Jul 21

How a Principal Lost 55 pounds (and how you can too!)

“I know I need to _____________,  but how can I find the time”?  You have certainly heard this statement attached to many things in the past.  Often it is tied to something related to diet and exercise.  I know I have personally used it together many, many times in the past. As a school administrator it  can be very difficult to manage your weight.  We are super busy individuals in highly stressful careers.  It is easy for the extra pounds to add up over time.   I usually stay away from posts of a personal nature but this will be an exception.  I have lost about 55 pounds and want to share a bit of my story with you.

Full disclaimer – I am not a medical doctor and do not offer any of this as medical advice.  This is simply what worked for me.  Again, please do not take this as medical advice.  I did not do any research to back it up – it is simply what worked for me. End Disclaimer!

As a practicing school administrator I know how little time those of us in education have and the myriad of responsibilities we face.  We wake up very early, work all day and come home way past dark!  If you struggle with your weight and/or exercise it can be very easy to fall into the “I don’t have time trap”.  I know I did many times.

When I was in high school I was very active.  I exercised almost daily and was at a reasonable weight.  (Notice I say reasonable – not ideal at all).  I played sports and between practices and games I guess there was always enough exercise.  I ate ok but was not a healthy eater at all.  Once I started college I became much less active and the pounds really started to add up.  It continued this way for a good amount of time.

Once I became a school administrator is was easy to fall back on the lack of time excuse.  I would always say things like:

“I would work out but who has the time?  I have a family to hang with after work, extra work to get done at night, athletic events to cover, and on and on and on”.  It was easy to convince myself that there really was no time to exercise. Because really our schedules are over packed – throw in family and at home responsibilities and there really does not seem to be any time.

I have tried many fad type diets over the years.  I have always found success with Atkins (very low carb).  The problem was I would gain all of the weight back (and then some) as soon as I stopped.  It was certainly not sustainable weight loss for me (although I loved all the steak and meat!!).  I was thoroughly convinced there was nothing I really could do – it just seemed so impossible.  In my mind I was addicted to poor eating habits and I thought I had no time to work out.  Fast food became a daily routine and no snack was off limits.

I knew I needed to change.  I needed to get back in shape.  I needed my energy back.  I needed to make sure I was there with my family.  I also knew about my past struggles – my different diet attempts, my on/off relationship with running and exercise.  I had always heard people say “You have to make time to exercise”.  I always thought that sounds great but it is just not my reality.  I just knew I could NOT do it. I had tried and tried but nothing ever stuck. The funny thing is in the past couple of years I trained to run a half marathon (which I completed) and I lost a grand total of zero pounds.  So deep down I knew I could exercise, the problem was committing to doing it on a regular basis.

In December of 2014 I decided things must change.  The scale shot up too high when I stepped on it.  I knew it was time – or it would be too late before I knew it.  I knew I needed to exercise on a regular basis and knew I needed to drastically change my eating habits.  I decided to go at it the old fashion way – reduce my calories and increase my exercise. No gimmicks, no fads.  I would rely on science – burn more calories than I ate.  I figured if I burned more calories than I consumed I would be good to go.  I also knew I needed some quick wins out of the gate.

I committed to doing some type of exercise (usually running) 20-30 minutes a day, every day, no matter what.  I learned from past experiences that if I say I will exercise 3-4 times a week it is easy to say I can catch up tomorrow.  With the every day commitment I had no excuse.  Most days I ran, but I also used an elliptical machine and stationary bike.  When did I find the time?  Whenever I could – oftem times at night after everyone went to bed, sometimes right when I got home, sometimes at school before the PTA meeting or game.  I made it part of my schedule.  There was no way I was going to bed before I completed my workout.  The everyday commitment way key.  If I would have said 4-5 times per week I can almost guarantee I would have missed more.  I said everyday so there was no wiggle room.

I had been using the Run Keeper App for my workouts and that let me see the calories I burned with each workout.  I also got a Fit Bit which allowed me to set goals and keep track of my progress.  I often found myself running in place before bed so I could reach a certain number of steps for that day.  I really feel the Run Keeper app and Fit Bit have played a big role in my weight loss.  I was able to actually exercise every single day from January 1 until about the end of February.  Since then I have continued to exercise 3-5 times a week.  I also set a monthly running mileage target.  It is not huge, but it gives me something to aim for (I usually set out to run 30 miles per month).  The data from Run Keeper and Fit bit are huge,  It really helped (still does) me to set a goal and work to achieve it.

This is the first time in my life that I had ever really connected eating and exercising.  I always figured it could be one or the other.  I know now that is not true (at least for me).  I had to focus on both.  In order to keep my caloric intake low I decided to keep it simple.  I had mostly the same breakfast and lunch.

I have had this for breakfast almost every single day since January 1.

Jimmy Dean Turkey Sausage Breakfast Bowl. It has 240 calories with 22 grams of protein.  All I really look at is calories and protein.  Again, I am not a medical doctor – just relaxing what worked for me.

If I needed something to snack on before lunch I would often have a Nature Valley Peanut Butter Protein Chewy Bar.  It has 190 calories and 10 grams of protein.

I usually have some type of sandwich for lunch.  It could be turkey or ham with mustard (never mayo and I love mayo). I also have greek yogurt almost daily.  This is another staple like the breakfast bowl!  Low in calories and high in protein.

I would also keep a close eye on my calories for dinner.  The type of food varied but I always kept it as low calories as possible.

Fortunately, there are many fast food options that fit in my diet.  As a busy school administrator fast food is just part of the equation.  Here are some things I get from fast food type places:

Subway – they make it easy.  Stay away from sauces (except mustard).  I always get ham or turkey loaded with veggies on wheat bread.  I also get the baked chips.

Chick-Fil-A – grilled chicken sandwich plus chicken soup instead of fries.  The grilled chicken wrap is awesome as well.  Again, stay away from anything fried or any of the sauces.

McDonalds, Wendys, etc–grilled chicken sandwich and side salad with a tiny bit of low calorie dressing.

McAlisters – Choose Two Combo – Half New Yorker sandwich and Half Savannah Chopped Salad.  Not sure of exact calorie count but somewhere around 500.

Key go to snacks as needed – Greek yogurt as mentioned (loaded with protein for 120 calories), Nature Valley Peanut Butter Chocolate Protein Bars

It is crucial to note this is still a work in progress.  It will always be a work in progress. I am only 7 months into this journey. I still crave all kinds of foods and wished I could eat whatever I want whenever I want.  I am still coming to terms with the reality that this has to be the new normal for me, bit just a diet for a period of time.  I really have to change my relationship with food and exercise.  I am doing pretty good so far – I have lost about 55 pounds.  I still have about 30 to go.  My weight loss has slowed and I need to get it back on track.  I have run the last two days but not yet today.  I need to get going! This is a journey and it will not be easy.  The main point of this post is to show you that there is time.  I never thought there was time for me to exercise.  There is if you make it.  I never thought I could eat healthy and say no to the second serving.  I can if I commit to it.  You can as well.  Commit to exercising every single day for the next month and go from there.  Even if it is an extra long walk each night.  Start somewhere. Start now.



Jul 16


A lot has changed since I last posted to my blog on a regular basis.  One of the biggest changes is that I am no longer a principal in Rock Hill, S.C.  I am now a Co-Principal in Rowan-Salisbury.  What exactly is a Co-Principal?  Head on over to our Co-Principal blog to learn about this unique partnership as we attempt to turn around a struggling school.

Co-Principals Blog

Jul 01

Inforgaphics to Share Your Message

I am currently sitting in on a session on using info graphics to visualize data.  Data visualization is an interesting areas and something that had great potential in education.  Think about how you like to receive information.  Would you rather read through a list of stats or see them presented in a visually pleasing manner.  Think about the majority of people and what they would prefer.  Really, it is about people receiving your information.  What is the best way for you to present information so that people receive it?

I have used piktochart before to create an inforgraphic for our state required “Report to Parents” while in South Carolina.  This was a yearly requirement and we dutifully made the tri-fold brochure that seemingly every other school did.  We always felt it was an exercise in futility.  Who would read this?  We felt like we were seriously wasting our time.  We talked about ways to actually get our message out there so people would be better informed about our school.  We figured an info graphic would be a great way to share information that otherwise would be filled out on some form just to meet a state requirement.   Having no experience at all with creating info graphics we googled it and came across piktograph.

Screen Shot 2015-07-01 at 8.54.01 AM

Screen Shot 2015-07-01 at 8.54.17 AM ”Report to Parents as an infographic (parts shown)”

In this session they are mainly talking about ways to use info graphics in the classroom.  I have not had the chance to use them with students but I think it would be powerful.  You have to really think and process information while creating an infographic.  It also makes you drill down and be succinct.  There is only so much information that an infographic can hold. That is powerful. We know how students often struggle with summarizing information and this is a great way to teach that skill.

This has been one of the best sessions I have attended at ISTE!


Jun 30

It seems like it’s been years

It has been some time since I logged into my blog. In fact I noticed today that my blog has been active for 8 years – but I haven’t posted anything since late 2013.  So much has changed since then it would be impossible to go back and try to cover it all! I am really going to try and post regularly to my blog so I can better reflect on my professional experiences. It is a matter of making the time necessary to do it.

Here is why I need to stop with the excuses and get back to blogging:

1. Reflection 
We know how critical it is for teachers to reflect. Same goes for administrators. I constantly reflect on what I do and what goes on around me, but I need to use this blog to assist in thoughtful reflection.
2. Fleshing out thoughts
Blogging allows me to better flesh out my thoughts. It allows me to dive deeper into my thoughts and make connections. Often when I write a post I am thinking of it as I go. I do not have a lot “pre-planned”.
3.  Collaboration is KING!! 
Since I have posted I have moved into a new role. I now serve as a Co-principal/Transformational leader with Dr. Latoya Dixon (@latoyadixon on Twitter).  There is much more to come on this unique approach to school leadership, but it has been a wonderful experience.  It has shown is how powerful collaboration is for school leaders. This is a severely neglected area for principals.
We will see how it goes this time!
Dec 08

Does Your School Value Reading?

If you have read this blog before you know how much I value literacy and creating a culture of reading at your school.  At our school we have consistently talked about building a culture of literacy.  As the principal I think this is the key focus for any school.  Yep, from pre-school to high school.  Some say kids should be reading at home and not in school.  If we believe that, then why should we spend time doing science experiments in school?  Kids should do that at home.  If we believe that then we should say kids do not need PE because they should exercise at home. We talk so much in education today about making school “hand on, minds on” and we have so many more cute saying that essentially mean kids should be “doing” in school and not just receiving information.  I am perplexed that we do not have the same attitude towards reading.   If we want our kids to be better reader then they need time to read.

You can look through older posts and see how we handle literacy at our middle school. Click here for a summary post on our literacy efforts.  I encourage you to check it out and see some of the things we have done to encourage our kids to become fluent in literacy.  We would also love to hear what you have done in your school to build that same culture.

At our school we know it is ok to spend time reading in the classroom.  Actually, it is not only ok, it is a core belief of ours.  Is this tricky in a middle school?  Certainly.  It took some time to convince teachers I was happy to walk into a classroom and see the kids actually reading.  I have written a series of posts on this blog with a more detailed look at the process.  It takes a long time to build a culture of reading at a middle school and it is difficult to maintain that same culture.   But we know how critical this is – perhaps the most critical thing we can do as educators.

Have you been over to the Nerdy Book Club?


If you are not familiar with the site you need to check it out.  You can easily sign up for the emailed version of the daily pots written by a sampling of some of the finest educators out there.

There are a variety of posts on this community blog.  There are book reviews, classroom advice, general information about literacy, stories about author visits and so much more.   The latest post today from the Nerdy Book Club was sent to me by one of our teachers who has played a key role in creating our culture of literacy.  You can read it here.

This post highlights why so many teachers and schools are afraid to spend classroom time reading.  When a school evaluates teachers and reading in the classroom automatically knocks down their score, why would they read in class? The humorous part is I can see some teachers who know the true value of reading and still sneak in some quality reading in the classroom time. I am so happy this is not they way we run our school.  If we want our kids to become better readers (and thus better thinkers, problem solvers, etc…) then they need time to read.  If a school does not show how much it values reading, then how will kids embrace the value of reading?

Fellow principals and school leaders, I challenge you to confront this practice if it takes place in your school.  What have you and your school done to create a culture or reading in your school?  I would love to hear how you have worked to impact this change in thinking.

Nov 24

Hour of Code Event

Did you know the number of high paying, lucrative jobs in the computer science industry far exceed the number of qualified applicants?

Did you know computer science is the highest paying degreed job?

Did you know jobs in the computer programming field are growing at 2 times the national average?

Did you know that only 2.4% of college degrees are in computer programming?

Did you know nationally that 9 out of 10 schools do not teach one course in computer programming?

Did you know that only 18% of college graduates are women in technology?

Did you know that more than 70% of the new jobs in our country will deal with computing?

Did you know that jobs in computing and healthcare are the two most highly demanded jobs in SC?

Did you even realize that if you go in for a “routine” surgery that a robot could more than likely operate on you?

So, why ask all of these questions? Sullivan Middle school has a computer science/coding academy that is preparing our students to engage in their futures.

National Computer Science week is from December 9 – 15th, 2013. Sullivan’s computer science academy will host our very first “Hour of Code”. During this time, every student in the entire building will code for one hour! The hours will be staggered for each grade level, and during the time of code, computer science academy students will be present in the classroom to offer assistance.

Tentative Date : December 9th, 2013
Time : Staggered time period per grade level
Participants: ALL SMS students

How it will work: During the designated hour, each student will code on Hopscotch. Hopscotch is a free app that all students need to have downloaded on their iPads prior to Thanksgiving break. On the day of the event, two Jr. Computer Scientist (academy students) will be in each classroom while you code, to assist students and answer questions.

They will talk briefly about the code and how awesome coding is. Each student will code for an hour on their iPad’s, while the Jr. Computer Scientist will float around your room assisting.

More information will be released at the date approaches!

Oct 05

Our Chinese Experience

Are we preparing our students to be global citizens?  What can public schools do to ensure our students learn about and appreciate other cultures that may be distinctly different than theirs?  I had always wanted to start a Chinese language program at our school, where I am fortunate to be the principal.  I knew if our students were exposed to another culture they would be more globally minded.  We teach Spanish and French and those languages certainly have their merits.  However, adding Chinese would bring a vastly different culture to our students.  We felt it would be a perfect complement to our now robust language program. 

China is by far the most populated country and it would make sense for our students to begin to learn the most widely spoken language.  Our students live in a global economy and will be competing and working with people from all over the world.  Do we want to provide our students with a strong foundation to succeed in this kind of world?  My answer has always been yes.  We can fear the unknown or embrace it and prepare our students for success. 

The first challenge was finding a way to make this type of program a reality at our school.  After much research and after forging several connections, we were fortunate to find a great organization called the Chinese Cultural Center. This has developed into a strong relationship that has provided many opportunities for our school and school district.  They assisted us in securing a teacher from China to teach Chinese.  It is tough to find Chinese teachers already here in the U.S. and we wanted a native speaker to start our program.  We were also able to secure two additional teachers from China to begin Chinese language programs at two other district schools.  We started the language programs at the three schools this past school year!

In addition to starting the language programs, teachers from our district have had the opportunity to teach in China the past two summers.  Over the course of two years we have sent approximately 60 teachers to China for one month.  While there they either taught Chinese high school students or Chinese teachers.  This has created great experiences and memories for our teachers.  While they are sharing their expertise in China, I believe they are becoming stronger teachers themselves.  It is such a powerful cultural experience and makes you a more well-rounded individual.  This leads to even more powerful teaching back in the United States.

We have also had the wonderful opportunity to host students from China in our district.  Last year 10 students from China spent a week at our school.  This was an amazing experience for our students who were able to learn a little more about Chinese culture.  Many families in our district opened their homes and were rewarded with a great cultural experience.  I am sure we will continue to host students from China in the future.

I hope our next step in this journey is to send students from our school to live in China for two weeks.  Many of our new partner schools in China have been doing this for some time and have extended an open invitation to our students.  This can be a once in a life time opportunity for our students.  There is nothing like learning a new culture by total immersion!  I think it is critical that our students have the opportunity to travel abroad and learn about the world around them.  As an International Baccalaureate school, I cannot think of a more powerful experience for our students. 

I have been fortunate to meet with Chinese principals and education officials in the U.S. and now in China.  They are very interested in our style of teaching and how our education system works.  I think one of the great myths in the general public today is how “bad” our schools are performing.  However, when you look at International tests, the U.S. is performing higher than ever.  While we still have room to improve, we have moved leaps and bounds since international testing began.  Did you know in the U.S., we have more students in college than ever before and the highest graduation rate in 40 years?  Those are the facts, but they are often ignored and overlooked.  I often wonder why this is the perception?

Through all the visits and meetings with Chinese educators, one thing is clear.  They want to learn about how we teach, how we educate and how we run schools.  They are looking to us to improve their educational systems.  We should be proud and celebrate our schools.  People are looking to learn from us.


Sep 28

1-1 with iPads – 5 Weeks In

5 Weeks In

We have been in school for almost 5 weeks now. If you have been following this blog you know we are implementing 1-1 technology with iPads this year at our school.  It has been an interesting journey!  It actually started a few years ago when we were just thinking about what it could mean for our district. Thus, the title of this post is misleading.  We are actually about 2 years in.  However this will focus on the time since the devices have been in kids hands.  Fast forward through the past couple of years and here we are actually teaching in a 1-1 environment.

One thing we made clear (or tried) to our teachers is we do not expect them to use iPads every single day, all class long.  That would be the same expectation with any teaching tool – you would not lecture all day everyday, you would not use a textbook all day every day and so on…. However, I think while we were saying that many teachers were not feeling it.  We recently had a “late-start” day where the kids come to school 2 hours later than normal.  This gives us valuable professional learning time.  My Instructional Coach and I purposely planned a session void of technology. We wanted to show our teachers what we have been saying about not using the tool all day every day.

With that being said we are expecting our teachers to use the device as a tool in their tool belt.  And they have not let us down.  Now, we have been on this road for a while.  One entire team was in a 1-1 environment last year.  We also had an iPad cart that was checked out almost daily last year.  So, its not like we said, “oh yeah, all your kids will have iPads next year” and left them to it.  We have been planning and offering PD on this for a while.  Here are some of the great ways I have seen them being used as instructional tools so far:

Common Assessments: Formative Style

I think one of the most powerful features about the devices (or any devices) is the capability to TRANSFORM formative assessment.  Our teachers have been using edmodo and socrative (and probably others) to give formative assessments.  The power is in the instant results.  No more waiting a day or two to grade the quizzes, etc… Now we have the results in an instant.  This also makes data meetings much more productive as it can take place much earlier than before.  I am excited as I am looking forward to two data meetings this week where I will be working with two data teams to analyze as assessment the just gave.  As of now, I would have to say this is the most powerful part of our digital conversion.


Many of our teachers are very comfortable with edmodo. They are using it for a variety of reasons as well.  It is a great place that allows kids to collaborate around an instructional topic.  It is a place where teachers can post presentations, notes and anything else a student might miss when they miss school.  I remember when I taught I had an old folder at the front of the room with all the make up work.  That was great – when he child made it back to school.  Now, there is no waiting for the child to return.  They are able to keep up with the class.

Any type of production app

There are so many to list.  Educreations is one of the favorites.  Simple but effective.  Even simpler is using the camera or video capturing capabilities of the device.  This has been a huge help as our arts classes create developmental notebooks to track students progress throughout the years.  Content creation is a major skill our kids must learn.  This is certainly assisting in that endeavor!

But its not an app

As you can see it is not about an app.  If it were I think we would be doing it wrong.  What I see int he classrooms is content creation.  Sure an app might be helpful in that, but it is about conent creation.  An app might help with instantaneous feedback, but its about the instant feedback, not the app.  Anything we do needs to be about the main thing – whether is creating, feedback, organization, collaboration.

What’s Next

I look forward to continuing down his road with our teachers.  Make no mistake – it has been a very hectic year.  1-1 implementation is not for the faint of heart.  However, I have seen many teachers step up in ways that I did not expect.  I have seen teachers working hard to integrate tech where just a year or two ago they were tech holdouts.  This has been one of the best parts of the transformation.  Our students are loving it as well.  I think this will pay big dividends.  I look forward to the year – it will be tough but we will learn so much.  And when this happens,. it benefits the kids which of course if always the goal.

Sep 22

New Look to Edleaderweb

I hope you are enjoying the new look of edleaderweb.  I had not updated the word press version in about 6 years so it was an interesting conversion.  It was so old I was not able to directly upload everything from the old blog to the new blog.  However, I did save everything so I went back and added most of the posts.  You can see all the posts from 2007 and 2008 by accessing them from the top menu bar.  I just got tired of uploading them individually!

I think this look is cleaner and much more modern than the previous one I was using.  See you soon!