Category Archives: education

This Guy’s WHY

I’m always on the look out for good motivational tools; books, quotes, articles, videos, whatever I can get my hands on. Lately, I have been noticing a lot of attention being thrown toward discovering your WHY. From inspirational Beats vids to TED Talks, a lot of people are talking about this topic. More than your goals and wants, your WHY is a reflection of who you are and what you believe in. A clear picture of just what my WHY is has always been hiding just below the surface, but is only now beginning to surface.

I have been reading “Start with Why” by Simon Sinek and much like everything else I read, it is not just the words on the pages that I attempt to take in, but it is also the thoughts and tangents that exist in my mind that really embed the learning that I am undertaking. One such tangent is the determination of my WHY.

This Guy’s WHY:

  • I believe that learning
    • …is a life-long journey.
    • …is a daily activity that enriches our lives and increases our understanding of the world around us
    • …takes many different forms and cannot and should not be limited
    • …is interacting with material in a meaningful way
    • …is never complete

Yes, I’m an educator but it might not be for the reasons that many suspect. I am an educator because I believe in the power of learning and it drives WHAT I do and HOW I interact with the world. My WHY drives my decisions and my relationships, it defines who I am.

What drives you?

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Cautionary Proceedings

I think a lot about legislative and societal attacks on public education. It is hard to ignore the constant barrage of insults and negative news pieces that are thrown at my profession. Everywhere you look in the “grab your attention” news cycle you see some outrageous headline about the ails of public education and the wrongs committed by educators. I can’t deny that schools have their challenges and that there are some bad apples out there making poor decisions. I would argue, however, that the “bad apples” that work or have worked in education are the extreme minority. I would also argue that this same group of people exists in every job field but that the newspapers don’t sell nearly as fast when some business man is involved with something that they shouldn’t be.

The reality, as I see it, is that education is under attack because it is so near and dear to most people’s hearts. After all, it involves our children! It is also easier to blame schools, principals, and teachers for a changing society than it is to point the finger inward in self-reflection. Here’s the rub; schools are being tasked with educating students with an increasing number of demands with the same or less tools and resources that were previously available. More and more students are coming to school unprepared mentally and physically than any other time in my career. I don’t blame the students for this, they are a product of their situations. I don’t blame the parents either. In fact, I am not going to lay any blame at all. Laying blame at this point is a distractor from doing what is right by those students. My ask is that instead of throwing insults and complaints, consider working with teachers and schools to come up with creative solutions to helping students get to where they need to be. My school runs from 7:30 am to 2:30 pm. For 7 hours each day students are in my building under the care and watchful eyes of my staff. But 7 is not 24. The majority of a student’s day is spent outside the walls of the school building. Just like it took a village to raise children in the tribal days of human development, it also takes a team of people to educate our students. What happens outside the walls of the school does matter.

My purpose in writing this post today is two-fold; one to enlist the participation of others in the education of our students and two, to be preemptive in the fight between educators and society. Every educator has heard the derogatory comments directed toward us made by people that have never walked a mile in our shoes. “Those who can’t do teach,” or “Must be nice having those summers off,” to name just a few. These comments are hurtful and degrade the important work that teachers and school staff members do every day in the service of your children. When I look into my crystal ball I see two armies building up for a battle that will only result in a negative impact for students. I fear that educators are becoming so worn down by the insults that they are slipping into the stereotypes that society has made for them. Simply put, we are feeling defeated. It doesn’t need to be this way though. If we work together, communicate with one another, and share our collective insights we can do what is right by students. In the end, isn’t that what we want?

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Hope in Change

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Here I sit on the eve of the first day of school and I am feeling what can only be described as giddy. This is the start of my 13th year as an educator and I cannot remember the last time that I was this excited to get going. After some soul-searching this weekend, I think I may have figured it out…Hope in Change.

Every four years Americans go to the polls and register their votes and they do so with pride and purpose. They cast their vote despite waiting in lines and missing out on other things they could be doing because they see hope in change. We believe in our causes and that our votes can make a difference in the way we live. We have hope that a change in our elected officials can positively impact our lives. Change is a scary thing and it can be difficult; at the very least, the adaptation to a change can be challenging. But, the other side of that coin, is that change also brings hope and it brings wonder, and it brings with it a renewed energy of what is to come.

Tomorrow, I start my 13th year in public education, but that isn’t change. What is change is that I will be starting my first year as the school principal, and at the same time, starting my first year at the middle school level. In talks with a lot of people, some family, some friends, and some peers, I have heard the same thing, “Middle Schoolers have a lot of energy.” My response to them has been the same every time, “Bring it on! I’m looking forward to that energy!”

I know that this change is a great move for me and it is my goal to share my optimism and hope for the future for my new students and staff.

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17-18 Goals and Game Plan

In two days the staff will return to school and one week from tomorrow halls will once again be graced with the energy of the youth as students return for the 2017-2018 school year. And I, for one, could not be more excited about the start of a new school year. I don’t know if it is my new role of principal, the incredible #PureMichigan summer that I enjoyed, or the renewed vigor that comes from hope in change. Most likely it is all of these things and more coming together to create the result that I’m as excited, if not more, to start this school year than any other in my career!

With many of the administrative tasks to getting the school year started out of the way, and the opening planned out for both staff and students, I have turned inward with my thoughts toward my own goals for this school year. At the school level, I know that I don’t want to change much until I learn what makes MCMS tick. I want to learn about all of my teacher’s styles and motivations before I tinker with anything. I want to develop relationships with staff and students and build a team mindset. Most of all, I want to continue my own growth and development as an educator.

With that in mind I have laid out a goal for myself of spending an hour per day in reflection and growth. I’m writing this down and sharing it with the blog-o-sphere to make it real and to hold myself accountable.

Image result for a thought without action is merely a dream

A goal without an action plan, though, is just a dream, so here is my plan. Each day of the week I will access a different source for my learning. Sure, I may crossover some from time to time, but I hope to use these starting points to drive my learning.

  • Monday = Twitter
  • Tuesday = TEDTalks
  • Wednesday = Journals and Books
  • Thursday = YouTube
  • Friday = Pocket (articles collected during the week while browsing)
  • Saturday/Sunday = books, writing (journals and blogging), Farnam Street

My goal and action plan are lofty, but I seek personal and professional improvement. Nothing worth having is easy.

What are your go to sources for professional and personal enlightenment?

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The Most Difficult Thing in Education

When I was in the classroom and people would ask me what I did for a living, I would tell them, “I am a teacher,” and without fail I would get one of a couple scripted responses in return: “Wow, good for you,” or “I could never do that.” As a principal I have received almost identical responses from friends, family, and strangers alike. Whether it was during my teaching tenure or my time as a principal, inevitably people from other career fields always want to know what is the most difficult thing about being an educator.

Any time I am prompted with this line of questioning my mind automatically drifts to the hours setting up labs after school, the parent complaints, the state mandates passed down with little to no school input, etc. But the hardest thing about being a teacher or a principal is not any of these things. In fact, it is such a difficult thing to deal with that we push it out of our minds as far as possible to the point that we don’t list it when asked. The hardest thing about being an educator is the death of a student. Over the course of a school year teachers learn an incredible amount of information about their students. Good educators know that you first must know the student before you can teach the student and they dedicate time and effort in building a relationship that will allow for learning to take place. Often times these relationships last much more than a year in the classroom and life-long bonds are created. For example, a year ago I was contacted by a couple of former students in Georgia that were heading to Michigan for the Thanksgiving holiday and they wanted to meet up. Another example is that I have kept in contact with my AP Biology teacher from high school and try to meet up with him at least once a year.

I was reminded of this hardest aspect of being an educator on Friday when a 16 year old boy at the school that I just left was killed. This was the fourth time in my 13-year career that I have experienced this most difficult-to-deal with hardship; all of them were motor-vehicle related. Each of these deaths rocked me to my core and made me question the fragility of life and the precious nature of enjoying the people around you as much as you can. These young people had so much more to offer this world and now they are gone.

Rest in peace Sean, Madison, Tyler, and Jacob

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2017 – A #PureMichigan Summer

Tomorrow, I go back to work in preparation for the 2017-2018 school year and I can not be more excited about my new position and the challenges to be faced as a Middle School Principal. I am refreshed and ready to go thanks to a truly magnificent summer of travel full of beautiful sites and experiences. Here’s the kicker, I never even left the State! Last year, I took my family on an amazing 5-day cruise to the Caribbean and we had a great time, but I can honestly say that I am more relaxed and mentally prepared for the rigor of a new school year after experiencing a #PureMichigan summer.

This is the first summer in the last 17 years that I have not traveled out-of-state or abroad (I’m not counting my temporary foray into Canadian waters). Cue Tim Allen, Jeff Daniels and those wonderfully corny Pure Michigan commercials because I am about to wax poetic on how great this place is. Knowing that I needed to refresh my energy reservoir on a limited budget, I set a goal of getting in as many mini-cations, covering as much of the Michigan greatness as possible. The Google Map below details my travels across the State (and especially on the I-69 and I-75 corridors). I swam in two Great Lakes (Huron and Michigan), golfed Garland, Treetops, and Lakewood Shores, cruised an inland lake, and sailed a Great Lake. I slept in a resort, a camper, a tent, and a sailboat. I spent time with family, friends, and (just a little bit) by myself. I engaged my body, mind, and soul with the wonders of this State.


Just yesterday I read a blog post on “Professional Creep,” written by Megan M. Allen, a teacher acknowledging how being an educator tends to take over your life, hobbies, and habits and it inspired me to write this post in reflection of the work-life balance. Educators care about what they do and being a principal or a teacher is not simply a job, but rather it is a defining characteristic of our lives. I am 100% guilty of work creeping into every aspect of my life, but for the first time in 12 years, I feel like I may have attained that mythical balance between work and life.

I attended an education conference this summer, but I brought my family and we got out and enjoyed the beach and downtown environs of Traverse City.

I took a class for my job this summer, but I also read several novels.

I went backpacking in the Huron-Manistee National Forest, but I read The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros as I sat around the campfire.

Work-Life Balance…check (for now). Thank you #PureMichigan for getting this educator geared up for a great school year!

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Next Post

Last week I sent out a tweet in a reply to my post on Obstacles in Education and it got me thinking about my role in our democracy.

My tweet,“Legislation without contemplation, consideration, or communication is not representation,”  sent a thought running through my mind that I need to do more to stand up for the beliefs that I hold dear for education. Here are some realities that I have come to know about politics and education:

  • People are not happy with public education and are placing heavy pressure on government towards improving it.
  • The people who scrutinize public education do not know much about it.
  • There is very little conversation going on between schools, parents, communities, and the Legislature.

These three points bring me to the conclusion that public educators need to do more to improve our own working conditions by making more of an effort to reach out to parents, communities, and our elected officials about what is going on in schools. This includes having conversations with stakeholders about the demands that are being placed on us in the face of financial restrictions and threats to our well-being. It is no longer acceptable to take the hits and keep trying to persevere without telling our story and sharing our challenges.

We elect officials through our votes and we trust them to represent our best interests when they are put into office. All too often we fail to follow-up with these officials to let them know what our best interests are and the result is that they vote on legislation that fits their view of the situation. When you look solely at production numbers you deal in hard black and white data that fails to capture what schools are all about. Schools are not factory lines and we cannot be measured by test data alone. Students must learn skills like grit, determination, and social interaction as much as they must learn the Pythagorean theorem or their periodic tables.

Unfortunately, unless more educators voice their opinions, the only evidence that our elected officials will have to make up their knowledge of schools is that test data. I have been hesitant in the past to contact my representative and senator, but I will not be any longer. The future of education and our children is too important to leave at the hands of people who have not worked in a classroom and do not know what goes into educating a child. People will not know what it takes until we teach them. I refuse to lay blame at the feet of people who do not know better, but I do vow to do my part in making sure that they can no longer claim ignorance in their vote and I encourage you to do so as well.

Link: Contact your Federal Elected Official

Link: Contact your Michigan Representative

Link: Contact your Michigan Senator

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