Jonathan Alsheimer: Don’t Leave Supporting Your Teachers to Chance #OneThingSeries

Jonathan Alsheimer: Don’t Leave Supporting Your Teachers to Chance #OneThingSeries

Why can’t school be more like Disney World? ~ Jonathan Alsheimer 

About Jonathan Alsheimer

Jonathan Alsheimer is an unorthodox, energetic, and entertaining middle school teacher who refuses to live a life of limitations. Jonathan is often referred to as “my favorite teacher” by his students, and he’s the author of NEXT LEVEL TEACHING.

As a passionate educator and National Keynote Speaker, Jonathan Alsheimer presents limitless possibilities for teachers and the impact of an infectious classroom and school culture. NEXT LEVEL TEACHING is about every teacher bringing their unique flair to better their school every single day, always reaching for the NEXT LEVEL.

Jonathan taught at the world-renowned Fred Lynn Middle School, which was featured in two documentaries “Relentless” and “Relentless: Chasing Accreditation.” He has been featured as the teacher who forged a partnership with UFC Fighter and light-weight contender Paul Felder to bring the message that students should never give up, fighting for their education, and empowering them to believe in themselves, all principles that Jonathan promotes in his classroom.

As Jonathan always says, “Game-changing is not a cliche motto; it is a way of life…some talk about it while others live by it!”

What You’ll Find in this Podcast Episode with Jonathan Alsheimer

Jonathan starts out of the gate on fire! His energy is almost a superpower.

Listen to him dispel the misunderstanding about what it means to be a “next level teacher.” It’s not about perfection. 

Jonathan opened up about the stress that teachers feel and what school leaders can do about it. These are things leaders can do right away. 

When asked about protecting teachers from minutiae, Alsheimer talked about meaningless meetings that “kill the heart of the staff.” 

Don’t miss what Jonathan says about teachers’ time and what it takes to plan an awesome lesson. 

Jonathan talks about working together so we don’t all have to work harder. Let’s pool our resources and share more. Think about what this would mean for new teachers!

Jonathan gives administrators advice:

  1. Develop “lesson plans” for staff meetings.
  2. Reflect on the agenda items–are they critical?
  3. Does the meeting focus on learning, teacher development, and relationships?

Jonathan throws out a number of ideas to gamify the classroom and make it more fun for students. How can you use this in your classroom? 

Alsheimer mentions Dave Burgess (@burgessdave), Jimmy Casas (@casas_jimmy), Hamish Brewer (@brewerhm). Bottom line, go on Twitter. 

Teachers and leaders should see us smiling and having fun. If we want kids to be motivated to learn, we have to be motivated to teach and lead. 

You have to hear what Jonathan says about turning a worksheet into an activity. He literally cut it up and put it into paper bags to make it more fun and exciting for kids. 

Oh, Boy! Wait till you hear what he says about diving with sharks and our response as Delaware beach-goers. 

Jonathan talks about being tough on himself in a competitive way to get 1% better each day. He reflects on his “why” often, and that reflection makes a difference in his growth and perseverance.  

He thinks about what kids deserve, including his own, and that fuels his drive each day. 

He used to think that test grades matter; now he believes that growth is the bigger deal. 

Let us know if there’s a guest who you want us to have on the show by leaving a comment below or by contacting us at And don’t miss our leadership content updates every week by subscribing on the site. 

We can’t wait to hear from you. 

Joe & T.J.

302 Thoughts with Joe and T.J.: 5 Proven Ways for School Leaders to Support New Teachers

302 Thoughts with Joe and T.J.: 5 Proven Ways for School Leaders to Support New Teachers

In this episode of 302 Thoughts, Joe and T.J. dig into how school leaders must be very tactical about supporting their new teachers. So much time is spent identifying personnel needs, preparing for interviews, drafting the right questions, using the write words in the position posting, and the interview itself, but all of that means nothing if you fail to support teachers once they are hired. That’s all preparation for the game, not the game itself. If you want to play at a higher level, you realize the real work is after the hiring is done. 

In this episode, listen to Joe paint a dismal picture regarding vacancies across the U.S. This is why school leaders can’t mess up onboarding and support. What do the data say, in short, we are in a crisis: 

T.J. develops the conversation further by discussing our most vulnerable teacher populations:

  • Our Best Teachers
  • Our New Teachers

He explains that our best teachers are in high demand, so if they aren’t receiving the support and professional growth they need, they may walk right into the door of another school. The other population is our new teachers. The first few years are challenging, and there are a lot of lucrative industries willing to pay, support, and develop them if they choose to leave early. These teachers will walk out the door and right into another industry; one that is readily waiting to scoop them up and pay more than new teachers make in their first 5 years.   

There are only a few solutions to these problems so be sure to tune in and don’t miss what T.J. says about the power of specific praise. Praise seems easy but the data don’t lie: 70% of staff don’t feel celebrated, while 70% of managers say they praise. There is a disconnect somewhere!

Don’t miss Joe’s one key takeaway– be outrageously involved. You can’t let your new teachers’ growth happen by chance. You need to be connected, often and intentionally. 

T.J.’s one key takeaway–leaders need to talk behind people’s back. Not the way you think. You have to hear what he says about what it means for collective efficacy. 

T.J. and Joe always provide the how with the what, enabling school leaders to lead better and grow faster. 

Let our team know if there’s a topic that you want Joe and T.J. to cover by leaving a comment below or by contacting us at


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We can’t wait to hear from you. 

Joe & T.J.

From Crisis to Opportunity–A School Leader’s Playbook

From Crisis to Opportunity–A School Leader’s Playbook

By focusing my attention on the solution to the problem rather than the problem, I was able to quickly turn what seemed like a major crisis into an opportunity. ~ Les Brown

It’s Possible

Identified, as he calls it, “educable mentally retarded,” or what we would refer today as an intellectual disability, Les Brown was poor, and with a whole host of potential issues stacked against him–including low self-esteem in school–he emerged as one of the greatest motivational speakers to ever grace a stage. Adopted by a single mother, Miss Mamie Brown, a cafeteria worker, he found success only after he repeatedly picked himself up from unsuccessful attempts to be a radio personality.  

There is power in learning how to turn adversity into advantage, crisis into potential, and setbacks into motivation. Think about that for a moment, if we could harness those three opportunities when we encounter them–adversity, crisis, and setbacks–we could make serious progress in education. There is no doubt that some schools and districts are achieving greatness, but how do we scale that success for every child?

We turn to the popular lesson that Les Brown espoused throughout his career: It’s Possible. What exactly is it that possible, you may ask? The answer is simple–whatever you decide. That’s the importance of the message. Life is filled with challenges, hardships, and difficulties; great school leaders harness a resiliency combined with an unwavering belief that it’s possible, that anything is possible. 

  • It’s possible that all students can learn to read on grade level.
  • It’s possible to attract top talent to this profession.
  • It’s possible to build a culture where staff and students thrive.
  • It’s possible for the community and school to work together in harmony.
  • It’s possible to change grading practices.
  • It’s possible for educators to receive appropriate pay.
  • It’s possible for students to feel safe–emotionally and physically–in every classroom.
  • It’s possible for every American child to graduate with a high school diploma. 

The list can go on-and-on; you get the idea. If the tragedy of the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that this lesson from Less Brown is the truth, it’s possible. Covid19 created a crisis that quickly required educators to shift their thinking about how and where students would be educated. There was no alternative except to change what we were doing, and fast. 

Teachers shifted to instruct students remotely, administrators worked to provide students with access to devices and the internet, nutritional services provided curbside meals, school parking lots turned into vaccination events, classrooms were systematically transformed to meet safety protocols, grading and assessment practices were shifted, instructional methods were altered, and more. The crisis created opportunity, and, in many cases, things improved. Some of the troubles that we were grappling with for year–like internet access at home–were solved in a matter of days. 

A New Mentality

It’s amazing what we’ve accomplished in our profession during tough times. Trust us, we never want to go back to the height of the pandemic, and by no means was everything perfect, but what was accomplished was nothing less than incredible. Now that we know what we are capable of doing as educators, it’s time to tackle some of our other long-standing issues, using the same determination that we had during the crisis. This begins with two fundamental steps: 1. identify and define the new mind-shift that we used when the crisis hit, or when any crisis occurs, and, 2. enumerate the issues in education that are constant, perennial problems. 

A Crisis Mindset

The first step to making changes to perennial problems is to define and implement what we call a crisis mindset. We, along with our friend and co-author Connie Hamilton, developed this definition to accompany a new mentality for solving problems and adopting systemic solutions, An unfiltered 360° view and approach to solving problems with an urgency that abandons conventional wisdom and accepted restraints until a meaningful solution is found, implemented, and sustainable. 


What are some of the longstanding problems within your school or district? 

Do you believe you can solve them?

Perennial Problems

Take your pick from the various issues that are the Achilles heel for many schools and districts. Perennial problems are issues that consistently limit the success for students, schools, and their communities. They demand a continuous effort to manage and often never go away. These issues require the school system itself to have structures and supports in place to effectively make changes. Ultimately, these problems require a different and new shift in thinking to successfully attack the problems at their core. 

Take a few minutes to identify one or two perennial issues that are negatively affecting student success in your school. Which problems will impact you and your student the most this upcoming school year? Consider academic achievement, school climate, teacher retention, and other issues that recur. 


What issue has to be solved this school year? 

What have you done in the past to solve it?

What new ideas or approach could you use to solve it?

Leadership Hack: Make Problems Tangible

When working to solve perennial problems, it’s critical to take the problem from your mind and make it into something tangible. It may sound simple, but writing the problem out in detail on a sheet of paper makes it real and identifiable to the team. Putting the problem on poster paper or a whiteboard brings it to life in a way that takes it from an abstract notion to a concrete object. 

After you write it down, place it on the center of the table for the entire team to see. Begin to work towards solving what’s in front of you, detail-by-detail. To begin unpacking the problem, we often need a new mental structure to apply. The same old thinking is not going to solve the same old problems. Now that you have the details on paper, tangible and visible to the team, we suggest that your team uses our R.E.P.S. model for thinking about the problem in a new and structured way. This is a SchoolHouse302 original to get conversations going and reflect on an initiative or problem as you shift toward a crisis mindset. Feel free to download our free R.E.P.S. template here. For other new thinking models, check out our new book, 7 Mindshifts for School Leaders: Finding New Ways to Think About Old Problems

Reflect on the work already being done in a particular area of concern. This should be a brain dump of the activities and work that has already taken place to solve the issue, even if it didn’t work well. 

Evaluate what is and what is not working. There are degrees of success when it comes to perennial problems; it’s never a zero-sum game. If something has worked or displayed average success, identify it and work to discover why it worked to the degree that it did and not better. There are often good solutions within current efforts that need tweaking. 

Plan on making adjustments. This can range from involving more people in the discussion to seeking outside expertise to abandoning a current practice and replacing it with another.

Solidify the next steps. Please know that we are not saying to solidify the plan. Don’t jump to conclusions too fast. Finding quick solutions is in and of itself a mistake in education and solving problems in general. There are no silver bullets. Period. It’s a continuous and constant effort to make necessary changes that lead to improvement. And it starts with the mindset that school leaders apply to the problems, which is why R.E.P.S. can help to make sure the team gets to this final step in determining which actions to take after we unpack the problem. 


Looking for opportunities in a crisis and seeing the possibilities that can come from the big problems that we face as school leaders isn’t easy. If it was, everyone would be doing it. The good news is that you’re a school leader who wants to lead better and grow faster. The hard part is done; you’re here. The harder part is implementing new structures and new mind shifts that can tackle age-old issues. That’s why you need a crisis mindset

Follow along with us at TheSchoolHouse302 over the next several months, and we’ll uncover new and different ways that you and your team can approach problems in your school. We’re going to recommend books, interview experts, and keep you informed about who is cracking the code of school leadership and why. 

And, we want to hear from you. Please hit us with a like, a follow, a comment, or a share. It helps us and it helps other readers, like you, to find our work so that more school leaders can lead better and grow faster. 


We can’t wait to hear from you. 

Joe & T.J.

An Innovative Look at Restorative Practices in Schools with Nathan Maynard #OneThingSeries

An Innovative Look at Restorative Practices in Schools with Nathan Maynard #OneThingSeries

When we start a new initiative in schools, we have to take into account the rich tapestry of things that are already in place. ~ Nathan Maynard

About Nathan Maynard

Nathan Maynard is a youth advocate, educational leader, and change maker. He is the co-author of the Washington Post bestselling and award-winning book, Hacking School Discipline: 9 Ways to Create a Culture of Empathy and Responsibility Using Restorative Justice

Nathan also is the co-founder of BehaviorFlip, the first restorative behavior management software. Nathan studied Behavioral Neuroscience at Purdue University and has been facilitating restorative practices for over 15 years. He was awarded “Youth Worker of the Year” through dedicating his time with helping underserved and underprivileged youth involved with the juvenile justice system in Indiana. He was on the founding administration team that opened Purdue University’s first high school in 2017, Purdue Polytechnic High School, serving youth in inner city Indianapolis, Indiana. Prior to his four years as a school administrator, he was a youth worker and program director in a youth residential treatment care center.

He is passionate about addressing the school-to-prison pipeline crisis and closing the achievement gap through implementing trauma-informed behavioral practices. Nathan has expertise in Dialectical Behavioral Coaching, Motivational Interviewing, Positive Youth Development, Restorative Justice, and Trauma-Informed building practices to assist with creating positive school climates. He now runs a team of people who do restorative implementation work, called the Restorative Group. Check them out at

What You’ll Find in this Podcast Episode with Nathan Maynard

Nathan starts the podcast with a strong stance on how systems and structures are necessary for innovation to last, particularly those on restorative practices.  

Nathan gives us a quick history lesson on how restorative practices are tied to indigenous roots. 

One pillar of innovation is listening. Nathan talked about using qualitative data in addition to quantitative data, particularly within micro-communities. 

Nathan mentions Dr. Luke Roberts from Cambridge and his powerful work within systems. 

Don’t miss what Nathan says about internalizing change and attacking fixed disposition. He truly appreciates The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.  

Nathan’s insight about the ripple effect of innovation and restorative justice is transformative.

Nathan talks about what makes a good leader great. He refers back to Dr. Luke Roberts a second time. The story that Nathan tells about how Dr. Roberts changed his mind regarding restorative practices is great. Very impressive.

He recommends being more self-aware and being conscious of your self-talk. His personal strategies are great tools for every leader. You need a bowl with water and ice…listen why.

Nathan talked about getting better at collecting “street data.” Check out Street Data by Shane Safir and Jamila Dugan 

He learns by listening, interviews, being involved in groups, and honoring others’ ideas. This part is inspiring. 

“Success doesn’t have to be tangible.” Nathan used to think that it was all about the external data. He switches that point-of-view to an internal notion of success. Listen to what he says about making success intangible. 

As always, let us know what you think of this with a like, a follow, or a comment. Find us on Twitter, YouTube, iTunes, Facebook, & SoundCloud. And, again, if you want one simple model for leading better and growing faster per month, follow this blog by entering your email at the top right of the screen. We hope you’ll tell a friend or book us to join your team for professional learning.


TheSchoolHouse302 is about getting to simple by maximizing effective research-based strategies that empower individuals to lead better and grow faster.


Joe & T.J. 


302 Thoughts: 3 Ideas About an Innovative School Culture That Really Work

302 Thoughts: 3 Ideas About an Innovative School Culture That Really Work

In this episode of 302 Thoughts, Joe and T.J. dig into how leaders can implement, develop, and support innovation in schools by identifying three ideas that actually work for school leaders

Innovation in schools is often a byproduct of other areas of focus. For example, if schools purchase instructional technology, many leaders hope that the byproduct will be innovation. The fallacy in this approach is that the tool is the primary focus and not a culture of innovation beyond what the tool might provide. We know that computers and other devices alone don’t improve instruction or student performance nor will they be used with efficacy and excitement if the culture doesn’t already support innovation. 

However, in the right hands, those tools can completely transform a classroom. This is why innovation is so critical; it’s not a thing, but a value. By maintaining and fostering innovation as a value, we can permeate other areas of schooling and not just the obvious application of new tools, like technology. 

Other school practices demand innovative thinking. From human resources and creating innovative hiring practices to school discipline and bell schedules. Innovation is critical to reach greater heights of performance. This is why school leaders have to be intentional and embrace their role as the chief innovation officer. Remember, our definition of innovation: 

Any new idea, program, project, or initiative that enhances or alters what we used to do, creating something new and different.

This doesn’t mean that school leaders have to be the model innovator, but rather create the culture that nurtures it. To ensure that this happens, we offer a unique 3-part model to help school leaders think about what it means to create a culture of innovation.

Listen to Joe describe how great schools and its leaders don’t put a lid on innovation. The school must maintain innovation as a norm during meetings, professional learning, PLCs, all facets of the organization. 

T.J. explains how the three core areas of focus–diversity, open dialogue, and risk-taking–are essential. 

  • Diversity: Diversify the staff and other teams for new and unique thinking.
  • Open Dialogue: Create norms where new ideas are free-flowing in safe spaces. 
  • Risk-Taking: Encourage staff to take calculated risks and learn from their experiences. 

Lastly, they describe how schools cannot only focus on the WHY, and the reasons for something, but also embrace a “bias for action” and develop a culture of TRY.

T.J. and Joe always provide the how with the what, enabling school leaders to lead better and grow faster. To become a CIO in your school, try the following:

  • Look at your teams through a diversity lens. 
  • Ensure meetings allocate time to discuss innovative ideas and practices.
  • Praise effort and encourage persistence. 

We conclude this month’s 302 Thoughts with this quote from Peter Drucker, “If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old.”

Let us know if there’s a topic you want us to cover by leaving a comment below or by contacting us at And don’t miss our leadership newsletter every week by subscribing on the site. 


We can’t wait to hear from you. 

Joe & T.J.

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