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Why I Write

I take in information from a lot of different sources and my brain runs wild with multiple adaptations of that data and how it can be manipulated and altered for my needs. I don’t observe something and simply appreciate its beauty, rather I see the beauty and automatically am determined to break it down into its usable parts and applicability for my needs. I used to fight this part of who I am because I was ashamed of my inability to appreciate without analyzing, but I have started to embrace it as a part of who I am and the way that my brain works. Simply speaking, I am constantly taking in data, coding it, and storing it away for the moment in which I can connect it to other stored stimuli in my head for an application in my life and work.

Why I Write is to pull those crude plans from my head, ideas that are in their infancy, and make them real. Thomas Edison once said that, “Vision without execution is hallucination.” Writing is the vehicle that I use to bring my vision for what can be done and how to do it from the depths of my brain to reality. Writing is an outlet for the release of stimuli that would otherwise cloud my vision and lead to hallucinations. It is ironic for me that writing has become such a necessary part of my life when you consider that I have such a difficult time with it. I think in numbers and patterns and projections of data and my outlet for all of that left brain thinking is the opposite, the expression of all of those things through the written word.

I struggle with getting the words onto the screen or the paper when I write and this inhibits me from writing more. When I am able to suffer through a writing session, however, I am invigorated and re-energized. Though my written words never seem to fully encapsulate the ideas in my head, they do expand the vision that I have in ways that I had not yet explored in my head. For me at least, writing empties the clutter of ideas in my head and provides for the expansion of those ideas. The best way I can explain it is that once the idea leaves my head and hits the paper, it begins to grow as if it was caged before and needed oxygen. Writing is my way of birthing an idea!

To tie this post up with a nice little bow, I want to articulate Why I Write with my own personal WHY.

Learning is not what you see, hear, or think about, but rather what you are able to do with that information. Writing is an outlet for the completion and application of the learning that I do. Information received through the learning process is raw material and the ability to articulate that information in a new form and application is an expression of my learning.


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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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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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Obstacles in Education

I need to start by saying that it has been awhile since I have posted anything. I could cite a lot of different reasons for this like being too busy or not having anything to say, but those would just be excuses. The reality is I have been trying to listen more and speak less, and by listen I mean read more about what is going on. In my reading, one theme keeps resurfacing, reflection is important for learning and growth. This blog and my postings should be a reflection of my learning, so with that I dive back in.

This summer I finally got caught in the next that the Michigan legislature cast out in 2002, the requirement of a literacy instruction course for the issuance of my professional teaching certificate. When that requirement was enacted, I was still completing my undergraduate in biology and chemistry with an emphasis on secondary education. When I completed my bachelor’s and student teaching, I received a provisional certificate to teach and moved to Georgia in 2005 to start my career, as jobs were few and far between in Michigan. During my time in Georgia, I earned two graduate degrees; a master’s in curriculum and instruction and a educational specialist in leadership, as well as a gifted education endorsement. None of that mattered when my final renewal of my provisional teaching license expired at the end of June. With all options exhausted I was forced to enroll in a class this summer that would meet the state’s requirement for me to earn my professional teaching certificate, a class that I will be finishing up next Wednesday.

Here is the crux of my frustration with this situation: I completely understand and in favor of continuing one’s academic growth and development as an educator, I proved that with my graduate degrees and Georgia endorsements, but I am not in favor in jumping through hoops. There are currently two pieces of legislation that are sitting in committee in the Michigan House of Representatives that would have rendered my need to take this class irrelevant: HB4084 (Tedder) would eliminate the need for the course to attain the professional license, and HB4614 (Miller) would allow for unlimited renewals of the provisional teaching certificate. If either of these bills were to have gained any traction, I could have spent my summer doing what I do all year, reading, reflecting, and generating ideas on how to improve my school and the education field.

I went into my literacy course this summer very frustrated, but I decided to try to make the most of my situation. I have put effort and focus into my learning, but I must say that the material that I have learned about this summer does not have much applicability to what I do on a daily basis (I am a secondary principal) other than providing me some background to support my teachers. It is not that the class was bad or not worthwhile, but rather that it is not in line with my professional duties and responsibilities. It leaves me wondering about one big thing:

In this time of teacher shortage and verbal attacks on schools, why are we making it harder to be in education? Shouldn’t we be working together to find solutions rather than providing obstacles that divert us away from the problems we need to address?

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A Thankful Educator

Hit the Pause button.

Forget for a moment the public scrutiny, governmental interventions, unfunded mandates, and the myriad of other stress-agents that surround educators. Forget changing standards, new curricula, and standardized tests.

Remember (even if just for today) the real reason that you entered the field of education. Remember the real driving force behind all meaningful student learning; the relationship between a caring educator and their students.

Last week, out of the blue, I received a text message from a former student, who I taught in Georgia (I now live in Michigan).

Zack: Is this Chris Ming?

Me: Yes, Zack it is.

Zack: Will you be in Michigan for Thanskgiving week?

Me: Yes I will

Zack: How far away are you from Detroit?

Me: About 40 minutes

Zack: No way! Well me and Spencer are coming up to Michigan for Thanksgiving break and we were wanting to see if you maybe wanted to grab lunch while we are up there to catch up and see you.

Me: Where are you going to be? It would be great to meet up!

We were able to set up some time together yesterday for lunch in Greektown and I got to hear all of the great things that are going on with Zack and Spencer. I was humbled that these great young men wanted to spend part of their holiday with a teacher and coach that they had not talked to in four years. They reminded me why what educators do matters and provided me with a new energy for my job.


From left, Spencer Tafelski, Chris Ming (me), Zack Shusterman in Greektown Detroit after lunch November 25, 2015. Spencer and Zack were students and soccer players that I had the privilege of working with four years ago in Loganville, Georgia


This Thanksgiving I am thankful for the meaningful relationships that make learning possible. The relationships that make an impact on young people’s lives. I am thankful for all of the educators out there that make connections with young people. You won’t find these connections in any legislation, standards, or evaluations. But it is these connections that create the environments conducive to learning. These connections create the opportunity for all students to be great.

Educators everywhere, never forget the impact you make everyday in the lives of your students.

Happy Thanksgiving

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Why Educators Should Connect

In a couple of weeks I will have the pleasure of sitting on a panel with some phenomenal educators at the MACUL conference in Detroit. The topic of our panel is why educators should connect. In preparation for that panel, this is my formalization of the random thoughts that I have coupled together since being invited to join.

A few years ago I was a classroom teacher and one of my best friends in the school was next door. We shared a wall and we shared a passion for chemistry, but it dawned on me one day while we were talking in the hallway during a class change that I did not know much about John as a teacher. Sure I had heard his voice through the walls on a frequent basis (and I’m sure he and his classes had heard mine) but I didn’t know much about his instructional technique nor his relationships with students or any of the other important aspects that make a teacher effective. At that moment it occurred to me that education is an isolating profession.

It is funny to think about a job that involves standing in front of 30 people at a time and talking as being one that is isolating. The reality, however, is that while teachers and school administrators talk a great deal, the majority of that conversation is small talk amongst peers or instructional toward students. There is very little dialogue about pedagogy or the sharing of ideas and technique. Most educators, whether they choose so voluntarily or do so sub-consciously are confined by the four walls of their room or office and do not engage in the types of conversations that allow them to grow. This is precisely the reason why educators should seek to connect!

There are many roadblocks that inhibit educator connections. Roadblocks like increased accountability, more school responsibilities, and a lack of time and money for common planning and professional development are a few of the obstacles that prevent connecting. Now more than ever, however, it is important for teachers and administrators to combat these potential land mines and find ways around them in order to reap the benefits. The reality of education at the moment is that there are many outside influences that are looking to derail the progress that schools make on a daily basis. These voices that exist from the outside looking in heap a very negative vibe onto schools. Connecting with the positive energy of dedicated educators is a powerful tool for overcoming the naysayers.

Stepping out of the classroom both literally and metaphorically is a necessary step toward educator progress. Technology has changed our society and has made making connections much easier, but it is not the only necessary ingredient for progress. The most important necessity is a desire to connect, the want to. This internal motivation is what pushes through the obstacles on the path and leads to connections with others, that leads to ideas and reflection, and ultimately progress in classrooms and the school.

I’m not sure where my principal at the time, Dr. Nathan Franklin, found the idea but in my last year at Loganville High we started stepping out of our classrooms. Teachers were asked to go observe other teachers, their peers, in the classroom. This wasn’t an evaluation exercise, it was an expansion exercise; one in which we could start seeing our peers’ strategies and start having conversations. It was an idea that lead to an exercise in breaking down obstacles and building connections.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, the first teacher on my list to observe and learn from was my good friend John.

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