Tis the Season…For Reflection

I’ve been at KTEC for one month now,  in some ways it feels like only yesterday when I started but in other ways it feels like I’ve been here for years!  The past four weeks have been a wonderful experience and I’ve learned a lot in a very short time, with much more to go.  I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting throughout this process and will continue to do so moving forward. I appreciate all of the feedback I’ve received from you as a staff, whether written or through conversations we’ve had in person.  Please keep the feedback coming, it helps me grow and I love it!

Usually I write about reflection in the beginning of January, after New Year’s, when everyone seems to be reflecting back on the past year and setting goals for the next 365 days (366 in 2020!)  However, I’ve realized that waiting until January is too late. If we are going to truly stop and reflect in an authentic way, it will take time. Reflection isn’t as easy as looking at yourself in the mirror one time and then walking away, reflection is a process.

I would like to challenge you to take the next few weeks to stop, multiple times, and reflect back on the beginning of this school year.  To really do this effectively I would recommend setting aside about 15 minutes, twice a week for the next three weeks. Use that time to make notes for yourself about the good and the bad, think about what could have led to those specific moments/days, and then plan for future successes.  Here is how I would recommend going through that process.

Session One:  Create a list of your biggest successes this school year.  Include notes about very positive school days, lessons, and student/parent/colleague interactions.

Session Two:  Create a list of moments that stick out to you as less than ideal. Consider risks that you took but didn’t turn out as you’d hoped, lessons that flopped, and student/parent/colleague interactions that could’ve gone better.

Session Three:  Focus on the “why” of list one.  Why did those positive moments happen?  Why was your role essential in creating that positive experience?  Why was this moment so positive?

Session Four:  Focus on the “why” of list two.  Why didn’t that moment/day go as you’d planned?  Why will it be different the next time? Why is it important to try this again?

Session Five:  Using list one and the associated “whys”, think about how you can create additional positive experiences like those you’ve listed.  Create a list of successes for the future, be specific and make notes about how and when you’ll ensure these occur.

Session Six:  Using list two and the associated “whys”, develop a plan to try these again and improve on them and/or develop a plan to avoid these pitfalls in the future.  Be specific, focus on what you can do to create success.

The process of reflection is essential in all that we do.  By taking 30 minutes over the course of each of the next three weeks to think back on the start of the school year and plan for success in the future, you will give yourself a road map for returning in January.  One of the biggest reasons that people regularly fail at meeting their New Year’s Resolutions is because they don’t properly reflect and give time to developing a plan for success. Give yourself that time, develop your goals through an honest reflective process, and make all 366 days of 2020 amazing!!

 

Power of Positivity

Last week Tuesday I offered our staff a challenge, to send students to me with positive office referrals, and I couldn’t have been more grateful for the way that they stepped up!!  I was swamped with positive office referrals all week. If anyone saw me at all it was probably when I was dropping a student off in their classroom after calling home with them, it was a busy week but it was awesome!!!  In just four days our staff wrote positive office referrals for more than 10% of the school! WOW!

Take a second and think about the impact that this had on our community over the last four days.  10% of our students had a positive call home, their families got to celebrate them, teachers got to celebrate them, and their classmates got to celebrate them.  The power of positivity is a real thing, you could feel the positive energy flowing through the hallways by the end of the week.

With just a day and a half left with students before a much needed break I know energy levels are low and patience is wearing thin.  However, I’m going to ask our staff to stay focused on the positive and keep those positive office referrals coming!  

Short week, short post, but if you’re interested in learning about the impact of thinking positively then give this TED Talk a try, great stuff!

 

You’re a Champion!

Yesterday we said goodbye to my wife’s parents after a wonderful weekend showing them around Milwaukee, eating great food, and catching up.  As soon as they were out the door my wife started digging through the two suitcases of memories that they brought her from storage. There were old dolls, her baby blanket, and lots of old notes, projects and assignments from her school years.  While watching and listening to her sort through all of those artifacts it struck me at how many memories she had of specific projects, teachers, and classes going all the way back to elementary school. She made positive comments about numerous teachers, laughed as she remembered the fun times with classmates, and continuously reflected on how much she enjoyed school.  It was a great reminder of the impact we are having on our students every single day!

In education we don’t always get to see the payoff.  Sometimes it takes years for the lessons to take hold and for students to really see their learning.  20 some years from now there will probably be a former student of yours laughing and smiling as they look back on their time in your class.  Not only is the work you do helping our students learn important skills and academic lessons for their future but you’re also creating a love of learning and fostering a sense of curiosity that will drive them for the rest of their life! 

Every day you are giving your students a gift that they may not be able to appreciate just yet, but you give it nonetheless.  You are all champions for your students, each and every day you work hard to ensure that your students have every opportunity to be successful.  You make a difference in your students’ lives. It is inspiring to see all that you do for them!!  

If you have just eight minutes to be inspired today please watch this Ted Talk by Rita Pierson.  You may have seen it, over 10 million people have, but it’s worth watching again (I think I’ve seen it at least 10 times myself).  She is inspirational beyond words and may just give you the boost you need on a Monday morning 🙂

Taking Care of Number One

With two weeks in the books at KTEC and as grateful and excited as I was after one week I think I’m probably 10 times more so after week two!  It is such an energizing experience to join a community that cares so deeply for their students as well as building a positive culture inside of the school.

All of that being said, I know that we are in the middle of the time of year when everything as an educator is harder.  You’ve been working tirelessly for two and a half months, the Halloween sugar high is wearing off, the holidays are fast approaching, the weather is getting colder, immune systems are being tested, and patience is in high demand…and what’s with all this snow?!?!

For many educators this is the most challenging part of the school year for all of the reasons above and many more.  It is the time of year that we let down our guard and our willpower flags.  This week I want to remind you that the best and most important way to get through this time of year is you – taking care of you!

Yesterday I was texting with a good friend and former colleague who is a principal in Paris and he was telling me how ready his staff is for the upcoming winter break. Remember, you are not alone, teachers around the world are hitting the proverbial wall right about now, it is completely normal!

We all take care of ourselves in different ways.  Personally, going to the gym and cooking are the two things that best help me relieve stress as well as help me stay physically healthy.  To unwind I like to read, spend time with family, and watch sports (Go Pack!).  I know many of you probably have different ways to relax, destress, and keep yourself healthy.  This week I’m hoping to remind you to focus on those things, they’re SO important at this time of year!

If you have 12 minutes  to invest in yourself today (or any day) I’d highly recommend watching this Ted talk and then taking the remaining two minutes to set a small goal for yourself related to the conversation…you’ll be thankful you did!

Embracing Summer

It seems like a long time ago that I started writing this blog, five years and 146 posts ago.  Thinking about that makes me start thinking back to all that has happened over those five years.  Two different schools, traveling to all sorts of countries, lots of professional and personal experiences that have changed me (mostly for the better), and throughout all of that a constant reflective process that I’ve learned and practiced through the writing of this blog.  I’ve written before about why this blog is important to me and why I think others should try, if I haven’t convinced you yet…maybe now is the time!  Perhaps over the summer you’ll sit down and give it a shot.

Hopefully everyone managed to stay alive (literally and figuratively) and we’re now about to embark on a wonderful summer!  For each of us that will look a little differently.  Normally my summers are a time for me to reflect, read, write, and attend a PD or two but this summer will be different.  For Amy and I it will be a short and busy time.  After leaving Ecuador we’ve got just three weeks until our wedding (YAY!) and then only four more days until we head off toward Indonesia!  There’ll be lots of planning, visiting with family, and racing around getting everything ready for a wedding and relocation.  Then it’ll be the new school year before we know it!  

Even though my summer will be crazy (and I’m sure many of yours will be too), I want to offer a few summer time options for those who haven’t already ironed out every single minute of their holiday.  I’m not advocating for any one idea over another but I think any successful summer will include at least one of these five things.

My recommendations for the summer:

1. Hit the beach, mountains, trails, parks, ocean, lake, or whatever you can find outdoors!

Get outside and enjoy the fresh air (I’m hoping you can get away from a polluted city for this one).  Spend a few days camping next to a river with no wifi or mobile phone access, unplug and enjoy Mother Nature at her finest.  Give yourself some time to just enjoy all that nature has to offer without the hustle and bustle of the ‘outside world’.  If camping isn’t your thing then take a walk, go for a bike ride, or just sit and enjoy a park…but do it often.  Take a road trip, see a new place, and get out of the city-life for a while.  All of these things will help rejuvenate your mind, body, and spirit!

2.  Establish a PLN: If you haven’t done this already, now is your time.  Don’t be afraid to start small.  Right around the same time I started this blog, about 5 years ago, I started on Twitter and slowly began to see the value of building an online/digital Professional Learning Network.  Some of you have experienced my PLN first hand, connecting across the globe to celebrate awesome activities, meet new colleagues, or even just find a new idea.  Start out by having a look at a past blog post I wrote about building a PLN (it’s short) and then create a Twitter account.  Once you have one (or if you already do) send me a tweet (@The1sWhoDo) and ask who you should follow…I’m happy to start recommending people immediately.  From there…follow along and get a feel for Twitter, summer is a perfect time to do so!  

3.  Take care of yourself.

Remember that New Year’s Resolution…yeah, I know the feeling…I was too stressed and too cold in the rainy season to really get anything productive going.  It’s too cold and wet to get out of the house and do anything!  I wanted a nice warm meal full of comfort food and some wine on the couch at the end of those days, not an exercise class and salad!!  However, now the sun is shining and we can sleep past 6AM!  So track down your trainers and get moving…10,000 steps (the standard FitBit goal) a day is a lot easier to manage in the summer when there are no papers to grade or meetings to attend.  Cook some homemade meals for your friends and family who still have to work through the summer, enjoy a nice dinner together and help them relieve some stress too.  The summer is your time to take care of yourself and feel great!

4. Read, read, read!

If you’re like me you might feel like summer is the perfect time to squeeze in some of that professional reading you’ve promised yourself you’d do.  That’s fine but don’t skip the reading for pleasure too!!  (I’ve got five books on my Kindle just waiting for me)  Whether you’ve got a book waiting or not, you might also consider reading some of the books that are hot with our kids right now.  This article is a great one and lists five young adult books that adults would also enjoy.  I’ve read a few on this list (Book Thief is awesome!) and agree that knowing what our kids are into is a great way to connect and relate to our school age kids.  If you’re thinking that professional reading might be in the works for the beach then have a look at this article, some great tips there too.  The old saying of “don’t mix work with pleasure” goes out the door here…when it comes to summer reading, mix away!

5. Reconnect at your own risk!

It goes without saying that living overseas requires a long time away from friends and family who are back ‘home’ or elsewhere.  However, if you’re like me it only takes a week or so at ‘home’ before you feel like it’s time for a break!  There are a lot of family and friends who want to spend as much time with you as possible and it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the attention.  In a sense it’s almost like teaching…there’s only one of you but there’s a seemingly endless number of people who want/need your time and energy.  Be sure to take some “Me Time” this summer and don’t let yourself get run down while trying to connect with everyone.  I often joke at the end of summer that “I need to get back to work so I can relax!”  It’s easy to feel that way, especially if you’re bouncing from couch to guest room all summer.  Enjoy the time with family and friends but be sure to enjoy some time alone as well.

 

Enjoy the last week with our kids, it’s going to be a wildly emotional ride for many of them (and us!!)  Hang in there and enjoy the laughs and memories and embrace the inevitable tears.  Everyone has made a lot of strong connections here in the AC community and it will be tough to part ways, no matter how long you’ve been here.  Say what you need to say to those you’ve grown close with, trade contact info, and be confident that you’ll connect again soon!

 

Seeing the Invisible

Sometimes we can’t see diversity.

Often times we consider diversity to be something that we see or hear on the outside…skin color, languages spoken, or other “physical” traits.  

During our Senior Roll Call, as each of our seniors was welcomed by the song of their choosing, what I’m calling “invisible diversity” was on display.  From Metallica, to David Bowie, to Drake, to Elvis and everything in between.  We had K-Pop, traditional Chinese songs, and Ecuadorean ballads.  Our students were each able to choose their own song which goes to show the wide range of interests that our students hold.  This example of “invisible diversity” is, perhaps, the number one reason that we need to get to know our students on a personal level!  

As educators it’s easy to group our students and place them into a category.  The “artists”, the “athletes”, the “academics”, the “musicians”…but who are these people beyond what we think we see?  Many of our students (or people in general) don’t fit neatly into any one group in particular.  Some of our best athletes are also strong musicians, artists, academics, and much more.  On the other hand, some of the kids who aren’t our top academics have talents and interests outside of school.  But how would we know if we don’t take the chance to get to know our kids on a personal level?  

I’ve mentioned this before, don’t be afraid to take some class time to set the content aside and learn (and share) some personal information about these young people that you work with 210 minutes (sometimes more) each week. Teaching is more than disseminating content, it’s about knowing our students and building connections.  

I know it’s the end of the year, this may be more relevant at the beginning of the school, but it’s worth considering at any time.  Since it was the Senior Roll Call music that inspired my thinking about “invisible diversity” I thought I would share the songs from the whole playlist…enjoy 🙂

* A word of caution…while our students selected a 1 minute and 15 section of these songs with all “clean” words, some of the full songs include “explicit lyrics”.

In order of appearance…

Build Me Up Buttercup – The Foundations

Let’s Go – Khalid

마에스트로 (Maestro) – 창모 (Changmo)

Strange Charm:  A Song About Quarks – Hank Green

The Fratellis – Chelsea Dagger

Anillos De Saturno – Danny Fornaris Feat. Jani Sanchez

Daddy – Psy

Modern Love – David Bowie

Me Llamas – Piso 21

Jump in the Fire – Metallica

Headlines – Drake

All My Love – Led Zeppelin

Empire Ants – Gorillaz Feat. Little Dragon

Everyday Superhero – Smash Mouth

‘에라 모르겠다(FXXK IT)’ M/V – BIGBANG

Walking on a Dream – Empire of the Sun

Yo Naci Aqui – Juan Fernando Velasco

1901 – Phoenix

Come On Eileen – Dexy’s Midnight Runners & Kevin Rowland

醉赤壁 Zui Chi Bi – 林俊杰 JJ Lin Jun Jie

Don’t Stop Me Now – Queen

Fire – Gavin DeGraw

La Dueña De Tu Amor – Marala Feat. Zion & Lennox

Il Mio Cammino – Phil Collins

Tu Mejor Error – AU-D

La Isla Del Amor – Demarco Flamenco

Eres Mi Sueño – Fonseca

Mi Testimonio aka El Edificio – Bacilos

Burning Love – Elvis Presley

Someday – The Strokes

Sugar – Maroon 5

Lo Mejor De Mi Vida Eres Tu – Ricky Martin Feat. Natalia Jimenez

Oh My God – A Tribe Called Quest

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough – Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell

Chasing the G.O.A.T. to be Better Educators

Very soon (or possibly already, depending when you read this) LeBron James will become the all-time scoring leader in NBA playoffs history (basketball).  The talking heads on TV and the sports columnists will write articles questioning whether he is the greatest player of all time, or if perhaps the man he passed on the scoring list (a guy you may have heard of, named Michael Jordan) is still deserving of that title.  My personal opinion is that MJ is still the G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All-Time) but I also acknowledge that LeBron is still playing and could overtake him some day.

I’ve got some friends who would say that Michael Jordan is, was, and always will be the G.O.A.T.  However, I can’t take such a hard line view because of my beliefs about growth mindset and the ability for everyone to work hard and achieve.  If we said right now that MJ was the best that will ever live then what goals do young basketball players have to work toward, second place?!?  That’s rough!  To allow for the conversation, and suggest that LeBron or someone else may be the best of all-time means that every basketball player and everyone else for that matter can still strive to be the best, to surpass the amazing achievements of those who’ve come before them…there is no limit to what we can achieve!

Okay, this isn’t a diatribe on LeBron vs MJ or who is the G.O.A.T.  What I’m working toward is the growth process for all of us.  Whether we are teachers, students, basketball players, doctors, or plumbers, we should all be working to be better at what we do.  Every morning when we wake up we should aim to be better than we were the day before, imagine a life where that was actually the case…success!!  Sometimes we will be better at our jobs, other days we will be better at interpersonal relationships, or perhaps better drivers, cooks, or parents.  Everyday we’re working to be better, that is the real goal…growth.

Even “the best” never stop striving for improvement or growth.  Michael Jordan didn’t stop practicing after he won 5 championships, he got in the gym and shot more and tried to get even better (he won a 6th before retiring).

We have a lot of amazing teachers at our school and I’m constantly impressed with the teaching practices employed to help our students reach success.  As the school year comes to a close I’ve had a lot of goals reflection conversations.  There is not one teacher at this school who doesn’t want to improve their practice and become even better for their kids.  The passion and drive to become the best teachers that they can possibly become constantly impresses me.  They don’t care if they’re being evaluated on the Marzano, Marshall, or Bozo rubric, they want to improve!  We may not have the greatest teacher of all time walking the halls of our school (we might though!) but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a school full of teachers who are working toward it.  Growth isn’t just our students’ goal, it’s ours too!

As educational leaders we have to live our message.  If we want kids to work hard and grow, then that needs to be our active pursuit as well.  Working everyday to become better educators and better overall humans is what it’s all about.  How are you growing?  How are you becoming better today?