Thank you for visiting the ISU Ed. Leadershop. Our intent over the past few years has been to field-test community-engaged writings for PK-20 practitioner conversation -- quick, 5-minute "read's" that help put into perspective the challenges and opportunities in our profession. Some of the writings have remained here solely; others have been developed further for other outlets. Our space has been a delightful "sketch board" for some very creative minds in leadership, indeed.

We believe that by kicking around an idea or two and not getting too worked-up over it, the thinking and writing involved have even greater potential to make a difference on behalf of those we serve. In such, please give us a read; share with others. We encourage your thoughts, opinions, feelings, and reactions to our work and thank you for taking your time. You keep us relevant.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

When the Foot Disappears

When the Foot Disappears

By Dr. Ryan Donlan
Assistant Professor
Department of Educational Leadership
Bayh College of Education
Indiana State University

My wife and I take our children to the bus stop each morning. 
We do so because it’s nice hanging-out with them before school, and we feel fortunate that our university schedules allow us this time.  Plus, our children are 11 and 10, and it’s still a bit dark in the morning.
Something about each morning stays with me in my mind, and in my heart, as I drive to work. 
It’s when the foot disappears.
That would be Sean or Katelyn’s foot, by the way.
As we sit in my truck, the bus typically arrives perpendicular to our direction from the right, which puts the door of the bus on the opposite side of the road, out of my sight.  After we exchange hugs and kisses, our children will hop from the truck, they’ll look left, right, and left again, and will cross the road as the bus’s lights flash.
All I can then see is a pair of little feet on the far side of the bus’s engine and driver’s seat above, as they stick out ahead of the wheel.
It’s when that last foot ascends upward and disappears each day that I reflect how much I love my children, each morning.
Sometimes I can see a silhouette make its way toward a seat; sometimes not.  When the foot disappears, I know that for a time, someone else is handling the care and feeding.
Someone else will have great influence over what happens, next.

As my children’s feet disappear, I’m blessed not having to fret about how they are treated.  I don't often worry, “Will they feel successful at what they try, and be successful at what they do, during the workday?”  They have a great support system at school.
I never really ponder, “Will they come home feeling worse than when they left?”  Our children teachers and principals are very good, once their feet appear on their end.  That makes all the difference.

What about your teachers?  Your leaders? 

Can you say that when children arrive, they are thought of as fondly as when their feet disappeared from a parent’s view, only a short time prior. 
Do all of your students feel loved, knowing that adults are trying their best to offer a nice day . . .  that they’ll be missed as well, when their feet disappear from your view in the afternoon?

Does each student in your school have a smile when boarding and de-boarding, a warm welcome in every classroom, and a caring adult offering them unconditional positive regard, as they move from one location to another?  Are hallways places of celebration and affirmation?

Does each have an adult looking on, with heartfelt reflection, when each foot disappears?


Dr. Ryan Donlan believes that all of our K-12 feet, large and small, should have guardian angels and open hearts in every school, all the days of the school year.  If your faculty and staffs are not studying the foot traffic, then possibly the opportunity will prioritize itself at the next staff meeting, somewhere amidst talk of pacing guides and performance outcomes.  Always willing to have a nice conversation, Dr. Donlan can be reached at (812) 237-8624 or at 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

If Students Ruled . . .

If Students Ruled . . .

By Dr. Ryan Donlan
Assistant Professor
Department of Educational Leadership
Bayh College of Education
Indiana State University

            If students ruled K-12 education, we might find a change or two around here.  I wonder what kids would come-up with, in terms of school redesign, by decree . . .

Hallways would be places to slow down and make friends, rather than places to “move along.”

Teachers would reclaim the ability to spend more time on the units they like, because the fun would rub-off. 

Adults would respond each morning like long-distance grandparents when kids arrive.

Exclamation points would be removed from all signs, unless they’re celebrating something. 

Student handbooks would stop being hammers and “all other things as proscribed.”

Bathroom stalls would have doors attached; soap containers would be full.

Everyone could eat and drink, all day long.

The principal WOULD be a “pal.”

Teachers would smile more and “pace” less.

Adults would stop taking cuts in the lunch line.

Recess would ROCK!  It would be protected.

Librarians would again be allowed to spend their time helping children select good books.

School would start a bit later in the morning.

Each classroom would have a Keurig, refrigerator, and overstuffed couch.

Electronic devices would be encouraged as learning and social media tools.

These ideas aren’t really so radical, are they? 
Many of us are even recognizing our own schools here.

What might we get if kids ruled and wanted to move beyond these basic notions of “school redesign” above, to something bigger, like SCHOOL REIMAGINATION.

Who might they employ? 
Would it be us?


Dr. Ryan Donlan loves envisioning what school would be if we were not addicted to notions of educational manufacture designed years and years ago.  If you would like to offer your own dream for what school could be, from the eyes of a child, or even to ask this very question of a child and relay what you hear, please consider giving him a call at 812-237-8624 or by writing at