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Back at it…

Today I am back at it. Tonight we have a home basketball game that I will be at to help supervise with our athletic director.  I will be heading into the school a couple of hours beforehand in order to get some things done.  I have some observations that I need to finish writing up and need to get my office back in order to I can successfully start the second half of the year.  It is so hard to believe that we are almost halfway through the school year already.  We have done lots of work and there is still lots to do.

As a leader, it is important to remember that while the work is important and we must get down into the trenches, the relationships are more important.  Without relationships, we have no work.  We are called as a human race into relationships with one another.  If you are a leader and you have no relationships, who is following you?  If nobody is following you, how are you a leader?  Very important questions to ponder as your progress through your daily work.

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You can be grateful for lessons, even the hard ones

Life can be tough.  Nobody ever said it was easy.  There are many trials and tribulations that we all face from time to time but we are always stronger for coming through them.  Everyone around you has had them or is currently going through them.  If not, they will be.  When times get tough that is when we grow.

Ella Fitzgerald once sang “into each life a little rain must fall”.  While we cannot control how much rain falls in our lives, we can choose to put up an umbrella or put on rain coat.  Others choose to just let the rain fall.  Regardless, we have a choice in how we respond in difficult times.  We can either shutdown and let ourselves be hardened by it, or we can choose to learn by it and grow from the experience.

As we grow from experiences, we develop a set of beliefs that we rely upon each day, it is the foundation in which we build our daily lives.  When it “rains” in our lives, it is very unexpected.  An unexpected rainstorm can be catastrophic.  Only well built foundations will survive a tremendous downpour.  Foundations that are already rocky will need support.

As a leader, we experience rain in our lives as well.  Just like our teachers and our students.  We must make sure that our foundations are built tough as there will come a time that one of the staff or students will have rain in their lives and it will disrupt their very being.  It will be our job to stand in the gap and help support them in their time of need.

I often think about this question.  More now than I have in the past.  Ever since my Father-in-Law past in November 2017, this question really does come to mind in many different aspects. What’s one hard lesson you are grateful life taught you in the past year?  For me as a leader, 2017 and most of 2018 was not easy due to his passing.  He passed in the middle of the school year but was diagnosed right before the first day of school.  So we were living this right from what we all wanted to be a great school year.

Having to navigate this rainstorm was not easy.  As I reflect back on it and all that I and my family has learned over this time, I am grateful for the lessons that this storm has brought into mine and my families life.  Our foundation is stronger for having come through that storm.

As you go forward, I would encourage you to look at the others around you and see where you can help them through their storm.

Journal Prompts for 2019

Journaling has become one of my outlets as of lately.  I am hoping that I can keep it up as we head off into 2019.  I am the worst at keeping my blog up to date but for 2019 I am setting a goal to make one post each week and more if I can.  If I can get 52 posts in the year that will be the most that I have ever done.  Eventually I would like to get something up and online each day.

In scrolling through Twitter today I saw a post that took me to a blog that I do not read or have ever heard of.  The title of the post was 19 Daily Journal Prompts that Will Change the Way You Begin 2019. I have included the link so you can read the entire post.  It was a good read.

I am posting these 19 prompts to remind me of ideas to write about.

#1: What’s one hard lesson you’re grateful life taught you in the past year?
#2: What’s something you’ve moved on from that once meant the world to you?  And, what’s something you love today that you never even knew you needed in your life?
#3: What’s one unchangeable reality you’re still holding on to and resisting?  What can you do right now to ease your mind into the acceptance of this reality?
#4: Who would you be, and what else would you see about your present life situation, if you removed the thought that’s been worrying you?
#5: How has your daily environment been affecting you recently?
#6: What’s one small example of how you have “customized” your life for the better?
#7: What have your actions over the past year been saying about how you prioritize your personal growth?  What kind of silent progress would you like to make in your life by the end of 2019?
#8: What’s one distraction that has been getting the best of you lately?  Why?
#9: What truly DOES matter to you most right now?
#10: What’s one small risk you believe is worth taking in 2019?  What’s the first step?
#11: What’s something big you’ve accomplished in the past that once seemed impossible?
#12: Why are you ready to level-up in 2019?  Why are you ready to make positive changes?  Why is the journey in front of you worth the extra effort?
#13: How can you give yourself a little extra time and space to make the right decisions on a daily basis?
#14: What’s one thing you would do differently if you knew no one would judge you?
#15: What’s one good, recent example of someone with a negative attitude completely misjudging you?  How did you handle it, and what did you learn?
#16: Who was the last person who was unexpectedly kind to you?  What can you easily do to be a little kinder than usual today, and beyond?
#17: What makes your significant other (or someone else you love) truly beautiful on the inside?  What make YOU truly beautiful on the inside?
#18: What’s something true about yourself that you need to embrace more openly and lovingly in the year ahead?
#19: What does “a new beginning” mean to you right now?

 

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Sometimes a little bit of snow makes things a whole lot better

A few days ago we got a small dusting of snow on the ground.  Not like what we had two years ago (see slider below).  That is something that I would never like to repeat again.

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There is just something about the fresh snow fall, even when it is only a dusting.  It is calm and peaceful.  Why is this?  How does this different phase of water cause a change in us as humans?  Is it the color of snow?

I love the peacefulness that it brings even when it comes in small doses.  I grew up in an area where it did not snow every year, so moving out to Eastern Oregon was a blessing in that we were going to get more snow than what we had living on the coast.  Now nobody told us that the first winter living out here would be a 100 year winter and that even the people in their late 80s never saw a winter like that, but we endured.  The next year, just the extreme opposite.

Back to the snow.  It is filled with peace and a calming sense.  Teachers are like a fresh blanket of snow.  They create that peacefulness and calming sense that students get each day.  For many students, this is the only place that they get this. They don’t get this at home with their parents due to survival.  Parents want to create that atmosphere for their children, but many need to work two even three jobs in order to give their kids a roof over their heads.

Teachers on the other hand can give this sense of security for students each day.  Bring them peace and a calming sense to their daily lives.

What will you do with your time?

We have all been faced with mortality at some point in our lives, whether that be a relative, close friend, or
somebody you went to high school with, regardless we have all experience this in our lives. “The future depends on what you do today.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Losing somebody is never easy.  Everyone is different and they process the loss so differently. There is no perfect way to handle the grief.  If there was, somebody would be making billions just to help others cope with loss.

I am always encouraged by this quote from Gandhi, “The future depends on what you do today.”  This is so very true.  What you do specifically today impacts everything.  Even the small things.

I remember specifically a couple of years ago I was leaving out of the house to head to work.  As I got to my truck I realized I forgot my wallet inside.  I went back in and grabbed it and headed out. 

About a mile down the road from us is a pretty busy highway that connects the towns to the south of us.  I need to cross this highway each day to get to work.  Just as I was starting to approach the light on the highway where I needed to cross, I was noticing that there were a number of people standing in the highway and cars parked with hazard lights on.  

When I got to the light, there was a man in the middle of the road directing traffic.  I rolled down my window to see if there was anything I could do.  The man informed me that the paramedics were on their way.  I asked him how long and he said that he called them as soon as he witnessed the accident which was about 2 minutes previous to me arriving.  I rolled my window up and moved on to work.  

I tell you this story as 2 minutes was the time frame that it had taken me to go back inside and get my wallet that I had forgotten.  If I had remembered my wallet, chances are I could have been right there as the accident had happened or worse, been involved in the accident.  What if I had not gone back in and got my wallet?  Would that have been a tragic change in my life or my families?

Every person is given an expiration date.  Nobody knows when theirs is, but it is our job to live our lives to the fullest each moment we are given as each of them are blessings.  The same goes for in the classrooms.  We are only given so much time with our students.  Each moment is a blessing and we must utilize each of those moments to impact the future.

As 2018 comes to a close I would encourage you to look for ways to do something impactful on the future, and that starts with what you do today.  

Time left for 2018
What will you do with the remainder of this time? Day Hour Minute Second

Be a learner more than a knower

How often do we sit back in our heads as somebody is talking and say to ourselves “I know more about this topic than this guy!”  I have to admit, I have done that.  It is especially true when it is about a topic that I am very passionate about.

It is true that you may have a more in-depth knowledge about a topic but are you the world renowned expert that has no more capacity in your brain for such topic?  I am willing to bet that even though you have a great deal of expertise in the subject area, there is always room to learn something new.

Many leaders make the mistake of believing that since they are now at the top that they no longer need to lead.  They will go through the motions and find excuses to not be professional development while teachers and other support staff are there learning.  People notice this and do not think for a second that they are not thinking “Who does he think he is that he does not need to learn like we do!”

Leaders need to be life long learner just as much as teachers.  Everyday we must fill ourselves with something new that we can pass on to the people we lead. The belief that you’re an expert closes your mind. What will you learn today to pass on?

Make them feel special, because they are!

When was the last time you had somebody do something for you that made you feel special? Chances are it was fairly recently.

What about your students in your classrooms? Chances are that if it was not you that did something to make these students feel special, then nobody did. 

Our kids come from the roughest of places.  Many thrive at school, because it is the best that they know.  They know when they are here they are warm, fed, and taken care of.

Some never know where their next meal is coming from or where they will lay their head tonight.  Many live in cramped housing with two, three, or even four other families.  Chances are that the eyes that you look at are needing something special and that something special was you.

How will you let your students know that they are special everyday?

At the end, is not the end

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As we come to a close of 2018, many will spend the necessary time to reflect.  For my and me family, 2018 was very rough.  We were still adapting to a new area of which we recently moved, my father-in-law had just past late 2017, and we were going through our first home purchase, which some would say is exciting but it took us 6 months to complete the process. Even still, 2018 brought forth a great deal of lessons and as a husband, father, and educator, I am stronger for it.

As part of my reflection process for the year I would like to offer you these three tips as you head off into 2019.

First, never forget to be humble. Everybody knows something or has some special skill that the next person just doesn’t quite match up to, but at the end of the day those skills or that knowledge doesn’t amount to anything if you are not humble. Be still, calm, and quiet, to make sure you are hearing all that is around you, as you may learn something from the very person standing beside you.

Second, never forget to be kind – Everybody needs somebody that is kind to them. You never know with the people you meet how you will change their lives just because of the one kind moment that you had with them, whether that be in the grocery store or at the gas station.

I remember recently I was at the gas station and there was this very old vehicle coming in from the street with an old couple driving. Just as they exited the street, it was obvious that they ran out of gas. With 30 – 40 yards left before they got to the pump, the old man tried to start the vehicle again and again to no avail. Just then a young individual, who couldn’t have been more than 14 or 15 years old walking by at the time, ran over and pushed the back of the vehicle until they got to the pump.

As they arrived at the pump, the old man rolled down his window and said to the young man “Thank you son! Glad to see that there are some kind young men still left in this world.” The young man said no problem and walked on. Now here are two very different individuals in this world, one who needed nothing and one who needed a push. Neither will likely cross paths again, but both are strengthened by the simple act of kindness. This reminds me of that saying “It is always cool to be kind.”

Finally, never underestimate the power of challenge. Now what I mean by this is somebody who will push you further each and every day. I am lucky that I have two individuals that do this with me each day. First is my wife of 18 years. She is the most loving, caring, and selfless person I know. Of course, she is the first person to tell me when I am screwing up and I love her so much for that as it helps me get back on the right path.

Second is my current principal. She is wise beyond her years. She thinks of things that I never would think of. She always thinks about what she does and how it will affect the relationship. She does not shy away from having difficult conversations, but does so in a way that the person walks away not feeling hopeless and can make some real changes to better students. I know, I have been one of those people.

As 2018 comes to a close, what are you thankful for and how will being humble, kind, and challenging people help you for 2019.

Let’s Break Down Those Barriers

I think that most people in the field of education have heard the word “equity” in their daily practice. While many have heard it, many still do not understand it.

This picture is one that many have seen. It brings to light what equity stands for day-in and day-out in our profession. Providing supports for those that need that extra help in order to “see the game.” Taking a stance of equality does nothing for anybody. It pushes those that are already ahead, further, and those that are behind, still does not get them to “see the game.”

All would agree that equity is what education should be.  The problem is, that while equity helps get everybody to the same finish, some feel like they are missing out on something.  The fence in this picture is in the way and it is in the way for all students.  While they all get the “see the game” none of them are actually getting to “experience the game.”

Liberation helps eliminate the barrier that is preventing all students from truly “experiencing the game.”  This allows those that do not need additional supports from feeling like they are missing out on their education because we focus on those that do need those supports all the while providing all students with a rigorous and relevant education.

Inclusion takes this liberation lens a step further.  It puts the kids in uniforms and gets them “ready for the game.”  This is truly our focus with all of our students.

What I notice about this picture is that all the barriers are broken down for all students, all students are in uniforms ready for the game, but the student on the far right is missing a mitt.  While this last picture is not the end, what does the next picture look like?

Week ?

So I am the worst blogger.  I swear I start each summer with great ambition to learn and grow and that I am going to do that through blogging.  I start the year off right and make a post and commit myself to make regular daily/weekly posts.  That lasts for a single day and then I don’t get back to it until months later.

Last January I decided to start a podcast along with working on my blog, did that go far, nope.  I made two episodes.  I do know what the problem is.  Time.  I don’t have any.  I do know that I need to make some adjustments in my daily routine in order to focus on self-care and maintaining a balance.  I guess the point is that if you know what the issue is, at least you can start there to fix it.  

As we get towards the end of 2018, I am going to start redeveloping a new routine to help recommit myself to blogging and podcasting for 2019.


Why people follow other people?

Recently I have been reading through John C. Maxwell’s The 5 Levels of Leadership.  This book caught me off-guard.  Very intriguing and a book that every leader or inspiring leader should read.  Many times throughout it forced me to reflect on my leadership and make sure that it was in line with what I believe as a person and how I interact with others.

Everyone follows somebody.  If you are an active Twitter user you may follow a few people, or you may follow thousands of people.  People follow other people for lots of different reasons.  There are stacks of books out there on leadership and how to lead.  Throw a rock anywhere in a bookstore and chances are you struck a book that is about leadership. People follow other people for four basic reasons: (There are five levels of leadership but here I cover four of them and why people follow others.)

Position

People follow some people simply due to the position that they hold.  Not because of what they stand for or how they have impacted them personally, but because simply of their title.  These people feel like they have to follow these people.

Permission

Some individuals seek to follow others by seeking permission through relationships.  This is where people follow others because they simply want to.  They do not feel that they have too and it has nothing to do with the position the person holds.  This relies solely on relationships.  You have to like the people that follow you and you have to like the people that you follow.

Production

The third reason people follow others is due to production or results.  Leaders that can produce good results will have followers only after they have seen these results.  Good leaders don’t just create a pleasant working environment, they get things done!

“When you are winning, nothing hurts!”

People Development

Fourth, people follow other people because they see how them have influenced them and developed them as a person.  Nobody follows that person who is inherently a bad influence.  People want to follow people that inspire them and have a positive impact on their lives.  These leaders have the ability to empower others and they invest in their followers.  

“Production wins games, but people development wins championships.”

Week 1

Our first full week is now complete.  I am astonished on how smooth it has been this year.  We have had some very large changes in the building that usually lend themselves to causing complications until a system gets put in place to help it run.

This year we are implementing a new students information system district-wide, changing from semesters to trimesters, and some large safety changes.  These are all large changes that would normally cause issues as you roll them out, but so far this year there has been very little disruption to the learning process in the school.

It is going to be a great year!  Having a positive outlook on your work will bring nothing but positivity to those around you.  Even if you have negative people around you, they will not last long to the positivity.

Scraping Away Debris

Working around the house on project are not something that I jump up to do but they are not also something that I will avoid with fidelity.  

Yesterday we had planned two painting projects.  One was to paint my daughters dressers and the other was to paint the back bard door.  My son and I were tasked with the barn door.

I went into this project with quick and easy all in mind.  Brush it off, slap a coat of paint on it, call it good.  That is not what happened at all.  As we got up to the door and started to lay the prep work we notice much of the current paint was flaking and would need to be scrapped off.  I then knew this was going to be a long project.

As I started to scrape away the old paint I started to think about how this relates to the relationships that we build in schools for kids.  As time goes on, we tend to get callused by all of the things that are thrown at us in education.  When we have that callus built up, we tend to not think or hear what people are saying and start to shift our focus to how they are saying without giving any thought to what they are needing from us.

People are like this worn barn door.  Callused.  The only way we can be repaired is if we surround ourselves around people who will help scrape away the callus to help make us anew.

Starting the Year

Starting the Year

So today is Friday of my first week back.  This week should have been busy and very hectic as we start to unfold things and get ready for staff’s arrival on the 13th, but it wasn’t.  Even with registration going on it was not nearly as stressful as the previous two years.

Going into this year I have worked on myself personally to enter with a different mindset.  The work is important, but the people are more important.  There is never a need for me to be rushed with a task and be so rushed that I might say something that would upset another.  Those things are just that, things!  They are not people and they do not have feelings.  They will get completed but never at the sake of a relationship.

#MyWhy

Why do we do this work?  Many would say for the kids and that is a great answer, but many kids will go through school just fine.  They are elastic and adhere to anything that you put in front of them.  All three of my kids are just like this.  While each of them has their struggles, I truly do not worry about their success in school or if they will reach that finish line.

I do this work for kids who are not my own.  I do this for the kids who do not know where their next meal is coming from.  I do this for the kids who wonder where they will lay their head down tonight.  I do this for the kids who are forced to be adults long before they should.  I do this for the kids who need a positive person in their lives.  I do this for the kids who need somebody to listen to what they are saying and not judge them on how they are saying it.

This video “Change the First Five Years and You Change Everything” really tugged at my heartstrings as to why I do what I do.  Many students have such sad stories.  I will always feel sad for them and word each day to not get mad at them.  I think you should take a look and then decide what is your #MyWhy.


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