Tag Archives: grace

Hills to Die On

The phrase “a hill to die on” is the idea that the battle you are facing could cost you everything.  This metaphor may have originated from the Viet Nam War and the Battle of Hamburger Hill when many lives were lost, but it seemed to be a position of little strategic significance.

"What makes this battle so significant is that the hill was of little strategic value, which was proven by the fact that it was abandoned by the US forces two weeks later. But more significant is the fact that the fall-out from this battle back home forced the Nixon administration to order the end of major tactical ground operations in Vietnam. So in a sense the hill and the battle were won while at the same time losing the war!"

As a first-year principal, I remember often saying “that’s not a hill to die on for me.” Essentially, I was trying to communicate that the things my staff members were asking about weren’t a battle worth risking everything for in my opinion. My mindset was if it doesn’t matter, why not let someone else win. Whether schedules or teaching resources, these weren’t the things that really mattered and so if it allowed for some power and control.  It was worth it to me to let them have that satisfaction of choice.

However, at some point, I realized I hadn’t established the hills I was ready to defend.  Establishing your hills actually takes more work as a leader.  It involves picking the things that really matter, and you will never give in when they are in question.  Choosing is critically important because one can’t defend every position, or you spread yourself too thin.  As a leader, determining your “hills” is probably one of the most important things, you will do in establishing your campus culture and eventually your legacy.

It was probably during my third year as a campus principal I could finally articulate my ‘hills.’ First, no matter what, I wanted to make sure every decision made on my campus was what was best for kids.  Sometimes this wasn’t what was easiest for adults, but it was always what was best for kids. After all, in a school, children are our entire reason for existence.  I think I knew this one from the time I entered education.  It is simply our purpose.

My second hill took longer to determine, but now it is so easy to stand behind.  EVERYONE grows. From our students to teachers, to parents to me.  We all grow. If you can’t grow, how in the world can you teach others to grow? I personally don’t care how fast you are growing as long as you do.  Sometimes, the person the furthest behind grows the fastest because they have the most room.  Sometimes, you may have a rock star who thinks they’ve reached the finish line.  I will take the person who grows over someone who is stagnant any day.  Ultimately, you can’t teach someone to learn and grow if you aren’t an expert in a growth mindset and constantly this skill yourself.

My third hill is advocacy.  With public education under attack today, I believe public educators must stand up for their school, their district, and public education as a whole.  We have an important job. It is the job that makes all other jobs possible.  We can prepare our students to be better at collaboration, communication, and problem-solving than the generations before us.  We can teach them to value those that are different from themselves and live in harmony.  It does not mean that public education is perfect, but it does mean that it is vital.  We cannot afford to allow others to spread misconceptions and false information about what we do, and we certainly cannot be thesource of such detriment.

I do believe you cannot defend every hill.  Outside of these three things, every other decision I encounter means considering how that decision impacts these three priorities. If it does matter, I let it go. A while ago, I encountered a colleague where everything was a big deal.  Everything had to be a battle. It was hard to support her, but because it was exhausting.  I think if you try to defend everything, you just end up losing it all.  It is impossible to feel that passionate on every battle, so you end up just expending all your resources. People aren’t willing to continually risk what they have if you ask them to take risks for things that don’t matter.  Be strategic. Defend the important hills, but choose wisely.

 

 

 

Celebrate Success (Even When It’s Someone Else’s)

It’s pretty easy to celebrate your own accomplishments.  I mean, you know your journey.  You know what you have been through to carry out the goal.  However, it can be harder to celebrate the success of others.  It got me thinking.

  • Do we not celebrate the success of others because of the competitive world we live in?  Maybe we don’t celebrate because we are fearful that someone else’s success diminishes our own.  Maybe it makes us feel a little safer with our own status.
  • Do we not notice? Let’s face it, it’s a fast pace world we live in. Maybe we get so busy, we just don’t see anything going on with anyone else because we have hyper-focused on our own circumstances.
  • Do we doubt the impact our “congratulations” mean to someone else?  Maybe we think that the other person will question our sincerity or even value our acknowledgement of what they have accomplished.

Recently I had a colleague of a campus that had been through a tremendous challenge to help her campus meet some specified accountability standards.  While I had not directly experienced the steps and measures they had gone through to achieve the goal.  I knew it was certainly arduous.  Her team rallied. They invested.  They learned. They reflected and they grew.  Most importantly, they never gave up.  It was huge accomplishment when they achieved this task they had worked on for years.

As I watched them celebrate, it hit me how important it was that not only they celebrate for themselves, or be acknowledged by superiors, but that they be acknowledged by peers and colleagues.  I didn’t know whether my words would really matter to them, but it just seemed important.  When we live in a world where education is constantly under fire, we must stand together in good times and in bad. It just seems like it’s easier to acknowledge and feel pity for someone’s struggles. We must not compete against each other, but celebrate each educational organization as a part of the great big “whole” of public educators who make a difference for children.  That is why my teacher leaders did a twitter storm of celebration for this campus marrying their hashtag and ours to celebrate their success.

I don’t think it matters if you are a district, a school, or a teacher of a classroom.  As Susan Phillips says “Celebrate the success of others.  High tide floats all ships.” When you are in a battle, you unite your armies, not battle over who is the frontline or the support. Both are critical to winning longterm.  We must recognize that every success of any campus is asuccess for all public educators.  It’s a check in the win column to tell the world what a difference a group of educators can make in the lives of children when they have a common vision and purpose. Congratulations, Central Elementary! You have accomplished great things.  You have shown grit, growth mindset, and grace under fire!  You did it and you make us all look good because of that!

 

 

A Time to Rest

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This year I will enter my 26th year as an educator.  It is hard to believe.  I remember as a new educator looking at teachers with 20+ years of experience and being in awe of their talent and stamina.

I love teaching.  I love school.  While I love summer, I can never seem to wait to get back and always have found myself creeping back into the building long before my contract began.  Whether it was to teach summer school, set up my classroom, or plan for the upcoming year, I couldn’t seem to stay away. Screen Shot 2017-08-09 at 9.35.31 AM

This past summer was a little different.  My feelings and passion hadn’t changed, but I was just so tired.  Every time I thought about going to school or planning, I just felt a deep exhaustion that seemed to be back behind my eye sockets.  I couldn’t focus and get started.  It led to some deep guilt.  Who was I letting down?

Ultimately, I had to come to the realization that twenty-five years of non-stop “going” had finally caught up with me.  I had to give myself permission that taking care of myself WAS taking care of my people.  My body and my mind needed rest for me to continue to be able to give my best to my students, staff, and community. I’m now almost two weeks back in, and I am realizing the world did not come crashing down.  We are off to a great start and everything will get done.

Of course, it helps that this is my fifth year in the principalship and fifth year at this campus.  I was fortunate that no emergencies that needed to be taken care of while I was do a good joboff-contract. I feel certain that if something urgent had come up, my adrenaline would have kicked back in. What I also realized once my exhaustion started to wane was that maybe, if I did a little more self-care during the year, I might not reach that level physical and mental fatigue.

I think sometimes as educators, our passion creates an adrenaline that allows us to keep going at superhuman rates.  Our sense of urgency drives us through the “tired” when most would say “enough”.   However, I think we have to find that place where we recognize that rest is critical.   Pushing ourselves to this point is not healthy and can certainly lead to bigger issues. Filling our own cups and allowing time for rejuvenation is necessary if we intend to fully pour ourselves into others. Sometimes grit and growth mindset is about finding balance and giving ourselves the grace we so easily give to others. There is a time for work.  There is a time for a sense of urgency.  But, there is also a time to rest.

I wish all the educators out there the best school year possible as we ready for the return of our students. Just remember: There is a time for work.  There is a time for a sense of urgency.  But, there is also a time to rest.

Symptoms and Bigger Issues Related to Physical and Metal Exhaustion

Mercy and Grace

With Easter upon us, it has gotten me doing a great deal of reflection on God’s mercy versus God’s grace.  God’s mercy is the fact that while we deserve punishment for our sins, they are wiped clean.  Because of His mercy, we do not have to face eternal damnation.  So what about His grace?  Grace is that God gives us kindness we do not deserve. We did not deserve His son to die on the cross for our sins, but he gave his son for us anyway.

We, too, have the ability to give both grace and mercy to our fellow man.  I have seen that in the last couple of weeks at my school. I have been unnerved lately at some of the adult behavior that I have witnessed. I seem to have encountered more and more parents yelling, screaming and cursing in the presence of children or belittling staff who are just doing their jobs. I think it has to do with the social climate of our country and intense stress so many people are under. Unfortunately, I have had to confront several parents about their behavior and expectations of how we must treat each other to maintain a collaborative relationship and do what is best for children.  For a couple of these situations, it involved several follow-up conversations where those parents were able to explain some things going on in their

Unfortunately, I have had to confront several parents about their behavior and reiterate expectations of how we must treat each other to maintain a collaborative relationship and do what is best for children.  For a couple of these situations, it involved several follow-up conversations where those parents were able to explain some things going on in their lives.  These were not examples of “mercy” because the bad behavior was not tolerated. However, grace was extended through the absence of personal judgment and the willingness to continue to try to maintain the relationship. Those same adults took full responsibility and gave sincere unprompted apologies to those they had wronged.  I believe they did this because they were given grace.

I see this with students, too.  I have a couple of students who ended up at the alternative school for some persistent bad behavior.  They had to be held accountable at this level because other measures were not working and their behavior was becoming disruptive to others’ learning.  I went to visit them one day and both gave me gigantic hugs and stated they were surprised to see me.  I explained to them that while they were gone, they were still my students and I needed to check on them. They had to be accountable for their behavior, but it didn’t change my love for them or my concern for their well-being.

I have found that if students make a mistake and are given “mercy”, they are usually right back in the same place after a short period of time.  However, if they are held accountable for their actions while also shown kindness, behavior had the potential to change.  All humans need to know that someone believes in their ability to be better.  Underserved kindness, or grace, says to that person, “I believe in you, no matter what your past has been.”

To extend “mercy”, you must first be in some sort of a position of power to enact punishment.  However, sometimes “mercy” backfires by allowing bad behavior to continue because it is seen as acceptance of the behavior. Sometimes, we aren’t even in a place to show mercy because we don’t hold the power to give the consequence.   “Grace” doesn’t require power, but more the willingness to show kindness where none is deserved. It requires the person giving grace to put someone else’s humanity before their own desire to “make someone pay” for their wrongdoing.  Grace has the power to change behavior for the better because there is hope for something more. Sometimes “grace” and the hope it can inspire is much more important.

No Excuses (Especially on Saturday)

Two years ago, my campus learned about No Excuses University. It happened accidentally when a visitor to our campus said, “Oh, you’re an NEU Campus.” I had no idea what it the world NEU was, so I looked it up. Basically, it is the implementation of best practices for instruction, combined with a passion for the learning of all students. It is a fierce commitment to adults not making excuses about why a child cannot succeed in school, but rather doing whatever it takes to overcome barriers and ensure that all children (no matter their background, ethnicity, socio-economic status, or disability) are proficient or advanced in Reading, Writing, and Mathematics so that they can go to college if they choose.

In trying to be aligned to this belief, my campus has looked at the students who we believed were not quite ready to hit that “proficient or advanced” expectation and created what we call NEU Saturday. This is a time where selected students come to school on Saturday for two hours so that they have a little extra time to learn. I need to be clear. This has absolutely NOTHING to do with our state assessment. My commitment is not to a test, but to these children’s being prepared for their future. If we do that right, they’ll be fine on a test, but the test isn’t the driving force.

I love this! Learning isn’t about worksheets! It’s about relationships, relevance to life, and things that can connect with the learner!
Because we aren’t bound by constraints of tutoring for a test, we serve all grades. YES, all grades, pre-kindergarten through fifth grade. They come and a band of teachers welcome these children with open arms and celebrate the child’s commitment to his education. So many of my students are still learning that things don’t just happen to them, but through the choices they make, they have the power to change the direction of their lives. I tell each one of the students that they are the “chosen” ones. That their teachers specifically chose them to come to this special time because of the grit, growth mindset and commitment to no excuses they make every day.

We feed them a full breakfast. While I know it is big talk in Washington D.C. that breakfast doesn’t make a difference in education, that is just plain malarky. When people are hungry, they can’t think about anything, but their stomach growling and “hangry” is a reality. Many of my children rely on the food from school as their primary source of nutrition. It’s just a sack breakfast with cereal or a muffin, string cheese, juice, and milk, but knowing my students are getting one extra meal over the weekend makes a huge difference.

Then for the next two hours, I have an incredible staff that pours into these children. They talk with them, hug them, and provide them with meaningful learning. They do cool activities with Versa-tiles, read, and play games with higher-level thinking and strategy. There’s not one test prep material. Only opportunities for the students to think, discuss and problem solve in meaningful situations. The best part is that these students say this is the best day of the week and and ask to come back on Sunday, too!


There’s lots of criticism about public schools and their effectiveness. I haven’t seen that. Public education is the heart of our society’s future. It takes ensuring that all children have access to a quality education to ensure they have the tools to become productive citizens in the future. It is when we take off the constraints off and allow educators to do what they love and teach that this happens. They do whatever it takes because this is why we get into teaching: to see all children succeed. No excuses.

Why I Won’t Have a STAAR Pep Rally at My School

Pep Rallies before a standardized test have become a common occurrence in schools. A campus principal’s email can be flooded with people who want to get paid to be a part of these “pep rallies”.   I have been a part of this practice in the past, but since becoming a principal, I have been against this type of practice.  Why, because a ” STAAR Pep Rally” makes the important thing the test.  It sends the message to those people outside education that “the test” is what is important.  I am here to say a standardized test is the LEAST important thing that happens during a school year.

A test is what happens on one single day to measure all the learning that takes place in the course of a school year.  For it to be an accurate measure, all the variables for that would have to be absolutely perfect.  Students would have to have a great night’s’ sleep,  a well-balanced breakfast, a supportive emotional environment before school, and all the supports they need to be successful.

Let’s face it.  Some students have trauma at home. Many don’t have basic needs met.   They don’t always have the nutrition they need.  They may not get adequate sleep. Even our students with disabilities don’t have access to all their IEP interventions because of the rules of the test.  The variables are not the best case scenario for some kids.  How in the world could we expect the test to accurately reflect all they have mastered?

Here is what I am willing to rally over:  students, teachers, grit, growth mindset and all they have accomplished over the ENTIRE year.  At my school, we do this every Friday. Today, on the eve of our standardized test, my students did come to the cafeteria to meet with me.  The rest of the building lined the hallway to applaud their hard work and let them know we stand with them. It was not a STAAR Pep Rally.  It was a celebration of people who work hard to grow in their learning. It was caring about the people enough to let them know they were loved, supported, prepared, and in control of their destiny.

When students arrived, I shared with them my story of having to retake the GRE to get into graduate school to work on my doctorate.  As I sat down to take this test, I felt angry and frustrated.  I felt like there were some words that no one used, so impossibly worded questions, and I just felt there was no way that that test could accurately encompass who I was as a principal or a learner.  It hit me that this was how some of my students felt.

I told my students that there was no way that tomorrow’s test could define them either.  There was no way that this test could fully share with legislators or the public how much they had learned this past year. What I did tell these students was that they were in control, that they had the power to control their destiny. I shared with my fifth graders that sometimes, working hard at a test can give you a benefit.  That while my test couldn’t define me, it could gain me access to a program I wanted to be a part of to improve my life.

For them, working hard to “show what they know” could prevent them from retaking this test in a few weeks, but it would be their choice.  I told my fourth graders that while they weren’t facing a retest, the evidence does show that every time they pass a test like this,  it increases their chances of passing the next one.  No matter what, I told them they were in control.  I wanted them to know they were prepared and had everything they needed.  If they wanted it, they could achieve it.

I think that is what it is all about:  empowering students to know that they have control over their education.  The focus should never be on a test, but the people taking the test and continual reminders that even as children, they get to choose, they get to decide how to define themselves.

 We put tremendous pressure on students to “pass.”  The truth is our actions should support our beliefs.  At my campus we don’t have a test pep rally, we have a “hope rally” every single week where we celebrate teachers, students, and the power of education together as a campus.  While today I did bring students down to meet with me before they take their test tomorrow, it was never about the test.  It was ALWAYS about the people.  Whatever happens, tomorrow doesn’t really change anything.  Don’t get me wrong.  I want all of my students to do well because I know it makes their life easier in the long wrong. However, I know what my students have learned, how they have grown, and how much they have overcome and it far exceeds the constraints of a multiple choice test!

Not Just a Building

This past week, I attended the Texas Association of School Administrators Midwinter Conference and had the opportunity to hear Shanna Peeples, 2015 National Teacher of the Year, speak. She had so much to say about advocating for public schools, but the thing that has resonated with me most was this quote:

“Public school is not a building. It’s a promise that a community makes to itself.” Shanna Peeples, TASA Midwinter Conference 2017

I’ve thought a lot about what she said, but I would take this statement a little further. A public school is not just a building; it is a promise that the community makes to itself to inspire hope for a better future.

We live in a tough world. We have people feeling entitled to rewards without work. People who cannot communicate effectively with words, so they use violence. People who are angry because they feel invisible, and other people who are afraid of the people they don’t understand so they put up the barriers that make angry people feel even more

disenfranchised. Instead of fixing the systems we have and contributing to a better world, people want to take their toys and go home resulting in soft segregation. This is only going to create a continuous cycle of decline.

But here is what I have to say-public schools are the hope for a better future. Public schools are the embodiment of our forefather’s vision, and capture in the words of Emma Lazarus inscribed on The Statue of Liberty.

In my school that promise is:

  • to a young girl that there will be someone there to care for her, despite her mother suffering from stage 4 cancer and having no extended family.
  • taking a moment to talk about what went wrong when a boy lost his cool and threatened a peer and to develop a different plan while helping him let go of his angry past.
  • a letter waiting for you at your new school when your family moved away and a teacher worried about your transition because you have moved so often.
  • a teacher braiding your hair because you are staying in a homeless shelter and mom couldn’t fix your hair before you came to school.
  • knowing that we will exhaust every option before we label you in a way that may limit your future opportunities.
  • the nurse recognizing a rash as a bigger problem to alert you to the need to seek immediate, life-saving medical attention.
  • a concerned teacher taking money from her own pocket to ensure the electricity is on so a child with asthma can have nebulizer treatments.
  • teaching peers to show compassion to a student with low cognitive ability and them applying that compassion by looking after her when she is outside the classroom.
  • designing work with incubating germs that help you learn “school stuff” but make you feel like a grown up in the real world.
  • setting goals and celebrating achievement and talking about how to regroup when the goal falls short so that all children, no matter of their ability, are coached and guided for growth.
  • talks of college embodied in grade level cheers and the dreams that a college degree can hold for your future.
  • songs of education and being “world changers” with the entire school every Friday.
  • the adults not making excuses that prevent children from achieving the best future, no matter where they started.
  • diversity and the opportunity to be around all kinds of people and learn that there is no need for fear, just value of multiple perspectives and willingness to use words to discuss differences.

Public schools are the place that we value every individual. It doesn’t matter your ethnicity, your native language, your religion, whether or not you have a disability or giftedness. You may come from an average background or one fraught with trauma. You may be wealthy, poor, or just middle-class. You may be the child who tries to please or the child who is continually demonstrating your displeasure with the world by spinning things into chaos. In a public school, we love you, we value you and try to earn your trust. We stretch you and grow you. We teach you to collaborate and communicate with those that are nothing like you. We teach you to think critically and set goals. We teach you to read, write and problem-solve using multiple strategies. We prepare you for the ability to thrive in a diverse world with the confidence that you can not only achieve your goals, but make the world a better place.

The things that public schools do to prepare our world for a better future are not easily measured by standardized tests or accountability systems and high performance on a test doesn’t guarantee your success if you cannot relate to the 21st century world.  Many would have society believe that paying for an education is a better option, but the don’t tell you what opportunities you miss because of a separate, homogenous education

Just remember, public schools are not just a building, we are people who ensure the promise that the community makes to itself, who love all and accept all, to inspire hope for a better society and future for all.

 

Leadership: Mastering The Art of Juggling and Clear Feedback

I love metaphors.  I think they are excellent tools in learning to promote higher level thinking and help learning stick.  Metaphors provide something for us to relate to that we already know and understand so that we can connect our new learning in an innovative way. My most recent leadership metaphor came to me when I was participating in a session with the Texas Principal’s Visioning Institute and they asked us to juggle scarves.  First, we had to juggle by ourselves and without any interaction or feedback from anyone else.  Very few in the room were able to juggle the scarves successfully.

juggling-scarves

After we had attempted to teach ourselves, we had the opportunity to work with others and provide feedback and encouragement.  Collaboration increased the rate of success tremendously. What resonated with me as I walked away (besides the fact of how cool it was that I learned to juggle scarves and taught someone else as well) was the power of clear, constructive feedback.

Not long after that, one of my campus leadership teams hit a real roadblock.  We have faced some real challenges this year.  People were exhausted. With Halloween, the Super Moon, and an election season with lots of negativity, not to mention some unexpected situations with students, we hadjuggling-fail stretched our productive coping mechanisms thin and resulted in a heated meeting. I know everyone left feeling frustrated.  As I reflected, I think I was most discouraged that the snowballing anxiety had resulted in angry outbursts that still weren’t necessarily clear about the real issues or root causes.  They were mostly just an expression of exasperation. I was upset with myself that my team had reached this point and I had missed the signs.  How could I have let my team down?  I definitely felt like my leadership juggling was resulting in everything hitting the ground.

The whole experience got me back to thinking about juggling scarves.  Leadership in education is much about juggling scarves.  This is because juggling scarves isn’t like juggling balls.  The motion is entirely different.  Instead of a circular motion, it is more juggling-womanof a crisscross.  Rather than an immediate gravitational force, there are a few seconds of floating.  It requires focus, rhythm, and gentle touch to get the scarves flowing. I think this is how educational leadership works as well.  You are constantly crisscrossing to monitor, check, and keep everything moving.  You have to use a gentle touch, because if you grab, cling, and forget to let go,  you can’t catch the next scarf.   You also have to keep everything at eye level to monitor the progress and make adjustments. Educational leadership has to be intentional, but with a light touch and keen perception.

juggle-quote

A few weeks later, I repeated the experience I had learned with my leadership team.  I added some of my own twists. Not only did they experience learning to juggle in isolation, my twist had to do with the type of feedback when it came to that time. The jugglers were paired with someone who could only give nonverbal feedback. They could use their faces, body language and gestures, but no words.  Some smiled and clapped.  Some looked disinterested.  Others looked angry, and some even grabbed the scarves away to demonstrate in frustration how to do it.

Feedback is just as critical.  When the team gives clear feedback about your strategies, you can use your mental energy to make adjustments and improve the flow.  When you take your eyes of the scarves and try to read someone’s face and decipher nonverbal feedback, your focus has moved off the scarves, and they are more likely to fall to the ground. As leadership teams, we have to give clear, constructive feedback on the process, so we do not get distracted from the goal and all the scarves stay up in the air. However, if the scarves fall, you don’t give up.  You pick the scarves up and start again.  Practice improves the process and the chances for success. Add in a team providing clear, constructive feedback and encouragement, and the probability of achieving the desired outcomes are even more likely.

This is how leadership works. Scarves hit the ground. Practice improves the process and the chances for success. Add in a team providing clear, constructive feedback and encouragement, and the probability of achieving the desired outcomes are even more likely.

I can say I am fortunate to have great educators around me.  They are willing to take risks, make mistakes, and learn together to do what is best for our students. As a result, I do believe that for now, all the scarves are up in the air and moving again!

I Choose Thankful

November is traditionally a time of reflections on one’s blessings, and as I think about this school year, it has been full of ups and downs and in only been 13 weeks.  One of the biggest challenges is seeing children bear such heavy burdens. Whether it is a parent’s illness, today-i-choosephysical/emotional abuse or neglect, the loss of a parent through family separation or death, or just the stress of poverty and the worry that comes with it about one’s basic needs being met, it is hard to see children suffering.  Add to this mix teachers who have their own personal stressors and a nation of unrest in a highly polarized political climate. Forget the typical school challenges full moons and holidays, folks; we are talking about real trauma.

Supporting children living with trauma can be a challenge. They bring it in the door. Trauma may not be visible, but a child in trauma will let you know immediately if they are suffering.  With their actions, their words, their lack of connection, they will let you know. They fight, they run, they shut down. Children in the most need of love often ask for it in the most unlovable ways.  It can be exhausting for those responsible for providing “trauma care” much less a high-quality education.  One could easily lose hope.

However, I have learned so much from supporting children of today.  If you can make that thankful-people-are-happyconnection, create that bond, make the child feel safe, there is no better feeling in the world. When you watch a teacher persist to form a relationship despite multiple attempts by the student to push them away, there is a sense of pride to be a part of an organization that puts first things first.

I have learned that it is in the most difficult circumstances that the biggest blessings are revealed.  We can be grateful for the challenges and know that they are helping develop our character into who we are meant to be, or we can feel mistreated.  

We always have a choice.   We can feel wronged, or we can be grateful for the challenges and know that they are tied to a greater purpose.  We can worry about the difficulties we face, or we can choose to feel blessed knowing that we will never be given more than we can handle.  We can grieve the things we do not have, or we choose to see the abundance of our lives and all the opportunities that lay before us. Thankful isn’t something that happens, it’s something you do on purpose. And when we choose gratitude, it becomes you-have-a-choiceimpossible to feel stressed.  They are two emotions that cannot exist at the same time.

So while it is difficult to see children suffer, I choose to be thankful that I get to be a positive force in their lives.  While sometimes the behavior of these students can be beyond difficult, I am blessed to have a staff willing to learn about trauma and utilize trauma-sensitive practices to support these students. While there are many times I have pondered thoughts of “if I just had more… (time, money, staff, parent involvement, resources)”, I know that in my district and community, I have an abundance of support and trust to make decisions that are best for our children, not just a few, but all of them. While it would be easy to lose faith facing such challenging circumstances, I choose to have grit and hope in the future of public education and how we can teach children coping strategies and value for each other in addition to reading, writing, and math.  I am blessed.  I am thankful.  Are you? It’s your choice.

A Broken Filter

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I think one of the biggest problems our world faces today stems from the fact that we have become a nation with a broken filter. Please know that when I say this, I don’t mean this to be true of everyone, but in general.  Too many feel free to say whatever they want and apply it to all with little regard for unintended consequences. Social media perpetuates this because so often it lacks accountability. Then we hear someone else’s blanket statement and believe it applies to us, so more blanket statements occur. Even more troublesome is we often say things on social media we would not say to someone’s face. We know this lack of filtering makes us feel icky, but yet, it continues.try-to-be-a-filter-not-a-sponge-quote-1

At the same time, while we don’t filter our own thoughts and opinions, we often filter the perspective of others. We don’t spend much time thinking about why those who have different views of ourselves have those feelings. We forget that just because we may not agree, we can have empathy. We sometimes assume anyone different from ourselves has the extreme perspective that is plastered all over the news and social media and blindly categorize without filtering what is true and what is not.

The truth is blanket statements never truly apply to everyone.  The truth is the extremist views really are a small group of the population, and their statements are only true about a smallwithout-a-filter-a-man-is-just-chaos-walking-quote-1 group. I think we have to not take people’s “blanket social media” posts as personal and feel the need to respond or share to them publicly unless they were specifically directed to us. Public arguments on social media rarely end in harmony or positive resolution. As an educator, I still tell children “if you can’t say something nice…”, “just because they said it doesn’t mean it’s true,”  “try to put yourself in their shoes” . These are things I learned from my family and teachers, and I believe they still apply.

Thank you to all of my social media friends who continue to post joy and spread happiness.  That is always what this world needs:  patience, compassion, hope, joy, and faith.  Basically, a little less judgment, a little more restraint.  We need to fix our filter.  

Make it a great day social media friends; it’s your choice. 

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