Saturday, September 19, 2015

What happens when you can't shake a feeling... A call to action!

I found out last Friday morning a former student went to jail.  This would not be the first time a former student went to jail, was shot, or had a baby way too early.  This student was different though, he was special to me.  I was his assistant principal for both 6th and 7th grade as I looped with his grade level.  I knew him really well, because he spent a lot of time in my office.

"My Kid" messed his life, and inspired me to write this call to action.  We did not do enough for him, he felt as if he needed something else (illegal) to get by.  I did my best by him, and yet still could not influence him to make better choices later in life.  But if I had not made a choice to work with students like him, I never would have even had the chance to make an impact on his life.

He reminded me of me, and I wanted to spend time with him, even if it was for negative reasons.  This I realize now was not a good mindset.  I tried to change his behavior from my office.  I was a younger admin at the time and did not realize certain things about students.  I thought a bunch of love and talking would change his mindset. I was so wrong.  He needed skills, learning, and a mindset to choose other paths in life.

I really saw me in him, and as a 12 year old he was me!  Again this is not the last story of "my kids" getting in trouble, but it should be.  This is not okay, I have ignored stories in the past, but this one messed me up, and still does, he was me!  I will not ignore again.  I will make sure to continue to make a difference and give my kids a voice.  I need all you great principals out there to join me!

On Friday I went to twitter to find inspiration as to how to deal with this type of situation... THAT is when the record skipped!  Where are the tough stories of educators on twitter?  Where is the diversity of students?  Where is anything other than privileged kids being given every opportunity and promoted.  I speak from both sides of my mouth on this, in that I have 3 children of my own, who are very privileged, and I live in a nice safe community.  But I also know that when I go to my own child's school I am not as proud as I am of the one I work in.  Don't get me wrong I love my kids and the community in which I live, but we make it because of our socio-economic status.  I know that there are kids in other places that need me more.

I heard recently in a voxer conversation that we are all replaceable.  I say that is a bunch of #$^#%&!  We who choose to work in diverse schools are not replaceable.  We are unique, we are looking for something more than a job.  We want to better society, pull together community, and most importantly see kids as learners and explorers.

I am so tired of seeing videos and pictures of privileged kids without fair representation of diversity on the same platforms.  I challenge and call out to all those principals that are in diverse communities to do a better job promoting your kids, community, and staff.  It is hard work and there are many stories that make you want to find other work.  There are also amazing stories every day in every school.  You need to tell them, people need to hear them, your community deserves that.  Who else is going to do it, the local paper, please.....

Why are so many good admins sharing stories of students that are not diverse?

Why are so many good admins in diverse schools not sharing stories of their schools?

Why are so many good admins not working in schools that need them most?

Why are good admins scared?

There are so many qualified, positive, and effective administrators that work in safe schools.  Schools where even if admins and teachers are not effective, the parents and socio-economic status of the families will make up for any shortcomings.  These same administrators talk about "growth mindset" and "innovation," but do it in an environment where they are not constantly interrupted.  Interruptions include, but not limited to homeless transportation issues, kids that don't get food at home, and angry children that have no means of dealing with emotions beyond screaming and running.  Don't get me started with stories...

Again, I ask a question, as an admin in a school that is diverse, can we still promote positive?

I say yes, we have 70+ videos and a very active hashtag #cddolphins.  We promote "our kids" we make them stars! We take content from awesome staff and students!  They tell the story with "our kids" and I edit it for "our community."  I never took one editing class ever!  Just figured it out.  We are definitely more active than most "rock star" schools, where the principal is the only story teller.  Check it out, I am not scared.  We have great students, their story needs to be told!

Again, I am angry and this is a call to all Principals of diverse schools, find your purpose.  Don't be so worried about your image, be local, make a difference, but tell your story so everyone see's it, even if your edits are a little rough.  If you work in a privileged school, consider leaving and finding a new job where you make a difference at a whole different level.  

We all make sacrifices every day, like eating standing up, covering the office, counseling students and parents alike.  We mop floors, move furniture, fix computers, wipe noses, and give hugs.  Let's do it with purpose every single day.  Join me, and as schools, more than any other entity will change the world for the better.  Make people feel as equals, end hatred, influence positive.  We do have that power, but you have to be in the right place.

If you are not willing, I don't understand?  Why did you get into this?  Did you not say at some point in your journey, " I want to make a difference?"  Did you really want to make a difference, or did you just want to promote what you are doing?  I promote what my kids are doing all the time.  If you look, we are different, and still we shine!  I want that to be the #cddolpohins legacy.  We look different every day, but if you visited us you would leave with a feeling of, "I can't do what they do..."  We are special, please join us, "our kids" need you!

Friday, September 18, 2015

What happens when your kids go to jail?

What happens when your kids go to jail today?  Not if, but they did... What happens when you visit your community and your kids are not your kids anymore?  What happens when homeless parents come to school and pull their kids out to homeschool them when they have serious special needs? What happens when all of this happens and you are expected to keep a smile on your face.  Forget the fact that you may be a connected educator. I see "Rock Stars" without my population.  Guess what, my population is bringing it every day! Weekly video posted every week.  "Watch me Now" by Silento is in this video, just saying.

+Spike Cook said it perfectly in our small voxer group that was created to help with these questions.  Spike is one of the most reflective leaders that I have ever met.  I know from personal experience, we have done instructional rounds together and reflected on lessons face to face.   He said, "I understand it, I get it." That is all I needed.  Spike has been someone that I have looked up to in "real life" and on social media for a while.

All that being said, I had a former student get arrested last night.  $132,000 bail, 575 grams heroin, guns, endangering minors, etc.  10-15 years probably in jail.  This was not the first time, I have had former students get shot, died, etc.  This one was special though.  He was me, same personality, same demeanor, I look in mirror, and although we looked different, he was me.

This was the text I got this morning.  After that message was the link to the news story in our local paper.  Out of respect I am not posting that link. The message below is clear, we are angry that someone that we loved is in this situation.

I cried.... I was planning a professional development day of positive energy!  That did not happen... I was negative, I led off with this story and told the story of how we need to be there for "our kids" and if we don't prepare them, we all failed.  It was dead silent.  I then went on to review state test results, I was all negative, my message was all negative.  My math coach +Jessica Hoban saved me and acknowledge some positive, but I wanted everyone to suffer as I had early crying in my office.  It was selfish.

I want to apologize to my #cddolphins, as this story was not yours, it was mine.  I love my kids, I want all educators to love their kids too.  I go to bed thinking of them.  If they too are going to bed or sleeping at all.  I greet them on the bus court every morning, look in their eyes every day to see if they are ready.  If not, I pull them aside or hang on to them to make sure.  I need this check!

I sometime hear or see some connected educators talk about issues that are not important, and I wonder if they look in every kids' eyes every day to see if they are ready to be there and ready to learn.  I look, I observe, I get in your face if necessary, we all need to do that.  We are so important, and we need to make sure that every day we realize this, every minute.  Have fun! I am all for it, but look in your kids eyes and see what they see!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Trouble and Difficult.... Are they words we should bury?

So I have had multiple conversations with students this week in multiple grades.  I pull from these conversations as all of them centered around "difficult/hard" and "trouble".   It is still the mindset of many of my students where these words are prevalent, but through hard work we change the mindset. Including the words we use.

What "WE" are trying to build at Carrie Downie addresses these.  I want to address these 2 words.  For the rest of this I will refer to difficult/hard as difficult as my students say "hard", but difficult is a good substitute.


This is what students think when they say difficult.  I have spoken to many of them and know this to be true.  So we need to switch the mindset to think difficult is not impossible or even hard, it is a process.  Difficult is a challenge, a game, learning, and a process.  As a teacher or admin we face difficult all the time, attack it like a game.  It can be fun!   I played many games growing up and found hacks or advantages.  All of that was fun, and the reason I played.  Let's make difficult fun or a challenge!  Teach students that difficult is not impossible, the process of learning is making impossible, possible, but with practice.  The process is so much more important than the finish line.  Think gaming, we try to finish a level, we fail, and we try again, over, and over.  If education was like a game, difficult does not scare us, it is expected.  Who would buy a game you finish the first try?  Give students multiple opportunities to make difficult fun and not impossible.


"Am I in trouble?" is asked so much in my office, I don't even want to address it.  Sometimes it is clear, but many times it is not.  In either case, what does "in trouble" mean?  Did you do wrong? Did you distract the class? Did you harm someone? So many questions.  At the end of the day are you with us for the long run... the answer to that is always, "YES".  You are a #cddolpohins, so that being the case are you in trouble?  Being in "trouble" is not a finish line but a speed bump.  I don't like the word, can you learn from your mistake? YES.  Let's get rid of that word, we are learning together, you made a mistake, and there may be serious consequences, but we need to learn from that.  The problem with "trouble" is when students start to think it is not a learning process, but an end game, we all make mistakes, some repeatedly.  How do we improve?  Practice and consistency in implementation.  Students need to understand that they are not "trouble makers" but at times make mistakes and wrong decisions.  This is our job as educators to teach them what are good choices.  

This all might not be groundbreaking, but I think we get rid of the words "difficult" and "trouble" from edulanguage.  They should not exist and should be replaced with "not yet?" and "was that the right choice?".  By asking students questions vs. telling them, creates thought and reflection.  Without that we are dictating what we think and not personalizing their learning.  Put the thought on them, let them think through what is going on, don't tell them what we think, that is not important.  What is important is what they they think about "not yet?" and "did I make the right choice?"