Monday, November 23, 2015

Learning. Always Learning. Thanks @benjamingilpin

Time and time again, I have shared about the power of social media.  The power of taking time to connect with others.

One of those people I've connected with is Ben Gilpin. Ben is a principal at Warner Elementary in Michigan!  I've known Ben for a few years now, and through daily Voxer conversations (with Ben and Brad Gustafson) we've built a really great friendship.

Ben is that guy that is incredibly intelligent, level headed, and always has great advice.  He's calm but deeply caring about others and he's always trying to push himself to be better.

I've learned so much from Ben through face to face conversations at conferences, voxer, twitter, and his blog.

This year I had a week off at Thanksgiving with no real plans (hey don't judge, we haven't had a day off work since August 10th in my district!)

One of the best ways to learn from someone is to see them in action.  To see their team in action.  So I talked with Ben and planned a trip up to Michigan to visit his family and his school.

So today, I spent the day in FREEZING Michigan, at Warner Elementary.

It.  Was.  AWESOME!

I learned so much just getting to sit and actually talk to Ben, but more then that, I got to watch his teachers in action, I got to meet his students, I get to be in the walls of the school and truly feel its pulse.  And I learned.

I watched his interactions with his staff, his conversations with the students, his love and compassion to everyone on that campus.

I saw teachers toying with new classroom design ideas.  I saw ownership of the campus by they way teachers had painted their rooms and the student bathrooms (genius, right??).  I watched a MakerSpace in action, saw kids building circuit boards, played with a 3D Printer, sat in on a Podcast with 2 kindergarteners, and so much more!

And as I sit in the airport writing this, I know this trip was worth every dime.

Not only did I get to spend time with someone I consider a brother, but I also got to learn from one of, who I believe, is the best leaders in the business.

So thank you Ben for housing me and allowing me to visit.  Thank you staff and students at Warner Elementary for welcoming me with open arms.  And thank you to Amy Gilpin and Troy and Drew for allowing me to crash at your house and letting me join in on family games :-)

Three years ago, when I chose to start connecting with others, I never would have imagined I'd be flying across country to spend some time with a friend and to go learn from him.  But I am so glad I did.  Today I grew, I learned, I took lots of notes and pictures!  Michigan, more specifically Warner Elementary, is doing some great things!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Lessons Learned from The #PeanutsMovie

So my wife is a huge Charlie Brown fan.  Every year, we must sit down and watch all the holiday specials.  And when she heard the Peanuts Movie was coming out she made sure it was scheduled in for us to see.  And if I must admit, I haven't ever been that big of a fan of the Peanuts gang.  There's no real reason in particular, it just hasn't really appealed to me.

That changed though after I saw The Peanuts Movie.  It was so genuine, innocent, and heartfelt that at it really tugged at my heart strings.  And throughout the movie I felt like I was learning one lesson after another.

Here are just a few of the lessons I learned from the #PeanutsMovie.

1.  Everyone Needs A Cheerleader

I wrote about this concept before, but watching the movie and throughout it seeing how much of a shoulder, support, and cheerleader that Snoopy was to Charlie Brown gave me a new insight.  Snoopy never speaks in any of the cartoons or movies.  Yet, he shows so much support and devotion to his friend, Charlie Brown, that even in Charlie's darkest moments Snoopy is there.

Sometimes we can feel really down and out and alone.  We can feel like we have no one.  If there's one thing I've learned really well over the past years is that how important it is to find your people.  To find those who will not only cheer you on, but those who will be there in your darkest hour, those who will provide a loving yet honest voice, those who won't let you forget or fall alone.  Everyone needs their own Snoopy.

2.  Be Brave

This is our number one rule at Webb Elementary.  We tell our students every day to be brave, and I loved how a theme throughout the entire movie was how hard, yet how easy, it was for Charlie Brown to be brave.

From flying a kite to talking to the new girl, everyone has something that puts a little fear in their hearts.  But it's in those moments of doubt those moments of wondering if we can or not, that we must.  We must be brave enough to take risks, to keep going when the path gets rocky, to try again when we've failed.

It's so very important for us to be brave.

3.  Everyone Deserves to Be Celebrated

Through a mishap, the entire school comes to believe that Charlie Brown is a genius.  And what does Charlie Brown do?  At first he doubts, but then he begins to believe it himself, and it changes the way he looks at himself.

This reminded me so quickly of the power our words have.  It reminded me of how quickly we all forget our worth and sometimes it takes others telling us how awesome we are and believing in us, before we can believe in ourselves.

When was the last time you truly celebrated someone?  Like really celebrated.

4. Someone is Always Watching

Charlie Brown does a lot of selfless things and never does them to be noticed.  He doesn't do them for accolades or applause.  And he never things anyone sees them anyway.

But what I loved was that at the end of the movie, Charlie Brown learns that everyone saw.  That there were people who looked up to him, who admired him, for the decisions and example he sets with his actions.

It reminded me that someone is always watching.  Someone is always seeing the choices we make, the actions we do or don't take, the words we do or don't speak.

What are you showing about your true heart?

5.  Don't Give Up - Have Hope

This one probably hit me the hardest in the movie.  Charlie Brown has always been that character that lots of things happen to him that work against him, but he keeps going.  Even when it seems like every single thing has gone wrong, Charlie Brown still charges ahead.

But what I found most moving, was a portion of the movie when Charlie Brown met a little boy who was trying to fly a kite.  Throughout the move we learn that Charlie Brown has been trying to fly a kite for a while yet one thing after another keeps him from achieving it.

When he sees the little boy getting things set up, the boy asks for help. Charlie Brown gets him all set up, and off the boy goes.

And where it hit me hardest, was as the boy was running trying to get the kite in the air, Charlie Brown is whispering "Come on.  You can do it.  Don't give up yet.  Don't give up hope.  It's going to fly!"

Even in the midst of constant failure, when Charlie Brown meets someone else who believes he can do something Charlie Brown has yet to do, Charlie Brown doesn't beat him down.  He doesn't cover him with negativity or all the reasons why it won't work.

Instead, Charlie Brown lends a helping hand and holds out hope.  He believes in something.

That part of the movie almost had me in tears.  Because how many times have I stifled someone else because of my own insecurities?

These were just a few of the lessons I learned from the Peanuts Movie.  I love when I walk into a movie that's clearly designed for kids, and leave with something myself.  Something pure and honest.  I love movies like that.

Have you seen the Peanuts Movie yet?  Did it move you like it did me?  Share in the comments!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Crash Course Day w/ @KimBearden and #WebbElem

Back in August I wrote a review on a little book called "Crash Course" by Kim Bearden.  You can read that post HERE.

Well our staff read that book together as our fall book-study book.  To say that it was a game changer is an understatement.

When we began reading the book we decided we would be finished reading it by November 16th, and on November 16th we would celebrate "Crash Course" day on campus, as kind of our culminating activity, to show all that we had learned and been inspired by.

What the staff did not know, is that I had been working with Kim Bearden to get her to surprise them by coming down that day as well!

So about 2 weeks before Crash Course day, Kim and I broke the news to the staff that she was coming.  There were screams, there were tears, but most of all there was excitement.  The staff was buzzing.

Then Crash Course day arrived....and to say I was blown away is an understatement.  My team blew my mind as well as the kids.  There were underwater adventures, using your 5 senses, baking, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, pickles, Thanksgiving Feasts, and so much more.

And rather than me sit here and write about it, I'll let some of the photos do the talking....

I want to close with saying this day was a game changer for us as a campus.  Every staff member went above and beyond what was expected and truly created a magical experience for kids.  And I can't wait to see what they come up with next.

But I would wrong if I didn't also say thank you to Kim Bearden.  That woman is one of the most incredible people I have ever met.  She is kind, genuine, energetic, exciting, and so much more.  She made each member of my staff feel so important, and she gave up time of her own to be here with us.

This was a day none of us will forget any time soon.  So, here's to hoping you've been inspired to try your own Crash Course lessons at your school!