Please let me know where I can join you in your learning.

Monte Syrie hits another home run. Check out the image below.

In a lot of ways, I’m a simple guy. I like seemingly simple ideas. This idea might appear to be seemingly simple. But look a little more closely. It’s elegant. It’s nuanced and has layers.

With the invitation to engage in a support cycle, the student chooses where they/she/he enters the conversation. And of course, the list of entry points provides a lovely roadmap for a student to consider where he/she/they are in the personal learning process.

Elegant.

The list also highlights the array of tools a professional educator can bring to a student’s learning.

Elegant.

And man, the opportunity afforded a student and a teacher for a RICH learning conversation is stunning. The list is a script. A brainstorm. Conversation starters, icebreakers, etc.

Wow.

And don’t get me started on, “Please let me know where I can join you in your learning.”

I’m going all the way back to Horace Mann when I consider the impact of that invitation.

“A teacher who is attempting to teach without inspiring the pupil with a desire to learn is hammering on cold iron.”

It’s not hard to imagine a kid being inspired and motivated by this process.

Sometimes a graphic.

Once again, Liz and Mollie bring me to a screeching halt with a seemingly simple, attractive little graphic.

Simple? Yes. Instantly creates self-reflection and pause? Oh yeah. I know I am too often guilty of being ‘Person 1’ on the ‘ineffective team.’

So what do we do when we know better? We do better. Got a meeting coming up in about 20 minutes. Good chance to be Person 1 on the effective team.

Thank you, as always, Liz and Mollie.

Good things.

Happy reunion.

Good things can be simple things. Things taken for granted, then taken away. The simple joy of together and whole. Reunited.

Reminds me of one of my favorite ideas:

“And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.” -Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Reunited and it feels so good.

Nothing better!

Yesterday, after a multi-year break, we were able to host our district’s convocation morning. It was like a family reunion.

No need to recap all that happened over the last 3 years. It was a rough stretch, by any measure. Our educators persevered and kept the needs of kids front and center.

Yesterday felt different. It felt ‘normal’. That word has lost a lot of meaning, but yesterday had people smiling, relaxed, laughing, hugging. We are people people and people needed people yesterday.

I’m proud to work in a place where the superintendent, in his remarks to the entire staff of the entire district, said, “We keep the main thing the main thing.” And the main thing is a focus on kids and educators.

Year 39 is on deck for me, all in this wonderful place. School starts tomorrow. And here’s what I know will happen. Kids will be nervous, adults will welcome them with big smiles and reassuring words. And day by day, young people will take steps to becoming successful older people, with the gifted people in our schools leading and supporting them. That sure feels like ‘normal’.

Let’s go!

Been a minute.

Been a minute, as the kids say, since I hit the ol’ blog. August is now in full force, which for some, might not seem like prime school time. It is. We’ve hired two new, excellent principals. Also hired two new, excellent assistant principals. Also hired a number of new, excellent teachers. So, the district office crew is busy dreaming, scheming, designing, and planning for our kickoff leadership retreat. Actually we’ve been doing all the aforementioned verbs since the spring, but we’re in the home stretch now. The retreat is next week. For some reason, as I was thinking about the retreat, George Couros popped into my mind. And specifically this quote:

I love this quote. I love the challenge of this quote. If kids don’t see/feel/experience anything different as a result of our PL days….what the heck were we doing? The good thing is that I know, as a fact, that kids do see/feel/experience difference after our work. We have such a solid group of teacher/building/district leaders, all of whom keep kids front and center in our work.

Really looking forward to next week and firing up the 2022-2023 school year!

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.