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?
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.