Monday, March 11, 2019

It's Not Too Late

Not only is it crazy that March is upon us, it's an amazing opportunity for us take a selfie of where we are in our practice, our craft, our passion and WHY.
If you are a teacher, this is the time of year to really bring it. I posted a video yesterday on YouTube about some things to think about, but also wanted to stress a few thoughts more clearly.

We all know those students that by this time of year are really rocking it; mastered the standards, into the next grade concepts, thriving academically and socially. Well, what do we do with them now? Let's ask them! Yes, the students. Give them the power of voice, choice, drive and direction. These students need to feel like leaders. Keep them engaged by letting them sit in the driver's seat and take off!

There are so many cool things they could be doing right now: Ambassador of technology for the class or school, Class Blogger, FlipGrid Director, Code Master, Chess teacher, or whatever THEY believe they can do. Of course we want them to thrive, push the thinking, and stay motivated, but with only 2-3 months of school left, give them some room to really shoot for the moon!

What about the children that are still so far behind? How do we address his/her needs too? This, my friends is why we have colleagues! Reach out. What is your intervention plan? Are you integrating small group and/or 1:1 instruction daily? Are you sharing groups with your neighbor, or buddy teacher? Is your instruction intense, relevant and tailored to each child's gaps?

It's Not Too Late! We can still do this! Are you a bell to bell teacher? Or, do you let things all go on Fridays? Does each student get what they need and deserve? Have you done an interest inventory lately for each child? If not, you need to. Kids needs and interests change like ours do. Find a way to capture that firefly of a spark, so we don't lose them.

Think of it this way. If your own child was in a class, and was not being challenged, pushed, intervened, or loved; what would you do? Think about it. The child that throws the books, yells, has a hard time getting along with others. Call the Principal? Send them out? you talk to them. Call home. Visit them outside of the "School Zone?". Whatever it is, don't just bail on them now. They need you more than ever! This is your chosen passion my friends - show yourself and others that YOU are the most empathic, kind, loving and dedicated educator ever!

It's not too late - for you to focus on self care. Balance your life. Take 5 minutes at lunch for YOU. Close your eyes, breath and relax. You need to be a newly built locomotive ready to pull the load everyday, so, yes, I give you permission to focus on your OWN health too! Please. We need you!

It's not too late. That final bell of the year is still 8-12 weeks away. When it rings, will you shout to the heavens "YES!" "I did everything I could for every child!". Or, will you take the route of "Darn it, I shoulda, year I will?" No. You won't. Because you are an educator. You are a selfless servant focused on every, single child. Good, crazy, wild, mellow, troubled, kind, or unregulated. We love them all.

So, I ask you this my friends: "Is it too late?" Or are you willing to go out now and reach every student, teacher, staff member, and parent to find a unique way to truly "Bring it" for the end of the year?

#OneDropOfKindness #PushBoundEDU #CompelledEDU #TeachBetter

Monday, March 4, 2019

How You Doing?

Most of us remember Joey Tribbiani from the television show "Friends". Those that don't can just find the reruns on Netflix and will soon be able to relate to him with me. One of his most famous taglines was "How you doin?" in a very "I wanna pick you up" voice and tone to the ladies.
Well, although his technique was interesting, I like his line, because in today's schools, with what we have going on, I believe this isn't said enough.
"How are you?, How you doing? Are you alright? Can I help support you?" These are what we should be asking our students, teachers, admin, community members and anyone else we care about on a daily basis.
Our mental health, well-being, balance, and mindset are so critical in our ever-so important work. You hear all the time, "Yes, I do need to balance my time", and " I know, I work too much". But how often do we get eye to eye, check in, listen and really care about how someone is doing?
Educators not only work hard, but work long hours. We wear different hats. We attend meetings, events, PD, trainings and other time evaporators.
Needless to say, we all go home to our "other" lives, which, in some cases, can be even more of a stressor.
Time is something that we all manage quite differently as well. Some manage it well, others don't. BUT, the big but (not bootay), is that there is ALWAYS time (5 min here or there) for a quick breathing session, timeout, walk, close door and shut eyes, meditation, etc. You can't deny it. It is there. Look for it. Calendar it in. Make it happen. You deserve it (right Adam Welcome?).
Life is short. Balance is critical.
If someone cares enough to check in on you. Take it seriously enough to reflect and do a quick mind map of your physiology and frame of mind. It would be nice to have you around for longer, as you are vitally important to many people, animals and things.
I guarantee it.
So, "How you doing?"
Please take a moment to just ask.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

It happened...

OK. It happened today.
The day started with a doldrumness feeling. I was tired. I was stressed. I was feeling lonely and unsure.
My dad has Alzheimers and Parkinsons - what a combo...:(
Mom called today..."Jeff, there's an open room at the memory care facility." Boom! Damn! Really?
My sister, Mom and I had been expecting this for over a month, but when you hear, " You are first on the list," it kind of makes you cringe. Knowing that for an opening in a nursing home means that someone else has died? Umm, not my comfort zone.
Pops has gone downhill fast. My family moved back from Vancouver, WA in Spring of '17, as we knew he was declining quickly.
My pops.

I know it wasn't the best time ever growing up, but he's pops. My dad. My father. My pappy. The 'Ol man, etc.
He was there. He worked hard. He brought us to Hawaii every year since I was 5 - probs about 35 trips my friends. Yes, he worked 7 days per week. Ignoring things that may have been perceived more important.
Speaking to dad on Sunday, February 24, 2019 ( after his donut from Fluffy's -Brian Briggs you down?) (shaved and showered him next) - we then had quite a few laughs, cries, hmm's and questions.
My big Q was " Dad, why did you work 7 days per week when I was growing up?" His response was beautiful:  "Jeff, I never felt confident in what I did as a dad. Working gave me confidence, because I was good at it."

Wow. My dad gave me about 40 trips to Hawaii. Camping. National Parks. Baseball. Swimming. Surfing. Scuba. Whatever Marian and I needed.

Now- What was left? A few memories? Stories of Frozen Custard from Milwaukee? Some laughs? A model of the USS Arizona that we built in 1975?

No. Pops is not just a shell. He is here. He is now. He is present. He is my dad of 53 + years and every time I see him, he is me. My life. My family. My pops.
I love you Pops.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

The Lonely People, Inspired by Eleanor Rigby ( John and Paul )

I was never a huge Beatles fan ( Don't hate me Sean Gaillard/Pepper Effect ), but one song has always stood out to me, that I could play an endless loop of: Eleanor Rigby.
There are many stories behind the origin of this amazing song, but to me, it rings the words "School Children 101" every time I hear it.

First, listen to the chorus: "Ah look at all the lonely people". Think of your school. Your students. Staff. Community. Without knowing, there are so many people that fall into this category, for what? Existing? Being? Going through the motions? What are we doing for these lovely and lonely souls? Are we connecting, inspiring and leading them to better things?
Another poignant line that rings true with me is "Where do they all belong?". If you believe in every child. Every day. Every Chance. Then this is us! They belong with us. We must know these lonely souls. They are hiding behind faces, and smirks, and frowns, and furrowed brows. It is a masquerade ball, and we must find out who the jester is amongst these broken hearts. But, without asking questions, showing interest, getting on our hands and knees, we will never know. Know that they are on food stamps. Or living with 10 relatives. Or sharing a bed with 4 siblings. Or that they are so afraid to upset mom or dad because they'll get whipped. Show them they belong.
"Eleanor Rigby, died in the church, And was buried along with her name, Nobody came." To me, this is the most powerful of all the lines in the song. Nobody Came. Well, except for Father McKenzie. What? Really? We cannot accept this loneliness my friends. It is just no acceptable. All students must feel welcome. They must feel loved, accepted, honored, and cherished. There must be no outliers of looks, personality, language or race. If we are not helping the silent child that most needs it, then we are neglecting the outgoing class clown who shouts out for help! They all need us. Find the Eleanor Rigby in your school now. Not next week, but now. Look around. Ask. Observe.
They are all out there my fellow educators. The scavenger hunt is on. Will you join me in the hunt to find them?
#OneDropOfKindness #PushboundEDU #CompelledTribe #Joyfulleaders

Eleanor Rigby - 1966
Ah look at all the lonely people
Ah look at all the lonely people
Eleanor Rigby, picks up the rice
In the church where a wedding has been
Lives in a dream
Waits at the window, wearing the face
That she keeps in a jar by the door
Who is it for
All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?
Father McKenzie, writing the words
Of a sermon that no one will hear
No one comes near
Look at him working, darning his socks
In the night when there's nobody there
What does he care
All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?
Ah look at all the lonely people
Ah look at all the lonely people
Eleanor Rigby, died in the church
And was buried along with her name
Nobody came
Father McKenzie, wiping the dirt
From his hands as he walks from the grave
No one was saved
All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?
Songwriters: John Lennon / Paul Mccartney
Eleanor Rigby lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Sunday, December 30, 2018

#YOU - My #OneWord for 2019

     One year ago I posted about #Faith, my #OneWord2018. One of my true inspirations, Jon Gordon wrote about Fear and Faith and how they are both interconnected, but can either drive you forward, or backward. They both deal with an unknown future. As I reflect on my #Faith from 2018, I know in many instances it pushed my #Fear back and allowed me to experience risk, growth and the unknown with a an enormous donkey style kick!
     Fast forward 365 days and I find myself in a place of service. I NEED to serve YOU first. I WANT to do more for YOU. No matter who you are, or what you do, I would like to help you learn, grow, reflect, thrive, take risks, challenge yourself, or whatever else it takes!
     For 53 years, I have been supported by so many amazing people. Of course, Mom and Dad, my sister Marian, Piper, SG, Ricky, Johnny, Hoads, Zip, Eddie, Rich Roll, Gavin, Woody, Mani, Pete and too many others to name. I've only gotten where I am because of the #YOU I've been given. Whether it be money, food, rent, transportation, advice, clothing, confidence, a slap in the face, stern reality check, and a myriad of the other ways to be supported. I know that I can no longer grow, achieve, kick butt, or move forward without helping #YOU. #YOU are my focus and my motivation this year.
I've been broke. I've needed counseling. I may have needed cleansing and clean eating. Maybe it was a ride, or a new church and a connection with GOD. Help with anxiety, depression and humility. 3 shoulder surgeries, and spinal surgery? Yes, I have needed it all, and now it is Your turn.
     Most that know me, find me genuine. I do what I say and I follow through. I will die for family and friends. I don't like fake, lying, or people that can't be genuine. I was turned down by 4 publishers for my children's book manuscript, until Mandy and Sarah (EduMatch) said, "Hey, we love what you have to say Jeff, we'll learn with you!" They were thinking of #ME.
     So, I kid you not, in the spirit of one of the most amazing men I admire, Jon Corippo, who toutes "Lifetime PD" and means it. Please, let me know what I can do for #YOU. If I can't figure it out, I have an amazing lifeline and #PLFamily to help me navigate the shark infested waters. So, in 2019, even if you don't subscribe to a #OneWord focus, whatever it is, remember me, because I want to help #YOU.

#pushboundEDU #OneDropOfKindness #joyfulleaders #CompelledTribe

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

How Mary Poppins can inspire our education

I recently saw “Mary Poppins Returns” with my family, and it got my mind all revved up!I was skeptical at first, being a very true and committed fan of Julie Andrews and DickVan Dyke, but it was so fantastic! Also, many of Mary’s quotes, sayings, andmannerisms moved my mind into fast gear with comparisons of the #EduWorld.Without being a spoiler, I’ll stick to some quotes, and why I think we, as educatorscan learn a few things from our umbrella wielding British nanny.
“YOU’VE FORGOTTEN WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE A CHILD” - This, to me, has becomean epidemic in education today. Not only have most adults forgotten what being a childis like, but, many I would argue, ever had a childhood! (I’m kidding, but you get the gist). The lack of play, laughing, fun, excitement and joy throughout classrooms and school yards is shocking. Not only in the schools I’ve worked in, but from what I read about daily across the country - is mind blowing. Compliance. Strict Rules. Unnecessary Homework. Reading for Fun. Lack of PE. Minimal Recess. Teachers not engaging in the lessons and play with students. The list goes on and on.Maybe as a prerequisite to our new teacher programs there should be a class called“Bring Back Fun into the School 101”. This class could focus on how to be childlike.Game playing. Laughing. Joke Telling. Lessons with Kindness embedded.I mean, come on my friends. Do the people that write the syllabus’ and scripts forthese programs do any research about what engages kids? What the job skill setwill be in the next 5 years? How important Educator passion is? Let’s rethink ourobjectives that new educators need to bring into a classroom, and in my view,memories of a childhood is one.
“FOR WHEN YOU DREAM, YOU’LL FIND ALL THAT’S LOST, IS FOUND.” - Whilemany things in education have been tossed, lost, forgotten and reiterated, there aresome things that perhaps should not have gone away.1. Reading Instruction: Where has it gone? In the early 1955, Rudolf Flesch penned “Why Johnny Can’t Read: And What You Can Do About It”. This book not only taught us the “look-say” method, but it inspired Dr. Seuss to write “The Cat in the Hat”. Most schools do very little in the way of phonics, decoding, fluency, letters, sounds, blending and actual reading instruction, which in turn, has also lessened our focus of fun, recreational and pleasure reading! In May of this year, education writer at Forbes, Natalie Wexler wrote a follow up article to Mr. Flesch’s called “Why Johnny Still Can’t Read -- And What To Do About It”. Check it out, Ihighly encourage you. Not all students are going to be great readers, writers,or Literature Professors, but reading is still a lifelong skill.2. Coding - Why is this not a mandated course in every Elementary School? And Why aren’tdoing this daily in every school? This is a disservice to our youngsters. Notevery child will become a programmer, but coding has so many benefits: It is shownto help with creativity, math, communication, writing, and confidence. Jobssuch as; Game developers, engineers, web developers, McDonald's cashiers, Hospitals,Magazines, Retailers, and many more require knowledge of coding. Why do some schools only use “Hour of Code” for students to access this opportunity? There are so many easy, fun, and applicable platforms that make it seamless to bring into classrooms today!,,, and hundreds more! How can we NOT be doing this?3. Physical Education - Ok, I get it. There is just not enough time for PE. Wait, are youkidding? Have you seen some of our youngsters lately across the U.S.A?The last time I checked, the US was about 10th in overall obesity rates for children under theage of 18. Not only is exercise what each child (yes, through High School!) needs, butit is a must for them to live a longer life. Not that each child will be the next Olympic, LPGA, NFL, NBA, MLB, WNBA, or NCAA star, most of today’s children just don’t move enough.This lack of activity leads can lead to not only many health concerns (High blood pressure (hypertension), Type 2 diabetes, Coronary heart disease, Stroke, Osteoarthritis, Endometrial, breast, colon, kidney, gallbladder and liver cancer. Mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety. Exercise does reduce stress, anxiety, hyperactivity, depression, and can increase; stamina, mindfulness and focus to name a few. I am fortunate to work in a school district where Physical Education is a 3x per week class, and outdoor play is highly encourage. While I’d love to see PE daily in Elementary schools, there are some places that do absolutely none. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Can you believe it? How are these students supposed to sit still in class? (other than compelling and highly engaging lesson design). Our kids not only deserve it, they NEED it!
I’ll leave you with this last quote from our lovely friend (btw Emily Blunt crushes her new role, for the early naysayers) “ IN EVERY JOB THAT MUST BE DONE, THERE ISAN ELEMENT OF FUN.” - Please. Remember you why. Your passion. Your mission.Your drive. If we just add a little more Mary Poppins to our day, not only would theworld be a better place, but our students would undoubtedly thrive as well.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Student Voice and Choice in Writing?

Last week, my wonderful wife Piper, told me she noticed how happy I am when I write. As I reflected on that and agreed, it also dawned on me that yes, I love to write. Not only that, but I get to CHOOSE what I write!
Many times, as adults we get to choose what we do. From the food we eat, to the cars we drive, the jobs we have, the clothing we wear and especially what we READ and WRITE! This is something I believe we take for granted. Imagine how many times per day, WE get to choose, but students do NOT. It’s crazy. While our amazing teachers are doing so many wonderful things throughout the day: planning, instructing, counseling, listening, managing, nurturing, and much more, shouldn’t they change, grow and evolve too? Education is a two-way street and I believe it is time that students are given a a ticket on the toll road to travel.
Why don’t we include, invite and allow students more of this same opportunity in school? After all, it is their education last time I checked. It really is time to drop down the compliance walls of regimented and factory schooling. Not tomorrow, or after the Standardized tests next week, but the time is now.
I’m always amazed to see student writing in classrooms, as it varies so much. Not only by grade level, but; style, pedagogy, mood, depth of knowledge on teaching writing and other variables come in to play as well.
Some teachers like to completely control the entire process. 100% direct teaching, but with minimal modeling. Others, do some nice modeling, invite a bit of student voice, but don’t go through the process. Then there is the group that just wings it: no clue, just open a Teachers Edition and go for it.
             Hold on cowboy, it’s not all doom and gloom! Lately, there has been a small revolution of epic writing across the campus I call home. Some teachers are deeply interested in Student Voice, and Student Choice. Two of my EduHeroes, Rebecca Coda and Rick Jetter (Co-authors of Let Them Speak) would be so proud. First, teachers may select the genre that follows their grade level or District curriculum, then, nice, clear step by step instruction, modeling, and scaffolding where needed. Now comes the fun part; Student Choice on WHAT to write and Student VOICE on rubric development. This is when the magic happens. When students have a say in what they are going to put time, effort and grit in, we will always get a better return on the process and end product.
Regardless if you are using an adopted curriculum or EduProtocols, Lucy Calkings, Six Traits, Writing by Design, Write Now or others, students must have voice in rubric building and topics. Why? Because they deserve it. They need it. They yearn for it. We ask them to conform for six to eight hours per day, five days a week. Students thrive on variety, movement, choice, voice and experiences, so it is up to us to give them what they deserve.
Keep in mind, we are asking students across the world to change, grow, conform, and “do” our way. It is time Now that we put a little WD-40 on that rusty, compliance combo lock and open it up. Show you trust them. Give them the opportunity to flub up. Be the teacher that has built such stellar relationships with your whole class that they will do ANYTHING for you. In return, give them a little voice AND choice.
Follow these great Leaders in writing, reading and literature! Pernille Ripp, Jennifer Wolfe, Annick Rauch, CameronCarter, Travis Crowder, Kristen Nan, Sarah Johnson, Tamara Letter, Jeff Zoul and MaryHoward to name a few.
Who do you model your writing after? Which EduWriters should we watch for to learn from? 

Voice and Choice. We get it every day. Why don’t our students get this luxury?