The Breakfast Club

Over the past year, you may have heard that living through a global pandemic was like living through a movie.  I don’t know about living through one, but when I was middle school age, watching movies was just a LOT different.  We either went to the theater, went to a video store to rent a VHS tape to watch at home on our VCR’s, or waited for the movie to come out on cable or commercial television.  The versions of the movies that we saw on commercial television however, were usually sanitized for a family audience, which is how I saw most of my ‘80’s movies in the Boyd household.  One of those movies was The Breakfast Club.  

If you’ve not seen The Breakfast Club, it is about a group of 5 high school students assigned detention on Saturday…ALL DAY SATURDAY (not just two hours like our Saturday School).  These five students are from completely different cliques at their high school and are all in detention for different reasons, which they eventually share with each other.  What they come to discover over the course of the day is that they are more alike than they are different.  Each of them has their own unique struggles that have shaped who they are.  They arrived as five individuals but left detention that Saturday afternoon in Shermer, Illinois as the Breakfast Club.  

I love the message of this movie.  The Breakfast Club is an 80’s classic and one of my all-time favorites.  And if you get the chance to watch it, I hope you see the same edited and family friendly version that I did many years ago.  But I’ve always wondered one thing…why was there never a sequel to The Breakfast Club?  It could have been because of the actors in the Brat Pack and their scheduling or availability.  It could have been about director John Hughes moving on other projects.  But I have always wondered…was it because the sequel would have been about school on Monday?  Did anything change after Saturday?  Was their shared experience strong enough to overcome the return to normal on Monday morning?  I wonder…did the Breakfast Club ever eat at the same lunch table?  

Students, as the Class of 2025, you have the unique and once in a lifetime opportunity to choose how you begin again as you head to high school in the fall as 9th graders.  My ask, as you leave us, is to reflect on our shared experience, to remember that we are all more alike than we are different, we are all shaped by our own unique experiences, and that “each one of us is a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal.” 

Veterans Day

To our distinguished guests on the floor:  Thank you for joining us.  Thank you for sharing of your time and experiences serving our great nation.  Students, I hope you were listening closely as our veterans were recognized.  I hope you heard all the different branches of service that were recognized and when and where they served, whether in war or peace, stateside or abroad.  And noticed how many of your classmates in the audience are touched by one of our honored guests.

I am a peacetime veteran.  I was in ROTC at the University of Alabama during Desert Shield/Desert Storm and left active duty before September 11, 2001.  Not a Veteran’s Day or Memorial Day for that matter, goes by without me remembering those whose service and sacrifice far exceeded mine.  Or going to bed thinking about who’s on radio watch.  Or a holiday wondering what junior officers, NCO’s, and enlisted are on staff duty or CQ.  Or when the weather and conditions are awful like they are today:  hot/cold, wet/dry, hungry/thirsty and knowing that somewhere, somebody has it worse than I do.  This is one of the gifts that my service has given me:  Perspective.

Perspective on what is important.  Perspective on the things I missed that I will never get back.  And the perspective to recognize how precious our time together is.

When I was 21, believing I was ten feet tall and bulletproof, I didn’t think for a minute about what my parents must have felt watching their first born get on a plane to Fort Lewis, Washington.  When I was 22, I didn’t think for a minute about how my in-laws must have felt watching their baby girl drive away with a soldier headed to Fort Hood, Texas.

In all the time I spent with my fellow soldiers, from every walk of life and corner of this country, I cannot recall a single conversation about politics or parties or ideologies during the hours, days, and weeks we spent in tanks, tents, and Humvees.  What I do recall is conversations about family.  Stories that started with “So, there I was!”  Stories about other soldiers.  And conversations about home.  Homes like:

  • Pocotello, Idaho
  • Thibodaux, Louisiana
  • Elkhart, Indiana
  • North Tonawanda, New York
  • Brownsville, Texas
  • Elko, Nevada
  • Compton, CA
  • San Juan, Puerto Rico
  • And Tyler, Texas visiting the home and family of SGT Eric Ferguson, one of my squad leaders who was killed in a military vehicle accident in October of 1997 at Fort Hood, TX.

In addition to perspective, military service has given me a myriad number of gifts that have become part of my fabric, part of my DNA, part of my being, the essence of who I am as a husband, father, son, brother, friend, neighbor, and educator.

Those gifts include:

  • Living up to a standard
  • Taking ownership
  • Eating last, or not at all. If you were at our ceremony last year, you may have heard Coach Jimmy Gentry tell his story about never taking the last biscuit.
  • Realizing that “It’s not about you.”
  • And probably my favorite quote: “How you do anything is how you do everything”

Service is a gift.  A gift that gives in perpetuity, whether you realize it or not.  A gift that begins with volunteering, taking a first step, raising your hand.  Volunteering to be part of something bigger than yourself.  Doing your job.  Playing your role.  Making things better for someone else.

Students, service doesn’t have to start with or even include the military for that matter.  It did for me and for that I will be forever grateful.  It did for our honored guests here today and we are gathered to demonstrate our gratitude to them for their military service.  As you continue your journey, I encourage you to be part of something bigger than yourself, to give selflessly, demonstrate gratitude, and live up to a standard.  If somewhere along your road in life, you find yourself alone, out front by yourself, and not knowing what to do, just keep moving forward.  If you take a look over your shoulder, we’re all right behind you…cheering you every step of the way.

Coach Gray

I’ve never quit anything in my life.  I have completed and fulfilled my commitments and obligations to teams, schools, churches, employers, and my country, but I have never quit.  Coach Dwight “Buddy” Gray is to thank for that.

I didn’t play JV football at Holtville.  I went out for varsity in the spring of my freshman year and to say I was behind physically and fundamentally would be a gross understatement.  During the last full week of spring practice, after a particularly miserable afternoon with awful weather in which I didn’t catch a single football, I hit the wall.  To this day I don’t know what it was or where it came from:  I wanted to quit.  After practice, I made the walk from the locker room to Coach Gray’s office in the field house and told him my heart wasn’t in it and wanted to turn in my stuff.  He was standing up at his desk and never asked me to sit.  Coach Gray looked me in the eyes and said to quit now, given all you’ve invested and the time you’ve put in, would be “foolish.”  Finish this week out, he said, and we’ll see where it goes.

As a leader, educator, and coach, I now know how easy it would have been for him to tell me to clean out my locker and leave my stuff at the equipment room door.  I also know now why he didn’t, and can’t thank him enough for that one minute of brutal honesty and encouragement.  After Coach Gray left the next season for Jemison, there would be many more opportunities to quit Holtville Football.  Many of my friends and teammates made that choice as we won only four games in 1988 and went winless in 1989, my senior year.  I didn’t.

Coach Gray passed away unexpectedly in the early morning of Wednesday, March 28th.  His last “TeAm GrAy Monday Message” was on gratitude.

Thanks Coach.

 

BoydFridays Bookshelf

I’m proud of my little bookshelf.

Since late October (by my count), 15 books have moved on to parts unknown (including undisclosed locations in Afghanistan) with no expectation of them being returned.  Inspired by the work of @jarredamato and @projectLITcomm, I decided to start reading more diverse juvenile fiction and giving those books away at my school.  My initial vision was to purchase and read one new book per week, then put it on the shelf outside my office window for the taking.  I bought a few to start, including All American Boys, Strong Inside, and Refugee, and added a few “timely” paperbacks from home during November.  I have also started to receive donations from community stakeholders interested in a project to get free books in the hands of kids.  And, I can always count on my neighboring English teachers for a kind word and recommendations!

Today I am looking at one book left on my shelf and I couldn’t be happier.  One, I get to go to the bookstore!  But most importantly, a kid got to pick up something they were interested in with no expectation or pressure of returning it.  Coming back to my office and seeing a book “missing” from my shelf brings a smile to my face.  It’s a single drop of rain in anything but a “book desert,” but I think it matters.  And that’s good enough for me.

 

Harmony

I’ve not been much for New Years’ resolutions over the last several years.  Perhaps my hesitation comes from my tendency to overdo things, to set too lofty a goal, and to go to extremes, thus always setting myself up for failure and disappointment.  While I appreciate the sentiment and love the idea of the tabula rasa, I want to believe that if some decision, some life-changing shift was that important, why not start immediately?  Why do we wait?  Has any resolution ever been sustained just because it began January 1st? Are we just putting undue pressure on ourselves based on an arbitrary Gregorian paradigm?

*Disclaimer:  As I compose this post, six drafts (including portions of this one) sit in my WordPress account.  Perhaps I shouldn’t rule out timely resolutions so soon, but I digress.

For this reason, my wife and I take the new year differently than most.  She creates a set of “Good Intentions” while I have latched on to the beauty and simplicity of the “One Word” phenomenon.   What is most impactful to me in utilizing one word is that the word becomes a platform or a mindset in approaching any situation at any time.  The one word becomes a goal, a vision, a lens, and the desired outcome of all interactions.

My #oneword for 2018 is the word “harmony.”

I was pleased to see “harmony” as one of my signature themes in the Clifton StrengthsFinder Assessment I completed in the summer of 2017.  While I have received positive feedback on my effectiveness in this area, particularly in parent meetings, harmony had not appeared on the assessment I took five years prior.  In fact, nor had any other themes addressing relationships.  I firmly believe that my experiences in both my doctoral program and working as an assistant principal have strengthened my emotional intelligence, empathy, and understanding in a time it is so desperately needed in our world.

In 2018, I look forward to sharing positive stories of harmony in my personal and professional life and would love to hear yours as well.

 

The Brave Team

I’m not sure when it happened exactly.  It certainly wasn’t overnight.  But, over the course of the last several months a stark reality has emerged in my life and to be honest, it hurts.  I mean, like really hurts.  I’m talking constant daily reminders that life as you know it is over kind of hurt.  What is it, you ask, that could so profoundly affect a 43 year old married father of two, with a terminal academic degree and tenure?

My daughter is no longer my little girl.

We were the “Brave Team.”  We ran through dozens of silly nicknames for each other.  We took forever to say goodnight as I tried to sneak out with her stuffed animals.  We took naps together under the princess blanky on the couch.  We fit perfectly side by side in my chair watching whatever cartoon, movie, or TV show she wanted.  And the hugs…oh, the hugs.  The kind of hugs that let you know you were someone’s universe, their center of gravity, and there was no one else on this earth that made them feel as safe as they do with you.

All now part of our past rather than our present.

These days it’s a smile and a wave.  A side hug if I’m lucky.  It’s a “night night” with not so much as a look back as she heads up the stairs, not needing (even wanting?) a “Daddy Express” piggy back ride.  A text with a heart and a “Brave Team” emoji.  Hoping that she’ll say “Hey, you know what?” and share something with me about her day.  A few minutes in my truck at the bus stop, before she walks to the bus while “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac plays on the radio.

I suppose this fate, this reckoning, falls to every father of a daughter.  Not that it makes it any easier.  I’ve never told her this, but I know that someday she will meet someone who may love her “more” than I do.  Certainly my father-in-law experienced the same feelings over 21 years ago.  I understand now, as I’m sure he does, that no one will ever love my daughter like I do.  I am strengthened by knowing that one day in her future, Audrey will slip her arm in mine for a short walk together before we go meet this person at the altar.  If only for a brief moment, we’ll be the “Brave Team” again.

Originally published 3/12/16 at wpboyd.blogspot.com.

An Open Letter

An open letter to my students past, present, and future:

To my former students:  I’m sorry.

For far too many years, it was about me and not about you. I “welcomed” you on the first day of school with a copy of my classroom policies and procedures. I spent our entire first day together describing how “we” do business in “my” classroom. I took a quasi-sadistic pride in my first day of school speech, complete with animal analogies depicting myself as the alpha predator and you as my unwitting prey. My meter stick was my constant companion, brandished about as my weapon, pointer, and fidget spinner. There may or may not have been tears shed as students left the classroom that first day.

I promise you that I always had the best of intentions. While misguided, I wanted to assure you that I would let nothing distract us from the important work that we would do in the classroom and that every single minute of instructional time would be protected. That the AP Exam was our common enemy and together we could defeat it in the number of days remaining posted on the whiteboard. That you should trust that I was the subject matter expert and had all the answers. Just a few more practice multiple-choice problems using the process of elimination, another 5-10 pages of reading tonight with identification note cards, and a five-question quiz tomorrow. And if we did enough “thesis and three” exercises, we would cover all potential essay topics on the exam.

I know now that I let many opportunities go to waste, opportunities that I now regret. While many of you were “successful” in the course as determined by the College Board, I know that our time together did not resonate with all of you. I didn’t allow enough time for you to explore areas of individual choice, personal interest, and meaning. There were few chances for you and your classmates to talk instead of me and to look at the issues and events we covered through additional perspectives and points of view. I hope that since leaving my class you have had opportunities to do just that in your academic and personal endeavors. Some of you have kept in touch with me to share your victories and successes, and for that I am thankful. My wish is that when you look back on our class from years hence, you might see some value in the time we spent together. Wherever you find yourself today, I hope you have found purpose and contentment and I wish nothing but the best for all of you.

To my present students:  I’m grateful.

As a fellow educator, administrator, and leader, I am honored to work alongside you to share the lessons I have learned in my professional experience. I hope to learn as much from you as you learn from me during the time we spend together. Nothing will contribute more to our collective success than the relationship of trust and collaboration that we will build. You should have noticed that the first thing we do when we convene is to get to know one another and take a needs/interests inventory. While our perspectives and approaches will vary based upon your needs, our work together will be directed towards one singular focus: Improving teacher practice to positively affect student outcomes.

You will find our time together engaging and interactive. All of the activities and resources I share with you are available online and will be accessible to you long after our class has finished. My contact information and a feedback instrument are provided after every learning session. I hope you take the time to continue the conversation with all of us in the class, whether through feedback or connections with your colleagues in professional learning networks. My belief is that we are all “better together,” and while our time together is temporary, our collective influence and impact is lasting.

To my future students:  I’m optimistic.

Should our paths cross in a classroom or professional learning session, my hope is that that you will benefit from the mistakes I have made and lessons I have learned over the years. Expect our learning to be practical, experiential, and collaborative. While a wealth of information is available in online and print formats, it adds no value in a vacuum. As a member of one of my classes, you will be provided electronic access to all course materials, the means to connect and engage with me both during and after our sessions, and the opportunity to provide feedback on all lessons. Each workshop or session is interactive in design and intended to get participants engaged, working, and creating. Strategies I share will be modeled during each workshop to support your learning. Every participant will leave each of my sessions with a takeaway, strategy, or application they could use in their classroom the next day. We will continually assess and reassess our progress and the significance of our learning in improving our collective practice. I cannot wait to meet you and to get started on the important work we get to do in improving educational outcomes for students.

I am honored to serve each and every one of you as your teacher.

Sincerely,

Dr. Patrick Boyd

Keep Calm and Carry On

In my last few years of teaching AP European History, I only displayed one poster on the wall of my classroom.  That poster is pictured below.  The poster hung between the two large windows directly in the student’s line of sight as they entered my classroom each and every day.  This poster became my social contract, my classroom and behavioral expectations, and my test/exam prep advice for students.  As the years passed, students brought me gifts of journals, notebooks, band aids, anything emblazoned with this poster as it became synonymous with my course.  However, it wasn’t until my family and I were on Spring Break  in London on March 22, 2017 that I experienced the true meaning of “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

IMG_0299

The Keep Calm and Carry On image and mantra has only emerged into pop culture in the last few years.  The history of the poster, however, is far more storied.  Varying accounts describe how the poster emerged as a propaganda/motivational piece in Great Britain , particularly the city of London, during World War II.

Almost seventy years later, my family and I were touring the Tower of London when I noticed a few of the Yeoman Warders acting strangely.  I quickly checked Twitter and saw that there had been an incident on the Westminster Bridge.  I discreetly showed the post to my wife but kept it from my kids and in-laws for the time being.  I did not realize until later what we had just done:  We kept calm.  We carried on.

We split up to make our journey across the Thames and back to our hotel.  We hailed a cab for my wife and daughter and elderly in-laws, thinking it would be the quickest and safest way for them.  My son and I took the Tube, despite worries about it being a target as well.  Our trip back to the hotel took about 10 minutes, including a slow roll through the closed Westminster Station.  Upon arriving and the hotel and making phone contact with our family, we learned they could not get across the river in the cab because bridges were being closed.  Their cab driver actually told them they had to get out, as he was anxious to get to another part of town.  My son and I grabbed a map and headed out the door while trying to stay in contact with them.  After an exhausting hour and a half, we were reunited just across a bridge about a mile from our hotel.  We quickly retreated to the nearest restaurant for food and beverages before walking the rest of the way home later in the evening.

The next morning in the hotel before embarking on our regular schedule, I attempted to make small talk with the hotel staff about the events of yesterday.  They only asked if our accommodations had been disrupted in any way, which they really hadn’t.  For me, it was a lesson learned.  I wanted to talk about it.  The locals didn’t.  Keep Calm and Carry On.  I still have the same collection in my office, along with a new appreciation for the spirit and resolve of the British people.

KCCO1

Turning the Page

I love books.  Always have.  Some of my earliest memories are grabbing a stack of colorful children’s books before bed and reading until I fell asleep surrounded by them.  My mother subscribed to a number of monthly book services that kept me with a ready supply of exciting new reads.   We frequently visited our nearest public library in Wetumpka and the annual book fair at school was practically a holiday.  Even today, my own children know that there is one question that will universally result in the affirmative:  “Daddy, can I buy this book?”  And for the record, our family has tried the Kindle thing as well as iBooks.  Nothing else will ever replace a print book, at least for me.

And it’s not just one genre.  I still, to this day, read most everything I can get my hands on.  From fiction and history to biographies of people from all walks of life.  Books on business, leadership, and entrepreneurship fill my office shelves along with science fiction from the Star Wars extended universe.  Stories of human experience under the most desperate of conditions, such as the work of Elie Wiesel and Viktor Frankl, provide great insight on the human condition and the respective depths and heights of which we are capable.  I particularly enjoy the work of writers such as Jon Krakauer and Sebastian Junger, who choose to live with and through their harrowing experiences before ever putting pen to paper.

While I enjoy reading from a wide variety of subjects and topics, those children’s books still have a unique and special place in my heart.  What I love most, besides the adventures, imaginations, and illustrations, was that they could be read in one sitting.  Every story ended happily and all loose ends were tied up neatly without the awkward transitions and segues of chapters.  Such a neat little package with the next adventure only a turn of the page away.  If only life were that easy.  Or maybe it is, and we’re too caught up in our day-to-day that we can’t see the miracle taking place.  Whatever you’re going through, whatever season of life you find yourself in, you will have to turn the page.

Passions

As a group of fellow doctoral students and I ranted about the myriad challenges we face in our respective workplaces, a great mentor and teacher bluntly asked:  “Are you having fun?”

Silence.  She asked again:  “Are you having fun?”  When she sensed no response forthcoming, she remarked:  “If you’re not, you need to go somewhere else.”

Chord struck.  On the assumption that no one enters a doctoral  program in order to remain in the same position for the next twenty years, our teacher knew exactly what she was doing.  The difference we would make in our professional lives would not be in our present billets, but in our next one.  In an opportunity representing the nexus of our professional and personal passions and the ability to engage with them each and every day.  If we are not seeking out those opportunities, we are doing ourselves and our stakeholders (current and future) a disservice.

Our passions are no secret, to ourselves or others.  My AP European History students could see the change in my body language, my energy, and the volume and rate of my speech when we studied Enlightenment philosophy.  Teacher groups I work with see the crescendo when my sessions address student choice.  My faculty sees two different administrators when I present technology-based professional development as opposed to a review of grade reporting policies and procedures.  Teachers I pre and post conference with regarding classroom observations see it in the depth of my questioning.  My classmates and professors could see the difference when my presentation was of my choosing rather than random assignment.

We know what our passions are.  We must be intentional about finding opportunities to explore and engage with them.  Let’s go!