Podcast S1. Ep.18: Moments Over Events - Coley Veitenhans

Coley Veitenhans who is a National Board Certified Teacher at Thomas Jefferson HS where he teaches 6 sections of leadership, coordinates a student mentorship program, and serves as the student activities advisor.

We talk with Coley about how he evaluates leadership at Thomas Jefferson through the lens of the power of different moments during the school year.

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Our New K-5 Elementary Toolkit

On April 1st, we launched our CharacterStrong Podcast and have been humbled by the response with nearly 1,000 subscribers. Today, May 1st, we are officially launching for pre-sale our much-anticipated Elementary Toolkit! It’s been a busy month!

CharacterStrong started at the secondary level knowing full well how hard it is to create relevant and engaging materials for students Grades 6-12. We knew there were some strong offerings at the Elementary level and not nearly enough curricula for middle and high school, so we went to work building the most easy-to-use and captivating content we could for Advisory and Leadership. A few years later, after a lot of requests for younger material, we realized there is still a need for quality, low-burden content for our K-5 friends, too!

Introducing, PurposeFull People!

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PurposeFull People is CharacterStrong’s K-5 Toolkit. It is intentionally designed to support any work you are already doing around Character Education and Social-Emotional Learning - and is a robust option on its own.

Designed by veteran teachers, school counselors, play therapists, and lots of other incredible voices, PurposeFull People is packed with tons of practical and easy-to-use tools that focus on developing character and social emotional skills in students, staff, and families. To start, we are focusing on these 10 traits:

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  • Courage

  • Perseverance

  • Honesty

  • Respect

  • Gratitude

  • Kindness

  • Responsibility

  • Cooperation

  • Creativity

  • Empathy

The toolkit, like everything we do at CharacterStrong, was built with a holistic approach. School culture is not just shaped by mission statements and what we teach in the classroom. Every behavior - whether it is a student’s, a teacher’s, or a parent’s - shapes how we experience school. For that reason, PurposeFull People focuses on resources for the CLASS, for the STAFF, for FAMILIES, and for the PLAYGROUND.

In the CLASSROOM toolkit, you will find resources that are sorted into our signature S.E.R.V.E. model:

  • START INTENTIONALLY: Thoughtful ways to begin your month, your week, and your day related to the month’s character trait!

  • ENGAGE RELATIONALLY: Activities that get students connecting, playing, and engaging with a focus on the monthly character trait!

  • RESPOND WITH EMPATHY: Tools to get students re-focused or re-energized thoughtfully to best meet their social, emotional, and physical needs throughout a day.

  • VALUES PRACTICED CONSISTENTLY: Experiential learning designed to put abstract values into practical action to help students see what this month’s character trait looks like, sounds like, and feels like.

  • EXIT INTENTIONALLY: Effective ways to end your month, your week, and your day related to this month’s character trait and to create a safe, positive, consistent classroom routine

The STAFF component involves a weekly character challenge related to that month’s trait so that the adults in the building are role-modeling what character development looks like in action. We know that, particularly in education, personal development IS professional development!

The FAMILY component includes a letter home that has conversation starters, simple activities, and Family character challenges (“PurposeFull Pursuits”) related to the monthly trait. We know that this bridge is one of the most important ones to build! Speaking a common language between school and home and equipping families with the tools to engage in these meaningful (and sometimes tough!) conversation is critical for sustainable change.

The PLAYGROUND portion offers some practical games and tools for focused, character-trait based play and/or experiences. Recess offers a lot of behavioral challenges for many schools, so providing resources in this area was important to us for full-school impact.

Why “PurposeFull People?” We know that the number one indicator of success today isn’t GPA or IQ - it is grit and resilience. Angela Duckworth, who is the leading expert on the subject, says that grit is a byproduct of clear purpose in people’s lives. From a young age, we need to help our students live life with purpose! And we know that purpose is infused by living lives that are FULL of kindness, empathy, courage - FULL of meaningful relationships and the tools to be in community with one another.

We’ve intentionally branded it entirely different from CharacterStrong knowing that, if it looks or sounds or smells the same between Primary and Secondary content, students (and staff!) will naturally respond with, “We’ve already done this!” and quickly disengage. We’ve made the two worlds entirely distinct, but intentionally aligned, so that a district can focus on character, SEL, and relationship building K-12 in a thoughtful, consistent approach.

Here is what an example week of “Starting Intentionally” might include that you can take back to your class RIGHT NOW to open up some Courageous Conversations:

  • Day 1, An Image of Courage: How does this image inspire Courage? Do you relate to the mouse? This big canvas is a big, courageous project to take on. What is a big project that would be courageous for you to attempt?

  • Day 2, Vocabulary: Endure: survive, persevere, continue

  • Day 3,Biography: Frida Kahlo was a Mexican painter and activist. After being gravely injured in a bus crash, Frida used art to own her power, express herself and advocate for freedom and justice. She was courageously herself - a disabled feminist - in a time and place when all of those things were looked down upon.

  • Day 4, Reflection: How have you already practiced Courage in your life?

  • Day 5, Action: What challenges have you overcome? How did these challenges teach or change you? What helps you persevere even when things are hard or scary?

We are so thrilled to be bringing our work to the K-5 space. Click the button below to download a FULL sample of our month of Courage, focusing on the K-2 age group.

Let’s keep educating with Purpose,

Houston & The CharacterStrong Team




Podcast S1. Ep.17: PurposeFull People: The Time for Character is Now! - Barbara Gruener

Barbara Gruener enjoyed the gift of growing alongside learners from Pre-K through High School for  34 years, first as a Spanish teacher and then as a school counselor. She is the author of The Corner on Character blog and the book What’s Under Your Cape? Her newest passions include hosting her Character Speaks podcast, being a Character Strong teammate, and serving as a mentor and coach.

We talk with Barbara about the launch of PurposeFull People, CharacterStrong’s new K-5 Character Toolkit coming in the Fall of 2019.

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Podcast S1. Ep.16: Fostering a Growth Mindset in the Classroom - Dr. Chris Clayton

Dr. Christopher M. Clayton serves as a Director of Education Services for the Pennsylvania State Education Association. He is responsible for providing support to over 180,000 educator members on issues involving assessment, teacher certification, student achievement, pedagogical best practices, and research in teaching and learning. He earned a Ph.D. in Language and Literacy Education and Ed. S. in Education Leadership, Administration, & Policy at The University of Georgia along with a Master's Degree in Curriculum & Instruction from Regis University in Denver, CO.  He is a National Board Certified Teacher (2008, 2018) who, prior to starting with PSEA, served as a high school English and I.B. Theory of Knowledge teacher and coach for over ten years in Southern California and Washington state before becoming a district administrator and Director of Curriculum & Instruction in a large metro-Atlanta school district with 138 schools and over 100,000 students. He moved to Hershey to begin his role with PSEA in 2014 and happily resides there with his wife, two daughters (20 & 25), son (12), and granddaughter (7).

We talk with Dr. Chris Clayton about how social emotional learning is not separate from academics. Learn how fostering a growth mindset can be integrated into the daily fabric of all academic content areas as a foundational element for all learning to occur.

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Podcast S1. Ep.15: Why is it Important to Support the Whole Child? - Robert Hand

Robert began teaching Family and Consumer Sciences at Mount Vernon High School in 2013. He has taught Beginning Foods, Life After High School, Careers in Education, Nutrition, and Leadership. He has also been an adviser for Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) and Social Justice Club. He has taken students to national competitions where they have earned top honors for projects such as Nutrition and Wellness, Recycle and Redesign, and Advocacy. Robert enjoys taking on new challenges and helping every student realize the potential he sees in them.

 Robert is a bundle of energy and positivity. Between classes, music spills from his classroom, and he is in the hall greeting kids with a smile, a fist bump, or a unique handshake he shares with them. Robert makes a point to say hello to every student to make them feel visible and welcome. If you enter his classroom at any point in the day, you might find him teaching students how to deconstruct a chicken and make three meals out of it on a budget, teaching how to balance a budget, or teaching students about what it takes to pursue their dream of becoming a teacher.

We talk with Robert about the importance of remembering the why behind what we do as we work in education and he gives some strategies that he uses to teach the whole child.

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A School Where Everyone Belongs


Written by: Jeff Gerber

Passengers
In the 2016 motion picture “Passengers,” Jim Preston (played by Chris Pratt) is one of 5000 passengers onboard a spacecraft for a 120 year voyage to begin a new life for the human race on a distant planet. Thirty years into the voyage his hibernation pod malfunctions, causing him to wake up.

He soon realizes his predicament, yet strives to make the best of a bad situation. He keeps fit using the ship’s state-of-the-art fitness facilities, enjoys meals made by the automated food equipment, and spends time in the bar in conversation with Arthur, the AI-infused robot bartender. But after a year of this solitary existence, Jim wants more; he needs more.

Scrolling through the electronic files of his fellow passengers, he comes across the profile of Aurora Lane (played by Jennifer Lawrence). Intrigued, he locates her hibernation pod. Overcome by the depth of his loneliness, he makes the decision to awaken Aurora from her deep-sleep. Their relationship grows slowly and steadily over time until the ugly secret is revealed that Aurora’s awakening to live out her natural life in space with Jim, without ever reaching their intended destination, was no fluke. I don’t want to give away any more of the plot for those who may not have yet seen the film, but I do want to look deeper into what motivated Jim to act the way he did.

Jim had an abundance of all that he needed to live - food, drink, physical exercise, safety and security. But while technology provided him with all he needed to live, he lacked the deep personal connections needed to be truly alive. Jim needed to belong; he needed relationship; he needed someone to care for, and to know there was someone who cared for him.

Young people today find themselves in a situation very much like Jim Preston. The vast majority have food, drink, safety and security. Yet while technology has provided them with all they need to live, they too lack the deep personal connections needed to be truly alive.

Young people are more connected than ever before yet more lonely and isolated.

This is a phenomenon and growing trend I have observed over my 25 years as an educator. The proliferation of smartphones and social media have allowed young people to trade real-life interaction, connection, affirmation, and relationship for virtual counterfeits. The result is a generation that longs to belong; to have someone to care for and to know that someone cares for them.

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Dr. Jean Twenge’s 2017 bestseller I-Generation does a masterful job assessing the impact of the smartphone and social media on those born between 1997 and 2012. Her conclusions support what those of us who work with teens anecdotally know to be true: they feel more lonely, unhappy, and isolated than previous generations. And the link between these feelings and the amount of time spent on screens and social media is direct and undeniable.

This need to belong of course is nothing new. It forms the core of Maslow’s famous Hierarchy of Needs, coming after the physiological needs of food and drink, safety and security, and before the higher level needs of self-esteem and self-actualization. Maslow’s analysis has been widely accepted in popular culture and is taught in virtually all introductory psychology and sociology classes.

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Reconsidering Maslow
Perhaps it is time to reconsider Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs for the 21st Century. I might be so bold to suggest that Belonging be placed at the base of Maslow’s Hierarchy for young people today. Maslow’s paradigm was written against the backdrop of the misery, want, and conflict of the 1930’s and 1940’s. While we have not yet eliminated poverty, homelessness, and war, these are not the backdrop of the formative years of young people today.

Instead, the backdrop of their adolescence are screen savers, Instagram filters, and Snapchat streaks. Rather than being in want of food and drink, too often they willingly sacrifice or abuse them for acceptance and a sense of belonging. While desiring safety and security, they will take part in risky behavior for a chance to fit in. Teens all know friends who are in relationships with people that are not good for them, who treat them poorly, and trample their self-esteem. Yet the relationship persists because a counterfeit love is seen as better than no love at all.

“There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.” - Mother Theresa

Young people today long to belong. Understanding this is foundational to anyone seeking to reach or move young people today.

The question for educators and student leaders then is, “How do we create a school community where people belong?”

“The biggest ship in leadership is relationship.”

I believe that “the biggest ship in leadership is relationship.” Belonging comes from relationships and relationships come from common experiences. One of the first things we can do to foster a sense of belonging is to keep this as the foundation of all events and activities in our buildings. Like Will Smith’s character Alex Hitchens in the movie “Hitch,” we are the ‘date doctors’ of our schools. The events and activities we run need to be designed to allow students and staff alike, who may not otherwise share common experiences, to come together. Out of these common experiences are born relationships, and from these relationships come a sense of belonging.

I was inspired as a freshman student to become involved in leadership because of time spent on a music trip with one of our senior student body presidents. Our paths would not have crossed without this common experience.

It is also important to look past appearances. So often we can be fooled into thinking that the students and staff we serve as leaders ‘have it all together’. We may think they don’t need opportunities to connect, to build community, to find their tribe and a true sense of belonging. But like their carefully curated social media accounts, the reality is often far different. People need human connection and compassion.

BeLONG
Lastly, to be champions of relationships and belonging in our school communities, we need to Be Loving, Optimistic, Noble, and Generous!

A simple definition of love is to put the needs of someone else ahead of your own. Love is an action, a skill, and a choice -- more than a feeling. It is important that our student leaders be taught this, along with the steps to take to develop this skill and demonstrate love to the people they serve.

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Optimists look at the bright side of a situation and see the best in people and circumstances. Optimism breeds happiness and attracts people. Perhaps the best example of love and optimism together is grandparents. They are notorious for believing the best about their grandkids and putting the needs of the grandkids ahead of their own. Imagine a school full of students and staff who had the same attitude about everyone in their building?

To be noble means to be a hero; to take the high road in a situation. To give someone a hand up instead of pushing them down, to help and heal instead of hindering and hurting. In school it might show itself in squelching a rumor rather than spreading it, or stopping to help someone pick up their books rather than laughing and walking by. It may be an old-fashioned word, but being noble has great power to transform and build belonging today.

Simone Weil wrote, “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.”  People often think first of sharing their finances and resources when talking about generosity, but it is vital today to train our students to be generous with their time and attention. This means building on the essential servant leader character traits of selflessness, humility and kindness. The human connections that form the basis of belonging can only be built by people committed to being generous with their time and attention.

Leadership teachers, student council advisors, and student leaders often feel the pressure to have a full school calendar and offer a full menu of events and activities. It is easy to find ourselves busy “doing” while neglecting the kind of people we are “being.”  

A School Where Everyone Belongs
Young people today long to belong. Yours can be a school where everyone belongs. Make sure the events you do offer are focused on providing common experiences that lead to relationships that are the basis for belonging. And while you are doing these activities, and carrying out all your other responsibilities, make sure you are Being Loving, Optimistic, Noble, and Generous!

CharacterDares to help your students be more loving, optimistic, noble, and generous:

  1. Ask someone to join you for lunch that you have observed consistently eating by themselves. Start a conversation centered on the individual, their family, interests, etc. so that you actually get to know something about the person. Use their name – and remember it for future encounters. Ask them to help on a project around the school; let them know they are needed.

  2. In class, at lunch/dinner, at home, and with friends, practice listening this week. Show you’re listening by using the SOFTEN model and then actively listen by asking good questions, paraphrasing, and re ecting. Be interested in the other person. Strong listening skills, used well, show respect and love to others

  3. Ask someone close to you to tell you three things that you can do to improve your relationship with them. Then listen without challenging them or trying to justify or make excuses for your behavior. Thank them for taking the risk to share this with you.

  4. Do something out of the ordinary today for someone in your life. Do something that proves (to you and to them) that your love is based on a choice and nothing else. Wash their car. Clean the kitchen. Buy their favorite morning drink.


About the Author: Jeff Gerber is a Leadership teacher and Student Activities Council Advisor at Waterloo-Oxford District Secondary School in Baden, Ontario, Canada (located an hour west of Toronto). He has been recognized as “Advisor of the Year” for the province of Ontario and as a “National Leader of Distinction” by the Canadian Student Leadership Association. He is also a sought after speaker and presenter having spoken at schools throughout Canada and at regional, provincial, national, and international leadership conferences. You can learn more at jeffgerber.ca and connect with Jeff on social media @jeffgpresents.

Podcast S1. Ep.14: Helping Students Dream Big, Invest More Deeply, & Love Courageously - Erin Jones

Erin Jones has been involved in and around schools for the past 26 years. She has taught in a variety of environments, from predominantly Black to predominantly White to some of the most diverse communities in the nation. Erin received an award as the Most Innovative Foreign Language Teacher in 2007, in 2008 was the Washington State Milken Educator of the Year. She also received recognition at the White House in March of 2013 as a "Champion of Change” and was Washington State PTA’s “Outstanding Educator” in 2015. After serving as a classroom teacher and instructional coach, Erin worked as an executive for two State Superintendents. Erin ran as a candidate for State Superintendent and was the first Black woman to run for any state office in Washington state, a race she lost by a mere 1%. She and her husband of 25 years have a daughter who recently graduated from Central Washington University, a son who is a senior at Harvey Mudd College and one who coaches high school football with husband, James, who is a high school teacher in North Thurston School District.

We talk with Erin about the work that she is doing with students and educators of all ages as she invites people into the conversation of building community thru her message of Dream, Invest, & Love.

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Podcast S1. Ep.13: Calling A School-Wide Press Conference - Brandon Bakke

Brandon Bakke has spent the last 23 year in education, a career that has has spanned five different high schools in two different states. He taught history, government and coached basketball for the first seven years before becoming an assistant principal for 15 years in Tacoma and Sumner WA. Brandon is currently in his first year as Principal of Fife High School in Washington State.

We talk with Brandon about starting out as a new principal and the unique way that he began his time at Fife High School serving his staff and students as well as a unique idea he brought to promoting his school wide culture and climate.

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Ten Tips To Tune Up Your Self-Care Alternator


Written By: Barbara Gruener

Today I’m on location in College Station, TX, at Allen Honda awaiting installation of my van’s new alternator. Full disclosure as I set up the story, it’s not that we neglected the care of our car; our issue was a recently-installed faulty alternator failing. Let’s back up to Saturday night.

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We were about two hours down the road from our home to attend our son’s final Jazz Band concert; our evening was ending on such a high note, until about 20 minutes into our return trip, when the red battery light on the dashboard came on. Heart racing, I quickly conducted an online search to figure out what that means exactly while my husband tried to decide our next steps. In a barren stretch of highway between towns, we saw a mileage marker; Navasota was 12 miles away. My husband could not get there fast enough so he could turn the car off. I, on the other hand, wanted to keep going. As long as the car was running, we’d be fine, right? I figured we could cruise on home and get it checked by our trusted mechanic on Monday; who’s with me? But before the van found its final resting place and ultimately in tow to the Honda dealer, we watched its headlights dim, felt the power steering fade, and heard it choking as if desperately gasping for air.

How many times, I wondered, has this been me, journeying at full speed with my sights set so firmly on my destination that I’m willing to ignore my own personal red battery light that’s warning, urging, telling me no, demanding that I pull over. Being stranded on that Saturday night served as a poignant metaphor that gives me pause.

And pause is a powerful place to be because it’s there that I’m reminded that self-care is a non-negotiable. Automobiles don’t work without the alternator that powers the electrical system and keeps the battery charged when the car’s engine is running, so why is it that we sometimes think we can continue without a proper charge?

Author and activist L.R. Knost puts an exclamation mark on the importance of self-care with these words that echo: Taking care of yourself doesn’t mean me first, but me, too.

And because we simply cannot serve from an empty vessel, we benefit from setting intentions on how to repeatedly say Me, Too before our Self-Care Alternators threaten to leave us stranded on the side of the road.

Here now, ten no-cost Self-Care Alternator ideas to fuel your journey to this year’s finish line:

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  • Go to bed a little early, then get up when you wake up. Are you sleeping enough? Most healthy adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep; sometimes just a few extra minutes will make all the difference as you work with intention to restore the rhythm of rest. Then in the morning, rather than lying there and hitting snooze after a good night’s sleep, get up as soon as you wake up for that jump-start on your daily ritual.

  • Do something for the kid in you. In the busy-ness of our days, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that adults tend to be just little kids in bigger bodies. Unleash the power of play to become childlike again, even if only for a short while. Try dancing with your inner child and see how incredible it feels.

  • Allow extra time to get places. Nothing spells stress quite as quickly as the feeling that you’re running out of time. Pamper yourself by building in a 10-minute window to get to where you’re going to see what a big difference the gift of time can make.

  • Write down inspirational stuff that’ll feed your soul. Motivational mogul Zig Ziglar once said: “People often say motivation doesn’t last. Neither does bathing; that’s why it’s recommended daily.” Substitute the word motivation with inspiration and relish finding soul food for your spiritual side.

  • Eat healthy meals and drink plenty of water. Trust me on this one; your body will thank you profusely. Make sure you’re eating from a variety of food groups at each meal; an easy way to check that is if you’ve got at least four colors on your plate. And some sources now recommend that we drink half of our body’s weight in ounces every day; I’ve been trying this for the last six months and even my skin feels better.

  • Get moving. It’s no secret that movement is like a magic elixir to our bodies and brains. In his book Brain Rules, John Medina suggests we move every six minutes for maximal benefit. Exercise is an antidote to so many ailments; get ahead of those red-light moments by staying active and heart happy. James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, reminds us to stack a new habit with something we’re already doing, so, for example: After I drink my morning coffee, I’ll take my power walk. He reminds us not to worry if we miss a day, but advises not to miss two days.

  • Enjoy the great outdoors. Get outside and look for mindful minutes, those bite-sized moments of time during which you simply focus on being where your feet are, mindfully aware, without judgment. Awaken your senses by noticing different colors, listening for new and familiar sounds, touching different textures, smelling sweet or bitter things, imagining how certain things (like those not-yet-ripe berries on that vine) might taste.

  • Slow down and savor while building the capacity to do nothing. My favorite definition of the word savor is its alternate meaning, to delight in. Consider the last time that you were actually able to savor, to delight in something. Slow yourself down on purpose today, and see what you’re able to savor more deeply. Consider pulling into a parking spot and do nothing for a bit. To quiet the internal noise. To savor being still. To just BE while you breathe in calm.

  • Delegate tasks to capable others. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that we are not the manager of the world. Or even our little corner of it. Think about tasks or responsibilities that you’d be willing and able to give away, and start delegating. It’ll be a win-win because there’s likely someone out there who’s ready for the opportunities that you’ve been keeping to yourself.

  • Choose gratitude. Gratitude has many beneficial effects on the brain and the body; research out of the Templeton Foundation found that overall positive emotions can add up to seven years on your life. Make gratitude a verb by naming three thankful things each day, sending kind texts, making day-maker phone calls, giving someone your full, undivided attention, writing thank-you notes, keeping a joy journal, or sharing an uplifting song, like Shakira’s Try Everything.

Remember self-care isn’t about waiting until you’re running on empty to replenish and restore; be proactive about tuning up the Self-Care Alternator that powers your mind, body, and spirit to ensure you’ll be able to stay the course and go the distance.

Time now to let my Odyssey (with its shiny, new Honda-certified alternator) take me home.


About the Author:
Barbara Gruener enjoyed the gift of growing alongside learners from Pre-K through High School for  34 years, first as a Spanish teacher and then as a school counselor. She is the author of The Corner on Character blog and the book What’s Under Your Cape? Her newest passions include hosting her Character Speaks podcast, being a Character Strong teammate, and serving as a mentor and coach.



Podcast S1. Ep.12: The Importance Of Laying A Good Foundation For The Students & Staff At Your School - Lauren Ambeau

Lauren Ambeau is the principal at Brookside Intermediate in Clear Creek ISD, former elementary school principal, strong advocate for increasing SEL in secondary schools, and passionate about servant leadership. She was the Clear Creek ISD Secondary Principal of the year in 2016-2017 and shares her journey of school transformation in her blog titled Vulnerable Leadership.

We talk with Lauren about some intentional strategies that she uses to lay a strong foundation for the staff & students at her school.

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Podcast S1. Ep.11: Our Schools Need More Hope, Meaning, And Purpose - David Geurin

David is the Principal of Bolivar HS Liberators a National Blue Ribbon School in Bolivar Missouri. He is a National Digital Principal of the Year, a Speaker and Author of #FutureDriven - Will your students thrive in an unpredictable world?

We talk with David about how we all need to feel hope, meaning and purpose in what we are doing.

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Podcast S1. Ep.10: Character Is More Important Than Compliance - David Geurin

David is the Principal of Bolivar HS Liberators a National Blue Ribbon School in Bolivar Missouri. He is a National Digital Principal of the Year, a Speaker and Author of #FutureDriven - Will your students thrive in an unpredictable world?

We talk with David about how character is more important than compliance. So many schools are so focused on compliance, we want students to learn to do the right things, for the right reasons, not just because someone else told them to.

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Podcast S1. Ep.9: Soft Skills: Valuable For Our Future - David Geurin

David is the Principal of Bolivar HS Liberators a National Blue Ribbon School in Bolivar Missouri. He is a National Digital Principal of the Year, a Speaker and Author of #FutureDriven - Will your students thrive in an unpredictable world?

We talk with David about why non-academic “soft skills” are so important as they support the academic skills of students. David speaks on how these human-only traits are becoming even more valuable as technology becomes more integrated in our lives.

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The CharacterStrong Podcast

Written By: John Norlin

We are excited to announce that April 1st we launched the CharacterStrong Podcast, where each week we will be having conversations on School Culture and Leadership. We are firm believers that we need to be reminded more than we need to be taught and our goal is that each week we will provide you reminders from amazing educators and thought leaders around the country who are doing amazing work to create safe, positive, and caring cultures.

What makes the CharacterStrong Podcast unique is that each episode is approximately 10 minutes in length. We know that busy educators and leaders don’t always have 20-40 minutes to listen in to a longer podcast, so we want to provide this content to you in short, bite-size episodes so that you can listen on your way to or from work, or even while planning for your next class. You might even call it the CharacterStrong Commute!

We hope that you find the CharacterStrong Podcast a useful ongoing resource that will provide practical strategies and ideas that you can immediately put into action in your daily work or that push you professionally and personally to be even more intentional and impactful. We would love it if you would give it a listen! On iTunes we would be grateful if you subscribe, rate, review, and download a few episodes -- that’s what impacts where we sit on the charts! You can find The CS Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and Google Play.

After you listen, let us know if there is someone you think we should interview on the show or if you have an awesome idea or strategy to share connected to school culture and climate, social-emotional learning, character development, or leadership.

Podcast S1. Ep.8: Being Intentional About Developing Character And Leadership - David Geurin

David is the Principal of Bolivar HS Liberators a National Blue Ribbon School in Bolivar Missouri. He is a National Digital Principal of the Year, a Speaker and Author of #FutureDriven - Will your students thrive in an unpredictable world?

We talk with David about the roles that non-academic factors play in the future success of students. Change is happening so fast in today’s world and it’s important to help students to be able to develop “human only factors”.

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Podcast S1. Ep.7: Relationships Are The Foundation Of Everything We Do As Educators - David Geurin

David is the Principal of Bolivar HS Liberators a National Blue Ribbon School in Bolivar Missouri. He is a National Digital Principal of the Year, a Speaker and Author of #FutureDriven - Will your students thrive in an unpredictable world?

We talk with David about how relationships are the foundation of everything educators do, and gives some tips on how to be intentional about building better relationships.

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Podcast S1. Ep.6: Essential Truths For Principals - Danny Steele

Danny Steele is in his 26th year of education, and this school year marks his fifth year as the principal of Thompson Sixth Grade Center in the Alabaster City School System, just south of Birmingham, Alabama.  Prior to this position, he served as a high school principal, as an assistant principal, and as a teacher and coach. He has written two books with Todd Whitaker which were released last month. (Essential Truths for Teachers and Essential Truths for Principals)  In the fall, Steele will begin teaching full time at the University of Montevallo in the department of Instructional Leadership. He resides with his wife and three children in Birmingham, Alabama.

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Podcast S1. Ep.5: Essential Truths For Teachers - Danny Steele

Danny Steele is in his 26th year of education, and this school year marks his fifth year as the principal of Thompson Sixth Grade Center in the Alabaster City School System, just south of Birmingham, Alabama.  Prior to this position, he served as a high school principal, as an assistant principal, and as a teacher and coach. He has written two books with Todd Whitaker which were released last month. (Essential Truths for Teachers and Essential Truths for Principals)  In the fall, Steele will begin teaching full time at the University of Montevallo in the department of Instructional Leadership. He resides with his wife and three children in Birmingham, Alabama.


We talk with Danny about his book Essential Truths For Teachers, how he helps teachers connect with students, and how he champions for the teachers at his school.

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