Sorry

Somehow, some way, this little video slipped into my feed between Gordon Ramsey trashing Tik Tok chefs, watch reviews, Steve-O, and dogs meeting their little brothers and sisters for the first time.

Sorry

Geez that hits some kind of way. For the record, I don’t have any idea what the dialogue means. Do we even need to know? We’ve all taught that kid. We’ve all been that teacher. And when we eventually get a peek behind that curtain, that façade, that stiff upper lip, it’s heartbreaking.

What if we lived in a world that sought to understand first? One that led with empathy, understanding, and an authentic desire to connect rather than react? A world that acknowledged that we have more in common than makes us different? Where people seek to lift others up rather than tear them down?

Here’s looking forward to a week with a few more hugs. I think we all could use one, even an “unapproachable” principal.

Flair

After the Winter Break and our “snow-cation,” I’ve got several drafts in my queue but I’ll make it a short one today.  You know, time and all. 

Handle With Care” – Jimmy Casas

We all need a sticker, probably more than one.  To be honest, if stickers were buttons I’d look like Brian from Office Space (non-movie buffs click here).  Much more from Office Space in a future Boyd Friday.  And from The Book of Boba Fett.  And Cobra Kai Season 4, but I digress. 

Let’s be real.  Everyone, and I mean everyone, has things weighing on their mind, body, and spirit.  The beauty of the filtered photos on Christmas cards, Facebook, and Instagram of the last few weeks has faded.  For everyone whose “heart was full,” and had “so much fun” with “great friends and family,” there are others whose hearts are broken and endured, rather than enjoyed, the holiday season and our snow-cation.  The most powerful thing we can do for ourselves and for each other, is to recognize, acknowledge, and respond to our collective and shared struggles with empathy and a willingness to meet everyone where they are. 

The Preacher

My old man has never been much for church going.  Oh we went when my little brother and I were kids and all, mostly because my Mother said we were going and that was that.  As my brother and I grew older and headed off to where life took us, Sunday morning found my old man less and less in a church pew.  My parents don’t get out much anymore, but most Sunday mornings (pretty much every morning for that matter), find my old man sitting outside with the dogs and bringing my Mother her favorite coffee drink.  And I don’t believe he’d have it any other way. 

Believe it or not, he’s a man of few words.  And he’s also the most selfless, giving, and moral person I’ve ever known.  I have seen him empty his pockets to give to those in need, hand his jacket to someone who needed it more than him, and open our home to kids and adults with no other place to go.  Why would a man of such character not be a church goer?  I asked once, many years ago, how he reconciled that question and I will never forget the wisdom and the lesson in his answer:

I’d rather see a sermon than hear one.” 

That’s just who he is.  He believes (as do I) that you will demonstrate what you value.  You will show me what’s important to you.  No amount of noise will ever exceed the power of action.  Whether it be a 6th grade student saving a fellow student who was choking in the cafeteria or teachers making positive phone calls home, our actions are our most visible and tangible examples of our values.  Let us all be cognizant of the messages our actions are sending.  We are all standing on a pulpit, even when fixing someone’s favorite coffee.   

Finding purpose

I did something this time last week that I almost never do.  Perhaps it was the Thanksgiving “hangover” that came across in my principal’s message.  Maybe it was knowing what was waiting for me inside our school doors instead of a distraction outside of them.  It could have been the stress and pressure of already making Christmas travel plans before Thanksgiving dinner was even finished.  Or maybe it was because my adult son (jokingly) said my least favorite sentence in the English language earlier in the day. 

You know what I did?  I let something go.

We have new banners outside the theater entrance that were purchased by our PTO last summer, along with the wraps on our front columns and our parking lot signage.  They’ve been outside these doors ever since, rain or shine, standing until last week.  When I pulled in last Sunday for the afternoon, the signs were on the ground and begrudgingly, I headed that way.  Then I stopped, headed into the building, and said let’s just see. 

When I pulled in this afternoon?  Untouched.  In over a full week of school, drop-offs and pickups, and after school practices and activities.  How many parents drove by this sign over the week?  How many students stepped on or over it?  How many staff members came in and out of this entrance last week?  No matter how many it was, each one of them thought the same thing that my son verbalized last week: 

That’s not my job.”

It’s really not about the banner.  Or parents and families.  Or another thing on an overwhelmed teacher’s plate.  It’s about where we are as a community and a society.  How on earth did we get here?  How have we become so completely self-consumed?  To only see the world how it affects us instead of others?  To not take 30 seconds out of your day to do something for someone else or because it’s the right thing to do?  And most frighteningly for me…do we have any hope this changes? 

I still believe that one source of hope is public education.  Our profession is one of the last bastions of selfless service in the United States (other than the military).  While far from perfect, it is a place where individuals come together to work towards goals that benefit not only themselves, but the greater good.  And as long as that remains our vision, this is the kind of place where I want to belong.  In this season of giving and our last weeks of school, let’s be about the business of building up and supporting others, seeing the good that is there, and making things better than we found them!

Now what?

You would think after over a week or so to rest and reflect that I’d have something eloquent and poignant to say. About gratitude. About family, friends, and loved ones. But I’m struggling to come up with anything that doesn’t sound hollow or some meaningless platitudes that will fail to resonate with you. I just recorded our weekly parent call out and that might be evident in my voice, but hey…I am a pretty good actor. Like most teachers.

I’ve always heard that if you gathered with a group of people, formed a circle, and then everybody threw all their problems into the middle, you would want to dive after yours to get them back. And I believe it. We have so much to be thankful for while there is so much suffering around us, and yet often within us as well. In the midst of this circle, where I am willing to scratch and claw and fight to get my problems back, how am I any different? Once I am safely back to the perimeter of the circle, do I remain content? Or do I behave differently? Thanksgiving is over.

Now what?

My challenge for the next three weeks is to be a visible and demonstrable example of the gratitude I have for everything in my life, including this work, this place, and each one of you.

Nailed it!

The video linked below was making the rounds on social media last weekend.  I’ll give you a minute to watch…or take as long as you want to watch it multiple times like I have. 

Ellen Alaverdyan

Never once during the times I watched this video did I think:  I wonder what her most recent STAR scores were?  Or if she needed Tier 2 or Tier 3 intervention.  How’d she do on the Benchmark or CFA? Or what her growth projections were for next school year.  Or if she did her homework first (pretty sure I know what she prioritizes outside of school).  What I wondered is how she found something that gives her so much joy at such a young age.  I wondered how many times she practiced those riffs.  And I wondered, although I think I know, what her parents must think and feel. 

In all that we are asked to do as professionals, let’s never forget who we do it for:  Kids.  Kids like Ellen.  Our “Ellens” may never remember the early modern European history we taught that was so important to us.  What I can guarantee, however, is that Ellen will never forget how she felt in our classrooms knowing that what was important to her was important to us. 

Look up!

As soon as I saw the “One Minute Walk to Work” on Saturday morning from my friend Joe Sanfelippo, I knew I wouldn’t have to write a message this week.  Joe is a superintendent in Wisconsin, an amazing leader and speaker, as well as a great follow on Twitter (@Joe_Sanfelippo).  Nothing I could write or say this week could put the message any better. 

His message hit home especially after our Halloween Dance on Friday night in the courtyard.  Thanks to our Student Council members and teacher sponsors for putting it together and making it possible.  If you weren’t there, it was truly an experience to see our kids having fun, just being kids, and making memories with their friends.  For many of them, it’s been a really long time.  For me, there is no reward, no recognition, no acknowledgement (and certainly no test score, trophy, or banner) that will ever be more important than kids having a positive experience in a safe environment and making memories with friends. 

Make it a priority this week to look up!!!

Simplify

I’ll take just a few minutes of your time to share a highlight from our last quarter.  One of my goals for this school year was to “simplify.”  That one word is still written at the top of my whiteboard as a daily reminder.  We are inundated with so much information and have so many resources and tools at our disposal.  So many that even trying to keep up with them all, or even trying something new that might even work better, is overwhelming.  The same is true for our students and teachers with what they experience each and every day.  After two weeks of classroom observations, this is the image that came to mind:

Fortunately, a 6th grade student came to my rescue.  As I was circulating in a classroom watching students work, I noticed that one student had his Classlink Dashboard organized in a different manner.  He had one (1) folder at the very top left of his display.  When I looked closer, I noticed that this folder was one that he had created and given a unique name.  What had he named this folder?

“The Only Things I Use”

Simplify.  Let’s look for solutions in every corner of our organizations. They may be there without us even knowing it.

Be willing!

I may have set a personal record this week on conversations with parents.  It was A LOT, and being the big talker that I am, you know how much I love to just chat and chat about everything under the sun.  Seriously, I could probably go back and research how many conversations it actually was, but that would be a waste of time, unfruitful, and completely beside the point.  You see, each one of those conversations was an investment, a seed planted, with a positive future return. 

Whether it was about starting a new Warrior club, special education eligibility, for/against masks, “Devious Lick,” missing work/low grades, math placement, lunchroom behavior, our traffic pattern, personal records in cross country, school staffing, or teacher behavior, every single conversation ended on a positive note.  Every single one.  How is that possible in the world we live in today? 

As a leader, I have only found one way to get there:  Be willing!  Be willing to…

…have tough conversations.

…be the first to reach out.

…be honest.

…be vulnerable.

…listen more than you talk.

…apologize or admit you were wrong.

…put yourself in someone else’s shoes.

…be creative in finding a solution.

…do something different!

…put a plan in place.

…follow up and stay in touch.

Heading into a full week this week, let’s focus on what we are willing to do each day for students to experience success! 

The Man in the Red Bandana

Friday September 10th was our monthly PTO meeting.  Each month, I get the opportunity to share a quick update with the group about how things are going at school, express any needs or wants we might have, and address any questions or concerns they have for our school. 

This month, I kept it very simple.  I just expressed how proud I was of our students, teachers/staff, and school community.  All of the divisiveness going on “out there” has not manifested itself “in here.”  We accept what we are asked to do and move forward.  We have the difficult but necessary conversations and come to workable solutions.  It is hard work that has taxed each and every one of us to our limits.  But, we keep coming back. 

The 20th Anniversary of September 11th this weekend was also a poignant reminder of the extremes of the human condition.  It also reminded me of one of numerous compelling stories of selflessness and sacrifice from that horrible day.  I’m grateful to be standing and serving along with each one of you. 

Everyone who can stand, stand now.  If you can help others, do so.”

Welles Crowther (The Man in the Red Bandana), 9/11/2001