So, I drive the practice bus to and from practice and so on and so forth. I’ve been teaching about a year and When I started my master’s degree in FK leadership and that took about 2 and ½ years through Bradley University in Peoria and once I completed that I had an opportunity to came up in a town that I was familiar with and actually kinda signifies how really small within my first high school principal position within a 100 miles south from where I’m at right now and it’s a town that my mother actually graduated high school from. So that’s why I’m familiar, so I was hired there and spent 2 years there in Winchester before the position that I’m currently in came open with the consolidation in Abingdon which is actually my hometown. And now the Highschool principal here the same building that I graduated from.
Jay: Wow! Yeah, so what’s that like? Coz i had an opportunity to go back couple time to my old high school, I was just visiting the school I don’t even have a child there or anything and it just felt so surreal. So, I can’t imagine going back and actually either being in a teaching position or a principal position in the school that I went to. What’s that like?
Shane: Well, it definitely helps first and for most lay on the lamb you’ll be very familiar with the building the in’s and outs and so forth but then also families in town as well. And there’s been a I think about 15 years or so since I went to high school here so in terms of staff they really aren’t too many left from when I’m in school here. There be two teachers and one of my secretary’s is still around and some kid’s___ but other than that it’s entirely new. Some of my principal office there when I was a student that I quite well know.
Jay: That’s good! Yeah, so that’s probably good in a lot of ways. So, I guess what was the point in which you made the decision that you wanted to move into school leadership, was there kind the specific point in time?
Shane: Yeah, there was. Going in to that first teaching position I anticipated later on my career that was something I wanted to do, but moving as fast as I did really was unforeseen. I had an opportunity I actually lived here in Abingdon and commuted the school I first thought at about 20 minutes away, I commuted back and forth about an opportunity team up through cohort to Bradley University that actually gonna take place here in Abingdon. I only got teaching here a year and a half that I decided to take the plunge and start on that degree and turned out to be a very good decision and I was able to move through about 2 and a half years and then in my first administrative division after teaching four years at the age of 27 and the light is green and drove right in.
Jay: Yeah! So, did you encounter any age related issues I mean so not only obviously you are going back to where you went to school but also your young as the school leader where there any issues you had to deal with well I guess the combination of those two things or either one.
Shane: I think that anytime you progress, I’ve been around with teachers that are administrator and even further there’s gonna be a rather large learning curve. This is a position that all the internship hours and training and reading those textbooks only go so far and you really learn to experience as what you do in the classroom and there’s a significant learning curve starting to the second and looking back at how I was a first year teacher and the growth that took place in a year or 2 or 3 and so on and so forth. I think it’s been the same in this role as well as you learn and go through different scenario or situations and that experiences that really kind the shapes who you are and the philosophy you have dealing with different scenarios situations that will arise.
Jay: So, I guess share the story with us a little bit about the journey to becoming a school administrator so at the point that you were taking you masters classes were you married at that time?
Shane: I was.
Jay: I mean have you done that yet? So I guess my question was did you have any children? Well, I guess no you probably didn’t then right?
Shane: Correct! When I completed that program things progress very quickly because I complete the program in May. I’ve actually interviewed for that first position in April I have some internship stuffs to finish up. Before the degree was actually awarded I was waiting on that 575 endorsement from social works. But I have that position lined up within that April and May and we were expecting our first child and she was actually born June 4th and then we moved about two and a half weeks later and at that point we were lucky enough that all my life I was able to quit the jobs I was in and stay home with that first child and I just continue to do so as two and three come along but both socially and professionally and emotionally it’s kind of a whirl wind there about four and a half years ago with all of that going on.
Jay: So, how did you juggle all that? Just with the classes, teaching, try to be a decent husband like how did you find, how did you juggle all of that?
Shane: Sure, yeah, it was incredibly busy time because actually schedulized teaching, we moved from an 8 block to a traditional seven bell schedule so your teaching three classes a day and with 18 minutes of prep, six classes a day with 15 minutes of prep. So, that enhance the workload and then I set coaching and 10AM bus route and then the way the cohort was structured it would be six consecutive Saturdays so I got class every single Saturday and then have a weekend off then another six Saturdays and that would be part of the semester. That’s a lot of way I took advantage of time with living where I did if we, let’s say we are in during a basketball season, I have time from when school ended if it was a game night I would use that time there and I would have practice and get quite of a work done try to do that as productively as possible before my duties with the coaching in a game would starts. Well, use effective time management there.
Jay: Yeah. Which I kind the gather from a lot of the other guest that have been on that learning how to budget your time effectively as your teaching and possibly coaching and still trying to have a great family did that really does prepare you well for becoming a principal, would that be accurate?
Shane: Without question, absolutely! And I think that it necessitates that you become very task oriented and having that mindset and structure and know that the role of being administrator I think goes together very well and that can be pretty effective.
Jay: So, somewhere along the way from teacher to becoming a school administrator I’m sure that there’s some ups and some downs, what was one of your most difficult moments in the journey to becoming a school administrator?
Shane: I would say, that first job I actually the only reason I applied down in Winchester was because I was familiar and personally I didn’t know if I was necessarily ready to become building administrator but I took plunge and applied and went down an interview twice and was offered the division and it was a learning how the jobs as you go and seeking some ___ and advice from some others that had the status relationships with along the way that was a one of my references and an individual that I did seek that quite a bit of guidance from along the way with what actually came to having a ___ at the same time he’s not a super tenant here but he were the building principal at the school that we coop with athletically. So, were working with those four years and then we came to at anybody at the same time he was a pretty good resource. When you have situations that arise that you might not necessarily immediately know how to deal with just trying to gather all the information came about the situation and scenario and __ some resources that you have and not necessarily jumping to a conclusion right away and then making a wrong decisions that has been pretty effective for the last few years.
Jay: Yeah! Do you have some experience where you jump in to a decision and made the wrong one?
Shane: Early on, I would say I can’t make up a specific time that that necessarily happened but I would say to that question, Yeah I probably had and I look back but you need to be reflective and practice and you may have maybe do make the right decision that were possibly the wrong decision and look back at what you reflecting back professionally and what could have been done differently, learning and grow from that.
Jay: Yeah! So, what would you say through those challenges as you were moving from teacher to school administrator what were some of the biggest lessons that you learned through that process?
Shane: I would say in that point in my life career there were certain things that I was good at with other things that I wasn’t at that point in time. I think I was very good at interacting and dealing with students and various scenarios situations that arrived with them but leading a faculty at that point in my career in four years and being 27 years old medication that was the situation where developing relationships with various staff members and key staff members who were leaders amongst the faculty was important and that allowing those relationships foster and grow and having a collaborative take on, on how dealing with those faculty situations with different issues at faculty.
Jay: So, you been in administration now for a few years I’m sure you have some great stories just some really amazing stories to share but what’s been one of your best moments as a school administrator?
Shane: Well, you could probably talk for a while about this one we could probably go with one of the students talking about the first individual students. Well, this student left Abingdon during his freshman year and moved Florida with his mother and it was not a positive home situation by the structure of your imagination and going on to senior year which was happened to be a just last school year we moved back to town and actually bounce around with about three different family and the ability to seek out resources for him and then foster a relationship to see him persevere with all of the obstacle that he have had over with his previous 18 years of his life and graduate here with us last year and now he’s a 29th palmer Marine and his doing very well. Their all kinds of stories with students that are I would say for myself probably the best moment was with my personal situation we have lived a hundred miles south from here so my parents lived here in town, my wife’s parent live fairly about close proximity about 20 minutes away and a couple years ago we have 2 children but the ability to come back home and establish a homestead here with my children and being back close to family and friends that I have in this area and so on and so forth. And to be in a role and a position that allows me that my professional life allow me to come back and do that has been really great.
Jay: Yeah! Well, that’s neat. So, one of the questions that’s come in from one of our listeners is what can an aspiring school administrator do to help themselves seeing out the application process?
Shane: I would say involvement and like now when we look for teaching staff having as much as many endorsements as potentially possible definitely helps being a small community we do have some short staff not just maybe across discipline in this building but also potentially with the middle school as well and I think anytime you can add to your endorsements and so forth and you can make yourself more markable and better if you want to potentially perceive at the ladder to an administrative position. Having as broad of an experience as possible know that if there are better opportunities that arise potentially different communities so you’re gonna be making decisions on the district and school policies, larger and being active and involved and so you are gaining some experience from both sides of the table would help with that.
Jay: Yeah! It’s a great suggestion, get involved and try to put more experience on your resume, that’s something that have been mentioned few times I really think that’s a great suggestion. Don’t just kinda sit and hope that great things will happen if you just throw away your resume out there but continue to add your resume and obviously your gonna constantly be bringing more to the table each time you apply to something. Well, that’s great! I’m gonna run through some rapid fire questions if you’re ready for those.
Jay: So first of all, what would you say is the best leadership advice that you’ve ever received?
Shane: I supposed those thing does necessarily adjust pertain to leadership this advice actually came from when I was teaching the Principal that I had at that time was specifically with regards to my first job you need to help out even if you don’t want to and I think that that’s when looking through a broader lens there may be times in your role in a leadership position where it would be you need to check out and not dive in and helps somebody with something at some point in time you don’t necessarily till I get at that point in time I think that was greatest life plan in the scope that was offered also in a broader lenses to help out even if you don’t want to.
Jay: Yeah! Which I think a lot being a leader is really doing what you know or at least being effective leader its doing what you know should do regardless of how you feel about doing that.
Shane: Yeah with the question. You have to have integrity not just when if it’s convenient but in every situation.
Jay: What would you say is your biggest strength as a school administrator?
Shane: Having a great — patience and keeping a demeanor and you know that allows whatever the situation is whether it upsets students, parent or working through something with a faculty member that allows me to treat every person in every interactions with respect and dignity and I can get better results when you teach that all the time.
Jay: Yeah! Do you have a book or two that you’ve recommend for other school leaders?
Shane: Not specifically by title but I would say I have been really impressed with pretty much anything that I read with Todd Widicker. In terms of specifically in school leadership and some of the very practical advice and situation that he present from his writings and every school culture or when dealing with the difficult situation and items that pertain to that. There are so many numerous books though and also I’ve been impressed written by John Gordon as well some experiences that he had _____ .
Jay: Is there a technology tool like an app or software that has been valuable to you that you could recommend to other school leaders?
Shane: From a broad scope do class recitation just the ability to access information anywhere anytime in the device and also the collaborative of nature is very beneficial and specifically one program or tool that I value Called writeinbox and communication is so important in this business and what right inbox does is it pairs right up with Gmail and it allows you to draft information and potentially send it later so it allows you to plan when you communicate information so that you don’t potentially overlook something later on you can forecast email out so specifically one of the things that I did is a reminders for observation for this summer and throughout the course of this school year, those will sit in your draft folder until the date and time you happen to send it out and they send out a little reminders for the others.
Jay: I have a boomerang I used for that its kind the similar but it’s nice because I would guess especially with new born you may be thinking about important stuff non typical office hours and so.
Shane: Yeah you got an email at 2 am
Jay: Yeah but you don’t want to send it at 2 am because e people are like oh my goodness what wrong with this guy but well you don’t know you have a new born and all of that . So, boomerang has been great because if it is 2am and I’m up with one of the kids and thinking o I really need to send this email I forgot to do it early today but you can schedule or wait have it wait to send it until 8am when its more reasonable and then people aren’t kind of weirded out by 2am email from you. That great too like you can plan way ahead months ahead with your emails you know just go ahead write it compose it while you’re thinking of it but then schedule it to go out at the appropriate time. So that’s very good. I like that. What would you say is your favorite educational quote?
Shane: Looking at two different ones can be just broader being a change in this world not necessarily pertaining to education but it definitely does but then also some of my community involvement as well as whether we can lost or items on that nature but maybe more specifically to education it’s a quote from Lincoln it says The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next. and I’m kind of dissecting that and not necessarily taking it in the context of government but kind the world as a whole and making sure that what we’re doing in the several hours we have in here relevant to the world where we lead us.
Jay: What advice do you have for an administrator working with the students that they serve?
Shane: First and foremost, treat every person that you meet with respect and dignity and in every encounter and interactions there really isn’t any room from running away from that and having a negative encounter that I previously mentioned and to keep that even demeanor at all times helps with that because if you have one negatives interaction with a student or parent and that’s gonna leave there and that could take quite a bit of time and intentional efforts write that long made so others there’s not really room for variants with that respect and dignity in every encounter you have that are personally there.
Jay: So, along those lines what piece of advice for an administrator working with the teachers in the building?
Shane: Yeah. That’s one of the things that I share with my staff in terms of expectations and that I try to plug throughout the year as well and do the right thing all the time that pretty broad but it gives and it can also be taken specific as well anytime you get a group of teachers together professional venting occurs and one of that in the lunch room and talking about students and that students you do really need to consider what is going on with that and is that a right thing to do the going back to a broad perspective kind the comes back to respect and dignity in every encountering and interactions with the students as well just do the right thing and you should deal with that.
Jay: Yeah! David Avery has a policy in his organization a no gossip policy where if he catches somebody will get one warning and the next time they just get fired if he catches them gossiping. I just think that yeah, I know it’s pretty intense but it’s like man you know you could create a culture where people don’t gripe about each other and instead of focusing on what they don’t like about something they just focus on what they personally can do to make something better.
Shane: You can mold that into the expectation of culture and climate as to rule my fear of being fired more of a positive outlook on different situations.
Jay: Yeah, yeah. So, what would be the best way maybe after the show wants to just reach out what would be the best way to connect with you, like on twitter?
Shane: Yeah, I’m on Twitter, Facebook and Blogger. On twitter sgordonaahs, Blogger that would be the same sgordonaahs(at)blogspot.com and I got no blog on a couple of months but has numerous items up there and Facebook I tend to use a little bit more personally and professional I got Facebook account obviously by name and the twitter handle is something I use more professionally.
Jay: Right, ok. So, the last question I have if you could if you have a time machine and you could jump in it and go back to the point in time that you were a teacher and you have just made the decision to move into school administration what advice would you give to your younger self?
Shane: That’s a tough one, I think as I have progressed through some of my philosophies and a approaches to vary situations that have absolutely evolved and if I could go back 5 years and have some of the basis that I have now definitely my classroom would have been a different place coz six-seven years ago teaching a classroom looking back it was a very teacher centered situation lots of sit and give types of scenarios and that would have been very different I would have handled things in the classroom at the point in time but looking back I really I would think your that many years ago I had that kind of philosophy does for be that change and that something that has evolved as I gone along and as you see the impact that is potentially possible you are hardly in the building and the direct impact that you have I got 280 students here and 35 faculty members and having a personal relationship each one of those individuals and intentionally seeking out various individuals throughout each week and having a personal conversation with them and that was taking that personal approach to the job.
Jay: Yeah! It’s all about relationships.
Shane: Without a doubt.
Jay: Well Eduleaders this has been a great interview today for the show notes for today’s show and other resources visit Educatorslead.com ant type the word Shane into the search tool to find the show notes.
Jay: Shane, thank you for sharing your journey with us today.
Shane: Yeah! Thanks for everything it was great.
Jay: And that wraps up another episode of Educators Lead.
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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