PMP276: 2021 Year in Review & 2022 Goal Setting

This morning I read a gripping opinion post in Education Week by Lisa Mead, a principal in upstate New York, whose piece titled A Principal’s Assessment: ‘We’re Not OK’.

She shared what I’ve heard from many principals this past year: 2021 was in many ways harder than 2020. Among the many important ideas she shared, she included the following:

“We are not only in a COVID pandemic, but we are also struggling to survive in an emotionally devoid epidemic. Grace and forgiveness are scarce. The stresses and mental health of students, teachers, and leaders are high. We can’t rely on routine as there isn’t much of one left, and our hopes about finally returning to a typical school year this year have evaporated.”

With this sobering truth in mind, I’ve been amazed at the obstacles school leaders have faced this past year. In addition, I’ve been encouraged by the innovation, determination, and commitment among education leaders to continue serving students, teachers and communities – no matter what. Somehow you keep serving while inspiring others to do the same. At the same time, school leaders are tired, and it’s OK to say ‘We’re Not Ok.”

I’ll never forget in 2012 when I attended my first national principal meeting. As a part of being recognized as Oklahoma’s Assistant Principal of the Year, I met principals from across the states who shared stories from their schools.  I remember looking around the room and thinking, ‘Wow, this is a room full of people who also represent unsung heroes in schools across the nation I’ve never met. People who hear heartbreaking and heartwarming stories of students and families. How can I better connect with their stories?

It was then the idea for starting a blog for school leaders began to germinate in my thoughts. My blogging journey began in February 2013, and later in December 2015, I transitioned that work to a podcast as well.

This February will mark the 8th anniversary of the Principal Matters blog and this past month marked the 6th anniversary of the podcast.  

Each year, I like to take time to review the year past and set goals for the New Year. 

2021 in Review for Principal Matters, LLC. Here are several milestones we reached in 2021:

Podcast Guests

This year I interviewed 28 guests. Jen Schwanke, co-hosted 12 episodes throughout the year. The other 27 guests included:

Samantha Bartrom

TJ Warren

Emily Paschall

Toirdealbhach Ó Lionáird

Ann-Marie Maw

Andrew O’Farrell

Jessica Wee

Britainy Harris

Paul Wendler

Loredana Borello

Seán Óg Ó Duinnín

Kimberly Miles

Sam Fuller

Eric Hoops

Cynthia Winchester

Joy Kelly

Marita Diffenbaugh

Erin Igoe

Latrese D. Younger

Trevor Goertzen

Eric Sheniger

Daniel Bauer

Enid Lee

Janelle McLauhglin

Chris Zervas

DJ Klein

Brad Gustafson


Website/Podcast Stats

As of the end of December 2021, the Principal Matters Website has had 400,300 visits. 

The Principal Matters podcast episodes have been downloaded 636,006 times. Together that is more than 1 million times content has been accessed to help education leaders!

Events for 2021

This was the biggest year yet for invitations to present on content from my books with 4 in-person keynote events and 25 virtual presentations. These included the following:

January 31, 2021, MASSP AP & Dean Summit, Pause. Breathe. Flourish. Michigan Virtual Keynote.

February 18, 2021, National SAM Innovation Webinar, Louisville, Kentucky, Virtual Presentation.

January – April 2021, Ongoing Virtual Education Leadership Series with Ohio School Sponsorship, Columbus, Ohio.

January – June 2021, Principal Matters Mastermind Meetings with Yolanda Dawson, Erin Igoe, Samantha Bartrom and Jeff Springer

June 11, 2021, Educator Self-Care, End of School Year Training, Archdiocese of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky

June 16, 2021, Minnesota Association of Secondary School Principals, Summer Conference, Breezy Point Resort, Minnesota, Keynote on Pause. Breathe. Flourish.

June 17, 2021, Texas Association of Secondary School Principals, Summer Conference, Virtual Presentation of Pause. Breathe. Flourish.

August 12, 2021, Welcome Back Teachers, Archdiocese of Louisville, Pause. Breathe. Flourish. Keynote, Louisville, Kentucky

August – December 2021, Ongoing Virtual Education Leadership Series with Ohio School Sponsorship, Columbus, Ohio

August – November 2021, Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD Assistant & Aspiring Principal Academy, Virtual Presentations

September & November 2021, Principal Matters Hats of Leadership with Archdiocese of Louisville Principals, Virtual Sessions

November 8, 2021, Alabama Association of Secondary School Principals with CLAS, Pause. Breathe. Flourish. Keynote, Clear Brook Conference Center, Mobile Alabama

Executive Coaching

In addition, I enjoyed offering weekly executive coaching sessions throughout the summer and fall semester, with five different school or district leaders.

Books Update

I try to keep a running tally on book sales. 

To date, Principal Matters: The Courage, Action, Motivation for School Leaders has sold 1,596 copies.

Messaging Matters: How School Leaders Can Motivate Students, Inspire Teachers and Reach Communities has sold 1,806 copies.

Pause. Breathe. Flourish.: Living Your Best Life as an Educator has sold 1,107 copies.

I’m extremely grateful for every guest, listener, reader, mastermind member as well as those I’ve been able to connect with through my presentations, coaching and trainings. Your constant feedback, ideas, challenges and questions keep me motivated in finding and sharing solutions for school leaders.

Setting Goals for 2022

One tool I use for self-reflection is a free online assessment, called Life Score, a product from Michael Hyatt you can find here:

The Life Score Assessment allows you to reflect on ten areas, including:











You can select all or some of the options, depending on which areas you care to analyze. Each area includes both positive and negative statements, and you choose where you may fall on the spectrum using a 1-7 rating. 

For instance, to assess your Intellectual Growth, you choose between the following statements:


I am more or less content with what I know. I don’t really read or listen to podcasts and can’t recall the last time I attended a conference. I don’t budget for ongoing education or training.


I’m a voracious learner – always consuming books, podcasts and other content. I love taking courses and attending conferences. I budget for education and consider it an investment in my growth and success.

I gave myself a score of 6. After completing ten areas of self-reflection, you receive a pie graph and a domain chart for feedback on your results. 

Michael Hyatt also sells a Full Focus Planner, which I purchased couple of years ago. I use it as a template for my own personal goal setting. 

For instance, in the area of Intellectual Growth, I set a monthly reading list, choosing a different title of classical literature I have yet to read but want to add to my learning. Years ago I read the book The Well-Educated Mind by Susan Wise Bauer.

Bauer includes lists of recommended books by historical periods and genre. I subsequently found a great blog post at the website:

From the list, my personal reading choices for 2022 include:

(January) Laurel Thatcher Ulrich – A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on her Diary, 1785-1812 (1990)

(February) Harriet Jacobs – Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written By Herself (1861)

(March) Carl Sandburg Poems (1878-1967)

(April) Frederich Nietzsche – Ecce Homo: How One Becomes What One Is (1908)

(May) George Bernard Shaw – Saint Joan (1924)

(June) Richard Wright – Native Son (1940)

(July) Saul Bellow – Seize the Day (1956)

(August) James D. Watson – The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of DNA (1968)

(September) Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn – The Gulag Archipelago (1973)

(October) Toni Morrison – Song of Solomon (1977)

(November) Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein – All The President’s Men (1987)

(December) Elie Wiesel – All Rivers Run to the Sea: A Memoir (1995)

Over Christmas break, I downloaded the audio version of A Midwife’s Tale and am already half finished with it. It’s been an amazing read/listen!

Reviewing the 10 Life Goals Domains has allowed me to set SMART goals for each area as I step into 2022. I highly recommend taking time to reflect on your past year and set goals for the coming months. Even if you only reach half your goals, you’ve hit a higher target than you may reach otherwise.

2021 Podcast Episodes

In case you missed (or want to revisit) any content from the past year, below is a list of episodes from the past year:

PMP275: 6 Literacy Levers, Part 2 with Brad Gustafson

PMP274: 6 Literacy Levers with Brad Gustafson

PMPEncore197: 10 Tips for New Assistant Principals

PMP273: How to Manage When Someone is ‘Stirring the Pot

PMP272: Thankfulness & Answers about Emotional and Behavior Supports for Students

PMP271: Answering Questions on School Discipline with Jen Schwanke

PMP270: Gaining Buy-In & Building Leadership Teams with Jen Schwanke

PMP269: Leadership at Every Level with Janelle McLaughlin

PMP268: Equity, Equality and Systems with Enid Lee

PMP267: Answering Questions on Grief and Behavior with Jen Schwanke

PMP266: Principal Questions on Curriculum and Goals with Jen Schwanke

PMP265: Unlocking Talent Within Every School Leader with Daniel Bauer, Part 2

PMP264: Unlocking Talent Within Every School Leader with Daniel Bauer

PMP263: Cycles of Self-Reflection in Leadership

PMP262: Revisiting the Hats You Wear in School Leadership

PMP261: Your Friendships, Legacy, Laughter and Well-Being

PMP260: Reflecting on Your Influence – Keynote Series #2

PMP259: 10 Areas of Self-Care in the School Year Ahead

PMP258: Bridging Academic and Social Gaps with Trevor Goertzen

PMP257: Leading with SOUL for the New School Year

PMP 256: Disruptive Thinking with Eric Sheninger

PMP255: Reconstructing Place and Space, Part 2 with Jen Schwanke

PMP254: Reconstructing Place and Space with Jen Schwanke

PMP253: 10 Lessons from a First Year Assistant Principal with D.J. Klein

PMP252: Bomb-Proof Constructive Feedback with Chris Zervas

PMP251: You Can Do Hard Things, featuring Samantha Bartrom

PMP250: Principal Reboot, Part 2 with Jen Schwanke and Mastermind Members

PMPEncore028: Four Reasons Your Vacation Matters

PMP249: Principal Reboot with Jen Schwanke and Mastermind Members

PMP248: Inspiring and Leading Learning with Latrese D. Younger

PMP247: Leading Through ‘Unfinished Learning’ with Kimberly Miles

PMP246: Challenges and Solutions Leading Post-Pandemic

PMP245: Handling Schools with Care with Joy Kelly

PMP244: Being a Hope Giver with Marita Diffenbaugh

PMP243: Grace in the Journey with Jessica Wee

PMP242: Leading from Xi’an International School with Brittainy Harris and Paul Wendler

PMP241: Lessons from an All Girls School with Loredana Borello

PMP240: Self-Care Lessons with Seán Óg Ó Duinnín

PMP239: The Principal Experience Here & Abroad with Toirdealbhach Ó Lionáird

PMP238: Lessons from an Australian Primary School with Anne-Marie Maw

PMP237: Tips for Finding the Right Fit in Your Leadership

PMP236: What to do When You Feel Restless in Leadership

PMP235: Leading Re-Entry in a Pandemic with Andrew O’Farrell

PMP234: Connecting Students to Caring Adults with TJ Warren

PMP233: Multiplying Excellence in Your School with Emily Paschall

PMP232: Looking for a New Education Position

PMP231: Keeping Your Promises on Your Anti-Racism Journey

PMP230: Managing Decision-Fatigue with Jen Schwanke

PMP229: Facing Your Giants with Samantha Bartrom

PMP228: Strategic Leadership During Times of Uncertainty

PMP227: Me, Myself and Bob. 7 Lessons from the Rise and Fall of VeggieTales

Let’s Wrap This Up

Looking back is helpful when looking forward. If you haven’t had time to reflect on past successes/challenges, let me encourage you to consider doing so. If you’d like more feedback on setting goals or if you’re interested in some executive coaching to help you think through your own professional growth, please reach out anytime. 

Now It’s Your Turn

What goals are you setting for the New Year? I’d honored to hear more about them.

I’m looking forward to growing together with you in the year ahead. Thank you again for doing what matters!

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William D. Parker
William D. Parker