Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Today

I walk the halls Today,
Seen yet unseen,
Heard and unheard.
I see kids in the halls,
At desks and on chairs,
Walking through their day
Unafraid,
Unknowing,
Solemn and
Gloomy.
Yet, strangely,
Hopeful.

I see kids with arms around one another,
Heads on shoulders,
Speaking supportive,
Encouraging words,
Wishing every day could be like this...

And then remembering.

And hoping no day will ever again
Be like this.

Worry that her memory will fade away
Worry that people will forget all too soon
Scared that we will fall back into routine
Scared because we can't control what happens next.

How do we ensure that kids feel loved,
And protected,
And safe?

Can hang on to Yesterday,
And still be okay Today?

That it's okay to be WHERE they are,
Be WHO they are,

That they DON'T have to move on,
That they ARE allowed to hang on,

To HOPE.

TODAY, there can be hope.


Sunday, March 17, 2019

Tomorrow

Tomorrow, what you do may not be enough.
Tomorrow, you may have to set all else aside.
Tomorrow, you may have to listen to what your students need.
Not what you THINK they need, but what they are TELLING you they need.
And this may not be easy.

You will be pressured to cover content,
give assessments,
follow your scope & sequence,
assign homework,
get things done.

But a child has died.
One of our own.
Someone's daughter,
Best friend,
Sister,
Student.

It has taken over the thoughts, the lives, of everyone.
As it should.
So tomorrow will not be easy.
And tomorrow will hurt.
So take the time to listen.
Listen to what comes out of their mouths when they speak,
To what is in the air when they don't.

And understand that math
and science
and English
and history
may not be enough.
But you are.
You are enough.
And you are just what they need.

Tomorrow, you are exactly what they need.




Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Learning Walk, Part II (Wednesday)

Food for the body is not enough. There must be food for the soul.
                 ~ Dorothy Day

It is really, truly amazing how many things can get in the way of the things that matter if we let them, or if we're not paying attention, or if we're not ADAMANT that the things that matter will take priority over ANYTHING else.  This week I have been in countless meetings, been to my own children's school for an appointment, attended an all-day job fair trying to recruit teachers for next year... and it is only Wednesday morning.

Oh, and it was Fat Tuesday yesterday.  I mean, the excuses just keep rolling!

HOWEVER... I will be resuming my Learning Walk beginning 3rd period today (9:45).
Science.
At least until I get called out.
For something not NEARLY as important as observing Teaching.
And Learning.

9:50am - Third Period
I take my seat in the back of the room.  At the front, on a lab table, sits a large contraption that they will soon do a demonstration on.  Of course students are curious about it.  It sits directly on the front lab table.  Two kids sit at the same table with it.

In the room are some of the same junior level students that sat in the English class during 2nd period.  Some are different.  As I look around the room at the kids who comprise this entry level Science course, I see the guitar player who performed at Battle of the Bands this past Friday night.  He will also be in the upcoming Spring Musical - "Once Upon This Island."  I see a football player who struggles to get to school on time on a daily basis.  I see a varsity basketball player who rode the bench most of the year because she wasn't quite the calibre of the rest of her team.  I see a student who is not involved in anything at all.  He transferred here at semester and is still trying to figure out the culture here at our small community high school of only 700 students.

The student I have been shadowing suddenly blurts out that the boy next to her is making fun of her drawing of the equation she has been recording from the notes on the board.
There is laughter and joking, even from the instructor.
It's all in good fun.
At the same time, it reminds me of elementary school, where kids suddenly blurt out of nowhere that someone is looking at them, someone called them a name, someone's tummy hurts.  You get the idea.
It reminds me that they are still kids.  Just in bigger bodies.

There are 16 kids in the room.  As opposed to the English classroom 2nd period (close to 25 kids), one would think that there is more of an opportunity to ensure that every single kid in the room receives attention, that every single kid is known well, that every single kid in this room understands the content well.  And it's not that the master teacher in English can't give every single one of her kids attention, can't know every single one of her kids well; indeed, she does.  Rather, it's more about whether or not the teacher has the motivation to do so.  Which he does.  More on this later.

I asked the other day whether or not students in higher level courses can remain at least as engaged as when they are in courses that contain content that is a little more exciting (recall that they were learning about proper formatting for an MLA-style major paper).  This is a prime example.  Every single student is engaged and attentive.  Every single student is paying attention to the demonstration up front.  Most of the kids in the back are craning their necks so that they are able to see.

The kids in the back.
Let's talk about them for a moment.

In the back are five boys who may be the exception.  They are spread out and, for the most part, sit at different tables.  At least three of the five have headphones in their ears, the other end of which is connected to their phones.  Listening to music, perhaps.  Perhaps not.

My attention is drawn, momentarily, to two other students who have moved toward each other and have opened a survey they've apparently created.  For another class.

The five boys in the back have all put their Science materials away and are now fully engaged in whatever is on their phones.  There are still 10 minutes left in class at this point.  The teacher has made his way to the back of the room and is asking them if they are working on Science, engages in some conversation with them, discusses the video they were watching on their phone (related to the class). The new boy sits by himself with both headphones plugged into his ears, the table top in front of him blank. Clearly wanting to be left alone.  He gets his wish.

My student sits in the very front of the room.  She continues to utilize every available minute.  She has brought out little containers of snacks that she munches while her pen flies across the paper, figuring solutions and conversing with the teacher.  She makes notations as he guides and corrects her.  I check her grade.  She still sits at a 76.6%.  I notice that another grade has also dropped since last week.  Her Honors Spanish III is now sitting at a 78%.  Another C.  But her work ethic is strong.  I don't worry too much about her.

The period is about to end and I turn my attention to the back of the room.  There is no one there.  The boys have snuck past me and are waiting at the door for the bell to ring.  I want to follow my student to her next class - a higher level Math class - but I'm also thinking about my five boys.  One in particular.  I decide to pull up his grades before we leave.  He's failing the Science course with an incredible 39%.  He's also in a higher level Math.  With an 11%.

11%.

What's the difference between him and my other student?

My other questions still remain.
But I have more.
As I prepare to leave the room, I look at my own schedule, see when I can get back to the shadow project, dig in a little deeper.
I see that tomorrow is out -
I'm out-of-district all day, leading a group on a site visit of another school.
Friday I have meetings from 7:00am until 1:00pm.
Plus it's an Early Release.
Students are done at 12:40pm.
Another day where other things take precedence over the real work.

I made it to exactly one class today.
If you throw in the one class I observed last Friday,
that's a grand total of two class visits over four school days.
Two.
Not all that great.







Monday, March 4, 2019

Great Leaders - Repost from 12.27.2008


"If the bottom line of life is happiness, then it makes perfect sense to say that it is the journey that counts, not reaching the destination."
~Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

(I am reposting this piece I wrote about 10 years ago. Never before have I felt a stronger need to make sure we are exuding positivity in the work that we do)


What do great leaders do differently from leaders? What separates an average leader from an extraordinary leader? One characteristic that has been weighing heavily on my mind of late is attitude. Great leaders set the example and must remember that everything counts. My office is housed upstairs in our school, and the quarters are, to say the least, cramped. It can be difficult to stay positive 100% of the time when there are days when you feel everyone is on top of one another. I began to notice that if I came in feeling grumpy, by nine in the morning, my whole office staff was on edge, which effects the parents who come in or call, and the teachers who tend to drop by and say hello while making copies. And this, of course, could have a less-than-positive effect on the children in those classrooms. I decided to try a little experiment. After all, I could not possibly have this much of an impact on everyone. Could I?

For one week, I came in bright-eyed and cheery, greeting everyone I ran into, shaking hands with one and all, even bringing coffee into the office staff. They thought I had gone a little haywire, but hey, I could tell that everyone was feeling good about themselves. All right, so this was fun, and I found myself feeling very productive and on top of my game, even though I had forced myself to play this little game. I wrote all of my observations in a notebook.

The next week, I purposefully went out of my way to be grumpy, cut people off in mid-sentence, yell at my office staff (even though it was difficult to find anything they were doing wrong), and just be in an overall foul mood. At around 2:00 in the afternoon, mid-week of the experiment, a teacher came looking for me. I was holed up in my office and hadn't seen her or heard from her all week. She plopped herself down in a chair opposite my desk and said, "So, I hear you're in a pretty bad mood. People are wondering what's wrong with you." I was dumbfounded. I was also happy to know that people noticed my moods.

Whether or not our moods have a positive or negative impact on the people we work with, it is our responsibility to put a positive spin on things. We have the power and obligation to filter what comes out of our mouths, what information we share with others, and to model what kind of behavior we expect out of people. It all starts with our attitude. We set the tone.

In the words of the Hungarian psychology professor, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, "People who learn to control inner experience will be able to determine the quality of their lives." And if we can accomplish this for ourselves, who knows what we might be able to help others accomplish. It's worth a try, and those we serve are worth it.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Friday Learning Walk, Part I

As I write this morning (yesterday), I am sitting in an English classroom.  It is a room full of junior level students.  They are, for the most part, highly motivated.  They all have good grades and are all genuinely good, nice people.  I know this because I know every single one of them by name.  They are not, contrary to popular belief about kids who take either honors or advanced level courses, all involved in school activities - whether it be clubs, athletics, or any other type of extra-curricular activity.  I am able to, however, from my perch in the very rear of the classroom, see that there are a good number who are involved in Track & Field, Drama, Spirit Club, among others.

Today, they are being instructed in the proper formatting for the writing of major papers.  They are being instructed by a highly sought after, master teacher.  She is the kind that students come back to visit and talk about long after they have left school.  She is the type that students request and if her class is filled, decide they might pursue another course, another pathway.  She is that kind of good.  Maybe you've had the privilege of being in her class.  If you haven't,  I'm sorry.  I hate grammar and proper formatting and all things MLA or APA, and yet I could sit and listen to her and learn for hours.

I wonder about the rest of the day for these students.  What it's like, if they can remain as engaged as they are now with content that is not all that exciting, as opposed to when the content might be a little more interesting but the teacher in front of them is not as engaging.

I am pulling up a student's schedule in our student information system.  We run a straight, eight-period day.   It is a fairly rigorous schedule for a 17 year old.  Besides a couple of period changes, not much changed from 1st to 2nd semester.  The biggest difference is that she dropped her Intro to Psych class and picked up a PE.  Pretty good move for a schedule that contains mostly honors and advanced-level courses.  I believe in the power of physical education as a stress and anxiety reliever.

I follow this same student out of English and see where her schedule takes her.  She has AIM next, which is designed at the same time of the day for every single person in the school.  If a student needs assistance from a teacher, she can go and get the help she needs during AIM.  

Today, however, the student I have decided to shadow is involved in conducting interviews for next year's LINK Crew.  No time to study or ask for help in any of her classes this day.  At least she has that Study Hall at the end of the day.  Not that she will use it for what it's designed.  This is something I discovered early on last year, especially in what we call "Upper" Study Hall.  The student in an Upper Study Hall has maintained a GPA high enough to earn an unstructured 45 minutes.  Most of them are held in the Student Commons or Cafeteria.  Most kids in them watch Netflix on their phones or laptops.

I decide to look up my student's grades.  See how she's faring.  Solid A's and B's, except for her Physics class, which sits at a C.  A quick check into her historical record and I can see that has always been an A-B student, currently holding a 3.5 grade point average.  She is in the top quartile of her class.

Next up - a Science course. I know next to nothing about this material.  Or at least I don't think I do.  And I don't know if high school students know too much about the content going in to the class at first, either.  So what will their success depend on?  How do they know if they are even interested in a particular course in the Science arena?  I keep an open mind as I sit in the back of the classroom, give a nod to the teacher that lets him know I'm just here to take in some teaching and learning today, and open my laptop to take some notes as he speaks.

Of course, not all things go as planned... I'm called down to the office and have to postpone my investigation into one student's schedule.  I am intrigued, however, and will pick up where I left off next week - 3rd period Science.  A couple of things I'm interested in and will be looking for and noodling over next week:

  • How much of an impact does the teacher really have on student learning, especially when the content is dense and perhaps tough to understand?  And how is one able to tell? What are the indicators?
  • How do we know if a student's schedule and course load is developmentally appropriate?  
  • What can we tell from shadowing a student?  What are the takeaways?  What questions should we be asking?  And what should we do about it?
  • (Can I make it through this Science class??) 







Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Using Their Minds Well

In my Vlog this week, I went on a bit regarding the impact we can have on student achievement, as well as a brief discussion around one of the Common Principles outlined by the Coalition of Essential Schools.  While the Coalition officially ceased operations as an organization in March of 2017, the Common Principles are still alive and well in CES schools, and should be known and practiced by ALL schools regardless.  Because they make sense.  And they are good for kids.

The Principle I highlighted says this: "the school should focus on helping young people learn to use their minds well."  


Would you say this is true?  Is there anyone who would say no, that this is not something we need to make absolutely sure we are doing?  I mean, "using your mind well"... this is an absolute necessity in any walk of life, at any time of life, for every single person.  For living.  In fact, if you do not learn to use your mind well, I dare say you will fall victim to all kinds of treachery and maliciousness and deceit and lies and bribery, and the list goes on.  One cannot begin to decipher all of the various informational sources and on-the-spot decision-making thrown at a person throughout the course of one's life without being able to use your mind well.  I almost feel like this should be a no-brainer.

And yet, it's not that simple.

Even now, we can look around and find examples;
examples of students not using their minds well,
examples of adults not ensuring that every single class,
every single day,
is FILLED with the type of engaging, mind-inspiring, thought-provoking,
make-me-wanna-know-more,
knock-down-the-door-cuz-I-can't-wait-to-get-to-class
content and lessons and environment that should be part of every classroom.
Every. Single. Day.

Please don't walk away from here thinking I'm saying that it's a teacher's job to entertain the kids.  Because that's too much like babysitting.

Rather, what I'm trying to say to you is that every single moment counts, and even though not every single one of those moments needs to be filled with excitement (indeed, read the work of Mike Schmoker to discover the importance of making sure kids understand the basics; he reminds us that this is not always awe-inspiring fun), every single one of those moments needs to be accounted for.

Intentionally accounted for.

Intentionally filled with activities and moments that engage the minds of students, that show them the connections between what they are doing during the school day and what they could be doing beyond the walls of the school.  For schooling's intention, in its purest form, is to spark a desire for learning that continues well beyond the years of one's formal education.

How do we ensure this?  Obviously this intentionality, this passion, this drive and motivation and urgency about which I write isn't going to stick with every single student.  It goes back to a previous post where I included a quote about the student being ready, and only then does the teacher appear...

And it seems counterproductive, doesn't it?  That the student needs to be ready for the teacher to appear, only to not be needed in the end and become one's own teacher.

But that's the cycle.  And in the mad dash during those 12-13 years of formal schooling, why would we leave anything to chance?  Why would we not want to engage in an audit to ensure that every single thing we do - every day - helps students to use their minds well?









Wednesday, February 13, 2019

High Stakes of High School Relationships

In a weekly vlog I record, I recently spoke of trust and relationships and the fact that just because one holds the title of teacher or principal, or has the status of any type of leader in an authoritative role over students... does not necessarily mean that a student will learn from you.  Unless, of course, there is trust as the foundation of that relationship.

Think about the tenuous relationship you have with the typical high school student.  
The student who comes to us after five to six years with one main teacher, 
Day in and day out of his elementary school,
For approximately 
7,000 hours.

The student who comes to us after three years of middle school with maybe
four or five teachers, 
Day in and day out
For approximately 
3,600 hours.

This high school student 
Who will, over four years, spend approximately 5,000 hours with us - perhaps 
Seven or eight adults 
Every day
For a mere 45 minutes per day,
Per class.

By now, that student has developed some understandings (real of perceived) about school, about teachers, about relationships and about life.  He may come from a single-parent family home, may dread the thought of coming to school every day, may have had some negative experiences with teachers.  Now he's here in your classroom.  He shows up every day, though you find yourself asking why since he doesn't do anything anyway.  It seems he would rather get into fights with other kids and do anything other than what you are asking him to do.

And he will spend approximately 5,000 hours within the four walls of this place.
That's a lot of hours to spend
in a place that feels hollow to you,
in a place where no one seems to know you,
in a place where adults you barely know are
telling you what to do,
asking that you learn from them.

Now imagine a high school of over 2,000 students.  I speak from experience when I tell you that kids get swallowed alive in a high school of this size.  Not all kids, of course.  Many thrive in this type of culture.  But when I can walk out the side door during the middle of the day and no one notices but the security guy watching the camera, no one says anything to me except for the Dean of Students - and he speaks to me only because he has to issue some type of consequence for ditching - this is a problem.

Relationships are high stakes for these end-game users, these high school Seniors who have yet to experience a meaningful relationship with an adult other than (hopefully) a parent.
Relationships are high stakes to that kid who is only with you for 45 minutes a day.
Relationships are high stakes, especially if we want kids to learn from us, to call us teacher, to trust that we have their best interests in mind.
5,000 hours is a lot of time.
Plenty of time to build relationships,
Create a trusting bond,
Understand where a student has come from, and
Where he wants to go.
5,000 hours is a lot of time.
Make every one of those hours count.
Be intentional.

There was a quote I heard early on in my journey as a teacher and principal.  The origin has been lost over the years.  One version of it reads:

"When the student is ready, the teacher appears."  

I remember clearly struggling with the meaning of these words, not being able to comprehend their true meaning at the time...

Trust has to be at the center.
In order to build trust, you have to put in the time.
In order to put in the time with a kid, you have to be intentional.
With your words and actions, you have to be highly intentional.

5,000 hours may seem like a lot of time.  And really it is.
But if you are intentional about each of these hours,
Every one of those hours can be highly meaningful.
If you believe in the power of intentional trust-building.
If you understand how high the stakes are.

Only then will the student will be truly ready.
Only then will the teacher appear.





Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Why Wanting to be the Best in the World Matters a Lot


Through a culmination of life events, on-time choices and a few perchance happenings in my life, I have found myself wanting to be the most successful in the world at what I do.

And it is not really even a want.
It is a need,
It is a burning desire.  

And I know how this sounds. I know this sounds gluttonous, perhaps, or even a little over the top and unnecessary and a little like perfectionist theory when we are usually telling kids to stop trying to be perfect and that no one is perfect - just be the best version of you.
But I would tell you that this is wrong.  

Think about it.  If you wake up in the morning and you roll out of bed, ready to get after it, and you are excited about the prospect of getting after it - whatever "it" is for you - it’s going to be a good day for someone.

It's going to be a good day.
For someone (besides yourself).

Because if you are rolling out of bed ready to hustle, ready to grind and you are actually excited about it, that will probably be good for you and will lead to your own feelings of goodness about yourself and being motivated and anxious to see what the day brings.

But it is probably even better - this burning desire for perfection - for the recipient.

I'm sure of it.

If you don't believe me, consider the students and colleagues of the ever-exuberant classroom teacher.

The teacher who gets out of bed at 5:00 so he can get to school by 6:00,
There with the morning milk delivery.
The same teacher who is waiting at the door for his students when they arrive -
Each and every morning,
The one who greets each one of them by name and with some type of silly handshake,
Or perhaps with a quick check-in because he knows something was going on the night before.

He is the one who comes to each faculty meeting with a smile on his face,
The one who sits up in the front,
Even though some of his closest colleagues may be sitting toward the back.
The teacher who asks questions and tries to get something out of the meeting,
Even though there really isn't much content relevant to his particular duties.
It's mostly administrivia and stuff that could have been put in an email.

Think about this particular teacher and the impact he is going to have on each person he comes into contact with every day.
Think about his students every morning,
and how his attitude and optimism make an indelible impression on each and every one of them.
He has the power to take a bad day and make it manageable for receptive young adults.
Some may even look forward to seeing him each day because they know
It's the only time that day they will receive any kind of warmth from anyone.

And think about his colleagues.
The ones who aren't thrilled to be at work that day (probably because they are viewing it as work).
The ones who sit at the back of the faculty meeting and
grade papers
or chat
or surf the internet
instead of being attentive and showing respect to the presenter.
The unsaid influence he has on these fellow teachers, the impact his smile and that pat on the back has, will go a long way toward their overall attitude and mood.
They may not even realize it at the time...

I had a student come up to me last week.  I was standing in the hallway at the end of the day, talking to a group of students before they departed for the weekend.  If I remember correctly, one of them was crying over her worry at not being able to afford the college she wanted to attend.  She's a junior, mind you, but that's a story for another post.

This student came up to join our group after he retrieved his belongings out of his locker.  As we were preparing to go our separate ways, he turned and said, "I want to thank you.  Without even knowing you did it, you helped me have a great day by what you said to me in the hallway earlier today."
"Well, you're welcome.  I'm glad I could help!" I offered up, with a smile and a fist bump.
He walked out the door, clearly off to have a great weekend.
To tell you the truth, I don't even know what I said to him.
I remember having a brief conversation with him, but couldn't tell you which part of it was the catalyst for his great day.

But that really doesn't matter.
What matters is how he felt after speaking to me, no matter how brief our chat.
What really matters is that we, as human beings, don't leave anyone's feelings to chance.
What really, really matters is that we wake up every day wanting to be the best, wanting to be number one, and that we have a burning desire, an inner drive, to be the most successful in the world.

Someone is on the other end of your desire.  While you are busy trying to be the best, someone is the unknowing recipient of all that greatness... greatness disguised as kindness, warmth, caring, hope, optimism.  How great you want to be matters.  It matters a lot.




Monday, January 28, 2019

High Schools and Hall Passes

Why do we insist that high school students carry passes with them through the halls of our schools?  I thought we were trying to encourage them to be responsible, to know how to be adults, to be accountable for their own actions...

Aren't we,
By telling them that need a pass to be in the hallway,
Actually telling them that they don't belong here??
Isn't this actually saying we don't trust them to do the right thing?
Aren't we the ones who let them into the building in the morning,
Welcomed them at the front door?
Encouraged them,
Told them we're happy to see them?

If all of this is true, then why in the hell would we require them to take a pass with them when they need to use the bathroom? I'm talking about high school students here, not elementary kids.  I could even see this applying to middle school kids...  maybe.

But seriously, consider the 18 year old high school Senior who:

drives a car,
has enlisted in the military and
will go off to Boot Camp a week after graduation,
holds down a job after school and on weekends,
helps her single parent out at home with the younger siblings,
has her share of household chores, and
maintains a 3.5 grade point average in her Honors and Advanced Placement classes (paraphrased from the work of Dr. George H. Wood).

This is the same kid we say we are helping to become a "well-rounded citizen" who is a "lifelong learner."
This is the same kid we say we are encouraging to become responsible and accountable for her actions.
This is the same kid we are asking to make sure she takes a pass with her to the bathroom while she's at school.

If we are worried about kids getting into trouble, ending up where they're not supposed to, spending too long in the bathroom, and whatever other worry you can come up with (there are a million... I've heard them all), then maybe we haven't expressed strongly enough to them that this is a public school and therefore belongs to them.  Maybe we spend too much time, expend too much energy, on devising rules and procedures for things because we know of no other way to control them.  Maybe we haven't brought our students into the fold, gotten to know them well enough, helped them to understand their connection to school in such a way that helps them to see that they are a part of something larger than themselves - a true and genuine community that relies upon and respects each individual as a core member of that community.

We wouldn't say to students: " I don't trust you so take this pass so I know you're supposed to be here."  We wouldn't do that.








Tuesday, January 22, 2019

AAA

What does it mean to expect something more?  To know that you will not just get what you paid for, what you were hoping for, but something extra?  And to actually expect it?  I think many of us don't ever really expect something extra out of anybody or anything; rather, we are just thankful and surprised when it does happen.  It lifts our mood - like the person in front of us in the drive-thru at Starbucks, the one who pays for your drink out of nowhere and you know you will never be able to repay him or her.  This is an added bonus - something more that we weren't expecting!  (This actually happened to me once and I'll never forget that feeling.  So much so that I decided to make it an occasional habit).

I was speaking with my closest, dearest friend and she actually used AAA as an analogy for making sure that your affairs are in order, that you are making sure to have the protections in life that you need - especially when you find that you are not able to do it for yourself.  She was actually, to be perfectly transparent, talking to me and giving me gentle reminders that maybe I hadn't been using all of my resources; that maybe - just maybe - I had been falling off of my game and could be doing a little better.

She said it ever so sweetly, but I took her meaning.

That's when she threw in the AAA analogy.  If you are not familiar with AAA, they offer 24/7 Roadside Assistance so that if your car breaks down on the side of the road in the middle of the night (or at any time, for that matter) you have the security and peace of mind to know that you are covered.  That's literally on their website: "The Safety, Security, and Peace of Mind of AAA."

AAA also has this on their website, right next to the three unmistakable A's that are the hallmark of roadside assistance: "Expect Something More."  And as I dug deeper into their website I was able to find things unexpected, things that surprised me, things that, being familiar with school districts and how our institutions operate, we always put up in a prominent place on our websites.  I found them to be critical components and well worth sharing.  They included:

The AAA Commitment: AAA exists for our members and will judge everything we do by how well we serve their needs.

The AAA Code of Conduct: Always do what's right (this can be found embedded within a link entitled "Integrity," and the Code is accompanied by the symbol of a compass rose).

At first I was confused by their reasons for burying these critical pieces so deep within their site.  I literally stumbled across them as I searched for content to include with this post (indeed, this fact is not even the main focus of this writing, but an important one).  But then I remembered an important lesson we teach our kids: your actions speak louder than your words.

AAA exists to serve their 55 million+ members.
AAA exists to provide peace of mind, safety and security.
AAA exists to model integrity.
AAA wants you to know that you can expect something more from them.

They don't need to flash this all over their marketing materials, shouting to the world that they have integrity and that they live by a code of conduct.  These might as well be unwritten rules, as they expect that all employees model this with every call for help they receive.

Which leads me back to the original concept.
Which leads me back to a painful truth.

When you fall short in life,
What do you do?
How do you respond?
Where do you turn?
When do you get back up?

Because it will happen; inevitably, it will happen that you will fall short of expectations, lose sight of your purpose, let someone down, not follow through on your commitment, only do the bare minimum and not put forth any additional effort... this will happen.  And it's really important that you are in a position to be able to answer the questions posed above.   It's really important that you begin thinking about your Roadside Assistance, your AAA.

Who are they?  Who are your people?  Do you have them?  Have you set yourself up so that you have somewhere to turn, someone to bounce ideas off of, someone to come in and go that extra distance for you when you just can't?

As with the roadside assistance commitment promised by AAA, it is critical that we have the Safety, Security and Peace of Mind of a network of people and supports that can be there for you when you're down because there is nothing wrong with you...

You should actually expect that this will happen from time to time - this natural ebb and flow of life.

Not everything is perfect.
You need to be ready when there are more ebbs than there are flows.
It's part of the self-care that I've been talking about and writing about in previous posts about
living your best life, and
practicing some outside-the-box thinking.

 From whom can you Expect Something More?  Think about it.  Take care of it.  Do something about it.  You're going to need it, as much as someone will come to expect the same of you.





Thursday, January 17, 2019

Living Your Best Life

I had a conversation with a student this morning - it was just a quick chat in the hallway - while she was on her way to class.  She was late and I knew she hadn't been here the day prior, and so I wanted to quick follow up with her on a conversation we had had earlier in the week.  Coincidentally, I ran into her in the hallway on that day as well.

(Sidebar - I think our most productive conversations might be had in the hallway, on the off-chance we run into someone and take that opportunity to do a quick "how ya' doing?")

Turns out she had taken a "mental health" day to process some of the things we had spoken about earlier that week.  She needed it.  I would encourage anyone to do the same - adults and students alike.  You need to be the best version of yourself in order to be available for anyone else.  On an airplane, it's why they tell you to put the oxygen mask on yourself first.  You need to be there for your little ones (or anyone else, for that matter).  You can't do that if you're not healthy - physically, mentally, emotionally.

Back to my kid in the hallway.  I walked with her to class.  As I had mentioned, she was already running late.  I asked her: "What Now?"
I wanted to know what happened next.
I mean,
she took a day off to take care of herself.
Perfect.
Take it if you need it.
But then what's next?
What's your plan?
Don't just show up without a plan,
tell me you spent the day on the couch -
feeling sorry for yourself -
and now you're here without a plan for moving on,
for taking care of yourself now that you're back in the swing.

She looked at me before she walked into class.  We were only a minute late.  I don't panic about tardies unless they're chronic.  And then I still don't panic, really (This is another sidebar, perhaps a topic for another day).  

The response was one pretty typical of teens:
"I don't know; I haven't thought that far ahead."
And I knew we'd be meeting again.

So are you living your best life?  How do you know?  Are there things you need to follow up on?  Questions that nag at you that need answering?  How will you answer them?  How will you make the time to ensure that you really, really understand what it is that's bothering you? 

One of my favorite quotes that I've been pondering recently comes from author, speaker, entrepreneur and internet personality Gary Vaynerchuk.  He said: "You're not coming back.  Now live like that."  

If you lived every day like that, what would it look like?  
How are you living your best life?  
If you can't answer that, 
take a day off.  
Think about it. 
Come back with a plan.  
Take care of yourself.



Today

I walk the halls Today, Seen yet unseen, Heard and unheard. I see kids in the halls, At desks and on chairs, Walking through their day ...