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?
Students

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.

Strangers
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.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Mrs. Sherry cared...do you?

I was reading a blog today by Eric Sheninger (@E_Sheninger) about his awesome Science Teacher, Mr. S, and this really hit me: Caring. Is it that hard for some? Should it be part of our job description? Why can't we give kiddos positive lasting impressions, memories and connections that stay with them forever?
Or, would we rather them remember standardized testing and having to sit out of recess? (that is another topic all in of itself).
I hated school. There, I said it. Growing up in the highly educational and educated small town of Davis, CA in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, one might think this would be THE place to go to school. Well, for me, it wasn’t. I was then what today one would call ADD, ADHD and inattentive. Depending on the day, I may have been cleaning erasers during lunch, (yes, we had chalkboards my friends) sitting in the principal’s office, going to school with my mom (she taught HS at Vanden HS in Vacaville, CA) because I was suspended, or having my head slammed against the classroom wall by my 5th Grade teacher! (really, I kid you not). This wasn’t all the school’s fault for sure. I do take responsibility for mooning my PE Teacher and pantsing some kids, maybe even putting wood chips in someone’s mouth, but come on, I was bored and when I didn’t understand something, I felt plain STUPID and wanted to run, run, run!
Then came 6th Grade…(breakout the Angel music) and Mrs. Paula Sherry to the scene. For the first time, someone got it! Yes, she would still find me annoying at times, but I got to move, have fun, try new things, but most importantly of all, Mrs. Sherry cared...and it showed. She would listen, laugh, read to us all the time, and best of all, she would let us be kids. Yes! Learning was fun for the first time since...ever! I finally had some confidence in my learning. Mrs. S even helped me to enjoy Math and Spelling! Yes, Jeff was in the Spelling Bee and made it through a few rounds. Wow! Mrs. S cared.
Yes, Mrs. S cared. Shouldn’t all educators do that? Maybe throw in a side of empathy, gratitude, tolerance and faith? Mrs. S became my hero and she is primarily (shared with my mother of course) the reason that I am an educator today. Mrs. S cared.
Over the next several years, I would go by WDI (my school, now named after Mr. Willett) and visit Mrs. S to say hi, let her know how I was doing, and just hang out. She had such a positive influence on me that I would go by Sherry’s Pipe and Tobacco Shop, downtown to say hello to her and Mr. Sherry. How many High School boys go and visit their 6th Grade teachers? Mrs. S cared.
Over the college and early adult years, I lost track of Mrs. S. But a few years ago, I tracked her down on Facebook, where we re-connected, and have since shared several posts, stories, pictures and memories. Mrs. S cared.
I was recently invited to the graduation of a former student, Michael York, who graduated from the amazing Military Academy in West Point, NY. His mother tracked me down and sent me an invite. Unfortunately, I could not go, but the point is, maybe to Michael, I cared.
Do you care? I challenge you!
So, today I challenge you to do this: Write a card, make a phone call home, tell a joke, take a kiddo to lunch, play hoops/hopscotch/4 square, listen, color with, or just watch a kiddo that is quiet. If you can do this daily, to one or two kids in class, or at your school, you will become the Mrs. S and Mr. S of your generation. You will get kiddos coming back to visit, chat, pour their souls out and even invite you to HS or College graduation. Mrs. S cared.
THANK YOU MRS. PAULA SHERRY FOR CARING!

Monday, March 20, 2017

ONE SHOT...My Ode to Eminem

One Shot

The other night, while having a family dance party, I shouted to Alexa, “Alexa, play Lose Yourself by Eminem”. As my wife, two kids, and I were busting moves, it hit me, especially the first few lines:
Look
If you had
One shot
Or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted
In one moment
Would you capture it
Or just let it slip?
We really only have ONE SHOT. To make a difference, to apologize, to get it right, to be who we are. We raise our kids with ONE SHOT. We don’t get a do over. Take what you have, right now and go.
ONE SHOT. To do whatever we can to help kids succeed. No excuses, no waiting, no nothing. Just get it going and DO. Try something don’t wait around. As my friend and #edudhero @adamwelcome reminds us in his recent blog: Just. Start. Doing.
ONE SHOT. For you to be a learner. A leader. A failer. A hero. This is the here and now my friends, time is of the essence. We have a new government, a new view on education. What are you going to do to change? Wait until tomorrow? No, that is too late.
ONE SHOT. To show others what you can do. The most impressive innovation is failure. Too many amazing people have shown us this over and over again. It begins with a thought, a scribble, a note, but then a push, no a jump into what most times leads to failure and then another iteration. Keep going. Keep trying. Keep pushing. Others will see this and say “Whoa, that dude’s got it”. He/she goes for it.
ONE SHOT. How many times have you thought to yourself “Darn, I wish I could do it over.” Or, “I wish I would have done it this way.” OK. Now. Go for it. This is your time, your opportunity to seize it!
ONE SHOT. Maybe now you should go for that new job, or try out that new experiment, or show the students in your class you are willing to put it out there, on the line. This. Is. The. Time. This is your “Liner” in 4 square, your mulligan in golf. Laugh hard and often, like my friend Lindsy Stumpenhorst, @lmstump says. And. Then. Just. Do.
ONE SHOT. So many times as an educator I have driven home and reflected on my day. “Gosh, I wish”, or “Darn, I shoulda, coulda, woulda”. OK. Put it into action now and don’t hesitate. What will happen? You fail, mess up, or better yet, you kill it! How about that! Imagine that you actually kill it and succeed and find some amazing coolness from what you thought you could not do!
You better lose yourself in the music, the moment
You own it, you better never let it go
You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime you better…”

Eminem said it, and I challenge you to this:
Try. Right now. Go for it. Risk something today.

We cannot produce leaders and resilient students with GRIT, if we don’t ourselves get after it and go for it. Innovation is only as good as our next failure my friends, because really, we only get ONE SHOT. To do it now.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

My #OneWord2017

I don’t recall if I chose #ONEWORD2016, but when so many of my PLN friends began posting their #ONEWORD2017 this past week, I could not hold back. Here they were, right in front of me. For example; @lmstump - BOLD, @awelcome - SUFFER, @bethhill2829- CHAMPION, @kasnelson - JOY, @PrincipalTallen- BE, @jkloczko - JOY and @tsschmidty - IGNITE. My choices were astronomical...Advocate. Supporter. Champion. Proponent. Fighter. Crusader. Coach. Mentor. Decisions, decisions, decisions. So many words, so little time. I could go on and on, as I reap so much knowledge, spirit, enthusiasm, joy, encouragement and positivity from my #twitter, #voxer, #linkedin and #facebook friends. But what would it be?
My choice was simple. I am an ADVOCATE. I will fight, support, crusade and be a champion for all.
Being raised by two supportive and ADVOCATING parents in Davis, CA gave me the foresight and drive to ADVOCATE for others. I was always encouraged to do my best and thrive on my own. I was not forced, pushed or shoved into things. My parents would stick up for me, teach me and give me the tools to fly, and yes, even fight for me if necessary. They fostered dozens of youth, volunteered for Cub Scouts, swim team, Indian Guides, church activities...wherever I needed them, they would show up and ADVOCATE.
Image result for advocateSo, by default, this became my passion, my drive, my focus. No matter who you are, I will ADVOCATE for you. Why? Because it is the right thing to do. We need to be more selfless in the world, there are enough selfish and self centered people. Let’s push for the underdog, support the quiet ones, go the distance for the kid that has no chance. Let’s all do a bit of ADVOCATING and see what happens. But, who do we ADVOCATE for? Well, let’s hold on and see.
Children
They need us. They trust us. They count on us. They believe in us. So, when they need a hot meal, a ride home, a warm coat, a pair of shoes, a fighter in their corner, a hug, a smile, a kind word, an ear to listen, a protective voice, a believer, then I will be there...always...anytime...day...or night. This is our future, our gift, our own flesh and blood. I will ADVOCATE for them, then and now. #kidsfirst #kidsdeserveIt

Students
Image result for childrenSix months young, or ninety years old. A student wants to learn, needs to learn, yearns to learn and has a desire to grow. Why not support them and watch them bloom? I will ADVOCATE for them. Whatever the setting; school, cooking, prison, custodian, mechanic, heavy equipment operator, technical, you name it. If within someone is a light, then I will hold the flame, the match and protect the candle from blowing out.
Friends and Family
Here it is. I said it. Our blood. Our hearts. Our default. Our go to. Our souls. The brick and mortar of our existence. Friends and family are the group that I would take a bullet for. Speak up, lay down, dive in, risk it all. This is what keeps me whole and moving forward. Who cares how much money or “things” we have..our friends and family show our character, our true worth, our value to others. I will ADVOCATE and lay down in front of a train for you.
Strangers
Probably the most forgotten, but yet, it could be the most important group. When is the last time you stuck up for a stranger who was being beaten, attacked, bullied, put down, made fun of, taken advantage of and basically, not loved? Me? I can honestly say over the holidays I ADVOCATED for a women in need, someone I did not know. Friends, I am asking you, no, I”m begging you to join me. Help, protect, interfere, support, give, behold, stand by and ADVOCATE for others, it will come back to you in a good way.


So, now you know my #ONEWORD2017 and I ask that you help me live up to it. 24/7. No doubt. No questions asked.
Please. Join me and let’s make the world a better place.


Peace my friends!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Failure...how do you embrace it?

This is a post written by two school leaders; Jeff Kubiak, current Head of School at The Gardner School of Arts & Sciences in Vancouver, WA, and Eric Ewald, current lead learner and chief storyteller at Van Allen Elementary School in North Liberty, IA.


fail·ure
ˈfālyər/
noun
  1. lack of success, non-fulfillment, defeat, collapse.

Failure, in EDUCATION....Must not only be an option, but a certainty.


Remember the phrase from Blockbuster Movie “Apollo 13”? titled, “Failure is not an option”?  I just found out it was written in by scriptwriters for the movie, not actually said by anyone from NASA. But wow, let’s use NASA as the example here. If NASA had never NOT failed, what would our space program look like?  How many iterations of rockets, spaceships, spacesuits and MARS rovers would they have NOT gone through?
As educators, the term FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION  does NOT sit well with us.
As you look at today’s world and challenges, the educational institutes,our model companies, and especially some of our most inspiring heroes and athletes, one common trait holds true: Failure is a must. A given. A for sure. An absolute. A 100% guarantee to growth, success and beyond.


Next, let’s just look at a guy named Michael Phelps: 5 Olympic Teams, 28 Olympic Medals, 23 of them GOLD! Not everything was all roses for our fine dolphin-esque friend. Two DUI arrests, a viral photo of him smoking a bong, failed swim sets, bullied at school, diagnosed with ADHD and mental illness AND struggled in school. Now, he has a fiance, a baby boy, a great coaching job and endorsements galore. Seems to me that he learned from every one of those misfortunes we call failures and became without a doubt, the History’s Greatest Olympian Ever!


“And why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.”
  • Thomas Wayne in Batman Begins
It’s okay to fail. It’s going to happen. We’ve got to embrace failing. We have to encourage failing as a part of the process. And then we have to get back up. We have to keep going. We have to relentlessly persevere. If/when we do these things...watch-out!
Failure + Perseverance = Success


Michael Jordan and Nike created one of my all-time favorite commercials that they titled “Failure.”


The commercial begins with Jordan stating, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career.” What if Michael Jordan had given up after his first missed shot? What if he would have quit? We would have been robbed of witnessing one of the greatest clutch athletes of all-time!


Failure is ALL around us. So why are we, as a society, (sometimes) ashamed to fail? It’s okay. We have to make it okay. As educators (and parents) we have to ENCOURAGE OUR KIDS TO FAIL; we have to ENCOURAGE OUR KIDS TO LEARN FROM THEIR FAILURE; and then we have to ENCOURAGE OUR KIDS TO TRY AGAIN, AND AGAIN, AND AGAIN while cheering them on along the way.


As a child that grew-up in the 90’s, I get fixated on anything Michael Jordan fairly easily. Fortunately, for me, with this topic he is all over the place. He was featured in another great Nike commercial, titled “Maybe It’s My Fault.”


We all want to ‘Be LIke Mike.’ But let’s remember this message, from Mike, “I’ve failed over, and over, and over again in my life. And that is why, I succeed.”


Hey! How about this dude named Thomas Edison? You may have heard his name once or twice. Well, Thomas was called “too stupid to learn anything” by his teachers and classmates. He had over 1,000 failed attempts at inventing the light bulb...Can you imagine? Talk about resilience, grit, tenacity and focus. Other non-winner ideas, such as mining methods, cement companies, cabinetry, pianos...the list goes on and on didn’t work either for our friend TE. One of my favorite quotes of his is “I have not failed 10,000 times, I have found 10,000 ways things did not work. Where would we be today without a light bulb, phonograph and motion picture camera?
(Jeff) In my lifetime, I have failed over and over again in school ( yes, there were some D’s), sports (missed the ‘88 Olympic Team by .12), relationships, music playing and arts to name a few.But I have to say, the BEST teachers and coaches I have had lead me to believe in myself, to try again and again, improve, and not give up...ever.


As leaders (we all are, by the way), this is what we MUST do everyday for all of our students, workers, friends, and family. Be there. Show them. Lead them. Encourage them. Cheer them on. Push to greater heights. Mentor. They ALL deserve it...and so do you and I.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Life and New Beginnings

New Life.
Where does it start?
We are born so helpless, fragile and delicate, yet we are brought into this world with expectations galore.
I was fortunate to spend some time with my day old niece this past weekend; Amelia Grace Connolly. Wow! What a joy and bundle of beauty, but such a frail little specimen she is. It was such a pleasure to just look at her, and touch her tiny little fingers. Watch. Stare. Enjoy.

I too have recently began a " new life", having accepted the position as the Head of School for an amazing educational mecca called The Gardner School of Arts & Sciences. Over the last few weeks, I have been separated from my wonderful wife, and two children, as they are back in CA spending time with family and finishing taking care of some odds and ends with our relocation.
This has not been easy on any of us, but as I reflect on Amelia Grace, with her tiny fingers, her little ears and small little puffs of air, I realize that we are both in the same boat, so to speak.

I am new to the Northwest, to this school, and to the community of Vancouver.
Amelia is new to her parents, her sister, her home and her extended family...everything really.

I have high expectations of myself in my new role and want to be a positive role model for all.
Amelia has high expectations for herself from society; preschool, college, marriage, kids, careers.

I am learning hourly, daily, and weekly about how the school has been run, its past, and so many minute details about the operations.
Amelia has been learning by the second, minute, hour and day as well. Breathing, nursing, moving, body control, inputting data and much more.

Image result for fear quotesI am nervous at times, for I want to succeed in the eyes of those around me, the students, and most importantly, myself.
Amelia, I am sure is nervous as well. She most likely wants to be the best little sister in the world. She wants to do everything right in her parents eyes and make a huge and positive impact on the planet and people.

So, what do we do? Who do we turn to?
Well, for Amelia, she has Malena, her big sister, her mother and father, amazing grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Soon, she will have friends, teachers, coaches, tutors and mentors to learn, glean and model from.
I, on the other hand, have my PLN. My @twitter network and #voxer, my friends, family and new supports: Board of Trustees, NWAIS New Head Group and many others.

As Amelia and I navigate our newness, our beginnings, and paths, I hope to learn from my many failures. I hope to teach her to do the same.
We are always learning.
We are always trying.
We are always failing.
But most importantly, we count on those around us for help, love, support and direction.