Teachers These Days

Most of the time, when I’m about to write a blogpost, I have an idea where I’m going. In this case, not so much.

Through the magic professional learning available via Twitter, I caught the title of a book called Teachers These Days by Dr. Jody Carrington and Laurie McIntosh.

A wondering. The phrase ‘teachers these days’. I bet some might assume a negative connotation. As in, with a big sigh and an eye roll, “Teachers these days.” Well, no. This book ain’t that. By a million miles. And stop reading this post if you think about teachers that way. You’re wrong.

So that was something I was going to write a lot about. The assumptions some have about teachers these days.

However.

I also found that with each page I read, I had more to think and write about. I was immediately zoomed back to being a middle school teacher. Standing outside my classroom door with my buddies Dave Hockman and Kirk Dodge. Welcoming, joshing with, and generally fooling around as kids came into our classrooms. I’ve long said that how the adults treat each other IS the school climate. I know this because I’ve lived this. And see it still.

A fact.

We didn’t greet kids at the door because of research that says that middle school kids so greeted increase academic engagement by 20% and disruptive behavior drops by 9%. We didn’t know about that research….or pretty much any research. We did it because it was fun, we loved our jobs, we loved each other, and we loved the kids. And they knew it and were drawn to our classrooms. Teachers These Days talks about light-ups. That reaction we had when we saw the kids. I received light-ups from one of my role models, Ken Edmonds, when I was a kid. Wrote about that. We created light-ups with kids and those kids, now adults, tell us about those light-ups.

So I thought I’d write about that. Light-ups.

But I didn’t know about lid-flips. And so I’m reading more closely now about lid-flips because I know this is an area with which Teachers These Days are in daily contact and the advice and strategies seem helpful to kids and teachers. How at the root of about every behavior a kid has is the fact that he/she/they have not been shown how to regulate behavior. Shown. Not taught. So I need to learn more about that.

Then I can write about it.

Oh and another part that I thought I might write about is the whole conversation around the fact that every person in a school is a teacher. The best schools have a person for every kid and it may not always be the kid’s teacher. It may be the custodian. It may be the bus driver. It may be the lunch person. And that’s not only ok, it’s a cause for celebration.

And here’s some truth telling. I’m only on page 57. This book is that good. I’ve only read that far and I am having this many thoughts. That must be a thing and probably a good thing.

I’ll check back after another 50 pages. In the meantime, thank you to the Teachers These Days.

And greet ’em at the door and light-up!

Sometimes a hug.

Saw this on Twitter yesterday. If for some reason you’re not on Twitter, here’s a reason to sign up.

What is so great about this, you wonder, while dabbing your eyes? It’s a grandpa who is able to hug his grandkids for the first time because of the innovative thinking of some students.

That’s great. Simple, powerful, moving.

Sometimes a hug.

What is a negative?

“We need to make the positives so loud that the negatives become impossible to hear.” George Couros

Best professional learning. Ever.

Here’s the thing. George Couros changed the course of my career. Innovator’s Mindset changed the course of my career. His words have changed my thinking.

And lately, this quote from George, “We need to make the positives so loud that the negatives become impossible to hear,” has really been on my mind. I even called my buddy Mark Beddes to ask him to help me think it through. Take a close look at Mark’s profile pic to see what kind of a George Couros fan he is.

What I’m getting stuck on, after clearly loving this quote, to the point of buying a t-shirt with the quote on it, is the idea of….

What is a negative?

That which worries me is the possibility that while my positives are being so loud, I might be missing out on a ‘negative’ that I really need to hear. I completely understand that George is not saying to ignore challenging statements. Being open to challenge, being willing to examine and reexamine thinking are critical steps to keep growing and learning.

What I’m going to try to do is keep real loud with my positives, but dial them down for a second to make sure that a ‘negative’ is a ‘negative’ and not a very important message I really need to hear. And continue to challenge myself as to what constitutes a negative.

See? George Couros continues to challenge me. How great is that?

Roots and foundations.

Dave Britton, yours truly, Jeff Short

At our last school board meeting, some of the people on my Fife Mr. Rushmore of educators and educational leaders were in attendance. Namely Dave Britton and Jeff Short. Both were well into their careers when I started as a barely 22 year old teacher.

A barely 22 year old teacher.

Jeff’s oldest daughter was in 7th grade when I started teaching. His 2nd daughter, whom I had in class, is now a teacher in our district. And has been for some time. Both of these guys represent the foundation of my career. There are a lot of people involved in raising up a new teacher. The process continues with our educators now. Either on purpose or vicariously, people are raised up in the profession.

Here’s are two stories about Dave and Jeff. After I had been teaching for 16 years, I was ready to make the move to administration. I literally took Dave’s position at our high school, as an assistant principal. Dave met with John McCrossin and me, as the two new APs at FHS. It was two younger guys meeting with a sage advisor. He said, “Ok guys. You need to think of this place as a rock. Your job is to keep things from chipping away at the rock. Little things make a big difference. Don’t let the little things go. You guys are next up and you have a job to do to keep the place going. Keep it great. Pay attention.” Dave was passing along expectations for us as the next line of leaders. I will never forget that conversation. It had a huge impact on me.

Jeff was named as the principal at FHS and John and I were his assistant principals. After being a teacher for a long time, I was used to being a good guy. Kids liked me, liked my classes, it was all great. I was worried about the change to AP. APs deal with a lot of challenging things. Discipline being one. Jeff’s direct comment was, “Remember. They’re still just kids. The job will be what you make it.” And he was right. I had the choice of how I wanted to be as an AP. And I wanted to be a fair, reasonable, and supportive AP. The job taught me about the ‘tough call’. It taught me to pay attention to the process. And it reinforced for me Dave’s insistence on paying attention to the little things.

So it was great to see these two again. And thank them for their profound impact on thousands and thousands of people, stretching over decades, rippling outward still.

And for impacting me. Gave me my roots and my foundation.

Grace needs no reason.

Just in my office working on stuff that needs to be worked on. Glanced at my tweetdeck feed, and saw this quote, from Monte Syrie.

The 4 words that hit me the hardest. “Grace needs no reason.” Just let that phrase marinate for a bit. Wow. One of our leaders, Dr. Lindsay Lombardo, swung by my office just as I was starting to write this blogpost. I laid those 4 words on her, and she said, “That is the definition of grace.” Wow again.

In an earlier blogpost, ‘5 Great Ways to Let Kids Know You Care About Them’, I touched on the idea of grace from a teacher point of view. “Forgiveness > Punishment. Showing grace to a kid when he/she goofed up never, not once, came back to bite me. Deepens trust and respect. When it gets to the point where a kid can’t imagine going sideways in your class, you know that trust, respect, and relationships are rock solid in place. It takes work, but it’s fun work. Eventually you also gain the power of reputation. Don’t take that for granted, but it is nice to have.”

The other quote that has been on my mind for awhile now comes from Todd Whitaker. I may have already written about this one, but the old memory isn’t what it once was. He said, “It’s a lot easier to criticize a leader than it is to be one.” Well that rings a lot of bells all over the place ‘these days’. I look at our classroom, building and district leaders. I see a lot of caring, driven, passionate leaders. And they’re tired. And I know that part of that weariness comes from criticism. Unfounded, unwarranted criticism.

Grace can and should be extended to everyone.

Grace needs no reason.

When is when?

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” -Dr. Maya Angelou

Dr. Maya Angelou

Dr. Angelou has been on my mind lately. My wife and I are just back from a spring break trip to Washington DC. It was a 2 year postponed anniversary trip. It hit all the targets we love in a vacation. Nice place to stay, vibrant city, lots of museums, art, food, family, and friends.

The first place we visited was the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The impact this museum had on my wife and me was profound. The subject for a separate blogpost entirely.

National Museum of African American History and Culture

Dr. Angelou’s quote was in my mind leaving the museum. “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” Such an elegant, clear, and seemingly simple idea.

My wondering is when is ‘when’?

What has happened for doing better to commence? I was just chatting with my buddy Ben Ramirez, solving all the day’s and world’s concerns. I asked him. He contends that the ‘when’ is when you have learned something. A solid place to start. I fall back to Katz and Dack. “Professional learning results in a permanent change in thinking or behavior.”  That seems like a pretty good indication of a ‘when’. When one’s thinking or behavior has been permanently changed, then do better.

What causes the permanent change in thinking or behavior other necessary for learning? The impact of a trusted friend’s thinking and influence? Reading something? Experiencing something? Hearing something?

Going through the museum, I had the words of a colleague in my mind. I thought about the balance between trauma and celebration. I thought about the opportunities kids of color have to be their authentic selves. I thought about the exhibits that prohibit photography.

Now I’m thinking about my when. And doing better.

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” -Dr. Maya Angelou

Kindness

Been thinking about things we, as human beings, can do to make things better for each other. Kindness is a good place to start.

I don’t often sit at my desk at the start of a day with tears in my eyes. But as I was thinking about this blogpost, I did a quick search on Youtube for ‘acts of kindness’ and ‘acts of kindness ripple effect’.

Whoa. All of them. This one. And this one.

“Shall we make a new rule of life from tonight: always try to be a little kinder than is necessary?” -JM Barrie.

I wonder what a day would be like if 10 people in a school, kids, staff, community, parents, made it a point, a conscious effort to do an act of kindness. I wonder what that ripple effect in the school would be. Would it stay in the walls of the school? Would it go beyond the school to the community?

“Somewhere there’s a stranger who was kind to someone just because you were kind to them.”

#myroommessage

I have snagged one or two of Monte Syrie’s messages before. I highly recommend that all educators take a look at this hashtag daily. And give him a follow.

The one below recently grabbed me. As a middle school teacher, I told kids, “You will never get in trouble with me for asking questions. Never. When you ask questions, it’s a guarantee that 7 other kids have the same question or a version of the same question.”

A quick heat check for learning in a classroom is the quality, frequency, comfort, tone, and distribution of kids’ questions.

#myroommessage for today is, “How’s the question climate in the classroom going? And how do you know?”

#myroommessage is an amazing, daily resource!

Must mean something.

Well into my 38th year in our district, I’ve learned some things. I’m pleased to say that I have also unlearned some things. Learn, unlearn, relearn.

One of the things I’ve learned is that if an idea is still banging around in my head, I still have more to think about. It just keeps bugging me. That must mean something.

Here’s an example.

My last blogpost had me thinking about kids finding representation of themselves in books in libraries.

Now I’m thinking about the 12 years of my career where I was the principal at our junior high school.

The picture below is of a group of junior high kids. These kids are now seniors.

The wondering I have, based upon the thinking I had in the last blogpost, is could each of these kids find books in our library in which they see themselves represented? And further, how long would it take?