Showtime

Please indulge me for just a few minutes:  If I were to ask a random sample of 100 teachers “what is the last job you would ever consider outside of teaching,” what do you think the most common response would be?  Go ahead, pick your answer and hang on to it for a bit. 

I talk about this every week, both in this space and within our school and local community.  It truly takes a special person to do what we all do.  We have to all be wired some kinda way to do “this,” whatever “this” is.  What is it that we do?  Let’s try to define it.  What we do includes (but is not limited to) in no particular order:

  1. Being a subject matter expert
  2. Collaborating with like-minded subject matter experts
  3. Supporting organizational goals and initiatives
  4. Sharing our individual and collective expertise with our community
  5. Building individual relationships with each person you serve
  6. Differentiating what we do to best support each individual’s unique needs 
  7. Helping others see the value in our area of expertise and the rewards and benefits of using it effectively
  8. Having difficult conversations while motivating and counseling others through daily ups and downs
  9. Intervening with new solutions when our people aren’t successful 
  10. Assessing how well our solutions are working and reaping rewards (or lack therof) in the short term, with opportunities to build on and improve those in the future

Now…got your answer to my question above?  I’ve got mine and I’ll bet the majority of your answers is the same.  Let’s all say it at the same time:  1-2-3:  SALES or SELLING

I can hear everybody now:  “No way, not a chance, I could never, I’d rather dig ditches.”  And what would be the worst part of selling?  Cold calling.  I mean, have you ever just picked up the phone and called someone you’ve never spoken to before?  Asked for a few minutes of their time to explain something that happens/happened and a solution you have in mind?  Shared a plan for their success going forward and asked for their support?  Wow.  I mean, the horrors.  It sounds a lot like…

We’re selling every day whether we know it or not!  Our next “sales” project, which we’ve all collaborated to build, goes out to our community today.  Customers buy the relationship just as much as they buy the service or the reward.  We’ve had almost eight months to build that relationship and it’s almost showtime!

Have the hard conversations

When I’m asked what’s special about our school or what makes our school different, I respond consistently each and every time.  Oh we have our mission and vision, as well as our “true north,” but my response doesn’t immediately address those important representations of our school climate and culture.  Of course we want each student to have a safe, positive, and encouraging experience, and I truly believe that we all want what’s best for students.  However, those beliefs don’t come to life organically without our willingness and ability to engage in the critical, initial leap of faith:    

“We have the hard conversations.”

We have the hard conversations that lead us collectively to what’s best for students.  To creating a safe, positive, and encouraging experience for all members of our learning community.  That require us to reflect on our mission, vision, and values and ask ourselves if that’s what we truly believe.  Whether it’s about student behavior, teacher performance, administrative or staff support, our enrichment or athletic programs, and yes even our traffic pattern, we have the hard conversations.  That’s the kind of place I want this to be.  And each time I am challenged with a difficult question, I try to express my gratitude for it as well as the invitation to see whether our actions align with our values. 

As we wrap up our third quarter prior to Spring Break, I encourage you to look for the opportunity to have the hard conversations when we return, and yes, perhaps even to initiate them.  Whether they be with the most challenging student, parent or family, colleague, or administrator, the most important thing we can do is to choose to engage.

I am beginning a series of weekly open forums for our school community in the fourth quarter.  Each week, I will reserve a consistent time for any parent or community member who has a question, concern, or idea about who we are, what we do, and why we do it.  If you would like to join me one Friday in these conversations, please feel free to let me know.  Or, let me know why you wouldn’t even if I paid you extra.  Either way, we are better for having had the conversation.  Have a great Spring Break!

Who are you here for?

Believe it or not, there are certain times of day when I do get the opportunity to spend time in thought.  For a performing introvert who is an Enneagram Type 5, such time is critical in retaining one’s sanity (afternoon naps notwithstanding).  Most of that opportunity at school is greeting our car riders each morning.  While it’s only thirty minutes each day, it’s pretty much just me, our SRO, a hello or a wave from inside a classroom, the occasional visitor with a question, and our kids.   

While I have my reasons for being in that consistent place at that consistent time every day, one stands out to me more than any other.  As hundreds of kids stream by each day, each with their own personality, experiences, family background, interests, and their whole lives ahead of them, I wonder…

Who am I here for?

If my purpose is to positively impact only one student during my time here, who might that student be?  The first one at the door each morning or the last one in after the bell?  The one dropped off by an adult without a word or a glance or the one that still gives Mom or Dad a hug and a kiss?  One tumbling out of the cul-de-sac carpool laughing and giggling or the younger sibling discarded by a high school driver trying not to be late?  The kid with a cheery “good morning” or the ones who go out of their way to avoid speaking and making eye contact? 

The honest answer is that I don’t know.  And most likely won’t ever know.  No matter who it is, I hope they remember that their principal greeted them by name each and every morning, whether they can remember my name or not.  On their best or worst days, when it was the coldest or hottest, whether we were testing or not, game days and regular school days, and regardless of whatever it was that happened yesterday.  The worst thing I could do is to make the mistake of not casting my net wide enough and not being that person for that kid. 

Who are you here for?

Who do you want to be?

 Daniel Pink gets the honors today! Who do you want to be? And, who do you want to spend your time with?

There are two kinds of people in the world . . .

Those who make your life easier — and those who make it harder.

Those whose presence helps you perform better — and those whose presence makes you do worse.

Those concerned about doing the work — and those concerned about getting the credit.

Those who leave you feeling up — and those who leave you feeling down.

Those who simplify — and those who complicate.

Those who listen when others are talking — and those who wait when others are talking.

Those who give — and those who take.

Those who last — and those who fade.

Which are you?”

Move out and draw fire!

I couldn’t say it better than Neil Gaiman today and won’t try to (especially after last week’s tearjerker).  Let’s attack this week and encourage our friends, family, and colleagues to do likewise! 

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”

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.