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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Reflecting On Educational Leadership

My son Seth, wife Amal and I at The Monastery atop Petra, Jordan on October 10th 2012
After having completed a short tenure overseas in the Middle East as a Middle School Principal at a private school,  I have a little time on my hands to reflect and  talk about it publicly.

I am sure most of my followers here and on Twitter are probably wondering and perplexed as to why it is over, and I have returned to the US.  Sadly, after over two months of building continuity, trust and deep relationships in such a short time with all of the stakeholders of my division (270 students and 44 staff members), the precariousness and volatility of the political climate which has escalated and continues to be uncertain, led for both a family and personal decision to leave what I had begun.  I would be remiss not to mention the fact there were other factors that led to this decision.  First and foremost amongst them, was the conflict in interests involving compassionate and quality education to children versus the private and entrepreneurial aspects of running a for- profit school.  I honestly did not believe there was such a huge gap between the ownership and the philosophy and intentions of caring, decent and competent staff and faculty.  All of us, in this particular capacity, catering and dealing with a clientele who invests financially on an annual basis as much money as any private school's tuition cost here in America.

Nevertheless, I took with me several unforgettable and invaluable learning pieces, and ultimately tools, as I departed and said farewell.

Number one, life in both a personal and professional capacity is all about quality relationships... 

The underestimation of the importance of communication and listening cannot be undervalued or dismissed...

Children, as I have long known, are fascinating and resilient in their resolve to forget, persevere and move forward despite all the obstacles and uncertainty in which both change and life itself brings upon us all constantly...

As heard before somewhere, managers do things right, yet true leaders do the right thing...

My life, or any life for that matter, is unimportant except for the impact it has on others...

No one has ever achieved or gained any level of success or happiness in life without the help and assistance of many others along their journeys throughout life...

In closing, it was very bittersweet in leaving the manner and way in which I was compelled to do, other than to say there is a reason for everything.  To this end, the reason has yet to be answered or determined.  As a servant leader, and as was confirmed by both my students and staff, with the many kind words and tears that were shed as I departed a couple weeks back,  I did my job well!  I gave hope, faith, confidence, encouragement and empowerment to each and every individual I spoke with and came into contact with.  I feel confident and stronger in the experience I gained on such an international platform and venue.  I move forward, as I know my colleagues will, with renewed confidence and strength, that as long as one is both compassionate and passionate to what he or she  is doing and whom they serve, that there can be no other alternative but continued growth, self satisfaction and success in their futures.

Godspeed to my Faculty, Staff and Most of all My Beautiful Students!   

Friday, June 22, 2012

Ten Tantamount Commandments Of Teaching!

As I continually reflect on my profession and what to write about to have an impact on all my global colleagues, I remind myself of where I spent the first 19 years of my chosen profession, the classroom!  Many years ago I came across a photocopied list in which was called Ten Terrific Teacher Traits.  It was unsigned and unauthored in the state of receipt. 

     I have held on to this golden piece of literature for years and have shared it with my colleagues in the classroom year in and year out over the last six or seven years.  As I have read and reread these highly commendable if not invaluable pieces of advice,  I have humbly attempted to edit them as well as modify them based on my experiences.  Truthfully, the fundamental gist of each line item remains both relevant and steadfast in its applicability to what happens in classrooms all over the world.  I hope all teachers, especially new and blossoming teachers find these as special as I did while consciously trying to implement them into their practices.  With this said, I do know and realize there have been many articles and similarly books written on the topic, yet I found these as very simple, straightforward and enormously important to being an effective and productive classroom teacher, leader and facilitator regardless of the grade levels or demographics in which you are currently in.  I hope you find them equally as resounding as I did, and I welcome additions to the list (in no particular order of importance);
I.  Always be early, especially before your students arrive.  This demonstrates care, eagerness and enthusiasm...
II.  Learn something new and personal about each of your students as soon as possible.  Do this inconspicuously if at all possible.  This again demonstrates genuine sincerity and caring for your students.
III.  Return assignments, quizzes and tests the next day.  This models and demonstrates to your students that these are learning tools of value, and gives students reasonable instant feedback and reinforcement to evaluate and reevaluate their errs and study habits...
IV.  Do not share personal stories (war stories) unless asked to and reaffirmed by all the students in your class.  Students, whether you want to believe it or not, are basically not interested.  You are not the center of their universe regardless of what you might want to believe.  Do not waste valuable educational and instructional time on unrelated diversions...
V.  Constantly evaluate your effectiveness by always being cognizant and monitoring your student's eyes.  This is the most reliable  indicator of you effectiveness.  If they look confused and or bored, they are!...
VI.  Always be positive and supportive in creating, developing, fostering and nurturing a quality comforting and safe learning climate and environment.  Smile often and never use derogatory or inflammatory comments/remarks toward your students.  Never tell a student to "shut up".  Failing to heed this advice will create both a climate and culture of mistrust which invariably will lead to uncaring and unproductive students under your charge...
VII.  Students do not expect you to be all knowing, so stop worrying about it.  Admit to them frankly and openly when you do not know an answer to their questions.  Tell them you will research it and find out.  Their only true expectations of you is to always be presentable, professional, organized and well prepared...
VIII.  Always exercise equity in your classroom.  Be fair and consistent by laying down fundamental ground rules and expectations.  Stay consistent and clearly and explicitly communicate these often to all stakeholders early and often...
IX.  Do not make assumptions or stereotype any of your students.  Do not scold students for not knowing things in which you would think, and perhaps they should, already know.  It serves no purpose whatsoever and is simply counterproductive.  If ONE does not know, it is likely there is another, if not an entire room full that does not know.  Review when and if necessary in succinct and well organized ways when the need arises.
X.  Always use or attempt to use all available resources at your disposal.  In the likely event it does not exist or is unavailable, make sure you have requested this.  Likewise, regarding commmunication, make yourself available as much as practical and reasonable according to your lifestyle, beyond the normal classroom hours to all stakeholders...
I look forward to my colleagues additions...  PEACE!  

Friday, June 8, 2012

Farewell Franklin


     Well, the school year is finally over and I could not think of a more appropriate time to create my next story.  I have had this on my mind for some time now, considering I will be leaving my first and only Assistant Principal's post after four years to embark on my next new adventure.  Naturally, I am both ecstatic and anxious about my new assignment.  One reason for this is that I will be taking on my first Principal ship, and secondly it will be at a post at an international school.  This, too me, is an opportunity of a lifetime for my family and I both personally and professionally.  The opportunity was simply one that could not be passed upon despite my time , commitment and energy invested in such a wonderful community.  I think most people in education would concur.  However, just as important, the intent of this post was to share and reveal both reflections and thoughts about the past four years.

     To put things in perspective, if we as human beings really consider and reflect upon life in and of itself, our time here on earth is shockingly short.  Essentially, it consists of a myriad and potpourri of phases and stories.  Luckily, to this point in my life and career, I firmly believe I can say by far most of my stories have had positive or good endings.  As a person, each and everyone of us brings to the table a story.  As we go through the natural phases of life our stories unfold and grow longer and more complex if we are fortunate enough.

     This particular story is about my experience the past four years in a rural public high school in the rural mountains of western North Carolina.  The name of the school and exact location is not necessarily important to identify, but what is important are all the people whom are stakeholders of the school.  Most importantly, the teachers, the support staff and KIDS!  I have been extremely fortunate to have been associated with this particular school and community. 

     In departing, it is with bittersweet and mixed emotions for what could have been, yet I will go as I came, in the quiet of the night with the knowledge and resolve in that what I have done and my work here made a difference while being compassionate, passionate and equally genuine in all my efforts.
     I cannot adequately express here in a short story the sincere appreciation to all whom have supported me through thick and thin, and have taught me so much about what it is to serve as an administrator at your school.  This school, this town and this community was and is a wonderful place to have been able to call home.

     With this said, of all the experiences and memories that I will take with me, none will remain permanent and steadfast as part of my story  than those in which I was in a position and opportunity to have both an impact! What will be remembered are my students, as well as my teachers, and all the  authentic, caring and quality relationships in which had developed.

     To this end, I say thank you for the memories, and  I bid goodbye to this small, rural school and community. Another chapter of my story is now complete and comes to a close.  Thank you for all that you do for the children.  As always, yours in the fight and GO PANTHERS!

God Bless and Godspeed.     

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Napping In High School?

     I do not know if this is funny or sad.  However, I do know there are over 87 million different images of it going on in schools!  You decide. Here in North Carolina we are in the midst of our end of year state mandated End of Course examinations.  We began Thursday, and conduct one a day for four hour sessions.  We will be finished Tuesday next.  Oh by the way, we throw in an entire extra day of would be instruction for make ups for these as well...  These have been going on for nearly 20 years if my recollection serves me correctly?  Nevertheless, as part of the testing sessions, once students are finished the testing administration directives allow for the students to in effect "do nothing" until the entire testing time/session is over...

     So, this leads to me watching my students getting off the bus with pillows and blankets and some literally wearing their pajamas.  Is it me or is there something just utterly wrong with this?  By no means do I place any blame on the children whatsoever.  If I knew I were going to complete a state mandated test in an hour or two and then was handcuffed and gagged not to do anything the remainder of the class period and testing session, then why not just SLEEEEEEEEEEEP?  On top of this, often times the room temperature is either too warm at the end of 1st semester or too frigid at the end of the school year!

     It never ceases to amaze me how the gurus in our state department of public education can be so clueless and inconsiderate at the valuable waste of time in testing and analyzing student's achievement on state mandated examinations.  Literally, beyond sound common sense we as educators are strapped to feed content and curriculum and then robbed of hours and days just to accommodate for these tests.  In essence really do not provide for one argument or  one conclusive statement about the quality and culture of what are many great and caring and compassionate schools and learning environments that exist throughout the state.  All of this which can be contributed to the inherent ability and nurturing of not only competent and quality educators, but people first who have dedicated their entire careers to often times being the sole mentor of thousands of untold students.

Would leave to hear from others in the tarheel state as well as around the country and what your practices are...


Sunday, April 15, 2012

What the Heck is a PLN?

Whether you refer to them as Professional or Personal Learning Networks, there is no mistaking the fact that discovery, involvement and implementation of social media into your own world manifests itself ten-fold into both personal as well as professional growth.  Those who tweet, blog and communicate otherwise via the world wide web all concur it has tremendous advantages.  I like to think of them as being harmonious in nature.

I have been involved with social media for several years but only recently began to learn the power and influence that both blogging and connecting with educators world wide has had on me, both personally and professionally.  To be able to learn at your own pace, in your own desired direction has to me, become invaluable.  It has, without a doubt, been the most rewarding and satisfying of my ventures over the last 24 years as an educator.  All of the innumerable staff development sessions and trainings I have received prior over the years pale in comparison.  

My eyes have always been open to the continued blending and  narrowing  of this vast world via the Internet.  As an avid participant on Twitter, I have been able to get news first hand before it is released to the major networks.  I have learned differing viewpoints, and have greater appreciation and understanding of global issues and problems in which would have taken me years to develop through continued reading and books.   The resources are infinite in which are shared amongst people who are actively involved in social media.  I have had the opportunity, and continue to do so,  develop personal and professional relationships with people whom are regarded as famous and leaders within the realms of their respective fields of expertise.  To that end, even after communicating, exploring and reading what they have to say, you now have the power to collect, store and share these vast amounts of information and resources with whomever you choose and whomever is interested.  One memorable comment made by a distant colleague referred to our continuing inquiry and sharing of information via these forums as a graduate degree in itself, without the cost and time consumption!  All of these advantages, in which takes much time and effort, which many of us unfortunately as professionals do not.

Most of what I have learned involve the topics and issues revolving around leadership and the implementation of 21st century resources in to classrooms.  Additionally, I have gained tremendous knowledge referencing the scope and complexities of political, ethical and moral issues from a global viewpoint Most all of this has come from the perspectives and voices of people who are firsthand in the midst of turmoil and strife. 

Most importantly,  I firmly believe that my persistence and dedication to using and voicing through these mediums have been instrumental in assisting me in procuring my first leadership post at the building level of school administration.  Although never explicitly referenced to, I think in the process of continuing to establish, develop and promote my digital footprint has been invaluable in getting my name out their to both colleagues and potential employers.

I am very interested in what other colleagues and professionals have to say regarding "what the heck is a PLN?"


Friday, April 6, 2012

Eight Pillars for Effective Educators

     Having taught in the middle school and high school classroom for 19 years, and now having the opportunity to evaluate and observe teachers for the past four years, I have come to the conclusion there are a few characteristics and best practices in which set great teachers apart from ordinary ones.  These assumptions are not based  solely on my own experiences and observations, but come from many hours of research, readings, staff development, blogs, webinars and seminars, etc... as well.  There is however anecdotal and credible evidence and statistical data in some instances regarding the points I am about to make.  With this said, unlike the practice of educating young people through formal and summative assessments to determine academic achievement only, most is not quantifiable. 

     By all means this not an inclusive list, and feedback and consideration is always appreciated to include in these assertions.  Enjoy, and begin practice of these tidbits of advice and watch your students and classroom transform in a way in which you never thought possible.  These simple practices and conscious efforts to implement in your classroom will reap positive, direct and immediate feedback and results.

     Whatever your prior practice has or has not been in the past as a classroom teacher, this is arguably the most important element you can begin incorporating in to your daily regime. Consequently,  it will have a profound effect on both the climate and culture of your classroom.  To demonstrate you truly care for each and everyone of your students, and to begin to build a bond of trust as well as rapport,  it is imperative that prior to your class and the bell ringing, outside your door you should greet them by name with a handshake or a pat of the shoulder or back.  Likewise, as the bell rings and they are preparing to leave your classroom you should likewise wish them a farewell with a gesture of either a handshake or pat on the back.  Watch and observe over both the short and long term how pleasant and respectful a climate you have unwittingly and subconciously created.  Watch and observe teachers who have already implemented this into their daily practice and ask your self, as well as them, what is their relationship with their students like?  They will KNOW without a doubt that you truly care about them not only as a student but a person as well.

     As laborious and tedious it is to take class roll at the outset of each and every day or period, I highly recommend keeping another roster to keep a tally of how many times and to whom in the class you addressed by name each and every period?  This does take some time and effort but with practice can easily be done throughout the course of your lesson.  The point again is to make a personal contact and connection with each and every student by name each and every period of the day!  You would be surprised at how many average teachers forget the names of their former students not long after they are no longer in there class!  They will KNOW without a doubt that you truly care about them not only as a student but a person as well.

     During a class period, invariably when and if a student poses a distraction, is off task, or is initiating a potential discipline issue, by simply using the phrase "Is there a problem ____________?" you will have immediately addressed something not condoned by yourself while at the same time bringing attention to the problem student without compromising or questioning any level of embarrassment or disrespect toward the student.  You will be amazingly surprised at how effective and powerful these four mere words are!  They will KNOW without a doubt that you truly care about them not only as a student but a person as well.

     When establishing your classroom guidelines and expectations (formerly alluded to in the 20th century as rules)  be sure there are explicit, clear and as positive as possible.  They should be succinct too.  Ensure that they are adhered to and remain consistent and fair in your implementation of them.  Any deviation of them will cause for class disunity, mistrust and a poor climate.  Most importantly, you will lose respect amongst your students.  They will KNOW without a doubt that you truly care about them not only as a student but a person as well. 

     Great teachers constantly and consistently plan and prepare innovative and engaging lesson plans on a daily basis.  To be truly appreciated, remembered and respected by your students it is your charge and responsibility to ensure this is happening on a daily basis and that your students are experiencing vigor from the outset of the class to the bell to end class.  It is imperative to create and incorporate ALL the resources in which are available to you and beyond to engage, inspire, interest and motivate inquiry from ALL of your students.  They will KNOW without a doubt that you truly care about them not only as a student but a person as well.

     As a teacher who wants to be great and who will experience the infinite numbers of personalities of their students if they remain in the classroom for any length of time, it is your great test of ability and character to reach a point in your practice to never accept an answer from a student who says "no, 'I don't know, or remains silent."  Your established connections and rapport on a personal level will dictate the way in which you drive at a response as well as allowing the length of time to wait and continue to prompt for one.  This is directly related to our ability and efforts in accomplishing the first couple of points aforementioned.  They will KNOW without a doubt that you truly care about them not only as a student but a person as well.

     Teachers of the 21st century need to understand it is a time to facilitate and coach your students, and not to necessarily teach via lecture excessively.  With this said and to that end,  the more you move in and around as well as throughout your pupils you demonstrate your willingness to be accessable, assist and relate to your students.  Doing so by name, as well as with a physical gesture, such as a pat or hand on the back or shoulder will keep them engaged and focused with the task you have assigned at hand.  They will KNOW without a doubt that you truly care about them not only as a student but a person as well.

     One of the more important, if not essential practices, in which I have had a difficult time instilling into my staff is the importance of making personal communications/contact with their student's parents at the outset of a semester or year.  By logging phone calls and emails in which demonstrate positive and complimentary comments about their students they have set the tone for a positive and quality relationship forthcoming between all stakeholders.  Additionally, it assists in heading off any future problems the teacher might have with the student, making it easier and more comfortable for the teacher to communicate to a child's parents.  By getting them on board at the start in a positive and complimentary way their expectations beyond paperwork, in the forms of syllabuses and course outlines, personalizes the educational experience for arguable the most important stakeholder in the student's ultimate success.  They will KNOW without a doubt that you truly care about them not only as a student but a person as well. 

     As previously noted, there are assuredly many more tips and best practices in which have been embedded into quality classroom instruction and management beyond this brief post.  I look forward to further quality comments and responses from colleagues both in the classroom and in educational administration.  PEACE!

Great teachers inspire!


Thursday, March 22, 2012

The 12 MOST Things I Learned Being a HS Principal

After four years as an Assistant High School Principal/Athletic Director, and finally transitioning to my 1st principal ship,  reflections over this period of time are numerous.  Listed below, and which other professionals serving in the same capacity can identify, is a brief list for argument or enjoyment sake;

#1  You literally don't have the time, and must go out of your way to make the time, to simply use the restroom.  The answer is try to take care of this before and after your 10-15 hour day. 

#2  Being in charge of discipline for an enrollment of 1000 kids is no cake walk.  You are amongst the most hated persons on the campus.  The answer is to spread YOUR love and  peace with your words and actions at all times. 

#3  There is no winning or losing as an Assistant Principal.  It is an endless journey.  Some may say a battle or struggle?  The answer is to press on relentlessly for the education and well being of ALL your constituents and productivity and progress. 

#4  Many students, in realization of their mistake(s) in high school will go to great lengths to not tell the truth for many reasons.  The answer its not to JUDGE but to help the child!  Be  diligent and use learned investigative strategies and tools for communication to get the truth out. 

#5  There are three kinds of people in general.  The answer is there are those that make things happen.  Those that watch things happen, and finally those that continually say "what happened?" 

#6  You should have three guiding principles to teach your colleagues, staff and students.  The answer is take care of little people.  Take care of old people, and take care of the animals. 

#7  You constantly are under immense pressure to do the right thing.  The question is, what is the right thing?  The problem is, regardless of what you think, others will disagree!  The answer is to follow your conscience and your heart based on your values and principles.  One side will never agree or see eye to eye.  Remember, those who really matter don't mind, and those who mind don't really matter. 

#8  Never before, even as a Marine, did I have so much going on simultaneously.  If there is something as multi tasking you had better prepare yourself!  The answer is you have to be a master at prioritizing.  It is essential you are organized and document and be meticulous in taking and keeping anecdotal notes. 

#9  Your character and the way you carry yourself at all times is under the microscope literally.  The answer is you must be professional always in the way you act, dress and communicate.  Try to remember to not listen to what people say, but watch what they DO. 

#10 Teenagers, as well as teachers, come in all varieties as there are 8 billion individuals on earth.  Like them, we all share much weight and carry it on ours shoulders in today's day and age.  You must be resilient and tuned to their every thought, expression and word.  The answer is to have compassion for everyone and passion for what it is you do. 

#11 Sadly, but unfortunately true, it is very difficult to trust pretty much anyone nowadays.  You must strive to believe and see the best in EVERYONE regardless.  The answer as previously alluded, is to stay true to yourself and the notion that what you are doing is in the best interest of each and every indivdual you have either a direct or indirect impact.  Let the naysayers and critics who boast about your flaws and incompetencies beyond your earshot do what they do best-gossip perhaps? 

#12 Having to spend nearly 2/3rds of your day either outside or moving in and throughout hallways, corridors, classrooms, school grounds and restrooms be sure you are prepared for everything as well as the unexpected.  The answer is to manage and lead by observation and wandering around.  You will achieve and gain more respect from all your constituents by doing this daily chore without ever having to utter another word on any given day. 



Sunday, March 18, 2012

Ever Been Thrown Under The Bus?

     Regardless of your job or profession, at some point(s) in your career you will have to invariably deal with these instances.  I can share several key moments in my career(s) in which it has occurred to me personally.  Rather than sharing mine primarily in the education and coaching profession, I would love to hear and consequently share through this blog and the web, people who would like to vent and share their personal experiences of this happening to them?
     My reason for posting this is to reiterate one of the primary differences between great and proficient leaders and bosses versus those that have no business supervising, let alone, managing anyone.  Despite working now for over 30 years it ceases to amaze me how often people who manage to land positions of leadership are so awful at doing so...
     By no means am I perfect and one of the world's all time great leaders in history.  To that end, and through my vast years of experiences and professional relationships I have had, I observe inconspicuously while tuning into people's actions and words hence when they are thrown under the bus.  I take keen interest, note and bookmark the subsequent actions and reactions of those who whether intentionally or not have gotten thrown under the proverbial bus.  As a leader and a coach it is our responsibility to advocate, empower, encourage, motivate and say and do what is necessary to bring out the very best in all of our employees.  To stifle them is to lead them to disrespecting you, no longer trusting you and ultimately leaving the organization the leader thinks they have a grasp of. 
     I sincerely look forward to others sharing their thoughts and experiences regarding this notion and practice.  PEACE

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Finding Extrinsic Motivation...

      I do not know if this is truly possible considering the daunting task I have been procrastinating over for the last 25 years?  Having been published three times with not a tremendous amount of success other than feelings of pride once my product was completed,  my would be masterpiece (in my mind) having eclipsed the 430 page mark, indexed with pictures, maps, front and rear jackets complete, yet is only shy a couple of hours of final editing!  It far exceeds my other works in depth and scope of creating and effort.

     What am I waiting for?  Why am I not motivated to complete it for good?  On top of the aforementioned, I have secured a well respected publisher who has committed to its production (only the second of my four pieces of literature).  That was three years ago.  Historians of the Civl War surely are familiar with Broadfoot Publishing Company based out of Wilmington, North Carolina.  Well?

     So again, what am I waiting for, or why have I just not done it?  On a subconscious level, I am almost certain it might be the fear of not being successful again with its retailing and would be readers appreciating all the time, research and work that I have put in it...  This being the case, despite any inaccuracies which may be present or notable. 
     Don't get me wrong!  It is a great story; an attempt at both fiction and non-fiction.  Hundreds of hours researching archives at several of the more renowned universities in North Carolina, etc...  A story about an average Confederate soldier, like so many, who was common yet found himself in the midst of accomplishing and enduring uncommon trials and tribulations, etc...
     My intent, I suppose, in authoring this blog is to have interested readers provide me with some kind, or any type of, proper motivation so as to get 'er done.  Or perhaps this is my odd way in motivating myself "intrinsically" as I was to begin this trek so long ago?
     Look forward to hearing from any intrigued persons.  Godspeed and PEACE.