Byron's Babbles

Fireside Chats

Posted in Coaching, Education, Education Reform, Leadership, Learning Organization, Unstructured Collaboration by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on August 24, 2013
Fireside Chat In My Office

Fireside Chat In My Office

I realize that all the credit for the idea of fireside chats goes to Franklin Delano Roosevelt but I want to share with you something that started spontaneously at our school and has turned into an important part of our culture. Just as FDR used the chats to bring awareness to the American public. We use these to bring awareness about our world as a turnaround academy. These fireside chats started as a group of teachers mingling in my office after school, particularly on nights when there was an hour or two gap between school letting out and an athletic event. Most principals use this time for catching up on paperwork or the likes – not me!

We use the time for our staff to get together in my office to vent, share ideas, make me aware of issues, laugh, and even cry. Honestly, many great ideas, procedures, and programs we now have in place came from these fireside chats. Interestingly enough we called them fireside chats without a fire. Then word got out about our fireside chats and some students bought me a small electric fireplace for my office. This has become one of my most valued possessions in my office. You can see it in the picture – look close under the white board or you might miss it.

In the great book, TouchPoints: Creating Powerful Leadership Connections in the Smallest of MomentsDouglas Conant discusses the interruptions that leaders face interacting with their staff are actually moments that give the opportunity for awareness and leading in the largest of proportions. Amazingly I had a lengthy fireside chat with some teachers today and also amazingly I got an email from an assistant principal of a school in our network of schools that had started “campfires” after hearing a presentation I made on our fireside chats. I really believe the email exchange between us does the best job of describing the thoughts I would like to present in this post.

FDR Fireside Chat

FDR Fireside Chat

So, here it is:

Byron,We just wanted to take a minute to thank you for telling us about your campfire idea from your school.  We implemented this with our staff last week during RTO and had another one yesterday after our first week of school.  We even had the art teacher make a campfire for us with a battery-powered light and fan (see the attached picture)!  Our staff LOVES it!  Here is what one staff member said:

I wanted to share how much I appreciated “Camp Fire”. The advice/counsel that I was given will definitely help me grow in my position. I left those moments with a sense that not only am I valued as an employee but as an individual. I guess that’s what happens when we take the time to validate a student’s concerns/feelings. Thanks again and I look forward to an amazing year!

Hope you had a great first few weeks of school!  Thanks again for sharing your ideas that support and value our people!



I want you to know words cant describe how much your email means to me! Thank You! We want to be a contributor of best practices to our network, and really believe that the “camp fires,” or “fireside chats” as we call them, are one of those. These started spontaneously, but have become an important part of our culture. These “touchpoints,” as I like to a call them, are important to us as leaders for awareness.
Additionally, your timing of this email is impeccable! I just finished a fireside chat with seven teachers who were in the building today, that started at 11:15 and just ended at 3:15, and was feeling a little frustrated that I had got nothing I had planned to do done. But guess what? Your email reminded me that there was nothing we could have done today that was more important to teaching and learning, putting our teachers first, and most importantly our students first, than the 4 hours we spent having a fireside chat! 
So, thank you for getting me in check, and the email. I am so excited about this! Please, let’s stay in touch about how your campfires evolve. 
How COOL is what we do?
Warm Regards,


Seriously, how cool is this! So next time you think you are wasting time talking with the people you lead, remember these could be the moments where the greatest leadership opportunities lie!

TouchPoints: Creating Powerful Leadership Connections in the Smallest of Moments – See more at:
TouchPoints: Creating Powerful Leadership Connections in the Smallest of Moments – See more at:
TouchPoints: Creating Powerful Leadership Connections in the Smallest of Moments – See more at:
TouchPoints: Creating Powerful Leadership Connections in the Smallest of Moments – See more at:

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