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What can a DJ teach us about the classroom? What does a superintendent do besides decide when to close school for snow? What makes someone a great teacher or a great principal? In this collection of essays, Dr. Joe Clark answers these questions by offering a model for compassionate, principled, and student-centered school leadership. In the process, If the Dance Floor Is Empty, Change the Song offers leaders a handbook for placing kindness, community, and diversity at the heart of successful education.

Full of humor and resilience, Clark’s essays beam with as much range as they do insight. He dives right into issues like changing instructional standards, increased reliance on testing, and anxiety about social media in schools—and others—while providing collegial advice that new school leaders in particular will find indispensable. With an eye towards centering students, supporting teachers, and empowering communities, If the Dance Floor Is Empty, Change the Song never loses sight of the human needs and connections that ultimately drive learning.

Praise for If the Dance Floor Is Empty, Change the Song

This is the type of read that can rejuvenate a veteran, or give new teachers tools to keep their morale and inspiration at their peak. The lessons you learn from this book can carry over throughout the year, even when you don’t know if you can get through it.
—Amber Teamann, principal of Whitt Elementary in Wylie ISD in Wylie, Texas

Woven through these pages are stories of connection, told with the candor and vulnerability necessary for promoting personal and professional growth. There is something for everyone in this book!
—Tamara Letter, MEd, instructional coach, technology integrator, and author of A Passion for Kindness

It’s been said that we never know the struggles that someone is going through, so we should treat them kindly always. In If the Dance Floor Is Empty, Change the Song, Joe Clark embraces his own vulnerability to share how he reclaimed his story after a traumatic childhood and used his life experiences—and his time as a DJ and camp director—to guide his work as a school leader. This book is an often humorous, sometimes melancholy look into what teaching and school leadership are all about. It’s a tremendous read that I know you’ll enjoy.
—Thomas C. Murray, director of innovation at Future Ready Schools and author of Personal & Authentic

No matter your role in education, Dr. Joe Clark’s book is one you want to read. The book takes you on a journey through stories and passionate writing about what kids deserve from educators at all levels. It reminds us of our “why” as educators–why we do what we do. And what we can do to improve our craft. There is nothing fancy or technical to the art of building relationships, being available, listening, and if these are not working, changing the music. It is not only our job but our moral responsibility to help students “find their Santa suits.” Recognizing that each student has talents, gifts, and skills that we can help them to display for the world to see is a theme throughout this work. Dr. Joe Clark’s writing should encourage others that there are still great educators out there doing what is best for students and helping progress the profession of education in positive ways!
—Dr. Holly W. Sutherland, superintendent of Haleyville City Schools (Alabama) and moderator of #ALedchat


The raw vulnerability with impeccable humor and a whole lot of honesty is exactly what Joe has served up for you! If you’ve ever made a mistake or think you will, then this is a must-read. The lens in which he spins (pun intended) this book is insightfully hilarious!
—LaVonna Roth, speaker, author, and chief  illuminator of Ignite Your S.H.I.N.E.®


If you are looking for a refreshing perspective on leading and learning from the lens of a superintendent with experience as a professional disc jockey and camp director, you will love If the Dance Floor is Empty, Change the Song by Dr. Joe Clark. Woven through the pages are stories of connection, told with a candor and vulnerability necessary for promoting personal and professional growth. No matter your role in education—superintendent, district leader, principal, or teacher—you will be empowered to keep the music playing, no matter which generation you serve. There is something for everyone in this book!
—Tamara Letter, MEd, instructional coach, technology integrator, and author of A Passion for Kindness

Too often in education we overcomplicate things. In If the Dance Floor is Empty, Change the Song, Joe Clark shares captivating stories from his life that will make you literally laugh out loud and fight back tears, and in doing so, gives the reader great practical advice for succeeding in the field of education. I would recommend this book not only to all school administrators but also to anyone in a position to positively impact kids.
—Ryan McLane, principal, director of special education, and co-author of Your School Rocks . . . So Tell People!


If the Dance Floor Is Empty, Change the Song is a look into the world of leadership, education, and how to treat students. Dr. Clark writes to inspire teachers, principals, and superintendents to reflect on the mission of being educators while being reminded to enjoy their work. This quick read will help you reflect and smile as Dr. Clark shares meaning and humor in everyday moments.
—Todd Whittaker, leading authority on staff motivation, teacher leadership, and principal effectiveness; and author of What Great Teachers Do Differently


I thoroughly enjoyed reading If The Dance Floor Is Empty . . . by Dr. Joe Clark! This is a great book for any educator or administrator to read. His advice, stories, and experiences are authentic and will definitely hit home with anyone who has been in the field!
—Dr. Bryan Pearlman, founder and head trainer of Most Valuable Professional Development


If the Dance Floor is Empty, Change the Song by Joe Clark is a cleverly written book that will not only make you think about how we approach our jobs as educators but make you chuckle out loud. Filled with personal stories, practical examples, on-point illustrations, and golden nuggets of wisdom, this book will be hard for readers to put down.
—Jimmy Casas, educator, author, speaker, and leadership coach


If the Dance Floor Is Empty, Change the Song is a book that will leave you smiling and laughing at times. It will also validate your thinking about education. More importantly, it will challenge you to rethink why we serve as educators and what is most important when discussing education and the purpose of schools. This book is filled with scores of reflections on teaching, learning, and leading that are applicable to educators in all roles, especially school leaders.
—Jeffrey Zoul, EdD, author, speaker, leadership coach, and president of ConnectEDD


As a newly appointed principal, I found this book witty, insightful, and inspiring. The real-life stories and anecdotes that Dr. Clark provides are relatable to teachers, school managers, and,
honestly, anyone in a position of leadership. If the Dance Floor Is Empty, Change the Song should be required reading for both new and seasoned school administrators alike. It should be part of every principal’s and teacher’s motivational tool kit.
—David Thomas, principal of St. Gabriel’s Special School, Bishopstown, Cork, Ireland


“Great, another leadership book!” That was my first thought when I was asked to read If the Dance Floor is Empty, Change the Song. Once I read the first few pages I was hooked; I truly wanted to dance. Finally, a leadership book with great advice and a vast amount of humor. Yes, school is serious business. But if you don’t laugh and enjoy the experiences, then why even be a school leader? Dr. Joe Clark has created an informative quick read that gives you relatable and useful information. I truly did laugh out loud at graphics, pie charts, and stories. If you can’t relate to this book, then you truly have never danced to a good song or sat back and enjoyed the experience of being a school leader.
—Jack Berckemeyer, presenter, author, humorist; and former assistant executive director for the National Middle School Association


A gourmet meal of insight offered up in perfect bite-sized portions. Devour it all at once like I did, or pick it up whenever you begin to doubt your role as a leader and educator in this world.
—Drew Dudley, author of This is Day One

Check out the interviews  of Dr. Clark discussing the book on Community Focus and The Summit Exchange.

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