Wednesday, May 25, 2016

What happened? Just a story...

My quotes are not exact quotes, but paraphrases of conversations.

"Hey, I got an idea... what if we videod every staff member dancing to Justin Timberlakes song; Can't Stop the Feeling?"

"That sounds like an interesting idea...I like it, let's do it. What do you need from me?"

"Nothing boss, I got it, just might take a few days while I run around and collect video"

That is how it started... This is a simple, not complex, but simple explanation of how a single video made by a teacher @chrissiejMcLean became a story.

"Why are we making this video?"

"Just to show them (the students) that sometimes adults like to have fun too, even teachers!"

"Sounds good to me"

So a week or so went by and then I woke up this morning to a video in my twitter notifications.  I watched it and immediately at the beginning started to smile.  I had seen no pre-cut work, no draft, here it was and I was excited.  I knew right away that I was going to see everyone and was really curious to see how it played out.  I could not have been happier with the finished product!

I make videos every week documenting what "our kids" do, but they are predictable, repetitive, etc.  I love doing it and don't want to stop, but the novelty has worn off a bit. Totally understandable.  This was fresh and a little different.  Staff's have done dance videos for many years, but this was "our staff" our #cddolphins.  It lived up to my expectations as I saw that youtube link.

Fast forward 4-5 hours and I get this email: It basically stated that a producer from CBS digital wanted to know who created this?  How long did it take, and who the teachers were at minutes 1:27 and 2:00.  I met with Chrissie and then responded to the email request.  I told them the teachers (Ms. Burke, Mrs. Hoban, and Mrs. Jones) and other information about who created it, length, edits, etc.  She had received the same email.  This is when I knew we were going to get some attention and things might get interesting.  It was going out of our sphere of influence and control, which makes me uncomfortable. 

Not an hour later and we get a link to an article.  Which is far different then the article you are seeing LINK HERE ( It was even worse ) 

In the article it mentions this: 

NEW CASTLE, DE (CBS) — Teachers at Carrie Downie Elementary can’t help but be excited for the end of the school year. And for that reason they can’t stop dancing.
To celebrate and “say goodbye to another year of learning,” they made a video dancing to Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling.”
It also implied that we were just waiting for summer to start, like the school year was over for us already!  That part is not in this link, as pressure from me has had it modified a bit... 
At first after seeing the link I was super excited! WOW! We made the news in one day with a great video showing a great staff having fun!  Let's show kids that we are happy to be here, glad testing is over, and that we can be silly! 
Then I read the article and especially this part, that is still there and has not been changed... 
Chrissie summed it up best in our 3-5 +Schoology course with these words to "our kids" directly:
The Carrie Downie teachers wanted to make our students smile. We weren't challenged and we weren't TOLD to do it, we WANTED to make you all happy! Enjoy! 

WE DID NOT MAKE THIS VIDEO TO CELEBRATE AND SAY GOODBYE TO KIDS!  We are excited for summer, we do need a break, but we also do not want to say goodbye to our kids!  We will miss them and it was not the intention of the video.  
As this video has gone Delaware viral, which is not global viral, I also want to thank Chrissie for being patient with me as I got super frustrated today, and humble in recognizing that although it was her idea, her videos, and her work, it was for us, for them, and for you.  
We are here for them, this was for them, not to celebrate their leaving, but to celebrate that we are just like them in a bigger form, older, and for some of us, less hair.  
I understand the power of a message and our message is that we are here for "our kids" until the last bus leaves, on the last day...  We will have fun, we will be silly, but we will never "celebrate" their leaving.  
We "celebrate" the time we have had together
We do it for "our kids"
The moments, the gains,
The pains and the laughs
We celebrate "our kids"
Never determined by a calendar
But dictated, by where we have been with them. 
Don't confuse it, and don't twist it for a story
We are here for "our kids" and nothing more

Monday, May 23, 2016

A Poem - My Teacher "Feature! Feature!"

You're my hero, my super hero, you're my teacher
Right out of a comic book "feature! feature!"

You help me understand equations
Slap my hand high five
Strive to find explanations

With a nod, a blink, you make me think
Always giving me a second chance with that glance

Then we write, write, write
But I can sleep at night

Knowing that you will be there tomorrow
For the grind, push my mind
Your mine, always have time

For that I appreciate, but we had this debate when we ate
With my friends at lunch
Can you answer some questions, we had a bunch?

Is home where you go at the end of the day?
You own sneakers and jeans no way!

Do you ever shop for snacks and groceries?
You go to movies on Friday's? This I must see!

Are you rich, because you have so many books?
How can you get me quiet with just a look?

How do you know that tune from youtube?
So much so soon, I don't want to assume
Who are you? Who are you?
You got me confused, so confused...

Why am I amused with the silly saying you make me repeat?
Like every single day and week

You know I am joking, I get it, I get it
You want me to pay attention to your directions
My reflection is your intention on my behavior
That is why I say "SSHH" to my neighbor

I will... I always will believe in you
Because I trust what you do
My best interests are in your mind
I know... I know, your one of a kind

You're my hero, my super hero, you're my teacher
"Feature, feature!"

Friday, May 20, 2016

Tired of what... Worn down from what... Where is the momentum?

Had my regular meeting this week with my boss
We talked, and talked, and talked, but not at a loss

Great conversation as it usually, and always is
About the job, reflections, a sounding board of the biz

But I felt an emptiness, not a drive, but a hole, in the spot passion usually fills
I could certainly talk about my deficits, where I was weak, but where were the thrills?

They were sucked out by thoughts about things that mattered
Things I discussed, but seemed to be unanswered

Have I hit that wall, have I become that person that has nothing to say
It was about 1:52 when I hit this level of dismay

I was so angry at myself you have no idea, what have I done
I NEVER EVER lose the enthusiasm for my school, that I love a ton

What is up? I am not that guy?
I am a smile, a joke, one that is always up for a try

I have slept well this week and gone to the gym
I have run and been healthy, so that is not the thing

So what is it that left me feeling blahhh and empty during the meet
Like my job was not important or it was just a blank sheet

We actually ended on a good note and some good steps for me
That is usually how it goes, break it down and then vision to lead

Then back to the work of being principal
It seemed like nothing was simple

Why? when you are down, do you get dealt more trouble?
Does fate not know you should not pop the bubble?

Why when you are most busy, do you often have to make the most important decisions?
Why when you are leader or principal can you not run and hide and come up with reasons?

How can you be happy about a successful year?
And still upset you did not convince your fears?

I often wish I was in a business of just a bottom line
Where at 5 o'clock I could just say the rest of the time was mine.

Is this why I am realizing I am not in a slump, but a daze?
Am I needing that summer haze.

I know many of my students are afraid of the summer
For the stability of school creates a buffer

School vs. "real life" and what they will experience soon
This is a fear I have every single June

Is that the reason for the sagging, attitude, and quick temper?
Am I longing for the next September?

Probably not, I think this is a more personal take
And realizing even I need a break

I hesitate to admit that, as that is not who I am or who I will be
But for two and a half years #cddolphins have been pushing hard for me

I wrote this to show that we all suffer from "the wall"
How do we get past it and then stand tall?

Probably different for everyone as the mirror reflects your appearance at your place
Is this really who I want to be, when I look in the rear view mirror, at my face?

Thursday, May 19, 2016

What if finding lesson plans was like buying a TV

What if you could shop for free lesson plans like you shop for a TV or anything else on Amazon?  I have had the pleasure of being an early tester for a new Open Educational Resource Platform coming from Amazon Education.  I do not work for them, nor do I get paid anything from them.  I also do not want to work for them, I love kids too much.

But I believe in them, I believe in the people I have met face to face and the people I have given feedback to on the phone.  Their interests are genuine in helping educators find, upload, and help curate, by crowd sourcing good content.  They truly are invested in getting "access" through digital means to all "our kids."  They also listen and adjust, which is important.

Is it perfect yet?  Will it ever be perfect? NO... but that is the expectation, to have something that is truly, ever evolving, growing, and improving.  This is the advantage of this platform.  It is super user friendly to both the user and the producer or the downloader and the uploader.

Amazon has obviously figured out the search and purchase function of products.  They have figured out efficient delivery methods, and they have a built in brand and audience.  They are the King of the online customer based market.  I trust that they will figure this out.

Imagine going to a site and shopping for lesson plans, putting them in a shopping cart for later "purchase" and being able to pick them from multiple filters, like a TV brand or price point.  Imagine lesson plans, before they are able to be uploaded, having to go through checkpoints by the developer to ensure they hit a number of qualifiers.  Now this is not to guarantee they will be perfect, but it is a step in the right direction of vetting resources.

It is better than "teachers pay teachers" where there are very little checkpoints.  Or no checkpoints at all.   This idea of charging to share lessons to benefit "our kids," is wrong.  I encourage you to sign-up for the BETA TEST as you will quickly see the power and the simplicity.  That is the greatness of this platform.  It is really like buying a TV.  Keep in mind it is evolving and growing.  Finding good OER is not easy, it is up to each and every educator to be willing to share.  This is for the people by the people.  So be the people and share your best stuff!

Once we figure out to integrate it with Learning Management Systems like +Schoology WATCH OUT!!!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Potential Power of Student Center Internal Social Media Networks

On April 18th, I began a journey to open an internal social media network for all my 3rd through 5th grade students.  I have 227 members in this internal network, all of the students, with teachers.  As a connected educator and trying not to be a fake one, should I not try to model this for my students?

Here is a picture of the members number.

It was slow to start and still growing, but we have had over 800 hits in a month.  We have had screencasts, polls, questions, poetry, video, product reviews, sharing of websites, and just random thoughts.  These were all generated by students with no real direction other than it is open to post and some guidance on appropriate and inappropriate content.  

I mean come on, are you really modeling or teaching digital citizenship if you are not living it with "our kids?"  

Are you even a connected educator if you are not doing it with your students?  

You might be a connected person, maybe developed a PLN....

Are you a connected educator if students are not involved?  They are why we are here...

Don't they need to see that connection?  I have many staff that connect through +Schoology with classes in other places or @twitter.  It is really important, for the teachers to connect classes as well and for students to see this modeled.  

Being connected is not about you, it about them.  If it is through an LMS like +Schoology or some other social media site, there needs to be a student presence and leadership.  That is why we are here!

I have a youtube clip on "what's best for kids!"   but I think modeling and living digital citizenship is what is best for them in this medium.  More #edubabble to come soon... 

I feel like I am in the "wild west" of digital citizenship.  The students have full ability to post anything they want, it is not password protected or pre-filtered.  They want to post, they post, we have to monitor it.  Posts have been removed, but they are able to post with no filter.  I did do a very brief intro, but I feel like we learn by doing, and that was the approach here.

Here is our analytics below of usage over the month.  The top is 248 hits in one day.  The bottom is obviously 0 on a few weekend days.  I am looking for a trend to the positive, and am working on those students I know are outspoken to help me.  That spike was a day when I made a school wide announcement to launch this and I got a great response!  

If you are connected and believe in the power of crowd sourcing and you don't have your students on some sort of internal network for sharing, then I suggest you should move there.  Otherwise what are you doing?  Find that medium, even if it is a free LMS.  If you only talk about what you do and don't do what you practice, what are you doing?  

One month in, we are not perfect, but we have traction and it is up to the students to determine whether this is successful!  That is so cool!  And I might encourage them a bit too!  Just as a reminder that they have a voice there!

Friday, May 13, 2016

The innocence of youth?

I don't remember the name of the movie and I have no time to look it up, but there was a movie about a guy that was born old and grew young.  I never saw it, but I can imagine it will relate to what I am about to write about.

What if we never knew what "state testing" was all about? What if those 2 words never entered our vocabulary?  What if they were replaced with "My Evidence of Learning."  What if every year we provide the state with "My Evidence of Learning?"  Sure we might have to figure this out, and sure it would be different for every student, and sure teachers would have to become comfortable with digital tools, but would that not help us?

I remember when printers were removed from classrooms to be replaced with mass copiers in staff centers.  Immediately teachers had to be prepared before the students showed up.  It was an amazing shift I saw in about 1 day!

What if we said "No more state tests, where some succeed, some fail, but we look at an average number."  This is where we are, worrying about the bubble.  No Child Left Behind told us they all had to meet standard... what kind of pipe dream was that?  That is never going to happen, but if we wanted to measure growth, then we as educators could grasp on to something.  It would be more individualized.

What if we said, "Every kid has to show evidence of learning... Every kid!"  Evidence of sufficient growth?

Well we would need a way for them to do that, technology would inevitably be involved, so devices would be necessary.  We would solve the problem of those teachers that say "I Can't figure it out?"  You would have to figure it out.  Or you would have to get out.  Don't submit their work to the state, within 2 years, you are continuously unsatisfactory, you are done.

Kids would immediately be involved, why would they not?  Kids love Show Me Projects, especially when it is not homework, but things they do in class.  They learn this way, and if a union tells me this is not true, I would parade every child I ever met in front of them and tell them to think morally.  With "kids best interests involved" disagree, because kids want this.  We need to adapt to their marketplace.  How are we any different than business, unless we admit we are less than professional?

I feel like state tests are more a judge about teaching then learning.  For example, state test scores are a roller coaster based on student history of knowledge gained.  They are used to judge teacher effectiveness in a current year.  I mean you might look at low test scores and say a teacher did not do something right, ignoring all the previous years of education.  They may have had ineffective teachers for years.  They also tend to ignore family life, and many other factors.

I think we are at a tipping point with state testing, where we are trying a new method in state testing, but in reality we are going to get the same results as a whole.  Sure there are pockets of schools that do extremely well on state tests, because of socio-economic status or other means that I may call immoral.

So to sum up, I want to be in Kindergarten or 1st grade and have the following as my response to "what is state testing to you?"  These are "my kids" and they are real, unfiltered, first take, no planned responses like so many school videos I see.  This is authentic kid speak, only edited dead space, so for those that take multiple takes with scripts, I question that...  We need a change and it starts with each individual educator advocating for it.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Social Situations for "our kids"

This should be short... I hope.  We talked for a minute on #delachat about how to help students in social situations, like bullying, teasing, or just being uncomfortable.  This is my life as an admin.  I am going to draw on 11 years of experience, 8 at a Middle School, which was great, and had many challenging situations.

What do you do for those students that are struggling with bullying, teasing, or just not liking school?

I learned quickly that students needed to be heard, understood, and then relationships are automatically built.  That part was easy, but how to help them?  That is question.  How could I help them to be empowered to deal with some of these situations on their own without running to me or their teacher?

I began to practice the skill of dealing with their peers.  This is a skill you need to learn.

I would and still now, be that difficult peer, they could practice with me, in a private situation, sometimes even cussing at me.  All was good as it made it more real to them.  My kids have always and I think always will trust me.

I have been doing this in elementary school as well, but with a slightly different approach.  It is pretty simple, here is my basic approach.

  1. I ask them what bothers them the most?
  2. They tell me.
  3. I ask them if it is okay if I use that against them in my office.
  4. They usually say "yes"
  5. I ask them if I can record or show their reaction by imitating them? And tell them I will show them and them only, then I will erase it forever.
  6. They usually agree.
  7. I then say that horrible thing to them.
  8. They react, usually not totally authentic, but I might push a little, again the trust is already built.
  9. I show them their reaction.
  10. I flip it, tell them to record me, then they say to me the same thing.
  11. We watch my reaction, as I have a bunch of reactions I model for them. 
  12. We then practice over and over again.  I then send them back to class, telling them, it will not fix anything immediately, but over time it will work.
  13. I then check in with them in the weeks to come to see how it is going.  This usually looks like grabbing them quick, or stopping by their class to whisper a "how is it working?" in their ear.
  14. They either acknowledge it is working or not, if not we go back to practice.
I think it is that simple.  Empower them with some tools, then support by checking in. They know I got their back, empower them to be their own advocate. 

There is obviously a little more than the 14 steps I listed, but I wanted to put this out as a starting point for others to get past just the listening and reacting, to practice and modeling for students.  

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Is being earnest... fake on social media?

If you are earnest aren't you; sincere, purposeful, heartfelt, impassioned, devoted, passionate, and most importantly sincere?

I can just say, "you are awesome!"  "You are the best teacher or admin I know!" "You are my favorite _____ ever!"

As a matter of fact I have said that on social media many times, and have been told that on social media.  I see it all the time on social media!  We are all guilty, but shouldn't we evolve?

I have told many people they are awesome, and quite frankly I have no idea if they are awesome or not.  Is that what we should be doing to further our serious profession?  I may have never met them.  Their thought may be awesome, their idea = awesome, but are they awesome?

Even to further define this.  I really have no idea if they are awesome.  They may appear awesome like asbestos was for 50 years.  On the surface it looks good, but break it apart and you all of a sudden can't breath and develop cancer.

Anyone can quote someone or quote themselves, but does that equal them being awesome?  I say, "maybe," but "maybe" we need to reserve those descriptions for people we actually know.  I know a lot of awesome educators, but I have seen their classrooms, met their students, talked to their parents, etc.  They are the barometer for awesome, not 140 characters of nonsense.

So please, please, do us all a favor and change "you are awesome" to "your idea is awesome."  If you don't know someone is awesome, don't say it.  You say it, it might be earnest, Which I have a hard time trusting.  It just becomes babble, not edubabble, just babble.

All of this falls under the umbrella of quality vs. quantity.  If you have never read the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pershing, then I suggest you do for the best definition of this concept.  I have heard it described as depth over breath.  Breathing is good, until it smells bad when you have not brushed your teeth yet.

Not to be a hater, relationships, and developing them with jokes, side comments, etc. are important.  Just keep it to banter, which is perfectly excepted and needed for relationships.  I am just asking that your feelings of gratitude and sincerity be kept to those people you know and deserve it.  Just keep it real for real's sake.  It will help us all appear more relevant and really important as professionals.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

My Chapter 1 on Leadership: Belief in Yourself and Others, to Trust, to Success and Growth.

I asked #satchat voxer group what would be their Chapter 1, if they were writing a book on Leadership.  I got a few responses and don't want to single anyone out, as I did not ask any of their permission to discuss their thoughts.  I did it more to motivate me to write this and possibly hear a few different opinions than my own on the topic.  I don't think there are any wrong answers to this question, but the discussion on leadership always intrigues me.  I read more about leadership and self improvement than any other topic.

So let me explain my title: Belief in Yourself and Others, to Trust, to Success and Growth.  Part of this blog may confuse you, or even make you feel a certain way about me.  It is hard to explain if you don't know me or have not interacted with me.  To help you out a bit here is where I come from briefly:

I am relaxed intense, with strong feelings about many things and soft feelings about many others.  Through experience of working with me, you get to know what those are and how to best read my reaction.  I love "our kids" and feel a passion towards my school that is probably unhealthy.  I will call you out and laugh with you in the same sentence while not caring what you think about me.  I care about you, and will try to show you, but not always great at this.  You know there is trust in you, if you work with me.  I want to make sure to keep you on your toes, while not over pressuring you.  All while making sure you understand that if you mess up a lesson, I am definitely going to still back you up no matter what.  I will do the work, and make all efforts to understand where you are coming from.     

Hope that helps a bit, it is complicated, but also not really... HAHA Let me move on...

Chapter 1: ( I am not writing a book, I have no time for that)  If you believe in yourself you will be able to convince other people to believe in you.  As a leader, people need to be able to believe in you.  I hear too much about lead learner, create a happy school, or some other stuff where all you do is compliment or model and people will follow.  I don't think this happens.  Being ernest does not mean you are a good leader.  By that I mean, I see way too many that quote this or quote that and smile but have no substance.  I ask online or face to face these leaders what they do and it is #edubabble

I believe in myself, I believe in what I am able to do.  I am not perfect, I have faults, but I also have strengths.  I have a lot of them, and I believe in them.  One of my biggest strengths is that I will conquer over any problem or at the very least find a 3rd way.  I can not even think of the last time I failed in this, yes I said fail, I don't believe in that word in this context...  I don't close doors unless I want them closed, bottom line.

Belief in others = knowing they are doing and thinking the same way you are. You don't have to necessarily push them, they are already doing it.  You just have to support, assist, acknowledge, and thank them.  Why are they doing this work, is a much different question?  Here comes the vision that you have set forth and believe in.  It works parallel to all of this.  If you have a vision and direction with belief in yourself, and trust, you will automatically empower others to become leaders in their own areas.  That then answers the "why" they are doing this work.  It comes in the evidence of what they are doing.  The work is the "why", it is the evidence of "why" they are making particular choices.  Eventually you become a "yes man" in a very positive type of way.  You just say, "yes" to their ideas as they lead them, because you have conviction and belief in them, that they are good!  They go with them because they trust you.  They depend on you, that you will support them.  

It all starts with belief and trust though.  I also was a part of #satchat twitter and I got in a discussion about staff being happy.  I argued that happy staff are not alway moving forward.  I think being too happy with each other creates a climate of "not wanting to rock the boat", which is totally unhealthy for movement.  Moving happy in a bad direction is happy, but still wrong.  So don't create a happy culture, create a culture of trust.  A culture that even if challenged, will know that discussions will occur, dissension may occur, but you trust that you will keep it professional.  Open dialogue always equals growth.

Too many educators are afraid of this in so many mediums.  I don't know why?  Many of us are still seeing teaching as that single classroom school where everyone comes happy to learn and there is no one there to question what you are doing.  I trust that my staff can question me, I can question them, parents question us, we can question each other, and it is not because we are not happy, but because we have different thoughts.  We need open dialogue and questions to move us.  If not we have that same lesson, and that same school that does the same thing year after year.  "Our Kids" are evolving and are different now then they were.  We are evolving, and we need these questions to create the necessary changes.  This also takes a different form for each person as all of us have our limits.  A good leader needs to be able to read this and question less at times and more at others.

Don't we need to question each other, with trust, to grow with them.  Don't we owe them that?  To me that is leadership.  Creating a culture of trust leads to growth, by questioning each other and having belief in yourself, but also the process.  Talk, Listen, Stop, Think, Question, Repeat....

I just changed my tag line... I questioned what I was doing to grow... With trust and belief that this was right.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Funk... Not a music genre

What do you do when you are in a funk?  I don't mean like dancing to Le Freak by Chic.

There are many options:
  • Sit in quiet
  • Breath heavy
  • Go for a walk
  • Listen to loud music
  • Hang out with family
  • Get after it, whatever that means to you
  • And so many more...  
I mean that kind of funk, where you are pissed, sad, upset, and frustrated with no real actual reason to tag for why you feel this way!  What the .... is this all about?!?!  How can you sort of know why you are in a funk, but not really know?  You blame lack of sleep, other influences, events in life, etc.  But in reality if you were held down and forced to explain, it would be very difficult.  

So what do you do?  You need to find that magic spot!  Here is mine right now!

I will listen to this song 15 times on the way home from work.  Shamelessly, I will admit that I have a full length mirror in my garage with BIG speakers hooked up to a full system to blast music.  I will play basketball with my son or just dance in front of the mirror to break the funk... Is that weird? Please don't reply to the blog!  

What I am explaining and saying is that I have found my funk blaster, find yours, even if it is embarrassing like dancing in front of a mirror like a 14 year old when you are a 38 years old fake DJ, but real Principal! 

P.S. it is usually only a 5-10 minute session then I am good! Major issues might take a few sessions or combination of tactics.  The key is to just do something totally not related to the funk!  I have never had a basketball or dancing funk, so I go to that! 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Change for changes sake? By the alphabet...

Change, growth, innovation... Do we really want that?  Do we really want to change or do we really just want to appear we are changing?  Because that is what we are being told is important.  I think the alphabet is important.  For many years I could only identify letters in their order by singing the song.  I had a major reading dilemma until at least 4th grade.  I faked it in K - 3.

So here is my story on growth, change, and maybe how to be innovative at a local/internal level...

I challenge those that want change constantly.  I want to push growth, but want it more incremental based on the vision and movement that has already been established.  For example, we have adopted Schoology as an LMS and I was in a room this week, where they were for the first time, submitting assignments via their Google Drive.  It was awesome! They were at letter E, going for F.  It was growth and innovative for this class!  In the scope of the building it may not be considered new, innovative, or a change...But in this class it was more than special.  I did some "real time" coaching and they got it.  Now they know, and these kids are "young".  It was new for them, new for the class, and very, very special.

That was an example of something tech related, but I can also refer to a conversation I had where a realization about a student was discussed with a teacher.  I saw how this staff member came in deflated with a concern, asked a question, and then immediately realized the course of action and mindset they needed to take.  They wanted to dump, they left still feeling frustrated, but a little more empowered, to make a change, in the way they would address the situation.  

I was in another conversation with some staff from another few buildings just recently and they were talking about change at such a global level that I had a hard time talking with them.  I totally agreed with them, but did not understand how they were going to get to the letter L without going through H, I, J, K... There was no connection or plan to address those letters.

I think too often as people, leaders, staff we want to go to L without learning J.  Then when we don't get to L fast enough we get frustrated and search for R without addressing O.  Make sense yet?

Take it in order, seek help, reach for Z always, but step into the next letter, one at a time.  Figure out what you can do tomorrow to improve on whatever issue you are currently dealing with.  I think it is that simple.  Do not concern yourself constantly with M, R, or W if you are at G.  Worry about H, define it, and work at getting there.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

#thankateacher - My trust

I have a number of teachers to thank, and support staff.  They all work at Carrie Downie Elementary School.  To me they are more than just a staff.  They are dissenters (in a good way), challengers, risk takers, they are innovators, each in their own capacity, and they all are here for "our kids".  I am a lucky principal.

We have been through a lot together up to this point and more than anything else I trust them.  I trust them every day, our community trusts them, our district trusts them and this trust can not be understated.  I trust them to do their best every day.  I trust them, when I am not there, that they are going to still uphold the expectations and standards that we have set for ourselves.  I trust them in being able to be honest with me on my thoughts on vision, direction, ideas, and they will give me some honest feedback in a respectful way.  I trust them in that I feel comfortable walking into any classroom at any time and know that learning is going to be taking place.  They probably don't like when I pop in on a Friday afternoon 15 minutes before dismissal, but I trust them, in what they are doing.  

I trust them in that they we are moving forward each day trying to never look back.  I trust them in I see the hugs, the high fives, and looks on their faces when bad news about a student is shared with them.  I trust them in that we are a school that pushes kids thinking, learning, and love of not only education, but doing it together.  I trust them in that they not only will back up "our kids" and support them, but do the same for me, and each other.  I trust them that they will see past some of the many difficulties and baggage that some of our students bring to school with them.  I trust them that they will bring a passion to work that can not be dampened by certain unavoidable mandates or angry influences.

Often times I have heard that staff need to be able to trust their leader/principal.  I do not disagree, but I also need to be able to trust them.  I do trust them, so much so that I want to share their classrooms and ideas with others as much as possible.  They may not like all the openness and transparency all the time, but I trust that they understand the importance of it.  I trust that they know that us sharing "our kids" is a model for other schools that have very diverse populations.  

The #cddolphins are a special group of educators.  I see it every day.  I trust that they got my back and I have theirs.  I believe it, feel it, and know it.  With that trust, even in times that are tough, you know that you will come out of it better.  So on this day and week to appreciate a teacher, I appreciate them all and trust them to do their work with passion, compassion, excitement, exuberance, and respect.

So a message to Them:

Thanks again for allowing me to trust you and being who you are, each and every one of you.  We each have our own story, but together our stories make the book.  We are writing one heck of a book!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Time Off... I am anxious

Maybe I have issues, maybe I am nervous, maybe I am anxious for no reason.  I am going to miss a day of work tomorrow to help my son through something.  Not a big deal, really isn't, but he needs me and I am going to do this.

I have only taken off one other day in 2.5 years when my entire family was sick.  I took another half day when I had to put my dog down about a year ago.  Needed to do it while my kids were still at school.  Besides that, have not missed a day except for meetings, conferences, symposiums, etc.  Which don't get me wrong, is missing work in the building, but is still work related and not personal or sick.

I am blessed to never get sick, and my family is also pretty healthy (I have 3 children, a wife, dog, cat, 2 gerbils, and 2 hamsters).  I am also blessed to have a wife that is willing to stay home when those days are needed, this can not be understated in its importance.  She allows me to keep a focus on my school, which is pretty selfish at times, I will admit.

But I am still anxious, still have a feeling of guilt, although not warranted nor justified.  This is more a feeling of "what will other's think?" if I take a day off?  I think I know a lot of educators that also have this stress.

Why is that?
Why is it that educators have this moral obligation to want to show up?

I have shown up at about 50% on a few days over the past years, but I was still there. I know I need to just relax, everything will be fine, but still those worries and questions.

I don't want to come off as if I am complaining or whining... I just know that many out there also have this stress level when taking days off for personal reasons.  I feel you, I appreciate the feeling, it is maybe not normal, but I understand it.  As educators we need this feeling to push us to be better when we are there.

Let Me Run Boys - Not a Race

I had the pleasure yesterday of joining a bunch of parents, 2 coaches, and 12 boys at the Red Clay Presbyterian Church.  Our destination and reason for being there was running a 5k, but this turned out for me, not to be about a race.  They embarked on their day at 7:45 am from Carrie Downie Elementary School.  The boys got on a bus and for some reason everyone crowded up to the front with a little bit of nervous energy about what the rest of the day would bring.

Upon arrival it was clear "our boys" were ready, determined, and wanted to do it as a team.  They walked around the meeting/registration space together, went outside together, and made sure to always look out to not leave anyone behind.

Outside they met up with another Let Me Run group from a neighboring school and did a unity lap and some stretching.  They were attracting quite a crowd and many people were asking and talking to "our boys" like they were part of a rock band.

Then the 9 o'clock hour came and a horn sounded.  They ran about 100 yards and realized the race route was not ready, we stopped...  This has never happened before, but "our boys" took it in stride.  They all walked back to the start line and did it again.  This was a sign of what was to come.

For the next hour and about 15 minutes, determination turned into effort and sweat.  Each boy travelled at different paces, each was sure to go back to pull the next in.  This repeated over and over as some boys finished the race multiple times with each team mate.  As the group grew, so did the cheers for the next one increase.  The way in which the finish line was situated did not allow them to see around a corner of a church and therefore the time to prepare for the next finisher was minimal.  They compensated at times by running down the driveway and around the corner to find the next team mate.  They ran them in, they yelled at them to keep going, they even pushed them a little when needed.  In the picture below the ones with the medals are the ones that already finished.

All of the pre-race jitters turned into post-race confidence and a feeling of success for each boy.  They all got a medal for completion and two boys also got first and third in their age group.  You could say they came, they saw, they conquered, but not in the way a viking might overtake a new world.  More in the way that was proof to themselves that they could create goals, work hard, accomplish these goals, and then bask in the glory of just being done.

The transformation I saw in just one hour and 15 minutes, went from nervous, unsure, a little scared to confidence, camaraderie, and a sense of accomplishment.  This was my big takeaway from the day.  I think if I asked them their big takeaway, they would say all the lessons they learned and knowing they were a part of something special from the first practice.

I also saw 12 boys that I could not be more proud of and excited to be able to say I know and interact with on a regular basis.  They did us (#cddolphins) proud, they did themselves something so much more.  They did each other an experience they will probably never forget or even appreciate themselves.  I saw it, hard to describe it, but when it hit me, I knew I felt it.  

Thanks Ms. Burke, Thanks Mr. Lattimer, Thanks Mr. Wilkie (videographer/photographer), Thanks Parents, but truly Thanks boys for reminding me again why I love my job and why sometimes just sitting back and watching is all you really need to do.

Oh, how could I forget.  For a couple of the boys that did not go home right after the race with their parents, one father was nice enough to buy some smoothies, coffee less Frappuccino, and other drinks from Starbucks on the way back.  Our bus driver did not mind the detour!  What else do you do after a 5k....?

Video put together by Coach Burke below documenting the season -