Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Day the Pirate Surprised #WebbElem #KidsDeserveIt

Every chance I get, I talk about the power of social media.  I tell people the value in getting connected, sharing your story, learning from and with others from around the world.  I still get that "alien look" (like we talk about in "Kids Deserve It").  I still get those eye rolls, huffing and puffing, and those 'I'll never do that' comments.

But yet again, Monday was another example of why I choose to be a connected educator.

Monday was our first day of the new school year with kids.  We were so excited.  We were ready.  Because if you remember back in May, I wrote about how we didn't get a last day of school with kids.

The first day went AMAZING!  My team killed it with the excitement and bonding with kids.  There were smiles, hugs, and high fives everywhere.  It was a pretty perfect day (besides a few arrival or dismissal hiccups, like every school haha).

But the epic part came at the very end of the day.

You see, I do car rider duty every day.  So I was outside, in the HOT Texas heat, in the middle of two lanes of cars, directing first day car rider traffic.  Then, out of nowhere, I see a guy walking up to me.  Immediately I knew who it was DAVE BURGESS!

I remember the first words out of my mouth were "what?!?  What are you doing here?!??"

And I remember looking around and my teachers were all freaking out because they knew who he was too.

You see, Dave was traveling through Texas from one city to another, passed by a sign that said Navasota, knew I worked there, so he pulled over, looked up the address of the school, and decided to do a surprise drop in.

It's also worth it to note that I've known Dave for a little over 4 years now.  I followed Dave on social media because of reading his book "Teach Like A Pirate", then I was able to meet him while I was at an event in San Diego, and from there we've grabbed dinner a couple times, chatted over social media and the phone a bunch....oh....and he published my first full fledged book "Kids Deserve It" with Adam Welcome :-)

Well after getting over the shock that Dave was at my school, I begged him to stay about 30 minutes because we always do a quick "end of the first day; we survived!" staff meeting.  Of course being Dave, he said yes, and he was able to meet my whole team and even share a magic trick or two.

I share this story first of to show everyone how much of a great guy Dave is.  But I also share this story to share another example of the power of being a connected educator.  I would have never been connected with Dave, much less having him surprise my school, if I had never taken the leap on social media.

And now because of that act of bravery of putting myself out there, not only did I get a surprise visit, but my whole staff got to experience a little of the awesomeness as well.

It truly was the perfect ending to an incredible first day of school.

Can't wait to see what happens next!  As our theme this year states, "Let the Adventure Begin!"

Here's a video Dave made of his visit to Webb....

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Jesus, Friend of Sinners #KidsDeserveIt

There have been a select few posts I've written over the years that have addressed my faith more blatantly than others. As an educator and blogger, I've tried to walk the line of sharing without beating over the head.  Of allowing things to come out as they may.  My faith is a part of me and not something I hide, but it's also not something I shove down anyone's throat.

The last 6 months have been an extreme roller coaster in my life.  From the release of my first book, to the loss of 3 close friends and/or family members, to so much more I can't even put into words here.

And then I've watched the horrific events that have taken place around the world, this last year especially.  Because I have chosen to connect with others from around the world, I've been aware of horrific monstrosities for a while now.  But because of how prevalent things have become, even someone with their head completely in the sand knows about the pain that surrounds all of us.

Then there's the election.  No matter what side you're on, or where you sit politically, I think we can all agree this presidential election year has shown it's ugly side.  We've seen the mudslinging and name calling before in elections, but this year it's different.  This year it feels so much more....personal.

As I've written about several times recently, music is my calming force.  Music is what helps me heal.  On the way to work this morning, the song that came across my phone was "Jesus, Friend of Sinners" by Casting Crowns.  As I was reminded of the words to this song, I just sat and wept.  Truly wept.

So today, I wanted to share some of the things that stuck out to me. And yes, more than normal, there is a heavy religious slant to this post.  But, regardless of your beliefs, Jesus was a man who set great examples and shared great stories for us that we can and still do use today.

And before I begin I wanted to define this word "sinner".  So many take offense to that word.  The dictionary defines sinner as, "someone who violates a law, command, moral code, etc".

Jesus, friend of sinners, the truth's become so hard to see
The world is on their way to You but they're tripping over me
Always looking around but never looking up I'm so double minded
A plank eyed saint with dirty hands and a heart divided

I love how the song starts this way. It starts personal. It addresses the fact that we have to look at ourselves before we can even begin to think of looking at others.

I think about myself personally.  The times I've lost patience, lost hope, yelled, said something mean, talked about someone, made a poor decision even when I knew what the right decision was.

I think about how many times I let my pride get in the way.  I let my fear control my actions.  Sometimes the biggest person that stands in the way of the light, is us.

And I have to daily, if not moment by moment, look at myself and decide if the actions I'm taking, the words I'm speaking, and the thoughts I'm thinking are reflective of my faith.

Oh Jesus, friend of sinners
Open our eyes to the world at the end of our pointing fingers
Let our hearts be led by mercy
Help us reach with open hearts and open doors
Oh Jesus, friend of sinners, break our hearts for what breaks yours

Let our hearts be led by mercy.  I love that.  The idea of giving someone mercy even when they don't deserve it.  Because I promise you, I don't always deserve mercy.

And the words "Help us reach with open hearts and open doors" and "break our hear for what breaks yours"....that just chokes me up every single time.  We have to keep our doors and our hearts open so that we can be there to when someone needs us to be.  And we have to also be empathetic.  We have to allow our hearts to break alongside others and see the pain, feel the pain, and help lead to healing.

Jesus, friend of sinners, the one who's writing in the sand
Made the righteous turn away and the stones fall from their hands
Help us to remember we are all the least of these

In the bible, there's a story about a stoning.  And Jesus stops, kneels down, and writes something in the sand.  The bible never says what he writes in the sand, but after writing it, the people drop their stones and walk away.

So many times in situations we want to pick up that first stone and throw it.  Because we believe that person deserves it.  But we have to remember that we are the least of these.  That we aren't, and never will be, better that those around us.  Every one of us makes decisions and choices that are less than worthy.

Nobody knows what we're for only what we're against when we judge the wounded
What if we put down our signs crossed over the lines and loved like You did

This is to me, one of the most timely lines in the song. More and more these days we hear people complaining or picketing or revolting.  But just like these lyrics say, no one knows what we're for when we do that.  They're only reminded of what we're against.

We're given a great opportunity to put down our signs, put down our pitchforks, and stop yelling just long enough to cross over the lines and show love.  Show compassion.  Show forgiveness.

It won't always be accepted.  And even more so it won't be the popular option either.  But there was never been a hurt that's been healed in a protest.

You love every lost cause; you reach for the outcast
For the leper and the lame; they're the reason that You came
Lord I was that lost cause and I was the outcast
But you died for sinners just like me, a grateful leper at Your feet

I love that I believe in a Savior who came to save every lost cause. Every outcast.

As an educator now, I try to live by that.  I try to live a life of gratitude for the forgiveness I've been shown, but I also try to make sure to be and an extra voice or set of hands to those who are still outcast.  To those who are still lost and hurting and alone.

You are good, You are good and Your love endures forever
You are good, You are good and Your love endures forever
You are good, You are good and Your love endures forever

And finally these words.  These were the reminder I needed this morning.  That even when I don't understand, even when my heart feels shattered into a thousand pieces, that God is still good. 

That I will never truly understand why things happen the way they do.  But I don't have to.  I just have to trust and know that God's plan is perfect.  And even though I don't know why things happen the way they do, or what people hurt, or why there's war, famine, loss, and more.  I DO know that I have a God who loves me.  Who wants what's truly best for me.  

And sometimes we have to go through the storm to see the rainbow.  And in the midst of the storm, all we can see are the dark clouds, be drenched by the pouring rain, and have the thunder clapping in our ears.  But once it passes, once we make it through the storm, there's that rainbow that comes out on the other end.  That rainbow that's there to remind us beautiful things can come from darkness.

So today I share this song and this post with you in the hopes that it brings you a little comfort.  That it may bring you a little peace.  That may even remind you of what we can do when we love others the way we've been loved.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

20 Songs to Use at School #KidsDeserveIt

Over the past few weeks I've been writing about songs with lyrics that have been challenging or inspiring me.  I wrote a post called "Rise" about Katy Perry's new song, and then "Breathe" about Jonny Diaz's new song.

After writing those posts I thought about how much I love music and how much I use music at school.  As a classroom teacher I always tried to keep my finger on the pulse of positive, clean, inspiring music the kids may know or enjoy.

As a principal now, I start every single day with a song playing over the announcements.  So I figured why not share some of my favorites with you (and link to where you can get them on iTunes)!  So here they are...

"We Are Brave" by Shawn McDonald
(A several year staple. I still can't get enough of this song)

"Love With Your Life" by Hollyn 
(BRAND NEW song I can't wait to use)

"Dices (Who Says)" by Selena Gomez 
(we use the Spanish version just to mix things up but the English version is great too!)

"Lean On Me" by Group 1 Crew

"Gold" by Britt Nicole
(love the message in this song)

"Be One" by Natalie Grant
(this one does have a religious slant towards the second verse, but the first verse and chorus are still so powerful)

"Sing" by Pentatonix

"Make the World Move" by Christina Aguilera ft Cee Lo Green

"Day One" by Matthew West

"Powerful" by Empire

"Dark Horses" by Switchfoot

"You Are Loved" by Stars Go Dim

"Live Like We're Dying" by Kris Allen

"Different" by Tricia

"Different Drum" by Blanca

"The One" by Brandon Heath

"Imagine" by Melissa Greene

"Rise Up" by Andra Day

"Torches" by Daughtry

"Rock What You Got" Superchic[k]

I believe there's such power in music.  I try to uplift, encourage, and inspire my students every day with different music the way it has touched my life as well.

These are just a few of the many songs I use in my classroom and in my school.  What are some of your favorites?

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Breathe #KidsDeserveIt

Music has always been a passion of mine.  People are always surprised at how varied or eclectic my music tastes are.  I listen to music, I study music, I research the artists, follow current news, and more.  I even wanted to be a radio DJ at one point (we all see how well that worked out).

My last post I wrote "Rise" was inspired by Katy Perry's new song.  And then I heard Jonny Diaz's new song "Breathe" and it has inspired me to share a few thoughts as well.  This is going to be Part 2 in a Music Series.  Part 3 will be up later this week (and maybe you can guess the song! Another brand new release!)

Like my "Rise" post, I wanted to pull some of they lyrics from Jonny's song and share.

Alarm clock screaming bare feet hit the floor
It’s off to the races everybody out the door
I’m feeling like I’m falling behind, it’s a crazy life

How many times in our daily life do we feel like the lyrics above? For me I think it's a daily battle.  There's so many things I'm trying to accomplish or so many things I've allowed on my plate (or placed there myself) that it feels like too much.  It feels like I can't catch a breath.  Like I'm falling behind while everyone else screams past me.

I have to remind myself on a daily basis that I can't do it all.  And that that's ok.

I won't solve every problem.  I won't make everyone happy all the time.  I won't always be able to complete everything on my to-do list.

I'll fall.  I'll make mistakes. But the great thing is that I will get to try again tomorrow (or even 15 minutes later). 

I’m busy, busy, busy, and it’s no surprise to see
That I only have time for me, me, me

While listening I heard this line and it hit me like a ton of bricks.  Think about the words and the amount of truth they hold.

Sometimes we allow ourselves to become so busy that in the end, the only person we're making time for is....ourselves.

How often when someone asks how we're doing do we say "Oh I'm good, just really busy with work!" Why do we say that?  Is "busy" a badge of honor?  Do we think others aren't busy?  It's a phrase in my conversation that I am trying to get rid of myself.

There are days where I need to stop what I had planned, set aside my list, and be present.  Sit with someone and ask to hear their story. Play on the playground with a child. Read a book with or to someone. Volunteer at the food pantry.  Whatever.

When we allow ourselves to just "get busy" we end up focusing on me, me, me.

Breathe, just breathe
Come and rest at My feet
And be, just be
Chaos calls but all you really need
Is to just breathe

And of course, the chorus.  Oh how I love this song's course and the cadence of the song. They lyrics in the verses are quick and upbeat, and as soon as you hit this chorus it all just stops and slows.  I love that.

But I love these words too.  Breathe.  Just breathe.

Take time to stop everything and just take a breath.  To rest in the moment.

Chaos will call.  It will scream your name. But you have to take a moment to breathe.

And being a man of faith, I love the lyrics "come and rest at my feet".  So often I try to do things on my own, and I have to remember that I can lay it all down at my Father's feet and not carry the burden.  I can sit there and rest in His goodness, forgiveness, and love.  I have to.

So I hope if you know this song, or if you're hearing it for the first time today, that it provides you with a little hope.  A small reminder, that yes life is busy and crazy, but sometimes all we need to do is to just #Breathe.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Rise #KidsDeserveIt #RISE

Recently, I co-authored a blog post called “Loving Recklessly”.  The post was our call to action.  Our speaking out that we have a responsibility to love, and love recklessly.

This past week Katy Perry released a new single called “Rise”.  It’s being used by the 2016 Olympics as their theme song this year and is quite the inspirational tune.

As I was listening to it, a few of the lyrics stuck out to me and reminded me of a few things.

“I won’t just survive”

Too often sometimes it feels like the best we’re doing is just surviving.  We’re just barely making it through the day.  One of the biggest things I’ve learned is that in those moments of self-doubt, of self-defeat, instead of focusing on ourselves and “just surviving”, what we need to focus on is others.

Do you know that there is research that shows that when you show gratitude to someone else, it increases YOUR mood more than it does theirs!

The best way to get out of a funk or when you feel like you’re merely surviving, is to find someone else to lift up, to encourage, to celebrate.

“Oh ye, of so little faith. Don’t doubt it, don’t doubt it”

Doubt.  That thing that grips us so deeply.  That moment where we don’t know if we’re doing the right thing.  Where we wonder if we’re really making a difference.  Where we wonder if we even chose the right career.

Doubt can take root inside of us and take over….if we let it.

Instead we need to be focused on doing what’s best for kids and have a little faith.  Things won’t always work out as planned and they won’t always be the way we wanted the to be, but in the end it’s all in how we deal with it.

So today, choose to have more faith and less doubt.

“I must stay conscious, through the madness and chaos”

As we discussed in our “Loving Recklessly” post, our world is consumed lately with so much madness and chaos.  It seems everywhere that you look there is pain and hurt.

What we can’t allow ourselves to do is become “unconscious” to what is happening around us.  We have to stay alert and continually keep pushing and growing ourselves and showing love and compassion to those around us.

“I will still rise”

Rise.  The entire premise of the song.  

In the end, we still have to choose to rise.  We have to choose to not allow ourselves be overtaken by the pain, the chaos, the negativity.

We can rise above it.  We can climb to new heights.  We can challenge the status quo and be world changers. We have to, if we expect to inspire our kids to do the same.

So today, let’s rise.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

When They Don't Drink the Kool-Aid #KidsDeserveIt

This post was co-written with Brent Clarkson.  You can read his blog here.

“Connected Educator”. Two words that have changed both of our lives. Two words that truly define who we’ve become and where we are going as educators.

They are also two words that oftentimes make very little sense to those who aren’t drinking the “Kool-Aid” of connecting on social media. Todd often describes it as similar to visiting Disney World. You just don’t get it until you’ve been there.

Both of our lives have been drastically affected, personally and professionally, since we chose to get connected. Besides the typical amount of learning and sharing that takes place, when you choose to connect with other educators online you also find individuals who want to be on your team. Who truly want to see you grow and be a part of that growth as well as grow themselves.

Sometimes it’s so easy to stay behind the walls of our campus and never venture out. It’s not until we step outside of those walls that we hear perspectives and ideas that otherwise, we would have never heard.

We think of the way that both of us met. Todd was presenting at a conference and Brent ended up attending one of his sessions on the flipped class. Through later connecting on social media to further the conversation, and then again face to face at a few edcamps, we’ve become great friends.

More so than that we’ve been able to connect and learn in ways that so many in our profession are still missing.  There are still so many who don’t see the value in social media for professional reasons or who don’t understand or feel the need to connect with others outside of their own campus.

We both often think, what else can we do?  How do we get them to “get it”?  

In the end, we believe it comes down to actually experiencing it for yourself. As connected educators, we believe it's our job (and yours) to find ways to bring others into this understanding.  To not make social media feel like this “exclusive” club that’s hard to break into or be a part of.  We have to find those who have yet to drink the Kool-Aid yet and serve it up ice cold, sip by sip. Connect them with our circles, invite them into our conversations, and introduce them to this world that has so profoundly affected our careers, and on a larger scale, our lives.

Our challenge to you is to find (at least) five educators from your campus who are not connected and get them connected. So what are you waiting for? Get your Dixie cups, stir up some Kool-Aid, and start passing it out for free.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Loving Recklessly - Hope Within Reach #KidsDeserveIt #LoveRecklessly

This post was co-written with Jeff Veal. You can check out his blog here.

The Way It May Seem
It seems these days that you can’t turn on the tv, radio, or surf the web without bearing witness to another atrocity that has happened around the world.  Sometimes those events are far away and easy to disconnect from, yet sometimes they happen right in our backyard.

As more and more of these painful events have taken place, something began to happen in both of our own hearts and minds.  While talking on Voxer one afternoon, we realized how heavy recent events had been weighing on our hearts.  But even more so the thought of love kept coming to mind.  Loving unconditionally appears reckless to a watching world.

The Way It Really Is
As men of faith, we both know the power that exists in loving unconditionally.  We’ve both seen our own lives changed when we ourselves felt the unconditional love and forgiveness of Christ.  But even more so, we’re reminded of our charge to love others. No matter how hard it may seem.

Loving without limits can be difficult to wrap our minds around. We become conditioned to see people as transactions rather than relationships. Our exchanges with others can be reduced to position or to the role that they serve in our lives rather than the most basic connection: the value of them as a person. When we fail to see the humanity and the needs of others we in a sense lose our own humanity and our way.

Our Belief About Others

What we believe about others will in turn determine our behaviors towards them. Others around us are not looking for a piece, a part, or only half of who we can be when it comes to believing the best about others. They're looking to see that we want to bring out the best one hundred percent of the time, loving without limits, filled with the desire to see that all people are given opportunities to surpass expectations. No one likes a half-hearted commitment, so our commitment to love people must be 100%.

At the same time, deep seated in all of us is what we believe about ourselves.  And that too affects how we interact with others.  Many times we see ourselves as unlovable, easily abandoned, or not worthy. As C.S. Lewis puts it, “we are what we believe we are.”  Because of that belief about ourselves, we don’t give others all of ourselves.  We give them pieces of who we are.  We believe that if we give too much they’ll hurt us or use it against us.

Loving without limits is allowing our arms to be wide open to embrace a radical commitment to live beyond ourselves. We must always ask, ‘what does love require of me?’

A radical commitment to…

One thing that this world can never have enough of is compassion. Compassion doesn’t come from a place of weak mindedness. It actually comes from a place of incredible strength. When you stop to help the least of these you are sharing your strength.  Being compassionate allows you to be vulnerable, a trait we need more of in our culture, not less.

We tend to overcomplicate what compassion looks like, reserving those moments for someone in times of loss or severe trial. However, what if we displayed this as servant leaders daily. Imagine if we taught this in our classrooms. We must model through our own words and actions for others what this looks like. Being generous with authentic words of praise and affirmation to those around us affirms others in ways they often will not ever communicate. For example, we have witnessed how students or teachers will hold onto that simple post it note we wrote. Why? Because you went beyond yourself and took the time to recognize their value.

Forgiveness.  Probably the most difficult of all.  So often in society today we’re taught an eye for an eye.  When someone hurts you, you’re supposed to hurt them back.  Make them feel your pain.

If there’s anything we’ve learned it’s the freeing power of forgiveness.  Because often what you find is that when you forgive someone it frees you more than it does that other person.

We don’t need to hold onto hurt.  To hold onto hate.  When we chose not to forgive we’re only making the issue worse.  One of our favorite quotes is that “hurting people, hurt others”.

Forgiveness isn’t easy.  And honestly, we don’t believe it really comes naturally.  But it’s something that is so necessary.  We have to be the one to step up and say, I forgive you. And to remember that when you forgive it’s not an acknowledgement that what the other person did was ok.  It’s a realization that what they did to you will have no hold over you.  That you’re in control of how you feel and what you believe about yourself.

Hope is not based on wishful thinking but in the power of that which is not yet becoming reality through intentional belief and action. Hope is the power to drive out fear. When we give into fear we allow anxiety and allow the darkness to cast a shadow in place of light.

All we need is just the slightest sliver of hope.  Belief that things can and will get better.  Darkness cannot hide where there is light.  Together, we can be the light in a world that often feels so overrun by darkness.

So What?
As we both came together to write this post, we wanted it to be a beacon of light. A reminder that as people we can do so much good in this world.  And though it may seems that things are dark or that darkness is prevailing, we can still be the light.

Our hope is to strike the match, that leads to a flame, the ends in a full on raging fire.  To push forward with unconditional love.  To show compassion in every situation. To forgive quickly, even when we don’t think we can.  And most of all to hold onto hope.

Just as Margaret Mead says, “Never doubt that a small group of people can change the world.  When indeed, it’s the only one that ever has.”

#LoveRecklessly -Todd and Jeff