Don Shomette

People are the Prize

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Be Thankful For Weak-willed Students

Two kids commit the exact same bad behavior. One is remorseful and one is not. The one who displays real regret, we feel sorry for him and we want to cut him a break. We’ll even go to bat for him, pleading for leniency because after all, “He’s sorry for what he’s done.”

Both of the kid’s reactions to the bad gives us a glimpse of their current character as well as an idea of how much intervention is required (we don’t respond to kids—we intervene with kids).

The kid who is not sorry will need stronger and more focused intervention. The priority will be to instill the missing sense of what is right and wrong.

The second kid however, because he’s sorry, has demonstrated that he knows what is right and wrong but has difficulty choosing what is right and wrong. Therefore, this is less of an issue of malicious intent and more of an issue of being weak willed.

With the kid who is not remorseful, don’t waste time on anything else but teaching him to understand and to internalize what makes something right and wrong. If the kid can’t get this right, nothing will be right for him in life.

With the weak willed kids, don’t waste too much time berating them over the bad outcome, but instead teach them ways to resist making bad decisions. After all, that’s what they really need help with and that’s what their remorse has really shown us. If they had to do it all over again they would have chosen and preferred a different outcome.

In both of these scenarios both kids have demonstrated that they need positive adult intervention. As the adult, it’s important to draw a distinction between regretful and not regretful so when we help the kid we will have the appropriate intensity and focus of intervention.

I believe that most of our kids really don’t want to hurt themselves or others and if given a chance to do it over, they’d choose, as well as prefer, the good outcome. That makes them more weak willed than malicious and as crazy as this sounds, we should all be thankful for weak willed students.

Don’t lose sight that this is so much better, and easier to correct, than some other options.

Two final things

Character is not permanent and can change—for the better or the worse. Don’t write anyone off and don’t think that good will automatically become better without effort. Character can go both ways if left unattended.

No one likes being in trouble. Real regret is being sorry for the bad happening and not just sorry for being in trouble. You’ll know the difference.

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The Same Year For 20 Years

When I was a young man I worked construction during my summer breaks from school.  As a teenager, the work was hard but the money was good.  I can remember once witnessing an argument take place between two men who were leaders on the site.

We were building a house and for those who are not familiar with such a demanding and complicated task, many things must happen all at once and in a specific order.  The carpenter must first frame in the walls so the electrician can then run the wires so the plumber can then rough in the pipes so the stone mason can then…you get the idea.

The argument took place after the lead carpenter called everyone to lay out the next steps.  While that argument may be thirty years old, it is still very relevant even today—especially since the New Year is still young.

It started with the lead carpenter and went something like this (of course minus the terrible language that is common on a construction site but unfit for polite society):

“The drywall needs to be hung first and no later than 9:30 so the plumber can…”
“No, that’s the wrong order,” interrupted the stone mason who then went on to lay out a different order of events.
The lead carpenter disagreed sharply and stated, “I’ve been doing this for twenty years and this is how it gets done.”
The stone mason shot back, “No, I’m telling you how it gets done.”

The rest of us circled around and watched as the two men escalated quickly from a discussion to a full blown argument bursting with technical details of why each was right. While I can honestly say I had no idea which way may be better, I was just happy for the break.

The one constant in the exchange, was that the lead carpenter started off each reply with, “I’ve been doing this for twenty years.”
After hearing this no fewer than eight times, the stone mason snapped, “Just because you’ve been doing this for twenty years doesn’t mean you’ve been doing it right!”

Everyone went quiet, including the lead carpenter who looked as if he had just been slapped.  The man muttered, “Whatever—do it your way,” and stormed off.

With the ‘discussion’ apparently settled, everyone went back to work after the stone mason explained the new order of tasks. Me, I stood there staring, trying to understand what had happened.

The stone mason saw me staring and asked, “What?”
“Shouldn’t we do what the lead carpenter said?  He’s been doing it for twenty…”

The stone mason cut me off and said, “He hasn’t been doing this for twenty years.  He’s just been repeating the same year for twenty years and that doesn’t make him automatically right.  In fact, it’s what makes him wrong.”

The moral behind the stone mason’s reply to me was that the lead carpenter had stopped growing and had come to believe the fatal mistake that experience automatically equals knowledge. It doesn’t—especially if that experience is the same experience every year.


What a great point and one that is important for us to remember as we start this new year.

Last year, good or bad, was last year.  If we repeat it, good or bad, it’s still only last year. It’s not a new year, it’s not a new chance to grow, it’s not a new year to learn, it’s not a new year of experience—it’s just last year repeated.  If we are not careful, and take concrete steps to ensure it doesn’t happen, we may find ourselves repeating each year over and over and over again…

Here is one way to ensure that last year is not repeated.

Invest at least thirty minutes each day in personal growth.

While it may not sound like a lot, if you do this every day for one year it will equal out to one full month that you have spent on improving yourself.  Imagine if for 8 hours a day, Monday through Friday, for an entire month you did nothing but read, learn, grow.

Don’t allow the conversation to take place in your head in which you say that you’re too tired or you’re too busy.  That’s the wrong conversation.

Just do it.

Get up a little earlier or stay up a little later, find a quiet space where you can focus, time it on your phone or watch—and just do it.  The more you do, the more you’ll want to do it, and the more time you’ll find yourself giving to yourself.  Soon, instead of thirty minutes it will be forty-five or sixty minutes and longer.

It’s not too late, the year has only just started and the only right order to having a new year is growing or ‘building’ a new you.

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The Choice Suddenly Becomes Easier

trustThere are two different degrees of trust – loyalty and allegiance.

Loyalty is a lesser form and implies faithfulness, respect, and dependability. Loyalties can change because loyalty is typically expected to be reciprocal – I’m loyal to you so you be loyal to me.

Allegiance is a higher form of trust and implies a greater sense of obligation, duty, and a finality.  Once given, your allegiance typically remains forever – for good or bad – and can be one sided.  My country right or wrong.

Loyalty is a great good.
Allegiance is a supreme good.

Because both are intrinsically good, one cannot give their loyalty or allegiance to something bad.  Strictly speaking, loyalty and allegiance stops being loyalty and allegiance if not used towards a worthy cause.  Gang members can never really be loyal to each other and terrorists can never really give their allegiance.  Their loyalty is really stubbornness to do evil and their allegiance is a selfish effort for personal preservation.  They don’t really choose to be loyal or to give their allegiance—they must give it or personally suffer.

Okay, so having said that let’s move on.

Loyalty and allegiance are not in competition with each other.  They simply denote the level of personal commitment on your part to another person or an organization.

Some examples:

Your loyalty may be to your friends, but your allegiance is to your spouse.
Your loyalty may be to a political party, but your allegiance is to all people.
Your loyalty may be to the military, but your allegiance is to your country.


Your loyalty may be to your school district, but…your allegiance is to the students and their parents.

The other principals, teachers, and staff members are your co-workers and therefore they deserve your respect, faithfulness, and loyalty.  They’ve earned it, give it to them.

Because school personnel are standing in place of the parents, the students are therefore by default standing in place as your children and your children deserve your allegiance – a higher degree of trust, duty, and obligation.  That means we have an obligation to our children to provide them with a solid education, a loving atmosphere, and a safe environment.

If at any time you must choose between the good of the student or the ease of going with the flow and not ruffling feathers or raising standards or adding extra but necessary requirements to your staff that you know would benefit your students, just remember…

your loyalty is to your school district but your allegiance is to the students—your children.

The choice suddenly becomes easier.


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3 Ways to Immediately Improve Your School

A fight, harassment, act of disrespect, intimidation, threat of violence, or some other similar and unwanted behavior is more than just a disciplinary problem. It’s also an academic problem because it prevents or delays learning on the part of the students involved as well as drains the time and energy of the adults who must deal with the problem instead of investing that time towards some worthy goal.

We have to stop seeing disciplinary problems, violence, and the threat of violence as a standalone issue. It’s not. We may think that we can contain it in the space where it occurred or solve it in the main office where the problem is officially addressed, but that’s not how violence works. Those who deal with this kind of stuff every day know that violence is by its very nature disruptive and is not restricted by any boundaries. It seeps into every part of the school day and continues to cause problems and issues long after we think, and hope, that it is over.

Unfortunately, we can’t stop violence from ever happening again. Violence has been with us since the beginning and will be with us until the end of time, but we can prevent or minimize many violent acts. In fact, I think we can stop the vast majority of unwanted behaviors if we’re willing to do the hardest thing of all, which is to change ourselves.

Here are three things that we can change today about how we think and respond to violence that will have an immediate and positive impact in our schools.

Adopt Zero Tolerance.  
This doesn’t mean that you have to put the hammer down on every kid that does something wrong. Zero tolerance doesn’t mean zero discretion. The kind of zero tolerance I’m talking about is an interior shift in how one sees violence. Violence is not a normal part of the school day and it’s not normal that kids act violently and it’s not normal that we spend hours every day dealing with violence. Violence has no place, zero place, in a public school and we can never tolerate kids hurting kids or themselves.

We must stop seeing violent and other unwanted behaviors as normal kid behavior and instead, implement zero tolerance. Don’t accept anyone hurting someone else for any reason. Period. Zero tolerance.

Be Honest. 
Violence is not prevented with intentions, it’s only prevented with actions. Saying you’re against violence doesn’t get the job done. You must intervene—do something—to stop it from happening. If you don’t then you’re not preventing violence, but managing violence and therefore allowing it to control your day as well as hinder your students’ ability to learn.

Now, be honest—which one have you been doing? Preventing or managing violence?

Whole School    
In my experience, the best schools with the greatest climates and the safest environments have a ‘whole school’ mentality.

Don’t let your school safety efforts become a stream. Don’t let it wither and trickle out. Make it a part of your day and build it into your academic process, which is your river. The addition of the safety efforts will only help to enhance your academic achievements because it will not distract from it, but be a part of it.

But rivers with defined banks and no streams become deeper and faster. And that constant flow of water all going in the same direction creates an unstoppable force of momentum.

Streams that branch off from the river are never as deep or as great as the river. Separated from the main body of water, the stream will slow down in intensity and often trickle out to nothing. With too many streams, the river will diminish and suffer.

Think of a river.

When it comes to school safety, one of the biggest mistakes that school leaders make is that they make safety a standalone function or a responsibility of a few people, instead of blending it into the day and making it a part of the entire school.


Last point.

People who deal with violence on a daily basis are impacted by it. The degree that they are affected will vary depending on several factors. Besides the person’s natural disposition and the intensity and frequency of the violence, the two other factors that most affect a person’s response to violence is support and control. Those who have a high degree of support (family, faith, staff, friends, supervisor, etc.) will be less emotionally and personally impacted by it. This has been well researched and documented.

However, control is one factor that does not get enough attention. If you spend all day being surprised by violence, having bad things dumped in your lap, never knowing what will happen next, and fearing that something terrible is going to happen any minute—it can make for an anxious and unhappy life.

Superintendents, principals, SRO supervisors, and other school leaders – continue to give your support but also give them control. If you are reactive, you are not in control. If you are proactive and preventative, then you are in control because you’re taking concrete steps to prevent it. You are doing something.

The greatest control you can give your people is to create an environment (policy, training, and materials) that naturally keeps your people proactive. By doing this they will by default maintain greater control which will make them more resistant to the long term and negative effects of violence.