Sunday, September 18, 2016

When Doubt Creeps In #KidsDeserveIt

Something I wrote about in "Kids Deserve It!" is the feeling of doubt. The wondering if you're good enough.  Every one of us at one point or time doubts our gifts, talents, and abilities.  We wonder if we're in the right job.  If we really know what we're doing.

Sometimes that doubt comes from our own insecurities and sometimes it comes from the words of others and sometimes it comes from a failure we've experienced.

The truth is, we all deal with doubt.  Just like darkness, doubt can creep into our beliefs and begin to control the way we feel about ourselves.  It then affects our actions and those around us.

I could list off a million times where I doubted my gifts.  When I had to have a parent teacher conference and the parent ripped me a new one.  When a kid told me they'd rather be in any other class in the world except mine.  When a teacher told me I was a terrible leader.  When every single person on my campus worked their butts off, and we showed growth, but it still wasn't enough.

Doubt creeps into all of us.  It can break our hearts and our spirits if we let it.
So how do we deal with doubt?  I believe we face it head on.  

Here's a few ways I try not to succumb to doubt:

1.  Make a list of the things you know you're good at doing.

2.  Go to trusted friends/coworkers/colleagues and ask them for support and encouragement.

3. Write notes of encouragement to someone else.  When you lift up others it lifts you up as well.

4.  Spend time with kids, doing kid things. The sense of wonder, forgiveness, imagination that can only be found in a child is remarkable.  Many times as a teacher I gave up my conference period to go sit in a kindergarten classroom or go to PE with my kids just to change my mindset.

5.  And finally, remember.  Remember that you are here for a reason.  That you were placed into the position you're in for a reason.  We never see the rainbows without the storms. Those are what help us grow in our profession and in our personal lives the most.

Remember this week as doubt closes in that you are enough.  That you are important.  That you are valued.

Remember that we can do anything we set our mind to.  That the easy path was never one we wanted to go down.  We learn most from our struggles and trails, and that TOGETHER we can get through this.

So this week, lean on a co-worker or one of us in the office.  Ask for help, relief, a hug, whatever.  Write notes to others reminding them of their worth.

But most of all, spend time with those kids, just being a kid.  Play at Recess, go to PE, sit for 10 minutes in a grade level that isn't yours, eat lunch in the midst of the kids.  Release some of that stress and just be a kid again.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Pilot is the Last Off #KidsDeserveIt

I just returned from watching the movie "Sully" about the Miracle on the Hudson.  For those of you unfamiliar with the events from several years ago....a plane was taking off from NYC and while ascending it hit a flock of birds.  The birds took out both plane engines.  While deciding if he could turn around and land at the airport, the pilot Chesley Sullenberger, determined he couldn't make it and instead made the decision to do an emergency landing in the Hudson River.  All 155 passengers and crew survived.

While watching the movie and seeing the kind of leader that Captain Sully was in that instance I couldn't stop thinking about education administrators and the parallels.  Here were some of the things that stuck out to me.

1. The pilot always remains calm.  Every leader knows there are days that are more stressful than others.  But even in the midst of a crashing airplane, Captain Sully remained calm and collected.  He trusted in his instinct and did what needed to be done to protect those onboard.  As leaders we must do the same. Though I struggle with always remaining calm in heated moments, I know how important it is that we do.  Our team needs to know that it will all be ok.  That together we can do this.  That the leader has things together enough that others have a little more hope in what's coming as well.  For when the leader doesn't remain calm, the whole plane goes crazy.

2.  The pilot knows it's not all about him/her.  Again and again Captain Sully gives credit to his entire crew and to all the emergency responders, Ferry Employees, NYPD, and more for saving all 155 souls aboard that plane.  He never takes credit.  Good leaders do the same.  They know that for this thing called "school" to work it takes every single piece working together.  The custodians play just as of an important roll as the teachers, the nurse, the front desk reception, the cafeteria workers, the librarian, and so on.  As soon as a leader claims credit for the success of a school, you know that leader has no clue about what's going on.  We must work together and give credit the entire team, every part, when success is reached.

3.  The pilot is more concerned about others than himself.  One thing that stuck out to me greatly was the Captain's concern for all aboard the plane.  As soon as they were rescued, all he cared about was how many were alive.  How many survived? Where were they? Who was hurt?  He knew he had 155 souls on board.  He wanted to know if they were ok.  A leader must care so deeply about the people he/she is left in charge of.  They must check in on them, take care of them, hurt alongside them, and seek to help them.  If a leader is to lead they must know what's going on with their crew.

4.  The pilot answers the hard questions.  Throughout the movie, Captain Sully is continually questioned about the decisions he made when deciding on an emergency water landing.  His integrity is questioned, his demeanor, even his past.  As administrative leaders it is the same.  In the end we must answer to what happens in our school building.  When a fire breaks out, when a child is hurt on the playground, when someone is caught destroying property or stealing, and more.  The leader must answer to what has happened under his/her watch and what decisions were made after.  And often times, the leader must answer those questions in a closed room and cannot share his/her responses with the public at large.  That is probably the hardest part.  When a leader must answer to things that have happened, but cannot share with his/her staff what went on behind closed doors.  But leaders must.  They must be ready to answer the hard questions and stand behind the decisions they make.

5.  The pilot is the last off.  In the movie Captain Sully makes sure all of the passengers and crew are off the sinking plane before he decides to exit.  He wades through freezing water just to check every last seat.  In education, as leaders we must do the same.  We must continually check in to make sure everyone is where they need to be and is safe and sound.  We check on the kids, we check on the staff, sometimes we even check in on the parents.  Those bodies in that school building are, in the end, our responsibility, and a good leader makes sure that they're all taken care of before he/she disembarks.

There are so many other reminders that I took from this movie as well, but those are my top 5.  I hope to be even half the leader that Captain Sully was and still is.  I hope to lead with a calm strength, to take care of and care deeply about my crew, to answer the hard questions, and to always be the last one off the plane.

Though I have lots of work to do in becoming that leader, I know that every day I am growing just a little bit more.  If you've seen the movie too I would love to know what may have stuck out to you the most!

The Light and the Dark #KidsDeserveIt

The metaphor of darkness and light has always been a powerful one for me.  The whole idea that darkness seems all encompassing.  Like it is suffocating.  Like you can't escape it or that it's weighing heavy.  But then, with even the tiniest spark or flame, darkness runs.  It clears the way.  It doesn't take a lot, it doesn't take huge effort.

I think about that and tie it in with our jobs as teachers.  There can be a lot of darkness in our profession.  Looming deadlines, overwhelming work loads and expectations, upset parents, disobedient kids, difficult co-workers, and so much more.  And sometimes that darkness feels overwhelming.  Sometimes it feels like it's suffocating us.

But in those moments when darkness surrounds us, we have to choose to be the light.  We have to choose to strike the match or be the spark that sends darkness away.  We have to find that hope we can cling to, those people who will surround us with their own flames.  Darkness will overtake us if we let it.....or we can choose to be the light, not only for ourselves but for someone else as well.

One important way I see us being the light is by what we share online.  A family member came up to me a few weeks ago to vent about "all you people in education".  She told me that "I can't stand when I see a teacher complaining about something on Facebook. They choose that career, they work with KIDS for goodness sake.  If I were to complain about something with my job, my boss would call me and write me up or fire me, but I see it from teachers all the time."

That really hit me.  Even this week I saw teachers from all over the country who were complaining about things from their job on Facebook.  "The kids were crazy today"...."I felt so disrespected at work"......"I hate all this paperwork I have to do as a teacher, why can't I just teach??".....and you know what? Those are REAL and VALID complaints! They are! But think of the message we're sending to the world at large when we get on social media and complain about a job where we impact lives.  What kind of message are we sending? How would you feel, as a parent, if you saw your child's caretakers complaining about all they have to do to take care of your child?

We have to think twice.  We have to make sure we're spreading the light, not the darkness.

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.