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One Simple Interaction


Not a day or an evening passes by in my work as a high school principal where I don’t take a moment to stop and reflect on the dozens of interactions and the hundreds of conversations that I experience on a daily basis.  It is this part of my work that I truly enjoy and value the most. Over time I have come to recognize that by investing my time and my energy in another individual through the simplest of interactions, I not only play a part in helping others become better, I become better.

Over the last few weeks I have been blessed to experience a wide range of personal interactions with educators from all over the country who continue to shape me in my role as a leader, but more importantly, shape me as a person.  These interactions continue to push my thinking, force me to pause and reflect, and serve as a gentle reminder that my ability to influence others and the manner in which I want to be influenced begins and ends with me.

So, I begin…..

1. We may not get to decide which kids we serve, but we do get to decide which kind of climate we want to serve them in.  This is so true. Rather than expend energy complaining about the behavior of some of our students, we need to shift our energy to cultivating a culture where all kids feel valued and are given a sincere opportunity to be a part of something great.  Kids want to be noticed for something positive!

2. When was the last time you tried something for the first time? We ask kids every day in school to put themselves out there but yet forget ourselves sometimes what it feels like to be completely vulnerable.  Remember to be empathetic with kids who are filled with anxieties for reasons sometimes beyond their own understanding.

3. Don’t wait for people to tell you what to do or wait for others to do it…do it yourself.  Want to build a community that currently doesn’t exist? Take initiative and be the change you so desire to see happen.  Great change begins with self-change. Take an idea and act! It’s that simple.

4. Thank you for enjoying what you do!  Sometimes we can take notice of others by not just thanking them for the work they do, but for recognizing how much they enjoy the work they are doing.  When we focus our energy on giving of ourselves to others, others notice the magnitude of our joy and passion to serve.

5. If you want people to be less anxious, provide more clarity.  How often do we get frustrated with students or staff who we feel are not able to follow directions?  Perhaps we need to look inward and ask ourselves, “Were my directions as clear as they could have been?” If not, own it, regroup, and try again, this time focusing on more specifics of what you want.

6. The difference between now and tomorrow is you…Be Tomorrow…Today. Do you believe you can have a generational impact on families? True, HOPE cannot be plan all by itself, but it is a beginning.  Every success story begins with this vital first step by someone who has the faith and hope that whatever they believe in can be done. Without HOPE there is no plan. We all need someone to believe in us. Be that one!

7. Sometimes we just need to stay the course and we will eventually pass Go.  Just like in the game of Monopoly, we must keep our focus and not get caught up in short term losses.  Stay the course and recognize that the long term results we desire to see in our students will eventually come after they pass Go. Sometimes we don’t get the benefit of seeing the immediate results of our work, but trust that others eventually will.  And you can feel good knowing you played a part in that student’s success.

8. Experience is still the best teacher.  If we believe this to be true and if we want our students to truly find value in their experiences, then maybe we should put them in position more often of having them experience failure and the consequences that come with having failed.

9. Resume of Failure. Every student should be required to submit their resume of failures throughout their school experience and then share it for others to see. In fact, so should the adults. We need to spend more time investing in the failures of others in order to recognize and appreciate the value of their accomplishments. In this way, maybe even what appears to be the smallest of successes will be more deeply admired through a different lens.

10. We don’t need to transform teaching. We need to transform the belief systems in our school leaders.  Yep, I said it. Think about it.  Those who have a mindset that they can change the world continue to prove their worth by being the game changers our kids and teachers deserve.  We need to move beyond new frameworks, tools and programs and invest more time, energy, support, and resources in shaping the minds and belief systems of school leaders if we are ever going to transform learning and transform our school communities. Don’t misunderstand me. I am calling myself out here as well. I am part of the equation and understand I need to continue to raise my game.

So I end….

Every day I walk through our school doors and am entrusted to make a difference in the lives of the students in our school.  I must be prepared to face the challenges, accept our failures, honor our successes and take time to recognize that neither of these is a final destination.  As school leaders, we are the filters for our schools.

By taking the time to listen and self-reflect on the words of others, I continue to shape my own inner core values and strengthen my belief system which guides me in my daily work with students and staff.  If I want to change my relationships with others for the better, I must be willing to take the time to reflect and then change the manner in which I manage those conversations and interactions.

I vow to continue to try my very best to leave a positive mark on those who I come in contact with each and every day.  Over the years I have learned that it doesn’t cost me anything to reach out and greet someone with a friendly smile, strive to lift someone’s spirit with a sincere compliment, support others with a heartfelt hug, or jolt those who are in dire straits with a blast of positive energy to get them through the rest of a day.

One simple interaction, followed by another, and then followed by another……can make all the difference to help us transform our belief system to help change a life forever.

“The best minute you spend is the one you invest in people.”  – Ken Blanchard

Thank you to the following individuals who continue to influence my thinking and inspire me to want to be better every day. I cannot thank you enough for your generosity, time, and words of wisdom in shaping me into the leader and person I want to be.  You are the best!

Dan Kelley                @dpk933               

Pernille Ripp            @pernilleripp

Joel Pedersen           @joelped33

Sue Alborn-Yilek     @dr_sue_ay

Kim Hofmann          @hofmann_kim

James Sanders         @jamestsanders

Mark Wagner           @markwagner

Jennie Magiera        @MsMaguiera

Jason Markey           @jasonmmarkey

Ken Spero                 @edleadershipsim


  • Dan Mays
    2 years ago

    Great article Jimmy! I love to hear positive suggestions that give direction as opposed to criticism. I bet students do as well!

    Dan Mays

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