PMP179: Special Edition – Principal Matters 2019 Year In Review

Last week my family and I traveled back to Tennessee to see my parents and extended family.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema – Creative Commons No known copyright restrictions

My parents both turned 79 this past year. Life has slowed down a lot for them now. One of my mother’s favorite past times, for instance, is walking the woods — gathering treasures like small rocks or interesting plants. When my fourteen year old son, Jack, joined her for a stroll during Christmas break, they found their way to a leafy spot above a natural spring and talked so long the rest of the family thought maybe they were lost.

Later that night, Jack told me, “Dad, sometimes I’m jealous of Grandma.”

“Why?” I asked.

“She finds so much joy in the smallest things,” he explained. “Today she found a small leaf, and held it up saying, ‘Oh, look how beautiful and fragile it is.’ I wish I could be more like that.”

“Me too, Jack,” I said.

As I think back over the past year and look at the year ahead, I want to stay thankful for the small things.

For instance, I’m thankful for another year of marriage. This was the twenty-sixth year my wife and I am grateful we’re still crazy about one another. I’m thankful for our two daughters who are successfully completing college: one junior and one freshman on the same campus.

I’m thankful for weekly dates I’ve had with my two kids still at home during 2019: Watching sunsets with my sixteen year old daughter, Katie. She’s obsessed with sunrises and sunsets. One morning, I woke up early and saw the front door open. As I headed down the stairs to see what was wrong, Katie came bustling back in the door. “You won’t believe the sunrise!” she exclaimed. “It was so beautiful I had to run out into the front yard for a better look.”

I’m thankful for the quiet moments with my son Jack. When he decides to talk, it can be worth the wait. A few weeks ago, he began telling me about the book he’s reading in English class, Night by Elie Wiesel – how it has convinced him that all of us are capable of allowing horrible deeds if we refuse to listen to the experiences of history.

It is these small moments throughout the year that remind me of what is really important. And I’m sure, you have your own small moments that have built your most important memories this past year.

I’d also like to tell you that I’m thankful for you. Whether you know me through my posts or in person, I’m thankful that you trust me with your time. You have a lot responsibilities in your work and families, and I value the opportunity to share ideas and learn along with you each week through these posts.

In the lines that follow, I want to celebrate some of the small wins I’ve seen in the Principal Matters community with a quick re-cap of 2019. And as a token of gratitude for you, I want to provide you with a free professional development resource (at the end of this post) – something that may help you lead your team with more focus on their mission, vision, and goals for 2020.

Another Year of Growth

In 2019 the Principal Matters Podcast topped 345,000 unique downloads! It excites me that each episode averages more than 2,000 listens. Although this audience is modest in comparison to other nationally known podcasts, I am so encouraged to think about how each listener of Principal Matters is someone leading a school community. That means hundreds and thousands of students (perhaps even millions) are being influenced through our collective work. What an honor to add something of value to the work you are doing each week in your school communities!

In addition to free content, this past year I began offering Mastermind and Executive Coaching options. A special thanks to those school leaders around the country who have been joining me each week for these special offerings! Through our book studies, virtual meetings, and “hot seat” opportunities, we have been leveling-up our leadership together! If you are not participating, and would like to learn more, please email me and I’d be glad to send you an application or answer any questions.

Oklahoma School Leaders

I’m thankful to be serving for my third year as the Executive Director for the Oklahoma Association of Secondary School Principals (OASSP) and Oklahoma Middle Level Education Association (OMLEA).

In addition to trainings and workshops, our OASSP/OMLEA members hosted a successful state-wide conference for secondary and middle level leaders and teachers in Oklahoma City this past February with Jeff Zoul and Jack Berkemeyer as keynotes. (And we have another one next month featuring Akil Ross and Kim Campbell!)

In addition, our members represented Oklahoma principals at national events in March and October in Washington D.C, we attended NASSP’s National Conference in Boston, Massachusetts in July. And this fall, we participate in AMLE’s Conference in Nashville, TN. Oklahoma principals and teammates are not only great leaders but also they are my colleagues and friends. It is such an honor to serve them.

What a joy to be a part of CCOSA, our umbrella organization dedicated to supporting administrators across my state, which also allows me use of my vacation time for consulting and professional development requests outside of Oklahoma.

Principals Across the Nation

Last April, I was honored to provide a full-day of professional development for Brazosport ISD, Clute, Texas, where we studied the 8-Hats for School Leaders with Assistant Principals and Aspiring Principals who had used my first book, Principal Matters, for a year-long book study.

I’m also thankful to Renton Public Schools, Renton, Washington (outside Seattle). In August, they invited me to their Summer Principal’s Retreat, where I presented on my second book Messaging Matters – Inspiring Teachers, Motivating Students, and Reaching Your Communities.

I also had the privilege this past summer to be in Atlanta with Dr. Tim Elmore and the Growing Leaders Speaking Team. I always value the times I can learn from Tim’s mentorship and grow alongside this incredible group of leaders. We also had a sneak-peak at Dr. Elmore and Andrew McPeak’s newest book and content for Generation Z Unfiltered. You can pick up it up at this website:

2019 Episodes

A special thanks to my many podcast guests of 2019. These included LeAnn Nickelsen, William Stubbs, Phyllis Fagell, Chris Legleiter, John Wink, Dave Sandowich, Kim Marshall, Jenn David-Lang, Jethro Jones, Danny Bauer, Jesse Haynes, Garth Larson, Doug Casa, Kyle Palmer, Diana Lebsack, and Daniel O’Donnell. Their valuable lessons and takeaways have inspired me and thousands of others!

And a huge thanks goes to Jen Schwanke, who served as co-host, with an entire series from her book, You’re the Principal, Now What? Strategies and Solutions for New School Leaders. You can check out Jen’s series in episodes 144-156.

If you’ve missed out on any of the forty new podcast episodes from this past year, below is a list of the 2019 show-titles with links to the accompanying blog posts:

PMP178: 10 Positive Takeaways from the Past Decade

PMP177: Cha Cha’s for Making Learning Stick with LeAnn Nickelsen

PMP176: Leading Through Equity with William Stubbs

PMP175: Middle School Matters with Phyllis Fagell

PMP174: 10 Areas to Focus on for Growth as a Leader with Chris Legleiter

PMP173: Lessons in Leadership from Your Scars

PMP172: Learning and Leading with John Wink

PMP:170 Four Lessons in Teamwork from my Son’s Hospital Stay

PMP169: Leading into the Wind – Lessons from Dave Sandowich

PMP168: Managing Your Day with Kim Marshall and Jenn David-Lang

PMP167: Keeping Your Leadership Focused on Service, Not Self

PMP166: Unique Challenges of Rural Principals and Why Your Story Matters

PMP165: Three Lessons in Decision Making from Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink

PMP164: On the Road – Thoughts for New School Leaders

PMP163: Encouraging an Environment of Growth – Questions and Answers with Jethro Jones

PMP162: Go! Community – How to Harness the Power of the Room with Danny Bauer

PMP161: Answers to Principal Matters Questions, Part 2

PMP160: Answers to Principal Matters Questions, Part 1

PMP159: Engaging Students in Shaping Their Own Stories with Jesse Haynes

PMP158: Why Telling Your Own Story Matters

PMP157: Preparing for the Start-of-School Year

PMP156: 6 Tips for Managing School-Wide Changes

PMP155: Parenting as Principals – Do’s and Don’ts, Part 2

PMP154: Parenting as Principals – Do’s and Don’ts, Part 1

PMP153: Maintaining Balance and Focusing on What Matters, Part 2

PMP152: Maintaining Balance and Staying Focused on What Matters

PMP151: Hiring & Retaining High Quality Teachers, Part 2

PMP:150 Hiring High Quality Educators, Part 1

PMP:149 Managing Adult Conflicts, Part 2

PMP:148 The “Why’s” and “How’s” of Managing Adult Conflict

PMP:147 Providing Focused Professional Development

PMP:146 Good Habits for Balancing Priorities

PMP:145 Promoting a Culture of Trust – Part 2

PMP:144 Building and Maintaining Positive School Culture

PMP:143 Learning for ALL with Dr. Garth Larson

PMP:142 Preventing Student Athlete Injury or Sudden Death – Interview with Dr. Douglas Casa

PMP141: How Culture Drives Successful Learning Communities – Interview with Dr. Kyle Palmer

PMP:140 Strategies and Solutions for New School Leaders – Interview with Jen Schwanke

PMP:139 Building Stronger Collaboration – Interview with Diana Lebsack

PMP:138 Middle Level Kindness Challenge – Interview with Daniel O’Donnell

New Book Coming in 2020

Thank you to those who have shared my books with others or used them for book studies. Several readers have asked me if I’m working on another book, and the answer is yes! The next book will be about the essential habits for principals who want to thrive, not burnout in life and leadership. I’ll keep you posted as I draw closer to a launch date.

Free PD Resource

Finally, as a way to thank you for your participation this past year, I wanted to share a free resource with you. Recently, a reader had emailed to ask me if I had any professional development content on developing mission, vision, and goals with school teams. So I put together this free summary of a Professional Development Session on Mission, Vision and Goal Setting that I wanted to also share with you as a complimentary New Year Gift. It includes tips on leading conversations with your school teams for 2020 and beyond. It is a skeleton outline (only 8 pages). But I hope it is a good place to start if you want to add your own ideas and personalize it for your team’s professional learning.

Let’s Wrap This Up

As I’m writing this post, I am waiting for my daughter, Katie, to arrive home from a trip she took with her high school band over Christmas break. The Owasso High School Band was invited perform in the Rose Bowl Parade on New Years Day. It was hard to not be with her on the trip, as we were driving back from Tennessee while she was performing. But thankfully, my wife was watching the parade on Instagram Live, so when the Owasso Band began its performance, we pulled the car over to the side of the road to watch together.

Sitting on a rural spot in Western Kentucky, we could see the 300 band members marching and playing in beautiful Pasadena, California, with mountains and palm trees in the distance. She was thousands of miles from home, but we were cheering her on and sending our love as best we could.

That’s what families do. When we can’t be together, we still cheer each other on from a distance.

Wherever you are today and the months ahead, I want to send my cheers your way for this New Year! Thank you so much for being a part of the Principal Matters community. As you begin the New Year, let me encourage you to dream big, set crazy audacious goals, and determine to have fun in the process. Remember that when you stay inspired (even by the small things in life) you inspire others to make the most of their days too.

Now It’s Your Turn

I’d love to hear from you on happenings from your past year and the goals and dreams you have for 2020. Feel free to send me an email at or drop me a line via Twitter @williamdp or Instagram via @william_d_parker. Looking forward to continuing to learn and grow together!

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William D. Parker
William D. Parker