Monday, August 27, 2018

Don't forget the one that does not connect right away - My Daughter's story

So today was the first day of school for my students and for my kids.  My middle child, my daughter sometimes has a difficult time in situations.  She is my creative, my attitude, my go the other way child.  She is the generally the best behaved and I think in most situations my introvert.

She came home today and reported that she sat by herself at lunch.  She did not know anyone.  She is in 4th grade.  She seemed fine with it (her attitude), by I know she wasn't.  She has always had friends in her class to start the year, but not this year.

She did not want myself or her mother to intervene (her attitude).  So I am putting my faith in her teachers that I know are wonderful, to recognize and do the subtle things that teachers do to make sure she starts to make connections and friends naturally.

So this is my call to all teachers.  Recognize those kids, the one's that seem to walk alone at recess, sit alone at lunch, and maybe can't find a friend at group work time.  Intentionally make opportunities for them, be strategic, not overt in helping them make connections.  Allow them to share their interests in non-embarrassing ways.  Allow them to find others with similar interests naturally.  Do all those wonderful teacher things.  I know my daughter counts on it and so do thousands if not millions of other kids.

Even more than the kids, the parents of those kids that start every year with this anxiety are counting on you.  It is hard being a parent and trusting all this with a total stranger, but someone you know has your child's best interest at heart.  It is a trust thing, and acceptance thing, but certainly not an easy thing.  It's got me stressed out, although I know it will all work out.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Doubling Down

To double down is not what you think
It is the contest within, the acceptance of your worth
Work on what you struggle, but live on what you don't
Accept that you are only mighty in time spent
It is okay to capitalize on your good
It is acceptable to achieve based on your mood
If that is your double down, your inner zen
This is not about every level being a ten
Your value is based on what you excel
Not based on how many times you fell
Remember failure leads to advance
But success is ultimately your stance
Confidence is different then perserverance
To persevere is a struggle, needing a break
Double down on that which you succeed
Teach to work, teach to perservere
But also teach to push to that we hold near
Push the passion, the undying driven drive
That which we strive, no matter what is contrived
Double down on what you flourish with attack
4 steps forward, 1 step back is a better math fact
Don't forget to double down when you can
It helps when your feeling down, face in the ground

Monday, August 20, 2018

Short Term Goals - Coming back from injury

About 7 weeks ago I bruised some ribs on my left side and had a pretty deep cut in my back.  I was trying to climb a tree with my children, playing on a Saturday afternoon.  Not a long story... I fell straight on my back, hurt myself.  I was injured.  I couldn't run or workout for about 6 weeks.  It was hard to breath and I was sore.  I did nothing really physical over that time.  My fitness suffered.

So about 7 days ago, I decided I would try to jog.  It was hard to breath, but I manage about 1.5 miles at a slow pace.

I was frustrated, but also felt a little sense of relief and excitement.  When you are starting from what seems like scratch, or your own personal scratch, there is only improvement.  I am lucky, I am usually always in pretty good shape, so my scratch is relative.

I committed that day to running for 7 straight days.  I set a goal of 10 miles for the week. Definitely manageable.  On the 8th day, which was Sunday I decided to go for 5 miles.  I did not quite make it before my breathing hurt a little and my legs got a little weak, but I was happy with where I got.

There is a sense of failing when you lose all the fitness you have in such a short period of time.  There is also an equally enjoyable feeling when you hit a short term goal you put in front of yourself.  I am no where near where I was, or where I want to be.  I may never get it back, but I reached my achievable short term goal.  This week is 15 miles.  I am off to a good start, one short term goal at a time.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

You Are The Inspiration, You Don't Need To Promote It, You Are It

To my edurockstar tweeters.  The poem is for you:

To inspire is a gift, that can be learned
To inspire is a gift, that must be earned
To inspire is a fruit, needed to refresh
To inspire is a fruit, never have enough
To inspire is a beacon, A light in the distance
To inspire is a beacon, created for specific instance

To inspire is many things to many persons
For some it is a song, a line, many reasons

To create inspiration is easy as a thesaurus
To spread inspiration is as easy as a chorus
To benefit from blanket inspiration too many among us
To be inspired by "fill in the blank" is without purpose

I was called out for double standard inspiration
No longer directly addressing twitter regurgitation
Gonna keep it close, gonna keep it general, a dedication
My distaste for "I don't know you" social media "inspiration"

Below is what I really want to say to the rest of you, can't' figure out how to rhyme it necessarily:

Be mindful of needing to find shallow words.  Be mindful of looking outside your immediate to keep you driven.  Be mindful of using things that have no real connection to you.  Don't cling to something, looking for answers.  Don't cling to hoping or seeing something to keep you going.

If you are in a bad situation, get out.  If you can't find inspiration in what is right in front of you, then look a little deeper, and put your phone down. 

As educators inspiration is easy, not all situations are easy, but the inspiration should be easy...

It is hard, hard work, lean on your students, your colleagues, your admin, your community.  There is inspiration in even the most desperate situations.  Use that to drive you.  Use those interactions, those experiences.

We find in our work a need to be inspired.  I would argue we are the inspiration!  Don't go looking, go producing, go out there knowing, not everyone can do what we do.  Know that the greatest, the best, the most inspirational, have all come from our classrooms, our schools, and our halls.

This is not meant to inspire, as that would be a double standard to what my point is.  This is meant to be a wake up call and call to action.

Stop promoting "inspiration" 

Be inspiration, it can be shared, or not, that is a personal choice.  The important part is you believe it, you honor it, you acknowledge it, you are... It. You are an inspirational daily constant reminder and influence to our most precious commodity on the Earth.

"Our Kids"... Enough said. 

Monday, August 13, 2018

The Engage vs. The Pushers

Play this while you read, it helps with tone.

There is a need for the pusher, the dealer
BlackJack to 21, quick handed stealer
Dreamer not, forgot the mission, 45k strong
What is the point, constant elevator song

The pusher makes us think we need more
Makes us think, drives to our core
But it is like a Swift or Minaj chorus
How long we gonna buy the bore us

Find the inspiration in the friend
Neighbor, parent, the student to defend
Quote a fake revelation, it is par
I have chosen to mute so many edurockstar

Never thought I would, but makes me
Feel like I connect with what matters, feel free
Thought the dialogue would matter
Just ends up showing me as a hater

Found my jam, it is 39 strong 2018-19 #cddolphins clan
Doing the work the... new refocus, out of stagnation
Focused again on the mission, not a remission
Forgot the work, forgot need to tweak
Forgot the work begins at student registration

Got above myself, thought I could change the world
No need, I change my situation, total dedication
The students I serve, community, and staff not a resignation
This I stand on a devotion, democratization, and concentration

Be Brave, Be Proud of who you are... It matters to so many

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Classroom Conversations Need to Challenge in the Right Ways

Classroom Conversations

I promote the idea that classrooms should share in difficult conversations.  These could be political, cultural, gender (when appropriate for age), etc. We have become so polarized in thought.  We have stayed away from difficult conversations in light of political correctness and the idea that school is just for academics.  

“This is not our role,” is heard so often.

They are difficult conversations to have sometimes and can be awkward at the least.  I would say this is exactly our role. We are professionals who have developed relationships with multiple students from multiple backgrounds.  We gather with them upwards of 7 hours a day. It is exactly our role.  We are in the perfect position to have these discussions. It is italicized because they do not and should not always be verbal.  If not in this environment, then how will they learn to discuss, debate, question, accept and deliver their ideas in a way that is meaningful and peaceful.  

I have 3 children of my own, I push what I think is a positive inclusive message.  I would have no problem if at school they had discussions about this.  I just want them to have the space to do it, in a non-threatening environment.  It does not and in many cases should not be verbal, it can be written, it can be private, it should be varied.  There just needs to be a space and opportunity based on subjects, topics, or ideas that the teacher can present to the class or that students can bring to the classroom.  

I think the role of the school (teachers, counselor, admin, etc.) is to provide a safe space for these conversations.  They have to be the master moderator, again does not have to be verbal, where each person is given an equal opportunity and provided a medium for them to be heard.  Adult opinions should be left out, but historical context, fact checking, and other answers based on what can be proven are the role of the school (teachers, counselor, admin).

For example if a student were to say something that is just false, questionable, or lacks context the teacher needs to be able to jump in and either correct or pause until more information can be found to further explain their point.  This can be tricky, but can be done.

Examples of how to have these conversations: (keep in mind when it comes to certain topics like race, you want to go with the least open approach and work from there.  Anonymity at this point is important)
  • Open debate in class - Assign roles and ask students to argue the unpopular or misunderstood side (this might require extra resources)  This would be for more fluffy type conversations that would not spark emotions or too many deep connections with students.
  • Teacher makes statement “In the news it was reported that…..” Write your initial reaction to this.  As a teacher collect it and present the ideas to the class at a later juncture for comment.
  • Have students write a narrative from the perspective of a person that may have been involved.  You will quickly understand their perspective and ideas this way.
  • Find 2 different opinion pieces about the same story and assign students to defend sides.
You want to make sure whatever method you choose that it is accessible and available to all students in a way that will protect their anonymity if necessary and value their voice.  I would not allow just an “open discussion” unless it is a part of an already established routine like a morning meeting and the topic lends itself to being a little more light.  These can go to chaos quickly, offend students without warning, and more introverted/quieter voices can be lost very quickly. The more dominant personalities tend to take over and the idea of allowing students to share their ideas freely is lost.  Those in the minority opinion are never heard and feel ostracized.

Push the idea of challenging uncomfortable conversations within a controlled environment. This can be done at all grade levels, just being mindful of what your students can handle and topics that can and should be discussed.  

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Falling... Again

I have had my experiences with falling.  I mean falling, not failing, just to be clear.  Literally falling. I spent most of my life before 25 as a goalkeeper in soccer, a skate boarder, skier, and overall taking chance type of physical person.  I have had 3 documented concussions with hospital visits, no memory, and probably 2 more that I faked as if I was okay. #manup only to play, not to try and hide my pain.  There is a difference between physical and mental pain.  We should never #manup the mental.  B-Dawk reminded me of that last night with his hall of fame speech. I just know the game of training rooms and if I wanted to play, I had to fake no pain to be in the game.  It is the competitor in me.

In soccer I was good, really good, like Olympic Development good, trained with eventual MLS and many division I players good.  They were no better than me, but at the moment of selection I eventually fell, not failed (2 concussions 2 separate years).  Camps, I got kicked in the face, I have a Kevlar plate and pin in my eye currently.  Tournaments, cuts got infected, to the point of hospitalization.  Junior year in college 3rd game, dislocated rotator cuff in the left shoulder.  This time I told the trainer I was fine, and did not miss a game.  The rest of that season, I could raise my left arm above my head unless I was making a save and adrenaline force my hand up.  It still tings and bothers me a couple of times every day.  We eventually made the NCAA tournament and we played well.  That summer I self inflicted a broken hand that spit 2 of my of bones in my right hand in half, requiring a 4 screws and a plate to hold them together.  They had to later be removed.

I spent a stint in the hospital every year from 11 to 21 without a year off.  Some years multiple nights.

Skiing, skate boarding, other stuff, similar falls.  I remember the time I slid half way down a concrete hill on my knees and shoulders from going way too fast and losing control of my skate board.  I remember hitting a tree and then flying into a net at about 40 mph on ski's going way too fast.  All of these taught me lessons.

Tonight I learned another.

3 weeks ago playing with my kids (hide and seek) I fell out of a tree using a rope to clime up.  I fell square on my left back and cut my back pretty deep, but more importantly bruised the left side of my internal ribs pretty badly.  Bad enough I could not breath or cough, laugh, and definitely not sneeze for a week or more without major pain.  It still hurts to this day and I can't sleep on my left side or lie on my stomach.

knowing all this, I decided tonight to skate board down a pretty substantial hill in my neighborhood, with my kids, they were on bikes.  I don't own a bike.  I have done it before, but not in a while and not with a previous injury.  I fell once leaving my driveway, this should have been a sign!  It was minor, I just ran into the grass and tumbled.

I then embarked, it is actually 2 hills with a straight part in between, but after the second hill there is no real slow down spot, just a cul-de-sac.  I made it down the first part fine, straight away, back and forth, left to right, feeling good... Then the second hill hits.

I can not check my speed, because I have not seriously skateboarded in 25 years.  I pull my usual move to slow by sliding my left foot forward (I stand goofy foot) and try to grind out a stop.  It gets squirrelly right away, I feel the fall coming, I am in the middle of the street.  It happens, I hit, not on my left side, thank goodness, but I twist to my right as I saw it coming.  I scraped my elbow bad, rolled 2-3 times, but kept the pain to my right, my now good side.

My kids are behind me, they ask if I am okay.  They also witnessed my fall from the tree 3 weeks earlier and saw the blood pulsating out of my back as I cut through a vein.  That was a slow popping trickle in cadence with the pulse out of my back.

I got up tonight.  I successfully fell, as I knew it was coming, not like the tree fall or the soccer kick to the face.  More like the tree and the net and the knees and shoulders down the street. 

My moral is this... I think when I can see a fall coming, I can deal with it and recover a lot faster than when I don't.  That is pretty common sense.  I also know that if I have a fall I don't see coming, I can also recover, it just takes a bit longer.  Pushing myself to recover faster always works although it always brings more pain.

I am thankful I did not hurt myself worse tonight, but I had a half a second to prepare.

I also learned that I am 40 years old and that I should be a little more careful.  I was at the very least wearing a helmet!  I Don't think I want to stop taking chances that create great experiences, just want to set up situations where I have at least a half a second to prepare for the fall.  That is all I need.