Monday, February 19, 2018

What if?

Right Now. Here we are. In the moment. Doing. Moving. Breathing. Living our life.
And then it happens. Something we don’t want, but now, we have come to expect. A tragedy.
Lives are disrupted, lost and memorialized. We wonder why. What happened? What could have
gone wrong? When will things change?
Then it hits us. The Anger. The Rage. The Pain. The Fear. The Anguish. And The Hate.
When will it end? When will things improve? Why can’t we get this thing called Kindness, Love,
Empathy and Togetherness right?
It seems so simple; we teach Preschool kiddos and older to be kind, use nice words, actions and
gestures. “Think of others first” we say to them; because we know they are young, malleable,
impressionable and sweet. We KNOW they can do better than we did. We KNOW they can help
us to
improve our world. We KNOW they are the only ones we can count on to be what we aren’t.
But, for some reason, it isn’t working. It is broken, and so are we.
Why can’t we get this right? The hatred. The fury. The disgust. The judgement. The ignorance. The
inability to reflect, stop and think.
Not a day goes by in this amazing country that we don’t relive Normandy, Vietnam, Selma, 9/11,
Holocaust, Columbine, Boston Marathon Bombings; need I list more? No. We know them all, or at
least most of them. They just repeat with a theme; Racism, Hate, War, Mental Illness,
Misunderstandings, Ignorance and Lack of Empathy.
Who are we, my friends? Have we lost our minds? Why can’t we get it right? We have a leader in
Washington DC that seems to think draining the swamp means to eradicate all the good. We have
members of Congress that can’t see past the money they get from the NRA, Pharma, Amazon,
Exxon-Mobil, AT&T and so many more; that they can’t see straight.
In 2018, we have more hate groups in the US now, than ever ( 917 see map HERE ). What is
wrong with us? Why is #Kindness so difficult? We just had the movie Wonder come out with the
#ChooseKind movement. The Olympics are going on; time to move away from sport and politics,
right? It is time my friends. Now.
What if we decided to be kind everyday?
What if our students had the consistent message that they count and matter?
What if all Americans could have affordable Health Care, both Physical and Mental when they
needed it?
What if we only used guns for protection, hunting and sporting, and like many of the safest countries
in the world, we did not allow semi and automatic weapons?
What if All students had a say in his/her education?
What if all Black, White, Brown, and every other color person actually got along because they cared,
not because they looked, dressed, talked, or acted different?
What if the President and Congress actually worked for the People of the United States? Not for
Special Interests?
What if we all just did better. A little at a time. Every day.

I’m willing to try. Are you?

Saturday, December 30, 2017

My #OneWord2018 - #Faith

    As I jump in on the #Reflection2017 train, I feel like my brain is overloaded with a spaghetti filled array of memories.

To begin, my #OneWord2017 was #Advocate; I believe I nailed this the best I could. Not only was this my mantra in work and at school, but in my family life as well. Whether it be a student in need of services, a teacher wanting a letter of rec, my own kids needing support at school, or my father needing more help because of his physical and mental decline. I was an advocate for helping others get what they not only needed, but deserved.
    It was an emotional and busy year.  I moved my family back from WA to be closer to my Alzheimer’s suffering father in CA. We left a cute private school and headed to Davis, CA. New home. New schools. New friends. New adventures. New fears. New life.
    The #Advocate word came into full gear this fall. My daughter was at a new Jr. High School, and had a teacher who thought homework was the most important aspect of life. After many emails, phone calls and ranting, I got her moved to a new class. My boy (3rd Grade) was being harassed at his school by another new student. The teacher, bless her soul did what she could, but again, many emails to the Principal, and we had it solved. To let you know of my son’s soul, he invited this boy who bothered him to his birthday party, as he wanted to help him become a friend!
    While my experience at the private school in Washington wasn’t super amazing, it was an incredible growth opportunity. I give a ton of credit to Beth Houf and Shelley Burgess and the Lead Like a Pirate Book. It changed my life. My leadership style. My focus and my intentions. I joined some great groups and chats on @Twitter and @Voxer, which really opened up my connections to some amazing educators; teachers, admin, techies, librarians and more. I’ve dealt with physical pain of Sciatica and a pinched nerve in my back that has become so problematic and painful that it has adversely impacted my entire life, but I have faith, it will be restored.
    I began working at a new school this fall. The district; Fairfield-Suisun Unified was familiar to me, as I had been there before, but I was now working at a new site. Without the #Leadlap mojo, I think the first five months would not have been as productive. Don’t get me wrong, there have been an immense amount of wins and challenges, but overseeing 805 students, 50 staff members, and about 1300 parents was a daunting task! The staff is moving in the right direction, and I’m constantly trying to coach, lead, facilitate, support and #Advocate for all members of our amazing community, each and everyday.
   So, where am I today? Well, I’ve learned, failed, tried, laughed, cried, bled, grown and #Advocated. After following Jon Gordon’s #OneWord plan, I’ve come up with my own for 2018. It wasn’t easy, I tell you. Seeing things like More, Relentless, Possible, Reflect and others, my mind was wrestling until it became clear with #Faith. While I am a Christian and do have #Faith in God and the church, my #OneWord2018 is much deeper than that. My faith is much more extensive than that.
Faith, that our public schools will get the help we need to support ALL Students.
Faith, in our students, that they CAN achieve greatness.
Faith, in our teachers. For they will be able to understand, connect and love every child in his/her classroom, regardless of how they behave.
Faith, in myself as a father, husband, and Principal to do what I can and believe.
Faith, in our students, parents, community and country that we will do whatever it takes for our next generation to thrive and crush it.
And lastly, Faith in all people that Kindness will be a way of life. Every word, action, movement and gesture will be in the best interest of all, and that we will look to treat each other with love, generosity, gratitude and non-judgement.
Let’s do this in 2018 my friends, thank you to my #PLN and all those who have pushed me to become better. Every. Single. Day

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Each Mountain is Unique. Children are No Different!

    It dawned on me today while listening to a guest Rabbi, speaking to our Christian congregation about mountains, paths up them and the mysterious uniqueness of each one. Now, I’m not the brightest bulb in the box, but it really resonated with me; Children are Mountains! Each is distinct and exceptional and should be looked upon as such. Mountains AND children can explode. Each can crumble. They can grow, melt, become dormant, implode, morph, blossom, change forms, AND. SO. MUCH. MORE!
    We have now passed the ⅓ point of the school year. Teachers are tired, I get it. We put a TON on them; expectations, curriculum, committees, tasks and much more and we need to support them, but without those Mountains, OUR CHILDREN, We have nothing. Our teachers are magicians, scientists, artists, creators, originators and more! So now is the time. It is NOT too late to connect, embrace, watch, listen, empathize, laugh with, honor, love, hold and most importantly; BE THERE FOR.
    These younglings, our future, must each be given the chance. Yes, they may act out, or rebel, or yell and scream, throw a desk and disrupt us all. But we are the leaders. The mentors. The key to their success. While they may go dormant, or even erupt like Mount Vesuvius, it is our we, the educators that must dig deep into our tools, or colleagues tools, or find an iteration of a tool that hasn’t worked to connect with our little mountains.
    We can’t give up, or say it’s too late, or wait until tomorrow. We. Must. Act. Now. All of us must encourage this practice and together, find a way. Look at the inside, the smile, that little glimpse of hope inside each of them. Their meek little innocence that burns inside, just wants to be loved, nurtured, noticed and given a chance. Don’t turn your back. Or yell. Or send them out of the room. Get down on your knees, smile, speak softly and say “I care about you”. “I may not understand, but I want to help”. Can we do that? For Every Child?
    Like a mountain’s extraordinary and infinite detail, our young darlings will do things that we cannot imagine are possible. If we only believe! Have we exhausted all options? What have we NOT DONE? Called home? Invited in for lunch? Offered to play a game? Stopped by home? Told a joke? Asked what THEY want to learn?

   I ask you now. Don’t ignore, or turn your back, but pay attention and notice each beating heart. They will surprise you, if given that idea that My Teacher Believes I CAN! While a mountain may take hundreds, thousands, and even millions of years to grow and reach their peak, we can’t wait another second. I'm not asking you to MOVE a mountain, but just to notice one and pay attention. Please Act Now. For Every. Beautiful. Young Being.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Reflection: A true test of Courage

I often hear that with #Reflection comes #Change and with #Change comes #Growth, but how do we find the place that is the honest gauge of our #Reflection?
   Do you ever ask yourself at the end of the day “Why did I do that?”, or “How could I have said that?”, even “I cannot believe that happened today, what a dingbat I am”! If you aren’t asking yourself those types of questions each and everyday, how do you reflect, change and grow? Honest
reflection is a true test of courage. It is not easy to ask ourselves these questions, take risks, adjust mid-course, forgive ourselves, or start over. And even harder, we have to be ready to go again the next day!
   I know that on a daily basis, I make plenty of mistakes, bad choices, hasty decisions and say things I certainly don’t mean, but the only way I can grow is to be #Bold, have the #Courage to move ahead and really marinate in self reflective thought. Many things can get in my way and affect my mindset, such as; my state of hunger, state of anxiety, sleeplessness, a hit to my ego, or even an angry parent or colleague could have messed with my mind that day. The one #Must that needs to be a part of my toolkit has to be the #Courage to go over my day visually, figure out the circumstance of decision and dig deep. Dig deep into the heart of my ego and figure out what happened at that moment. Each day and instance will be different and depending on my #Goals and state of which direction I am headed professionally, I need to be mindful and cognizant on my actions.
   So, why does it take such true #Courage for us to reflect honestly? Well, one thing is that it can really sting. Bad. Our egos don’t naturally allow us to do something that we look back upon as  “Bone headed” or a “Poor decision” easily, but with a #GrowthMindset, a supportive #PLN, strong colleagues, teammates and supervisors, the culture can change.
Of course I don’t purposefully intend to go to school with the desire to speak to a child, parent, colleague, teacher or friend in an adverse or negative way, but hey, we are all human, right? It happens. The only thing that can bring solace is an apology and the #Courage to reflect.
What does that mean? Well, let’s look at some synonyms; mull over, cogitate, ponder, contemplate, muse and meditate are a few. Whatever your word(s) may be, your method of reflection must be honest, true, courageous and filled with positive intent!
   Why oh why is this so hard? We look at educators everyday that still use the same methods as five, ten, even TWENTY years ago! Worksheets, desks in rows, gobs of homework, Lack of choice in reading, AR only, technology as a word processor, quiet lines, no deviation or change in the schedule, lecturing in front of class, demanding compliance! What is this? I challenge you to be #Courageous and take the #Reflection leap! We must take a break from our egos and look at the individual moves we make every day. Our life of chess must be made up of flexibility!
    Dig deep my friends, and take one step at a time. Maybe try to use kinder words, or a tone to a conversation. Perhaps have positive intentions prior to a sticky situation. Do you need to walk away prior to acting, or reacting? Is your solution best for you, a child, a teacher, or a parent? Is there a pattern of how you react, depending on the time of day, or your state of hunger? Did you take care of your own mental and health needs with a walk; workout; meal; hydration? Have you really tried to connect to each kiddo and understand what he/she needs?
   I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I do strive to be better each day. My reflections can be ego-bruising and harsh, but my only solace is that I will learn and grow each time I take the #Courage to jump in with both feet. In my case it’s all about kids. Is it best for them or me? When I challenge a teacher to try something different, I certainly don’t do it for myself, I do it for the 806 students I see every day; eager to please; wanting to learn; trying to improve; champing at the bit of excellence. See them in your reflective practice. Every last one of them.

   It won’t be easy, but change and growth never are. Let’s do this together. With the #Courage to try, I truly believe you can be a mirror of excellence my friends!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Are. You. Ready?

Wow! And just like that: School. Here it is. Some of our #PLN have already started, but others are about to begin.
Are You Ready?
For 180 days of awesomeness, fun, and laughter.
Are You Ready?
For ALL kids to be included, loved, cared for and noticed.
Are You Ready?
To be visible, honest, intentional and kind.
Are You Ready?
To make a difference. For. Every. Child. No. Matter. What.
Are You Ready?
To have a Student Lead classroom?
Are You Ready?
For failure, re-learning, unlearning and growth?
Are You Ready?
To connect with peers, admin, friends and family.
Are You Ready?
To Show Up. Every Day.
Are You Ready?
To Empower, Advocate, Play and Inspire?
Are You Ready?
To reflect every day so that kids run back to school not away?
Are You Ready?
For changes in behavior that you don’t understand, but to connect, accept, love and support?
Are You Ready?
To be all in, no excuses, every child, end of story?

Tell me.

Are. You. Ready?

I am.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Change and Tolerance, is it really possible?

Wow! I’ve just spent one of (if not THE) the most memorable, educational, emotional and reflective weeks of my life on a field trip with the 7th and 8th Grade students from my school, and we aren’t even finished. We have traveled from Portland, Oregon to Birmingham, Montgomery, and Selma Alabama to tie up the Civil/Human/Women/Equal Rights unit that the kiddos had learned about in a long thematic unit earlier this year.

Believe me, with the stops we made, and the people we have listened to, this will be forever imbedded in my mind, heart and memory. Places such as, and not an all inclusive list are; The Dexter Ave. King Memorial Baptist Church, Southern Poverty Law Center (where our whole group took a vow of fighting any intolerance and hatred!), Dexter Parsonage Museum, Rosa Parks Museum, Freedom Rides Museum, 16th Street Baptist Church, Kelly Ingram Park, Gaston Hotel, Edmund Pettis Bridge, Judge Johnson’s Courtroom in the Federal District Courts of Alabama and so many more.
    How can this Great country of ours, based upon “All Men Created Equal” have let this happen? And, more importantly how is it still happening to; African Americans, Muslims, Jews, Gay/Lesbian/Bi/Trans, Disabled, Children and Women...the victim list is endless now. I never imagined what I would have seen, felt, experienced and learned until I came face to face with it. Violence. Hatred. Disgust. Heroes. Courage. Shame. Risks. Death. Bigotry. Anger. 

I have completely deepened my knowledge about the many amazing heroes I have come across this week; Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks, Fred Shuttlesworth, Ralph Abernathy, Denise McNair, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, Addie Mae Collins, John Lewis, A.G. Gaston, Hosea Williams, Viola Liuzzo, too many brave and courageous heroes to name. 

    Just turn on the television, tap on the news on your device, or listen to the radio and you’ll hear or see it. It is everywhere, not just in the USA, but all over the world. My concern is with us, yes USA us. We have a President that excludes, we have active KKK groups, we have Neo Nazi groups, Anti Gay, Anti this, that and the other. What the heck people? Our friends at the Southern Poverty Law Center have identified 917 HATE GROUPS (click here) in the USA, as of today! What? Are you kidding me?

      Didn’t we listen to the great Dr. King when he said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character”?
      Well, I don’t think we did my friends. I get it, believe me I do. Parents have values that their parents and grandparents had. Kids adopt those values, follow their lead and keep the path going. But I say, we break the pattern and don’t do what’s easy. Let’s be kind. Gentle. Compassionate. Empathic. Loving. Peaceful. Embracing of differences. If we all did this, had our children do this, and kept the practice going, we might even be able to change.
But, it has to start with us. Now. Not tomorrow. Our kids deserve it. Our Heroes deserve it. 
Words matter. Actions count. Gestures are meaningful.
No more jokes of color, race, gender, ability, language. Stop it Now. Break the chain and build a new one. Think of all the work that has been done in the short past of ours.
Do it. Now. For them. For us.

These people gave their lives to a cause, to freedom, to equality, and weren’t we supposed to support them? Help them? Keep the momentum going? What happened? Why is there still so much hatred, anger, bias and lack of understanding and compassion?
Our forefathers deserve it. Martin Luther King Jr., deserves it. Heck, we all do don’t we?
Join me my friends.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

My #ONEWORD2017 Revisited...A Reflection

I believe in reflection on a very regular basis. For some people, it may be weekly, or once in awhile, but for me, it HAS to be daily, and even sometimes more frequently. I felt compelled to check in with myself and look back on my January 3, 2017 post, titled #ADVOCATE. As the end of the school year comes ever so close, I ask myself "Have I been true to myself and #ADVOCATED for all"?
I know I certainly try on a daily basis to be an #ADVOCATE for all, and as I re-read my post, I listed Students, Family-Friends, and Strangers as my targeted group to #ADVOCATE for. Am I hitting my targets?

Without a doubt, this is my win-win category. I am faithfully #kidsfirst Every. Single. Day. No matter if I am at school, home, out and about in the world, or on vacation, this is my mantra: to ensure that ALL KIDS have what they need to be successful. Now, while I can’t guarantee food, shelter, clothing, health, or love, I can certainly do whatever is possible to #ADVOCATE and help that they are safe, healthy, happy, and thriving. I remember altercations at school, where I was there for them. Times when teachers may have been unfair, or too harsh, I was in their corner. Listening to an angry, irate dad yelling in the grocery store, and kindly saying “cool down my friend, it’s all good”. If we honestly think that we are helping to raise, inspire, lead, and mentor the next generation of awesomeness, then we all need to be there for ALL KIDS, because, as @awelcome and @TechNinjaTodd preach #kidsdeserveit.

Family and Friends
This is an area I take pride in. Friends, are family, and family is gold. It doesn’t matter if you are oceans away, or have been physically “absent” from my life for a while, I will knock down fences to #ADVOCATE for family and friends. Money? Advice? A listening ear? It doesn’t matter what the need is, I will be there, or make sure I can assist and support in some way. Without family and friends, life can be hollow, empty, and an unfilled cup. It is from this group that I get my strength, love, support, laughs, energy, confidence and advice from. I find it ultimately important to give back more than I take too.

Have you read the news lately? Driven by a homeless shelter? Taken a look around you in an airport, train station, parking lot, or stadium? These people we call strangers are living with troubles, skeletons, issues, needs, and other things that we cannot even conceive to be true.
Have you heard of Rachel Joy Scott? If not, please click here and read about her. She wanted to make the world better for everyone and it was her idea to make kindness a “Chain Reaction”. Pass it on, give it to someone else and make his/her life better. Rachel challenged everyone
to find how far kindness can go. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know the person or not...Just. Be. Kind. Strangers need love too, my friends.

My reflection
So where has this reflection check up really gotten me? Well, for one thing, it helps me know where I have failed, fallen short, and not been an #ADVOCATE. Who have I not stood up for, shown a big heart, and been like Rachel Scott? Is it my staff? My colleagues? Yes, yes, and many other areas,YES too! I am not perfect, and I fail everyday. There have been teachers this year that I have not been as supportive to as I could have. Perhaps I didn't count to 3 when responding to a parent too. Did a child or student that maybe rubbed me the wrong way and I raised my voice, or didn’t listen. Was I impatient? Did I have a headache? Was I tired? Who knows, but I do believe I am human, I will mess up and yes, I fail forward every day. I look back daily. I think. I ponder, and I wonder how my day could have been more positive. How could I been a better #ADVOCATE and supported that person better? My thoughts flood me as I reflect. I lean on my #PLN and look to #Twitter to learn from my #eduheroes. What would @georgcouros have done? How would @Aaronhogan have dealt with this? I can call any of my #principalsinaction friends and vent, talk and ask...what do I do? My support crew is endless, thank goodness!

But the lesson is this. Reflect. Reflect often. Reflect in a way that you will make growth. Apologize, start over. I have learned a lot this year, from many amazing people I know personally, and others I may have only heard from on #voxer, or #twitter, or by reading their books. But this is how we do it my friends. I will continue to #ADVOCATE as best I can, but with that comes reflection, failure and moving forward to a better place.