Thursday, November 10, 2011

Denton Creek is TWEETING!

BIG NEWS AT DENTON CREEK THIS WEEK: We opened a Twitter account for our school & plan to use it as another communications tool to inform our parents of upcoming school events & to recognize & highlight the great things we see happening on campus.

I had been thinking about going this route for a couple of weeks & last week I attended a principals' conference where Alan November (see was a keynote speaker. In his presentation to principals November talked about the purpose of Twitter & the many different ways schools could use it. He explained that Twitter allows one to follow the greatest minds and his enthusiasm for it finally persuaded me. It all seemed overwhelming to me & somewhat silly to be honest, but now I think I finally GET IT!!!

My biggest reservation was the time factor. I barely have time now for Facebook - how am I going to squeeze one more minute in for anything else? I've wondered! And...what if it's addicting because of all the amazing people & tweets one wants to follow? We're all so busy as it is...

I don't care when someone went to the grocery store or what they had for breakfast & this is the part that has caused me to take a while to come to terms with signing up for Twitter.

So, all that to say that although it's taken me a while, I am finally on board & look forward to growing with this exciting tool that is common for so many of us these days.

I am excited about it & hope my enthusiasm doesn't wear off anytime soon.
I've already tweeted about Spring Creek Night & our upcoming Movie & Pizza night as well as the incredible things we're doing with technology on our campus.

I learned what a hashtag is...AND...I think I like being confined to only 140 characters! That way I won't get too verbose! Now, if I could only get some followers!!! :)

-Mr. Mac

Monday, October 17, 2011


Kids Love It When You...

* Look them in the eyes
* Listen to them
* Acknowledge their value
* Give them a surprise
* Take them on a scavenger hunt
* Play with them
* Let them choose the restaurant
* Invite them to a movie
* Laugh at their silly jokes
* Let them stay up late
* Talk in a funny voice
* Make fun of yourself
* Tease them
* Build them up
* Give them responsibility
* Hold them as able
* Believe in them
* Create challenges for them
* Dish out meaningful praise
* Encourage
* Practice what you preach
* Treat their mother well
* Pay attention to their friends
* Know their interests
* Do something that's unexpected
* Are spontaneous
* Show them your creative side
* Invest in their future
* Ask for their input
* Let them order what they want from the menu
* Set high standards
* Set a good example
* Make them do their chores
* Stand up for injustice
* Ride a rollercoaster with them
* Invite their friends to a movie
* Let them have a sleepover
* Attend their games
* Take them out for ice-cream
* Know what's going on with their schooling
* Get their sense of humor
* Don't nag
* Are fully present & engaged for their activities
* Are quick to forgive a mistake
* Let them lean on your shoulder
* Ask them questions that challenge their thinking
* Hear their insights
* Appreciate their diverse opinion opinions - even when they don't agree with yours
* Love them unconditionally
* Admit when you are wrong
* Empathize with what they are experiencing
* Show relevance to their world
* Apologize easily
* Keep standing in times of trouble
* Are there for them - no matter what!
* Remember their birthdays
* Teach them how to play a new sport
* Spend QUALITY time together
* Recognize the effort they put forth
* Reward their accomplishments
* Embark on an adventure together
* Let them sit in the front seat
* Know what their favorite color is
* Order their favorite food
* Ignite their passions
* Never blame them
* Question them in a way that shows you're genuinely interested in what they have to say
* Understand what they are going through
* Value them immensely
* Walk the walk
* Be a good Example
* Forget a transgression - show forgiveness
* Jam with their music
* Show them you yearn for new things too
* Make memories with them that means more than spending your money
* Do what you said you would do...Follow through
* Keep a promise
* Show them by example rather than by your words
* Tell the truth
* Try something new
* Act zany
* Appreciate their individuality
* Don't compare them to siblings
* Don't play favorites
* Make them feel like they are the most special person in the world
* Help an animal
* Show acts of kindness and compassion
* Do Random acts of kindness
* Clear your calendar for them
* Use good language
* Live your integrity
* Praise rather than criticize
* Demonstrate the ability to look at another perspective fairly
* Model good manners
* Listen without judgment
* Are actively involved in what matters to them
* Treat elders with respect
* Finish what you start
* Help them become mroe than they thought they could be!
* Develop their potential
* Believe in their dreams

-Mr. Mac

Monday, September 12, 2011

Thoughts on 9/11

It is hard to believe that the events of 9/11 transpired ten years ago. I think we were all shaken, outraged, & numbed by the events of September 11th. I'll never forget where I was when I heard the news: I was in a principal's meeting in HEB, & I'll always remember the look of horror, shock, & disbelief on the faces of the other principals in my group as we learned what had happened.

Our world has never been the same since. Our thoughts were with all of the victims who perished in planes, buildings, & on the ground & all of their families who struggled to come to terms with what happened after such a devastating senseless assault. I remember thinking that certainly many of our international friends cope with terrorism every day of their lives as just another part of their reality. With it striking so close to home, perhaps America will better understand what our friends live through daily. Perhaps this tragic event will galvanize the global community & provide the motiviation for swift & decisive cooperative effort to restore some sense of humanity & provide the motivation for swift & decisive cooperative effort to restore some sense of humanity to the structure of our ever increasingly desensitized world.

Our hearts & prayers went out to the families missing a parent, girlfriends who lost fiances, & parents missing a child who had just started a promising career. The countless stories were heartbreaking. I couldn't understand such atrocities & wondered what it must be like from a child's perspective.

In the days following the attack we had business as usual at school. The children were fine - excited, curious, only a bit frightened & only at times - from what I could tell. I think it was the adults on campus who were most fragile. It was the adults who better understood than the 10 year olds the staggering implications of what we were witnessing.

Our teachers continued in their profession & made their country proud. Learning continued, & the teachers did a wonderful job of balancing normalcy with the recognition that the world had changed & that children needed to process & learn emotions along with mathematics. We were a different place than we were, & yet we were the same as ever as well. There was a resiliency from the American people I had never witnessed before.

Our kids are too young, too precious, to be thoroughly soiled with terror. The mind of a child is an incredible, resilient thing. It will file the lessons of this page in history where they will mold a different better adult than they would become without this calamity. The heart & soul of a child is precious, & we can only hope & pray that something good will come out of that unspeakable tragedy.

Many of the kids we teach today weren't even born when those events unfolded. But it is important that they learn about that part of our history. May our country never have to endure this kind of terror again!

-Mr. Mac

Monday, August 29, 2011


Welcome back to school Trailblazers! We hope you enjoyed a wonderful summer & have gotten off to a great school year. One of my goals is to blog more frequently this year as I almost never run out of things to say! I look forward to highlighting the many achievements that our students & staff will accomplish this year.

My sweet grandmother gave me this "Letter of Introduction" written by a dad whose boy who goes off to school for the first time. I hope you enjoy it.


My young son starts to school's all going to be strange & new to him for a while, & I wish you would sort of treat him gently.

You see, up to now, he's been king of the roost...he's been boss of the backyard. His Mother has always been around to repair his wounds, & I've always been handy to soothe his feelings.

But now things are going to be different.

This morning he's going to walk down the front steps, wave his hand, and start out on the great adventure...It's an adventure that might take him across continents...It's an adventure that will probably include wars & tragedy & sorrow.

To live his life in the world he has to live in will require faith & love & courage.

So, World, I wish you would sort of take him by his hand & teach him the things he will have to know.

Teach him - but gently, if you can.

He will have to learn, I know, that all men are not just; that all men are not true.

But teach him also that for every scoundrel there is a hero...that for every enemy, there is a friend.

It will take time, World, I know, but teach him if you can, that a nickel earned is far more valuable than a dollar found...Teach him to learn to lose...and enjoy winning.

Steer him away from envy, if you can, and teach him the secret of quiet laughter.

Let him learn early that the bullies are the easiest people to lick. Teach him, if you can, the wonder of books...but also give him quiet time to ponder the eternal mystery of birds in the sky, bees in the sun, & flowers on a green hill.

In school, World, teach him it is far more honorable to fail than to cheat...Teach him to have faith in his own ideas, even if everyone tells him they are wrong...Teach him to be gentle with gentle people and tough with tough people.

Try to give my son the strength not to follow the crowd when everyone else is getting on the band wagon...Teach him to listen to all men - but, teach him also to filter all he hears on a screen of truth & take only the good that comes through.

Teach him, if you can, how to laugh when he is sad...Teach him there is no shame in tears...Teach him there can be glory in failure and despair in success.

Teach him to scoff at cynics & to beware of too much sweetness...Teach him to sell his brawn & brains to the highest bidders but never to put a price tag on his heart & soul.

Teach him to close his ears to a howling mob...& to stand & fight if he thinks he's right.

Teach him always to have sublime faith in himself.

Because then he will always have sublime faith in mankind.

Treat him gently, World, but don't coddle him because only the test of fire makes him steel...Let him have the courage to be patient...Let him have the patience to be brave.

This is a big order, World, but see what you can do...He's such a nice little son!

Thanks for letting me share that with you!

-Mr. Mac

Friday, May 6, 2011

Looking Back on 2010-2011

Looking Back on 2010-2011

It’s hard to believe another exciting year has come and gone. It’s been a year of vast accomplishments from students and staff at Denton Creek. We continue to be proud of our exemplary campus which is one of the most exceptional schools in TEXAS!

Let me share with you a few highlights from our year:

· Denton Creek made the prestigious TBEC Honor Roll (Texas Business Education Coalition) for the second consecutive year. This award is given for sustained excellence over a three year period; less than 4% of Texas public schools are named for this honor.

· Denton Creek received many Gold Performance Acknowledgements from the state for high performance.

· Denton Creek was selected as a 2010 NCEA (National Center for Educational Achievement) Higher Performing School which puts us in a very elite category with the highest performing schools across the state. Higher performing schools outperform their peers that serve similar student populations and have more expected academic growth for three consecutive years.

· Our Denton Creek UIL team brought home the SECOND PLACE trophy in the January meet, barely missing first place by only ten points!

· We expanded our Dual Language program from Kindergarten to first grade this year. The program adds a great deal to our school, and we will add a second grade section of Dual Language next year.

· Our fifth graders attended Sky Ranch in October and enjoyed a wonderful outdoor education bonding experience that brought them even closer.

· Students in all grade levels participated in a variety of exciting field trips.

· Our annual Grandparents’ Tea held in September was one of the best ever!

· Our annual Turkey Drive and Jump Rope for Heart campaigns were very successful. Our students gave back to the community in many ways.

· We continued making huge strides in the area of TECHNOLOGY! Almost every classroom now has a Smartboard to enhance instruction, and our amazing PTO helped us purchase I-touches and I-pads to help us better educate our 21st Century learners.

· Chinese Mandarin after school classes were introduced for our students.

· Mrs. Martha Brown was named our Campus Teacher of the Year and represented our staff in an admirable way.

· Mr. McLain was named a Texas NDP (National Distinguished Principal) finalist and attended Harvard!

· We continued our vocabulary study with more SESQUIPEDALIANS than ever before, and our SAGACIOUS students excelled in every area.

· We aced our TAKS tests and continue to have among the highest scores in Coppell ISD!

· We implemented R-Time in our classrooms, a program that fosters improved communication and relationships.

· We implemented a new school-wide behavior system, called PBIS, (School-wide Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports) which focuses on making good choices. The students enjoyed earning different levels and getting their cards punched for great behavior!

· Our giving PTO supported us in numerous ways and held a successful Parent Auction in February.

· We enjoyed a successful Field Day in May where many a Trailblazer got busted with water balloons!

· We celebrated great RELATIONSHIPS with students, parents, and each other!
Denton Creek is a REMARKABLE school with incredible students, an outstanding staff, and extremely supportive and involved parents.

Thank you for a truly memorable year and for adding so much life to our school.

We are a family!

Have a wonderful summer!

All the best,

Mr. Mac

Monday, March 7, 2011

Conversations That Connect

Conversations that Connect

Difficult conversations...all principals have to have them. In the past, I dreaded them and would fret and stew about them for days.

Yet my confidence has significantly improved as I learned more about having effective conversations, both through the book Fierce Conversations and from my staff's work with the Fierce organization. This approach improved my ability to have those conversations that used to keep me up at night and left an indelible mark on our campus.

Practicing the work has enabled me to be more proactive about the tough conversations I need to have, in part because I now understand that some of the most costly conversations are the ones that never happen.

I was recently able to incorporate Fierce principles into my work in two cases. In one example, I was working with a teacher who was not being a team player. I knew I needed to step in to address some serious perceptions that were prevalent on the campus.

Often, miscommunications arise as a result of unclear expectations or misunderstandings. In this case, the teacher and I each had differing viewpoints we needed to express. Doing so honestly, though difficult at first, ultimately led to a successful resolution and improved the communication between us. The confrontation model made addressing this challenge much easier, and the results, though not perfect, were better than I had expected. In the Fierce confrontation model, we start with naming the issue. We then clarify our emotions and perspectives through specific examples and make clear why this issue is important. We also show an openness to resolving the issue and invite our conversation partners to respond.

In another example, I met with a defensive parent about a discipline issue and was more prepared to handle the intricacies of the difficult situation because of my knowledge of the confrontation model. I had learned not to be defensive, nor did I take the parent's frustrations personally. I worked hard to find common ground with the parent, while explaining the school's position. I was able to stand my ground about a consequence his child had earned for a bad choice. The parent tried valiantly to defend the young man's indiscretion. I was able to hold the parent "as able", meaning, as capable of handling the consequences without backing down, and I did so in a way that moved the relationship forward. I noticed I didn't get upset that the parent didn't agree with the outcome of the situation. The difference for me was that I felt it was truly allright to feel like the only win-win wasn't just having the parent support me and my viewpoint. That wasn't realistic. Yet I didn't worry about it because I had honestly shared my perspective and listened to the parent openly.

Stephen Covey's early work on "seeking to understand first before being understood" played a part in this example as well. I needed to first completely understand the parent's point of view before I could get him to hear and consider my perspective. I had to listen carefully without being too quick to form a response. Often, more than anything, angry parents want to be heard. When the parent knew I had heard his viewpoint, his defenses diminished, and we were able to reach a solution.


As I look back at gaining the skill to have the conversations that used to keep me up at night, I had the following realizations.


As principals we must be willing to empathize and "witness the struggle" of the difficult parent, or the frustrated and frazzled teacher. The empathy we show can go a long way in helping resolve conflicts.

A logical, clear confrontation model takes the emotional charge out of confronting a tough issue. It allows you to speak to the heart of the issue with clarity, without attack. Also key elements are empathy and a sincere desire to understand the other person's perspective.

We've heard it said before - you can't change others - you can only change yourself. Therefore, our responses to challenging situations are critical and significantly contribute to the outcomes. As I am often reminded when dealing with combative parents, managing a difficult person first means managing myself.

In conflict, perspective is everything, and others are more likely to be open to our viewpoint if we are willing to be present, to listen and try to understand their viewpoint.

I've learned to be more bold and direct when confronting issues. Before I might have hemmed and hawed about the issue as I tried to resolve whatever conflict landed in my lap. Now I'm more prepared to address difficult issues with confidence, honesty, and diplomacy.

I am grateful to have grown in my ability to handle conflict. Although we tend to think of conflict in negative terms, many positive things come from handling conflict effectively such as change, personal growth, solutions, and the opportunity to solve problems more effectively. Conflict is a normal, inevitable part of our everyday lives, and effective administrators need to learn how to deal with conflict skillfully.


In both the parent and staff member example above, I learned how valuable it is to engage the people who own the knowledge about the issue under discussion. Both parties were able to contribute to the solution, which made it easier and more satisfying for all involved.

Administrators are often required to make unpopular decisions. One question I continue to ask myself as I work with students, staff, and parents is "How can we move forward from here given this new understanding?"

All confrontation is a search for the truth. We all own a piece of the truth, so as administrators it's up to us to skillfully find out what is really going on.


I am grateful that I've learned the importance of being conscious during the gradually. By that I reference what Susan Scott says in her work - "Our careers, our schools, our relationships, and our very lives succeed or fail, gradually, then suddenly, one conversation at a time." There is a lot of gradually built in there.

I have become more intentional about what I strive to accomplish on a daily basis. Being aware of our relationships and results is important. Sometimes we need to ask what we can do differently to keep from losing students and staff gradually, before a negative suddenly blindsides us.

To really understand in the moment that "the conversation IS the relationship" shifts everything. This sounds simple, and is something we all know on one level. I find myself thinking about that a lot more with regards to what I do as a campus principal to cultivate more positive relationships with my staff daily. And I know this happens gradually, one conversation at a time.

As Michael Fullan and others have reminded us, "Relationships drive everything we do," and as my teachers and I were reminded during our work with Fierce, "The most valuable currency we have is relationships." If we don't connect with peoples' hearts as well as their heads, it's not likely we'll move forward collectively.

Being an administrator is a high calling, and while many obstacles lie in the way of our success, and while we would have no trouble enumerating the many problems we face, we are not in the business of predicting rain, but of building arks.

I believe we either build a bridge or a wall with every person we meet. What is your style when handling conflicts? Like you, I'm out to build bridges, and having the courage and skills to have Fierce conversations helps me build bridges by being a more effective instructional leader.

-Bryan McLain

Monday, January 10, 2011

What IS My Job?

Several years ago, when my sweet adorable daughter was five years old, she announced to me out of the blue as we were driving in the car, "Dad, if someone has a fat face, I will tell them!" I turned to her, appalled that any offspring of mine would make such a statement. I said, "You will NOT do that - it would hurt feelings, etc...besides, THAT is NOT your job!"

Well, I guess I made an impression on her. I could see the wheels turning in her head. Finally, she looked at me & asked, "Then, what IS my job?" For a long time afterwards, it became a joke between us at various times to ask, "What IS my job?"

As I thought about this year & the incredible first several months of school we've had, I thought it might be good for all of us to ask...


First, it is my job to be part of the world of little people where we laugh & dream & find joy in a tooth that wiggles. We express "real" enthusiasm over treasures that are put on our desks such
as flowers that have been picked so short that they have no stem, or a love note written with great care. It is our job to be thankful to be part of their world so that we don't always have to take life so seriously.

It is my job to teach when it's 105 degrees outside or when my learners are full of sugar from Halloween candy. After all, we've been entrusted with unique miracles of nature who might not ever love books, understand numbers, or eventually be an important part of history unless we teach them.

It is my job to greet each day with love in my heart. When I do, I'll be better equipped to deal with the child who is tired because his parents argued all night, or the child who throws up, or the one who challenges me because he's smart & needs to know why or more. If I greet each day with love, my job isn't just a duty; it's a joy.

It's my job to be parent, teacher, coach, counselor, & sometimes even friend. Sometimes I didn't know that I could/would wear so many hats. But it's funny - I often don't even realize when I take off one to replace it with another.

It's my job to encourage...Encourage my coworkers when they are down, or hurt, hot, frustrated, tired, or mad. My job is tio encourage those I am encourage the child who is on the verge of tears because he's fearful of going to 4th grade & not remembering his multiplication facts. It's my job to encourage each child. After all, I might be the only one who does.

I'm going to be honest with you & admit to you that we all have a hard job. As I look at my job with its mounting pressures, numerous constraints, & endless frustrations, I've made a commitment & decided that I'm going to continue to become better at my job this year!

I am so fortunate to get to work with the Denton Creek staff - they are truly the best...the cream of the crop. I'm especially lucky to get to work with our kids who are truly what it's all about.
They're smart, well-behaved, & genuinely care about one another, & they are what keep me here!

-Mr. McLain