Thursday, July 30, 2015

Can you hear me now?

How many of you, and be honest, have received emails from job seekers about potential openings at your school and don't reply?

I'm new to the administrative world, am only an Assistant Principal, and I was rather taken aback at the amount of times I've gotten such emails.

Kudos to you, job seeker, future educator, for putting yourself out there and making yourself heard.  Kudos to you for not just applying on the district website, attaching your resume and hoping for the best.  I respect you.  Which is why I'm writing this post.

I remember when I first tested the waters of teacherdom 8 years ago.  My dad and I flew down to Savannah, Georgia on my last spring break as a college student.  I brought with me copies of my cover letter and resume and dutifully drove around the historic city, personally handing them out to principals at their respective schools.  I wasn't going to leave anything to chance.  I wanted to get out of the snow, and I wanted a job.

 I got callbacks and I got ignored.  I kind of remember the callbacks, I think the first one is who I accepted a job from, but I especially remember the ignores.  It's been 8 years so I don't specifically remember the schools but I remember the feeling and the thought, "Hey, I'm just looking for a job, I get it if you don't have any openings but know that I stuck my neck out there, at least give me a call or write me an email."  Did they owe that to me, probably not- everyone is busy, resumes get lost in the shuffle.  Fast forward to when I moved to Texas and had to become a door to door teacher without a home again.  This time technology had evolved some and the most efficient way of getting my name out there was to send emails and make phone calls hoping for a bite on the proverbial fishing line I had cast out there.  Again, some called, some didn't.  Again, I don't specifically remember who but I remember the sting.

So, this brings me to the point of this post.  I hereby swear, with all of you as my witness, now that I am in this position, and even though we may not have an opening at my school, I WILL respond to your vulnerability.  I will not leave you hanging, one way or the other.  I will never forget the feeling of being in the position you are in.   I wish you the MOST luck, future colleague.

Am I crazy?  Are you thinking to yourself, "Ha!  The rookie has no idea what he is saying!"  Share your thoughts, if you feel so inclined.

Who to look up to.

I'm a habitual podcast listener.  I won't get into the details of all the podcasts that I listen to, but I have a group of podcasts in which I don't miss an episode.  I used to consider myself a reader, and I guess I still am, as proven by the books with pages marked by miscellaneous objects, strewn all over my house that I consider myself in the process of "reading".  Some of those books I've been reading for years.  Podcasts have largely replaced books in my life.  I almost cringe saying that.  They are just easier to digest and I've got a lot to digest at the moment.  I listen to podcasts when I'm doing yard work, house work, driving, and when I fall asleep at night.  I found myself in an unfortunate position a few weeks ago that sent me into a was time for bed and I didn't have any new podcasts episodes to listen to!  I know- woe is me.

Haha, I just did a google image search for "woe is me" expecting to find Cookie the Cook from The Bozo Show who would get upset about something and say, "woe is me!"  Instead I found this...

Whom I just found out is a band who plays music that I'm not into.  You may be into it, I won't judge.  Maybe a little.  

Anyways, here's Cookie the Clown.  I couldn't find any reference to him saying "woe is me" so maybe I'm making it up.  

I have to admit.  He's a little more scary as an adult than I remember him as a child.  Did anybody watch The Bozo Show?  Was it just something in the Chicagoland region?  

Ok, back to the point.  I ran out of podcasts to listen to so in my panic, I got on the iTunes top podcasts lists and recognized the name of a podcast.  Tim Ferriss.  He's the author of a few books I've read- The 4 Hour Body (which I obviously haven't learned much from even though it's a really good and interesting read), The 4 Hour Work Week, and others.  He's an interesting dude.  Always trying to figure out the best and most efficient way to do stuff.  The best and most efficient way to live.  Naturally, I was interested in what he may have to say on a podcast so I clicked on the icon.  I scrolled through the episodes and one stuck out to me so I gave it a listen.  I learned a lot of things in that podcast but one point has stuck with me and I've had it on my mind ever since.  I will link the episode below.  

The guests on the podcast were General Stan McChrystal and Chris Fussell.  From 2003 to 2008, McChrystal served as commander of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and is kind of a big deal.  Chris Fussell is a former Navy Seal who served as McChrystal's Aide-de-Camp and is also, kind of a big deal.  If my memory serves me correct, Ferriss asked Fussell what the best advice he ever received and Fussell says something along the lines of...

You should always have three people you pay attention to in your organization. 
  • Someone in a position you strive to be in one day.  Someone who you want to be like.  
  • A peer who holds the same or similar position you currently hold who you think does the job better than you.  
  • Somebody who holds the position you previously held who you believe is doing a better job than you did.
He said that if you constantly measure yourself off of and implicitly learn from those people you will be exponentially better than you are.  

Man, that stuck with me.  It's been tumbling in my brain ever since I first listened.  

I know I can think of three people who have made huge impacts on my life simply from my observations of them doing what they do on a day to day basis.  Getting over the innate vulnerability that you feel when you observe somebody doing something better than you is so important.  It's imperative to understand, that if you try your absolute hardest, you may never become as good as they are at the job you both do.  That thought reminds me of the quote, "Reach for the moon.  Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars."  I work alongside plenty of stars.  

The importance of peering over the horizon, setting goals and standards for where you want to be- what you want to become, is so incredibly important.  It's life changing.  It's something that I preached to my students from the first day of school every year, to the last but never really understood.  My principal who I worked for at the time was able to put my leaving them in the middle of the year so much more eloquently than I ever could have, and he had a good point.  I wasn't "leaving" them.  I was simply fulfilling a goal I had set a long time ago and they helped me reach it.  It was a teachable moment that I hope those kids will remember - I know I will.  

The piece that stuck out to me the most, and maybe something I've done but can do better if I do it intentionally, are the other two parts.  There are unlimited possibilities of what I can learn from a peer who I know is better than I am at the same job (most everyone I know who is an AP).  

But this, the point he makes about learning from somebody who holds the position you previously held who you think does a better job than you did.  Wow!  I look at all of the teachers who I work for and I have so many people who can fill this role.  I'm lucky.  

I'd love to know your opinion.  Are there people you look up to?  Has it had an affect on your life?  Please leave a comment if you feel so inclined.  

Here's the podcast I write of...

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Can I talk about this?

It's been a while since I've posted anything of meaning on this blog.  I was named Assistant Principal in my district in January of this year and as a matter of fact, it's been since then that I have said anything.  Not because of fear.  Not because I was so incredibly busy figuring out my new role that I didn't have time to blog, even though that would be a fair and pretty honest assessment.  As a matter of fact, I'm a man of analogies and the closest one I could come up with in my attempt to start my new role as an AP in the middle of the school year at a new school was like trying to start watching a trilogy in the middle of the second movie and trying to figure out what in the world is going on.  Anyways, since beginning as an AP 8 months ago it's been an amazingly exciting, flustering, rewarding and hardest 8 months of my life.

In January, the month I began my administrative career and more accurately, my last day as a 5th grade teacher my 2 year old daughter was diagnosed with cancer.  It's taken me a while to feel comfortable enough to write about it here.  Mostly because I want this blog to be a reflection about my professional career and this subject is obviously, deeply personal.  However, today I had the opportunity to interact with fantastic leaders who are great bloggers and I vowed to get back into the game so as to grow professionally myself.  The conundrum I am facing though is how hard it is to think back on the last 8 months and not think about the most monumental event I've ever faced in my 32 years on this earth, supporting my 2 year old daughter as she went through and is going through cancer treatment.

I have to talk about it.  I have to get it off my chest.  I'm sorry.  My wife brought our daughter to her 2 year old "well visit".  Perfectly normal, perfectly (so we thought) healthy, beautiful, head full of blonde hair baby girl.  Normal.  During the examination of her abdomen, the doc felt a mass above her liver.  Suggested we take her in to get an ultra sound.  My wife immediately sets up an appointment to have the area scanned.  Confirmed, large mass growing off her liver.  Next appointment is with an Oncologist at the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders.  We didn't know what to think.  What is this thing in our babies stomach.  It can't be bad.  It has to be a benign mass.  The oncologist says it looks like Hepatoblastoma, a rare malignant mass that grows from the liver, can spread to the lymph nodes and lungs.  His words, "It looks like your daughter has cancer."  I will not go into the details of what was going through my mind and the very difficult and very private conversations I had with my wife.  One question, of many, was, "What's next?"  Surgery came to remove the mass, which by the way was about the size of a softball.  Clean resection.  Removed surrounding lymph nodes, no indication that cancer had spread.  Nothing in the lungs.  Spent a week of recovery in the hospital, she handled it like a champ.  Started the first of 4 cycles of chemotherapy the following week.  She made it through those cycles with relatively few incidents.  She lost most of her hair, got sick, lost a lot of weight but she made it through.  Next came the follow up CT scan to make sure nothing was left.  Our next worst nightmare of our lives came true.  A spot was growing in her lung, it appears the cancer has spread.  From Stage 2 to Stage 4.  Not a death sentence the doctor told us.  This girl is too amazing for it to be.  Spot was successfully removed from her lung, another week of recovery in the hospital and we have begun the first of 2 more, even more intense, rounds of chemotherapy.  So far, we've had a few road bumps but it's going pretty well.  She feels good and for the most part, acts like a normal 2 year old.

There.  I said it and I can move on, for the most part, in my reflections that I hope will allow me to grow as a person, an educator, and a leader.  It's impossible for this situation not to be one of the main, if not the main, driving force in my life right now so I apologize in advance for any future mentions (I'll make them brief) of this.

I've always put kids first in my professional life and will continue to do so.  I will continue to pour my heart and soul into my work and will continue to learn how to be the best administrator I can be.  I am THRILLED to be STARTING a school year in this role and to welcome those students back on the quickly approaching first day.  I am fortunate enough to be able to say and do that because I have the strongest, bravest, most amazingly resilient 2 and a half year old cancer fighter for me to go home to.


I'm going to go out on a limb here and make BOLD statement.

Ready for it?

"Teaching students HOW to Google is one of the top 3 skills you should teach in a given school year."

The other 2, in my opinion- in case you are interested:
-  How to have a perfect conversation/work in groups/work with peers, etc.
-  How to use technology in a responsible way.
-  How to Google effectively.

From Google Search Education website:
"Web search can be a remarkable tool for students, and a bit of instruction in how to search for academic sources will help your students become critical thinkers and independent thinkers."

This thought led me to this video.  Top 10 Google Search Tips and Tricks.

I wonder how you can teach a 3rd grader how to Google like a pro?  Or, perhaps they already do!