Got me thinking.

John Ratko, the principal that hired me for my first teaching job!

We are smack in the middle of planning our brand new middle school. One of the cool things I get to do is be the district liaison guy for all of our building projects. The fellow on the left above is John Ratko. He was the second principal at the original middle school, and is currently the most senior principal from that school still alive. He also is the guy that hired me in 1984 to be a US History teacher at the middle school. His heartfelt job offer still rings in my ears, “Well Nelson, I’m probably making a mistake, but I’m going to offer you the job.”

35 years later I’m still in the same district, now on my 4th different role, and John is long retired.

Last week I gave him a call and invited him to join us for the groundbreaking at the new middle school, being built on the same site. He accepted and we chatted a bit. One of his comments caught me off guard and got me thinking. He said, “You know, SLMS isn’t where my heart is. I’ll have FHS on my tombstone.” Then he talked about the fact that he was hired as a teacher at the high school, and eventually became the principal there, before finishing his last 12 years as the principal at the middle school.

I was surprised how he described the middle school vs. his time at the high school. Then, as I thought about it, I realized I was the same way. My first job was at the middle school. It’s where I met most of my longterm colleagues, who became personal friends. We experienced marriages, kids, births, deaths together. And John was the principal who hired most of us. That’s where my heart is. I loved my time at the other schools, especially our junior high school, where I was the planning principal, opened the building, and was its first principal for 12 years. But if push came to shove, I’d have to say my heart is still at my first school. Weird. Never thought of it until John made that comment.

Not sure why I decided to write about this brief interaction with one of my education heroes, but it was still banging around in my head, which is usually a sign for me that I should write about it. I’ll be forever grateful to John for hiring me in Fife. My roots here are now beyond deep. I love our district, and especially my first school.

Where does your heart live?

As sure as the sun is going to rise…

“Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up their food, and tyrannize their teachers.”

Kids these days, boy I’m tellin’ you.

Question. Does the general pattern hold that every generation bemoans the state of the next generation? That ruination and despair will fall upon the land when ‘these kids are in charge’?

I’m pretty sure the answer is yes. That’s the pattern. The fellow below is the source of the quote above. Socrates. Had it up to here. Kids these days. In 400 BC. Slays me.

Anybody else feel a little sorry for us when we don’t recognize that we’re among a generation that was most recently lamented? Now it’s our turn to lament.

My dad, a 40+ year teaching veteran once commented about kids, “When you don’t find junior high kids funny anymore, it’s time get out. They’re not going to change.”

It’s possible that it’s not the kids. It might be us. It was me.

I recognize this as a former principal. I found myself losing patience with pretty normal concerns. I’d just addressed them so many thousands of times already. It was NOT about the person with the concern. It was me. I needed a change. So I took a chance with a new gig. Helped a lot. New reservoir of patience. New things to ponder.

So as we wander through our careers, working with kids and parents, when we start to lament, maybe do a check. Is it actually the kids/parents…..or us?

I sure miss when kids used to stand when elders entered the room though.

Here’s how we roll around this outfit.

One of our gifted educators tweeted about a book she was recommending.

When a great teacher recommends a book, I’m all in. So I bought it and am about halfway through.

Because of this great teacher’s recommendation, I found these words on page 68.

“Between stimulus and response there is a space, and in that space lies our power and our freedom.”
-Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Wow. I really wish I had read these words before. Especially earlier in my career, the ‘space’ didn’t really exist and I would respond to the stimulus without thinking. Sometimes not to great effect. As we work with kids coming from increased levels of trauma, that space becomes all the more important for the kid….and for us.

I absolutely love that our educators continue to read. Continue to seek new skills, resources, research, and ideas. All in the name of helping more kids, at deeper levels, to achieve higher levels of success.

In the space, realize your power and freedom to choose a response to understanding that the kid is struggling.

Reminds me of this:

A good thought to occupy your space before the response.

Worksheets aren’t automatically bad.

Saw another twitter rant today about kids and worksheets. Like a kid’s life is irretrievably destroyed should he/she ever lay a finger on a worksheet.

You know…it’s not about the worksheet. Just like it’s not about the Chromebook/iPad or device.

It’s about what one does with them. Period.

If the rant about worksheets is focused on a mindless filling out of said worksheet, basically designed to keep kids quiet for awhile, then yes, rant away. I guess. However, I’ve seen great teachers produce gold with kids around a worksheet. The sheet was the starting point for collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking. It’s just a piece of paper. What is on it, and what kids do with it, are the important elements.

Give the teachers who use worksheets as a tool, a starting point, a well designed part of a lesson, a break.

Off the soapbox.

Couros Quotes

Almost 3 years ago, I read Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros for the first time. I hadn’t heard of George before. I read the book first using Kindle Cloud Reader. I find this tool a great way to read, while working. I made 223 highlights and 11 notes. That’s basically highlighting the whole book.

It was great to meet George Couros!

As I was reading, I could feel my perspectives and thinking shifting. That’s a pretty good book, to make that happen. And 3 years ago, I was on year 32 as an educator, with half of that time being as a middle school teacher.

Sometimes I feel a bit like a crazed fan, but I can live with that. The book and George’s thinking has pushed me to be better. This week, I started tweeting my Top Ten Couros Quotes. I think I’ve timed this so that my next blogpost will be about the number one quote from the book.

The quotes I’ve chosen so far are:

10. “Change is an opportunity to do something amazing.”

9. “Any time teachers think differently about who they teach and how they teach, they can create better learning opportunities. Questioning what we do and why we do it is essential for innovation.”

8. “Technology can be crucial in the development of innovative organizations, but innovation is less about tools like computers, tablets, social media, and the Internet, and more about how we use those things.”

7. ….scheduled via Tweetdeck to roll out in about 3 hours.

6. …..scheduled via Tweetdeck to rollout in 27 hours

5, 4, 3, 2, 1….still to come!

Thank you George!