Tag: Encouragement



We’ve started a series of weekly discussions in our building about life in our increasingly digital world. I guess you could call it Digital Citizenship. I prefer to call it Digital Leadership. We have a half-hour academic support time built into our schedule four days a week. This past Thursday during that time we had our first lesson. We provided teachers with a couple of choices for activities that were pretty easy to implement. We showed a video of interview clips with our own students sharing some thoughts about how their digital life impacts their overall life. And then we discussed the upsides and downsides to technology, for us personally, for our relationships, and even for our nation. 



In my visits to classrooms, there were lively discussions during this time. These are relevant issues that kids really want to discuss. They want to hear different ideas, share their experience, and wrestle with how to successfully navigate this complex world. 



But there were also some challenges to making this happen. Our teachers and students are accustomed to having this academic support time for tutoring, making up missed work, and other important tasks. There were some legitimate concerns where the loss of the time was going to impact the academics of students. They really needed to retake that quiz or there was a study session for a test the next day. And so, I let the teachers decide. If you feel the academic need is pressing, then skip the Digital Leadership lesson this time.



Even my daughter, Maddie, was disappointed she wasn’t able to use that time for academics. She is playing tennis and has missed a ton of school for matches and tournaments. She’s working hard to get caught up and values Liberator Time to get stuff done. She was concerned about the loss of that time.



As I’ve thought about how this has all played out, my biggest question concerns our priorities. Are we really paying attention to our students’ needs? There is no question that preparing students academically is important. But if we aren’t preparing students for life in a world that is rapidly changing, will the academic knowledge really be that helpful?



Each year, I hear stories from heartbroken parents and see shattered lives because of decisions that were made online. I see the impact of all sorts of digital miscues, small and large. Besides the tragic circumstances that arise, there are also less obvious consequences of failure to navigate a digital world successfully. Who is helping kids figure this stuff out? 



One teacher commented that parents should be doing more to monitor and support their own children. I don’t disagree with this. I think parents can do more to be aware and help meet these challenges. That’s why we’ve hosted parent workshops and provided information in our newsletters to help parents in this area.



But what I don’t agree with is the idea that it’s completely the parents job to address these issues. Our school does not exist in a vacuum. We MUST address the relevant issues of our time and partner with parents to help students be successful. Our school motto is, “Learning for Life.” That points to the need for learning that really matters, that will help students be successful, not just on a test, but in living a healthy, balanced, fulfilling life.



In our school, every student must have a device for learning. They can use a school issued Chromebook or they can bring their own device. But using a device is not optional. I think this ups the ante for us in our level of responsibility on these issues. It’s important no matter what. But when our school is so digitally infused, we must work to educate our students about the challenges they will face. And we must educate them about the opportunities that digital can provide, too.



We are so focused on our curriculum and meeting standards I think we can forget to pay attention to our students and their needs. We aren’t thinking deeply about what is most useful to them now and in the future. We see them as just students. It’s all about academics. We are completely focused on making sure they are learning science, history, math, literature, etc. Are they college and career ready? Did they pass the state assessment? 



And the one overarching question, the elephant in the roomare you teaching content or are you teaching kids? Cause there’s a difference. The best teachers are always ready to teach the life-changing lesson. They understand that’s the stuff that really makes a lasting impact. Students will forget the foreign language they took in HS, they probably won’t ever use the quadratic formula in real life, and reading Victorian literature isn’t likely to spark a passion. 



I hope you get my point.



We can’t afford to not make time for Digital Citizenship, or just plain citizenship. 



Question: How is your school addressing the relevant issues of our time? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More Do We Really Have Time for Digital Citizenship?





Sometimes it’s really tough to be confident in the classroom. 



Especially if you’re a brand new teacher? You’ve never done this before. You don’t have a history of successes to prove to yourself that you can be good at this.



Or what if you’re not a new teacher, but you have that class. You know the one. Every second feels like a struggle to maintain control. I remember having nightmares, literally, about one of my classes. It was 7th period during my second year teaching. Those students learned very little. Neither did I. I was just trying to survive. My confidence was shaken.



How can you be confident when a student, colleague, or even your principal makes a comment filled with doubt about your ability to teach? You feel completely inadequate and begin to question if you’re even meant to do this.



And when it comes to confidence, it might seem like the rich get richer and poor get poorer. Success builds upon success, right? A lack of confidence results in all sorts of classroom practices that aren’t helpful. You try to be the cool teacher. You fail to set boundaries. You lash out in anger. It even extends beyond the classroom. You’re short tempered with your loved ones. You feel overwhelmed. You don’t want to get out of bed in the morning. Lack of confidence tends to manifest itself in all sorts of harmful ways.



And then, when things go wrong as a result of your decisions, your confidence is shaken even further. You make even more poor decisions. And the cycle continues.



You need to be confident to be successful in the classroom. But you need success to help you feel confident in the classroom. It’s a terrible Catch 22.



But let’s look at this more carefully. Maybe it doesn’t really work this way. Maybe our confidence doesn’t have to be based on our success or lack of success.



The Truth About Confidence



1. Just because you have success in your classroom doesn’t guarantee you will be confident. You probably know a teacher who all the kids love, who has amazing lessons, and who is respected by all her colleagues, and yet she still seems to lack confidence. And conversely, you’ve probably known teachers that weren’t very successful and still seemed to be confident, even though they really didn’t have much to be confident about. What the heck!?!



Could it be that confidence isn’t determined by the external success you have as a teacher? Is it possible that confidence is actually more about our perception of ourselves regardless of any external results?



2. And since our confidence doesn’t have to be dependent on any external reality, perhaps improving our external results won’t guarantee an increase in confidence. Just because you have a better class, or get a compliment from your principal, or feel liked by your students, doesn’t guarantee you’ll be more confident.



You’ve probably experienced this before as an educator. You’ve received compliments, gotten recognition, or taught a killer lesson but still didn’t feel more confident. If we don’t have that internal confidence, we just write off our success to chance or give someone else the credit.



3. Confidence is a way of feeling. It seems we’re all born with it. Ever see a toddler who wasn’t confident? Somewhere along the way we start to lose it. It’s based on our sense of selfhow we see ourselves. For a teacher, confidence is the belief that you have everything you need to be successful with your students. It’s the feeling that you are fully equipped to be successful now and in the future. A teacher without confidence feels that they lack the knowledge, skill, or personality, etc. to be successful in the classroom. It can drive all sorts of behaviors that are not helpful.



One solution is to just convince yourself that you have everything you need to be successful. You just tell yourself you lack nothing. If you say it enough times, maybe you’ll start to believe it. 



While some positive self-talk can be useful, it’s not helpful to just pretend we don’t have weaknesses. In other words, acting confident can lead to increased confidence. Fake it till you make it. But it doesn’t work to ignore areas where you need to improve. You have to honestly self-reflect to grow and reach your potential.



So what is the answer to find peace and confidence in the classroom? It’s not to pretend you don’t have any weaknesses. Or act like you have everything you need. The answer is to recognize what you lack, but to accept and be comfortable with the ways in which you don’t measure up.



You may not have good classroom management…yet.



Your students may not be motivated or engaged…yet.



Your relationships with some of your students may not be great…yet.



You may not have great technology skills…yet.



You might not be very organized…yet.






But if you can be comfortable with who you are right now, in spite of what you lack, then you can continue to grow and press forward. That’s what it means to embrace failure. It’s not that we are happy to fail. We just see our failures as part of a process of growing. When we embrace our failures it allows us the freedom to take risks, to fully engage without fear, and to care about our students unconditionally. You don’t have to worry about the judgment of others.



So lean in to your shortcomings. When you start to feel sad, alone, or insufficient because of a failure in the classroom, remind yourself of the opportunity to grow and learn. No one has it all figured out. To be confident, we have to believe the best about ourselves in the moment and use our failures to our advantage.



Question: How will you grow your confidence as an educator? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More How to Have Unshakable Confidence in the Classroom





Sometimes it’s really tough to be confident in the classroom. 



Especially if you’re a brand new teacher? You’ve never done this before. You don’t have a history of successes to prove to yourself that you can be good at this.



Or what if you’re not a new teacher, but you have that class. You know the one. Every second feels like a struggle to maintain control. I remember having nightmares, literally, about one of my classes. It was 7th period during my second year teaching. Those students learned very little. Neither did I. I was just trying to survive. My confidence was shaken.



How can you be confident when a student, colleague, or even your principal makes a comment filled with doubt about your ability to teach? You feel completely inadequate and begin to question if you’re even meant to do this.



And when it comes to confidence, it might seem like the rich get richer and poor get poorer. Success builds upon success, right? A lack of confidence results in all sorts of classroom practices that aren’t helpful. You try to be the cool teacher. You fail to set boundaries. You lash out in anger. It even extends beyond the classroom. You’re short tempered with your loved ones. You feel overwhelmed. You don’t want to get out of bed in the morning. Lack of confidence tends to manifest itself in all sorts of harmful ways.



And then, when things go wrong as a result of your decisions, your confidence is shaken even further. You make even more poor decisions. And the cycle continues.



You need to be confident to be successful in the classroom. But you need success to help you feel confident in the classroom. It’s a terrible Catch 22.



But let’s look at this more carefully. Maybe it doesn’t really work this way. Maybe our confidence doesn’t have to be based on our success or lack of success.



The Truth About Confidence



1. Just because you have success in your classroom doesn’t guarantee you will be confident. You probably know a teacher who all the kids love, who has amazing lessons, and who is respected by all her colleagues, and yet she still seems to lack confidence. And conversely, you’ve probably known teachers that weren’t very successful and still seemed to be confident, even though they really didn’t have much to be confident about. What the heck!?!



Could it be that confidence isn’t determined by the external success you have as a teacher? Is it possible that confidence is actually more about our perception of ourselves regardless of any external results?



2. And since our confidence doesn’t have to be dependent on any external reality, perhaps improving our external results won’t guarantee an increase in confidence. Just because you have a better class, or get a compliment from your principal, or feel liked by your students, doesn’t guarantee you’ll be more confident.



You’ve probably experienced this before as an educator. You’ve received compliments, gotten recognition, or taught a killer lesson but still didn’t feel more confident. If we don’t have that internal confidence, we just write off our success to chance or give someone else the credit.



3. Confidence is a way of feeling. It seems we’re all born with it. Ever see a toddler who wasn’t confident? Somewhere along the way we start to lose it. It’s based on our sense of selfhow we see ourselves. For a teacher, confidence is the belief that you have everything you need to be successful with your students. It’s the feeling that you are fully equipped to be successful now and in the future. A teacher without confidence feels that they lack the knowledge, skill, or personality, etc. to be successful in the classroom. It can drive all sorts of behaviors that are not helpful.



One solution is to just convince yourself that you have everything you need to be successful. You just tell yourself you lack nothing. If you say it enough times, maybe you’ll start to believe it. 



While some positive self-talk can be useful, it’s not helpful to just pretend we don’t have weaknesses. In other words, acting confident can lead to increased confidence. Fake it till you make it. But it doesn’t work to ignore areas where you need to improve. You have to honestly self-reflect to grow and reach your potential.



So what is the answer to find peace and confidence in the classroom? It’s not to pretend you don’t have any weaknesses. Or act like you have everything you need. The answer is to recognize what you lack, but to accept and be comfortable with the ways in which you don’t measure up.



You may not have good classroom management…yet.



Your students may not be motivated or engaged…yet.



Your relationships with some of your students may not be great…yet.



You may not have great technology skills…yet.



You might not be very organized…yet.






But if you can be comfortable with who you are right now, in spite of what you lack, then you can continue to grow and press forward. That’s what it means to embrace failure. It’s not that we are happy to fail. We just see our failures as part of a process of growing. When we embrace our failures it allows us the freedom to take risks, to fully engage without fear, and to care about our students unconditionally. You don’t have to worry about the judgment of others.



So lean in to your shortcomings. When you start to feel sad, alone, or insufficient because of a failure in the classroom, remind yourself of the opportunity to grow and learn. No one has it all figured out. To be confident, we have to believe the best about ourselves in the moment and use our failures to our advantage.



Question: How will you grow your confidence as an educator? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More How to Have Unshakable Confidence in the Classroom





This past weekend, I decided to teach our 15-year-old daughter Maddie how to mow the yard using our zero-turn-radius mower. We have a pretty large yard to mow, and it takes about three hours to do the job. All summer I’ve relied on the two older boys to take care of mowing the grass, but now they are both at college.


Maddie is doing a great job learning to drive, so I thought it would be no problem to teach her how to mow. She was very excited about doing it, and I was happy to have help so that I’m not spending three hours every week on this task.


Well, it didn’t go as well as either of us had hoped. She had a little trouble at first getting the mower to steer in a straight line. And at times, she was missing sections of grass. A zero-turn mower can be a little tricky till you get the hang of it.


I was coaching the whole time. I would stop her and give her a little feedback, lots of encouragement, and even hop on the mower myself to demonstrate.


But in spite of my best efforts to keep everything positive, I could tell it was stressing her out a little. She was struggling. And I was just a few steps away when the mower hit a pipe right next to the wall. It broke right off. She was crushed. Her head dropped, and she looked so sad.


I tried to reassure her, but there were tears and she said, “I’m terrible at mowing.”


I really felt for her. I explained that everyone is a beginner at first. I did my best to comfort her. “You are just learning. You’re not terrible at mowing. You’re just new to mowing.”


I asked her if she wanted to take a break, and she said yes. I mowed for a while, and then she got back on and did fine until we finished. I felt it was important for her to get back on the mower, even after the accident. But I stayed with her the whole time.


As I was reflecting on this, I was thinking about how many kids feel like Maddie when it comes to school. They may be excited at first, but then it gets harder or doesn’t go well, and they really want to give up.


Our job as educators is to stay at their side and help them. We shouldn’t rescue them, but we shouldn’t leave them floundering either. We have to find the right balance. They need support and encouragement, but they need to learn perseverance too. These skills will serve them well for their entire lives.


A few of our teachers participated in an externship program this summer with GOCAPS (Greater Ozarks Center for Professional Studies). The main purpose of GOCAPS is to provide intership experiences for our high school juniors and seniors. But they also have a summer experience where teachers get to work in business and industry and get a better understanding of the working world outside of education. It’s called an externship.


At one of the meetings, business leaders were asked what schools could do to better prepare future employees. What is the one thing you wish your new hires could bring with them from their school experience? The response: We need people who don’t give up easily. Too many want to quit as soon as anything goes wrong or gets hard. We need young people who can face challenges and keep trying.


In the end, I was very proud of Maddie for not giving up. She didn’t enjoy mowing nearly as much as she thought she would. But she finished the job. Together we did it. And even thought it was hard, it was a good learning experience.


How are you teaching your students to be resilient? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.


Read More Too Many Want To Quit As Soon As It Gets Hard





This past weekend, I decided to teach our 15-year-old daughter Maddie how to mow the yard using our zero-turn-radius mower. We have a pretty large yard to mow, and it takes about three hours to do the job. All summer I’ve relied on the two older boys to take care of mowing the grass, but now they are both at college.


Maddie is doing a great job learning to drive, so I thought it would be no problem to teach her how to mow. She was very excited about doing it, and I was happy to have help so that I’m not spending three hours every week on this task.


Well, it didn’t go as well as either of us had hoped. She had a little trouble at first getting the mower to steer in a straight line. And at times, she was missing sections of grass. A zero-turn mower can be a little tricky till you get the hang of it.


I was coaching the whole time. I would stop her and give her a little feedback, lots of encouragement, and even hop on the mower myself to demonstrate.


But in spite of my best efforts to keep everything positive, I could tell it was stressing her out a little. She was struggling. And I was just a few steps away when the mower hit a pipe right next to the wall. It broke right off. She was crushed. Her head dropped, and she looked so sad.


I tried to reassure her, but there were tears and she said, “I’m terrible at mowing.”


I really felt for her. I explained that everyone is a beginner at first. I did my best to comfort her. “You are just learning. You’re not terrible at mowing. You’re just new to mowing.”


I asked her if she wanted to take a break, and she said yes. I mowed for a while, and then she got back on and did fine until we finished. I felt it was important for her to get back on the mower, even after the accident. But I stayed with her the whole time.


As I was reflecting on this, I was thinking about how many kids feel like Maddie when it comes to school. They may be excited at first, but then it gets harder or doesn’t go well, and they really want to give up.


Our job as educators is to stay at their side and help them. We shouldn’t rescue them, but we shouldn’t leave them floundering either. We have to find the right balance. They need support and encouragement, but they need to learn perseverance too. These skills will serve them well for their entire lives.


A few of our teachers participated in an externship program this summer with GOCAPS (Greater Ozarks Center for Professional Studies). The main purpose of GOCAPS is to provide intership experiences for our high school juniors and seniors. But they also have a summer experience where teachers get to work in business and industry and get a better understanding of the working world outside of education. It’s called an externship.


At one of the meetings, business leaders were asked what schools could do to better prepare future employees. What is the one thing you wish your new hires could bring with them from their school experience? The response: We need people who don’t give up easily. Too many want to quit as soon as anything goes wrong or gets hard. We need young people who can face challenges and keep trying.


In the end, I was very proud of Maddie for not giving up. She didn’t enjoy mowing nearly as much as she thought she would. But she finished the job. Together we did it. And even thought it was hard, it was a good learning experience.


How are you teaching your students to be resilient? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.


Read More Too Many Want To Quit As Soon As It Gets Hard



Yesterday, I had a conversation with one of our teachers about some new ideas she wanted to share with me about her plans for the coming school year. She shared ways she wanted to create more relevance for her students, give them more ownership, and create a more engaging learning experience in her classroom. Wow! Those are awesome goals.



She had several specific ideas for achieving these aims. So we chatted about them. She was seeking feedback so I made some comments and asked some clarifying questions. I also handed her a book I thought might be helpful as she’s thinking more about where her ideas will lead.



After the conversation, I was reflecting on it. I thought to myself, I wonder if she is more excited or less excited about her ideas after our meeting. Of course, my intention is to generate excitement around new ideas and create a culture of risk-taking and innovation in our school.



But trying to be a good coach, I shared some cautious comments too. While I loved the direction of her ideas, I wanted to interject some wisdom from my experience. I’m not sure how helpful that was. It’s difficult for me not to launch into my own ideas about how I would do such and such. For the most part, I think I avoided that. But the last thing I want is to be a dream killer.



I remember a conversation I had with someone who was a leader in my life. I was sharing some ideas that I was very excited about. My passion was in this area and my energy flowed when talking about the changes I was planning. 



My leader didn’t completely reject the ideas I shared, but every comment seemed laced with caution and barriers. I can remember two words distinctly from that conversation my leader used over and over.



Yeah, but…



Those two little words cut my enthusiasm in half. I didn’t feel energized by our discussion. I felt deflated. Instead of throwing gasoline on my dream, they poured water all over it.



I believe successful organizations are dream building organizations. They tap into people’s passions and create a sense of excitement and enthusiasm in the culture. I guess there are successful organizations that aren’t great at this, but I would venture there are no incredibly, extraordinarily successful organizations that don’t have a dream building culture.




Image source: http://goo.gl/jSxnpQ

And I think this post is challenging for all of us in schools, not just principals or others in formal leadership positions. If you’re a teacher, how does your classroom support students’ own goals and dreams, not just your goals for teaching a subject well? Does your classroom allow students enough freedom and flexibility to pursue things that are important to them?



And when your students share their dreams with you, do you pour gasoline on their dreams or douse them with water?



We’ve all had students share dreams with us that seemed impossible. Or, we felt they didn’t really understand what it takes to achieve the dream. Their actions weren’t lining up behind the words of their dreams. I think we must be very careful about how we show up in these conversations. We have a delicate balance to help build dreams and guide actions. 



Unless someone in our life is about to go off a cliff, I think we should do everything possible to lift them up and speak support and encouragement into their lives.



Jim Carrey was once a struggling young comic from a poor family trying to make it big. He didn’t have much, but he had a dream. And he wouldn’t give up on it. When he was 10-years-old, he even mailed his resume to Carol Burnett. He was bold and audacious believing he would someday entertain millions and make them laugh.



In 1990, he wrote himself a check for $10 million dated Thanksgiving 1995. He placed it in his wallet. At the time, he was broke and struggling to find work as a comic. In the notation on the check, he scribbled ‘for acting services rendered.’ He carried that check with him as a powerful reminder. It was the tangible representation of his dream.



By 1995, he had starred in multiple films, Ace Ventura, Pet Detective and Liar, Liar. He was earning nearly $20 million per movie!



I wonder how many people in Jim Carrey’s life thought his dreams of being a comedian were misguided? I bet there were lots of people who thought he’d never make it. Those people probably doused him with water. But there were probably others who saw something special in him, who threw gasoline on his dreams of being an actor and comedian.




Image source: http://goo.gl/kKYxWA



When we see students or teachers who struggle with apathy, I think it’s often because they’ve given up on their dreams. Everyone must have something to aspire to, something that makes you want to get up in the morning and push forward in life. We need dreams to chase. As educators, we should be that spark of inspiration for both our students and our colleagues. 



When someone shares their dreams with you, how will you respond? Will you be the ‘Yeah, but…’ voice in their life? I would suggest a different response. How about these two little words, instead? 



Yes, and…



1. Yes! You can do it.



2. Yes! I believe in you.



3. Yes! Tell me more about that.



4. Yes! Why is that important to you?



5. Yes! How can I help you?



6. Yes! You are on the right track.



7. Yes! Your dreams matter to me.



If you are going to inspire others in your life to dream big, you can’t get stuck in the where, when, who, and how. Dreams are about what you want and especially why you want it. I feel so guilty about this in parenting my own children. I feel like sometimes my expectations have placed limits on their dreams. Our adult minds are so practical and boring.



But today I am reminded to help those around me dream big, audacious dreams. I don’t want to crush dreams. I want people to be excited about their dreams and not the dreams I have for them.



How will you encourage the dreams of those in your circle of influence? Reflect on who the dream builders were in your life. I want to hear from you. Share a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More Does Your School Build Dreams or Crush Them?



Yesterday, I had a conversation with one of our teachers about some new ideas she wanted to share with me about her plans for the coming school year. She shared ways she wanted to create more relevance for her students, give them more ownership, and create a more engaging learning experience in her classroom. Wow! Those are awesome goals.



She had several specific ideas for achieving these aims. So we chatted about them. She was seeking feedback so I made some comments and asked some clarifying questions. I also handed her a book I thought might be helpful as she’s thinking more about where her ideas will lead.



After the conversation, I was reflecting on it. I thought to myself, I wonder if she is more excited or less excited about her ideas after our meeting. Of course, my intention is to generate excitement around new ideas and create a culture of risk-taking and innovation in our school.



But trying to be a good coach, I shared some cautious comments too. While I loved the direction of her ideas, I wanted to interject some wisdom from my experience. I’m not sure how helpful that was. It’s difficult for me not to launch into my own ideas about how I would do such and such. For the most part, I think I avoided that. But the last thing I want is to be a dream killer.



I remember a conversation I had with someone who was a leader in my life. I was sharing some ideas that I was very excited about. My passion was in this area and my energy flowed when talking about the changes I was planning. 



My leader didn’t completely reject the ideas I shared, but every comment seemed laced with caution and barriers. I can remember two words distinctly from that conversation my leader used over and over.



Yeah, but…



Those two little words cut my enthusiasm in half. I didn’t feel energized by our discussion. I felt deflated. Instead of throwing gasoline on my dream, they poured water all over it.



I believe successful organizations are dream building organizations. They tap into people’s passions and create a sense of excitement and enthusiasm in the culture. I guess there are successful organizations that aren’t great at this, but I would venture there are no incredibly, extraordinarily successful organizations that don’t have a dream building culture.




Image source: http://goo.gl/jSxnpQ

And I think this post is challenging for all of us in schools, not just principals or others in formal leadership positions. If you’re a teacher, how does your classroom support students’ own goals and dreams, not just your goals for teaching a subject well? Does your classroom allow students enough freedom and flexibility to pursue things that are important to them?



And when your students share their dreams with you, do you pour gasoline on their dreams or douse them with water?



We’ve all had students share dreams with us that seemed impossible. Or, we felt they didn’t really understand what it takes to achieve the dream. Their actions weren’t lining up behind the words of their dreams. I think we must be very careful about how we show up in these conversations. We have a delicate balance to help build dreams and guide actions. 



Unless someone in our life is about to go off a cliff, I think we should do everything possible to lift them up and speak support and encouragement into their lives.



Jim Carrey was once a struggling young comic from a poor family trying to make it big. He didn’t have much, but he had a dream. And he wouldn’t give up on it. When he was 10-years-old, he even mailed his resume to Carol Burnett. He was bold and audacious believing he would someday entertain millions and make them laugh.



In 1990, he wrote himself a check for $10 million dated Thanksgiving 1995. He placed it in his wallet. At the time, he was broke and struggling to find work as a comic. In the notation on the check, he scribbled ‘for acting services rendered.’ He carried that check with him as a powerful reminder. It was the tangible representation of his dream.



By 1995, he had starred in multiple films, Ace Ventura, Pet Detective and Liar, Liar. He was earning nearly $20 million per movie!



I wonder how many people in Jim Carrey’s life thought his dreams of being a comedian were misguided? I bet there were lots of people who thought he’d never make it. Those people probably doused him with water. But there were probably others who saw something special in him, who threw gasoline on his dreams of being an actor and comedian.




Image source: http://goo.gl/kKYxWA



When we see students or teachers who struggle with apathy, I think it’s often because they’ve given up on their dreams. Everyone must have something to aspire to, something that makes you want to get up in the morning and push forward in life. We need dreams to chase. As educators, we should be that spark of inspiration for both our students and our colleagues. 



When someone shares their dreams with you, how will you respond? Will you be the ‘Yeah, but…’ voice in their life? I would suggest a different response. How about these two little words, instead? 



Yes, and…



1. Yes! You can do it.



2. Yes! I believe in you.



3. Yes! Tell me more about that.



4. Yes! Why is that important to you?



5. Yes! How can I help you?



6. Yes! You are on the right track.



7. Yes! Your dreams matter to me.



If you are going to inspire others in your life to dream big, you can’t get stuck in the where, when, who, and how. Dreams are about what you want and especially why you want it. I feel so guilty about this in parenting my own children. I feel like sometimes my expectations have placed limits on their dreams. Our adult minds are so practical and boring.



But today I am reminded to help those around me dream big, audacious dreams. I don’t want to crush dreams. I want people to be excited about their dreams and not the dreams I have for them.



How will you encourage the dreams of those in your circle of influence? Reflect on who the dream builders were in your life. I want to hear from you. Share a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More Does Your School Build Dreams or Crush Them?



The days of summer will soon give way to the start of a new school year. For teachers, the end of summer can be met with mixed emotions. Even the most passionate educators can be reluctant to give up the freedom and flexibility of summer break. But it’s also a great time to get excited about the possibilities that lay ahead. It’s GO-TIME!!!



As you gear up for back-to-school, here are seven reasons to be enthusiastic about the new school year.





1. Making New Friends



One of the most exciting things about the start of a new school year is the chance to meet new people and welcome them into your school. It’s a privilege to get to know new staff members and students. And it’s a great opportunity to share with them all the things that make your school great. It’s also a great opportunity to find ways they can contribute to making your school even stronger.



Remember that being new can be terrifying. Offer your support. Be sure to send the message loud and clear to everyone new to your school, “We’re glad you’re here.”



2. Reconnecting with Old Friends



I also look forward to seeing everyone who is returning. Over the years, we build increasingly strong bonds with the people we work with. It’s great to hear about their exciting adventures of summer and begin to share in the daily life of school again. I can’t wait to see all the smiles and feel the energy as we come together again to help kids.



Keep in mind that returning to school can be especially difficult in certain seasons of life. I am always reminded that a word of encouragement or act of kindness can go a long way to making the new school year better for someone going through a difficult time.



3. Making a Difference 



For some students, summer hasn’t been that great. They’ve had struggles, turmoil, maybe even hunger. Returning to school won’t solve all their problems, but it will provide a chance for educators to make a difference. No matter what their summer was like, your students are counting on you now. They need to know how much you care. They need you to love them, listen to them, and to never give up on them.



Your work as a teacher makes a difference in the lives of young people. That’s a great reason to get excited about the start of the school year! 



4. Fulfilling Your Purpose



It’s great to enjoy the wonderful time away from school during summer break. Good teaching is demanding in so many ways. We need time to recharge. But there is something about doing what you are meant to do, even when it’s hard. The start of the school year is a great time to reflect on why you started in the first place. Why did you become a teacher? How will you make a positive impact this year?



When you have passion and purpose for your students and your teaching, you won’t have too much trouble being excited for the new school year.



5. New Beginnings



When I reflect on a previous school year, there are always things I wish had gone differently. I see areas I need to improve, and things I want to change. The start of the school year is a brand new thing. It’s a fresh start.



There’s something about the cyclical nature of school that lends itself to making adjustments based on last year to continue to make things better for learning. But the key is to reflect and set goals during the summer, so that you’re ready to adjust and adapt this year.  



6. New Opportunities to Grow



Positive people grow. Happy people grow. Healthy people grow. The new school year will not doubt present challenges that will help us grow if we choose to allow growth to happen. I believe growth is an essential part of being fulfilled in our lives. We can’t stay the same or even have stagnant growth and expect to have a healthy and happy life. And for certain, we won’t make much of an impact on others if we aren’t willing to grow.



I know some people dread the start of school because they feel that they are going to face challenges that are really difficult for them. Some struggle more with difficult students. Some struggle to keep up with paperwork or grading. Clearly, some struggle to get through the school day more than others. I think most of that is related to attitude.



If we welcome the challenges and view them as a way to grow, it changes everything. If we invite hard things into our lives, it makes us stronger. Rarely do I see an unhappy teacher who also regularly takes on new challenges. Usually, the most unhappy people in your school are the ones who are most protective of their time and their comfort.



So I think a GREAT reason to get excited about a new school year is that it’s a GREAT opportunity to grow. What would your school be like if every educator had a growth mindset?



7. Believe in Amazing Possibilities



I’m excited about the new school year because I believe this will be the best school year ever. I’m excited about the work our school is doing. I believe we are moving in a positive direction. I see a tipping point happening, where we will see learners empowered in ways we’ve envisioned. 



Your classroom has amazing possibilities too. Students will learn more about who they are. They will learn and grow and become more confident and independent learners. Commit yourself to the idea that great things are going to happen this year. Focus on the positive. Who knows what incredible things will happen this year in the life of your school?



Questions: What gets you excited about a new school year? What are you anticipating? I would love to hear from you. Leave me a message below or respond on Twitter or Facebook. Here we grow!

Read More 7 Reasons for Teachers to Be Enthusiastic About a New School Year



The days of summer will soon give way to the start of a new school year. For teachers, the end of summer can be met with mixed emotions. Even the most passionate educators can be reluctant to give up the freedom and flexibility of summer break. But it’s also a great time to get excited about the possibilities that lay ahead. It’s GO-TIME!!!



As you gear up for back-to-school, here are seven reasons to be enthusiastic about the new school year.





1. Making New Friends



One of the most exciting things about the start of a new school year is the chance to meet new people and welcome them into your school. It’s a privilege to get to know new staff members and students. And it’s a great opportunity to share with them all the things that make your school great. It’s also a great opportunity to find ways they can contribute to making your school even stronger.



Remember that being new can be terrifying. Offer your support. Be sure to send the message loud and clear to everyone new to your school, “We’re glad you’re here.”



2. Reconnecting with Old Friends



I also look forward to seeing everyone who is returning. Over the years, we build increasingly strong bonds with the people we work with. It’s great to hear about their exciting adventures of summer and begin to share in the daily life of school again. I can’t wait to see all the smiles and feel the energy as we come together again to help kids.



Keep in mind that returning to school can be especially difficult in certain seasons of life. I am always reminded that a word of encouragement or act of kindness can go a long way to making the new school year better for someone going through a difficult time.



3. Making a Difference 



For some students, summer hasn’t been that great. They’ve had struggles, turmoil, maybe even hunger. Returning to school won’t solve all their problems, but it will provide a chance for educators to make a difference. No matter what their summer was like, your students are counting on you now. They need to know how much you care. They need you to love them, listen to them, and to never give up on them.



Your work as a teacher makes a difference in the lives of young people. That’s a great reason to get excited about the start of the school year! 



4. Fulfilling Your Purpose



It’s great to enjoy the wonderful time away from school during summer break. Good teaching is demanding in so many ways. We need time to recharge. But there is something about doing what you are meant to do, even when it’s hard. The start of the school year is a great time to reflect on why you started in the first place. Why did you become a teacher? How will you make a positive impact this year?



When you have passion and purpose for your students and your teaching, you won’t have too much trouble being excited for the new school year.



5. New Beginnings



When I reflect on a previous school year, there are always things I wish had gone differently. I see areas I need to improve, and things I want to change. The start of the school year is a brand new thing. It’s a fresh start.



There’s something about the cyclical nature of school that lends itself to making adjustments based on last year to continue to make things better for learning. But the key is to reflect and set goals during the summer, so that you’re ready to adjust and adapt this year.  



6. New Opportunities to Grow



Positive people grow. Happy people grow. Healthy people grow. The new school year will not doubt present challenges that will help us grow if we choose to allow growth to happen. I believe growth is an essential part of being fulfilled in our lives. We can’t stay the same or even have stagnant growth and expect to have a healthy and happy life. And for certain, we won’t make much of an impact on others if we aren’t willing to grow.



I know some people dread the start of school because they feel that they are going to face challenges that are really difficult for them. Some struggle more with difficult students. Some struggle to keep up with paperwork or grading. Clearly, some struggle to get through the school day more than others. I think most of that is related to attitude.



If we welcome the challenges and view them as a way to grow, it changes everything. If we invite hard things into our lives, it makes us stronger. Rarely do I see an unhappy teacher who also regularly takes on new challenges. Usually, the most unhappy people in your school are the ones who are most protective of their time and their comfort.



So I think a GREAT reason to get excited about a new school year is that it’s a GREAT opportunity to grow. What would your school be like if every educator had a growth mindset?



7. Believe in Amazing Possibilities



I’m excited about the new school year because I believe this will be the best school year ever. I’m excited about the work our school is doing. I believe we are moving in a positive direction. I see a tipping point happening, where we will see learners empowered in ways we’ve envisioned. 



Your classroom has amazing possibilities too. Students will learn more about who they are. They will learn and grow and become more confident and independent learners. Commit yourself to the idea that great things are going to happen this year. Focus on the positive. Who knows what incredible things will happen this year in the life of your school?



Questions: What gets you excited about a new school year? What are you anticipating? I would love to hear from you. Leave me a message below or respond on Twitter or Facebook. Here we grow!

Read More 7 Reasons for Teachers to Be Enthusiastic About a New School Year



It’s been a couple of years now since I started blogging here. Starting a blog is not really the hard part. Continuing to blog is what’s tough. To be successful, you must constantly remind yourself why you started in the first place. And I think for many people, they don’t really have a clear vision of why they are blogging.



It seems to be the thing to do. It starts with Twitter. You feel the excitement and support of being connected to other educators. You really start to think about things in new ways. Ideas are flowing. Others in your network are sharing posts from their blogs. You get some encouragement, and you’re on your way.



But the newness wears off soon. It doesn’t seem like anyone notices what you write. You get discouraged or distracted and pretty soon your blog is a distant memory.



Years ago, I had more than one failed experience with blogging. They were failures in the sense that I didn’t continue to add new content, and I don’t think anyone ever read the content that was created. I had some vague notions of why I wanted to blog, but I didn’t have the commitment to continue.



Writing is hard work. And to create writing that is valuable to others is extra hard. I think many people view blogging like it’s a public journal. It’s a way to work through their thoughts. They write for personal reflection and self-expression, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.



However, your audience will demand more. If people are going to read what you write, it needs to be valuable to them. As educators, we face many of the same challenges. So you have valuable things to share from your knowledge and experience. When you are able to share something that is helpful to another teacher or principal, that is powerful. Together, we can solve more problems, offer much needed encouragement, and challenge one another’s thinking.



It’s also helpful when you make learning in your classroom or school more visible to your community. There are amazing things happening that deserve to be noticed. It’s not self-promotion, either. I know you don’t want to come across as bragging. But bragging on your students and promoting learning is part of what we do as educators. We need to sell learning.



So even though personal reflection and self-expression are valid reasons to blog, it’s important for the ideas we share to be received. Someone needs to see them. If you don’t see growth in your audience or at least consistent response from your audience, it’s tough to stay motivated.



Blogging is ultimately about the audience. It’s not about how big the audience is, but it is about how you bring value to the audience, whatever the size, through what you share. The sense of audience is one of the reasons blogging is so helpful for personal and professional growth. It forces you to really clarify your ideas and how they might be beneficial. You want your writing to be relevant and helpful to your readers. 



I realize this is vulnerable turf I’m treading. It’s really scary to publish something you really believe in and to have the response be underwhelming. It happens to me all the time. I can never predict how an idea will be received. It requires the willingness to take the risk and put yourself out there. I often read over a post later and find mistakes and wonder why I thought that was a good idea in the first place. Not everything you share will turn out the way you’d hoped.



The important thing is that you are sharing. You should be proud of that. It’s really a shame when outstanding educators don’t share what they do with others. I’ve known some amazing teachers who really didn’t share their work with anyone, even in their own school. They were completely focused on their students and their classroom and didn’t seek to have an impact beyond that circle.



But other teachers do amazing work in the classroom, and then have tremendous influence as leaders in the whole school, and even make an impact beyond their school. Blogging is one way to do that. You can share your journey with others in ways that make an impact on your profession. You can contribute to making education better for all of us.



You may feel like you have nothing to contribute. You are selling yourself way too short. Everyone…and I mean everyone…has knowledge and wisdom that is valuable to share. I am reminded of the Bill Nye quote, “Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.” Your thoughts matter and can help your audience succeed! You have incredible experiences, talents, and perspectives to contribute!



Blogging is about better thinking. When I am working on a blog post, it really pushes my thinking. I have to consider if my ideas make sense, will they be helpful, are they worth sharing? I spend time thinking about the ideas I want to share in my blog. When I have an idea that I want to write about, I make some notes about it. I get inspiration for posts from reading books and blogs, from interacting on Twitter, and when I’m just going about my day. I never know when something will trigger a thought or idea.



There is a creative process in all of this that is valuable to me. It requires my sustained thought. I am always harping on my own kids about creating vs. consuming. I don’t want them to constantly be consuming YouTube, Netflix, Instagram, etc. and never creating anything. I have to walk the walk if I’m going to expect this from them. 



I guess in a way I’ve always viewed myself as a writer, but for years I was writing very little. As educators, we all know how important literacy is. If our subject matter is important enough to learn, it is worth writing about too. If our classrooms and schools really matter, aren’t they important enough to write about? We need to model this for our students. Find your identity as a writer. How many teachers and administrators are not writing anything, ever? I wrote a post earlier about how important it is for educators to be readers, but they should be writers too. In fact, I think we should be writing alongside our students as they write too. 



I cannot imagine giving up on blogging again. I’ve found it to be incredibly valuable. And I really look forward to the day when I can look back over a period of 5 or 10 years or longer and see how my thinking has changed over time. Because I should be able to trace my own growth in a way that I couldn’t before.



I recently heard Pernille Ripp speak at the Model Schools Conference in Orlando. It was a thrill for me to introduce myself after her presentation. Pernille is one of my favorite bloggers. She is truly authentic and transparent in sharing her work as a 7th grade English teacher. She doesn’t come across as a person who has it all figured out (even though she is brilliant), but she generously shares the work she is doing in her classroom. She has created tremendous value for her audience. I observed other educators greeting her with stories of her impact. It’s amazing what can happen when you decide to share.



If you are considering blogging, summer is a great time to start. You can write some posts and also plan for some later posts you might want to explore when you have a classroom full of kids again. Pernille is constantly sharing what her students have to say about learning. She uses her blog to give them voice. If you are thinking about blogging, I would urge you to visit her blog. I’m sure you’ll find it inspiring.



I would also like to hear from you. How can I help you on your blogging journey? What’s standing in your way? What passions can you share through your blog? Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More Why Blogging Isn’t What You Think It Is



It’s been a couple of years now since I started blogging here. Starting a blog is not really the hard part. Continuing to blog is what’s tough. To be successful, you must constantly remind yourself why you started in the first place. And I think for many people, they don’t really have a clear vision of why they are blogging.



It seems to be the thing to do. It starts with Twitter. You feel the excitement and support of being connected to other educators. You really start to think about things in new ways. Ideas are flowing. Others in your network are sharing posts from their blogs. You get some encouragement, and you’re on your way.



But the newness wears off soon. It doesn’t seem like anyone notices what you write. You get discouraged or distracted and pretty soon your blog is a distant memory.



Years ago, I had more than one failed experience with blogging. They were failures in the sense that I didn’t continue to add new content, and I don’t think anyone ever read the content that was created. I had some vague notions of why I wanted to blog, but I didn’t have the commitment to continue.



Writing is hard work. And to create writing that is valuable to others is extra hard. I think many people view blogging like it’s a public journal. It’s a way to work through their thoughts. They write for personal reflection and self-expression, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.



However, your audience will demand more. If people are going to read what you write, it needs to be valuable to them. As educators, we face many of the same challenges. So you have valuable things to share from your knowledge and experience. When you are able to share something that is helpful to another teacher or principal, that is powerful. Together, we can solve more problems, offer much needed encouragement, and challenge one another’s thinking.



It’s also helpful when you make learning in your classroom or school more visible to your community. There are amazing things happening that deserve to be noticed. It’s not self-promotion, either. I know you don’t want to come across as bragging. But bragging on your students and promoting learning is part of what we do as educators. We need to sell learning.



So even though personal reflection and self-expression are valid reasons to blog, it’s important for the ideas we share to be received. Someone needs to see them. If you don’t see growth in your audience or at least consistent response from your audience, it’s tough to stay motivated.



Blogging is ultimately about the audience. It’s not about how big the audience is, but it is about how you bring value to the audience, whatever the size, through what you share. The sense of audience is one of the reasons blogging is so helpful for personal and professional growth. It forces you to really clarify your ideas and how they might be beneficial. You want your writing to be relevant and helpful to your readers. 



I realize this is vulnerable turf I’m treading. It’s really scary to publish something you really believe in and to have the response be underwhelming. It happens to me all the time. I can never predict how an idea will be received. It requires the willingness to take the risk and put yourself out there. I often read over a post later and find mistakes and wonder why I thought that was a good idea in the first place. Not everything you share will turn out the way you’d hoped.



The important thing is that you are sharing. You should be proud of that. It’s really a shame when outstanding educators don’t share what they do with others. I’ve known some amazing teachers who really didn’t share their work with anyone, even in their own school. They were completely focused on their students and their classroom and didn’t seek to have an impact beyond that circle.



But other teachers do amazing work in the classroom, and then have tremendous influence as leaders in the whole school, and even make an impact beyond their school. Blogging is one way to do that. You can share your journey with others in ways that make an impact on your profession. You can contribute to making education better for all of us.



You may feel like you have nothing to contribute. You are selling yourself way too short. Everyone…and I mean everyone…has knowledge and wisdom that is valuable to share. I am reminded of the Bill Nye quote, “Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.” Your thoughts matter and can help your audience succeed! You have incredible experiences, talents, and perspectives to contribute!



Blogging is about better thinking. When I am working on a blog post, it really pushes my thinking. I have to consider if my ideas make sense, will they be helpful, are they worth sharing? I spend time thinking about the ideas I want to share in my blog. When I have an idea that I want to write about, I make some notes about it. I get inspiration for posts from reading books and blogs, from interacting on Twitter, and when I’m just going about my day. I never know when something will trigger a thought or idea.



There is a creative process in all of this that is valuable to me. It requires my sustained thought. I am always harping on my own kids about creating vs. consuming. I don’t want them to constantly be consuming YouTube, Netflix, Instagram, etc. and never creating anything. I have to walk the walk if I’m going to expect this from them. 



I guess in a way I’ve always viewed myself as a writer, but for years I was writing very little. As educators, we all know how important literacy is. If our subject matter is important enough to learn, it is worth writing about too. If our classrooms and schools really matter, aren’t they important enough to write about? We need to model this for our students. Find your identity as a writer. How many teachers and administrators are not writing anything, ever? I wrote a post earlier about how important it is for educators to be readers, but they should be writers too. In fact, I think we should be writing alongside our students as they write too. 



I cannot imagine giving up on blogging again. I’ve found it to be incredibly valuable. And I really look forward to the day when I can look back over a period of 5 or 10 years or longer and see how my thinking has changed over time. Because I should be able to trace my own growth in a way that I couldn’t before.



I recently heard Pernille Ripp speak at the Model Schools Conference in Orlando. It was a thrill for me to introduce myself after her presentation. Pernille is one of my favorite bloggers. She is truly authentic and transparent in sharing her work as a 7th grade English teacher. She doesn’t come across as a person who has it all figured out (even though she is brilliant), but she generously shares the work she is doing in her classroom. She has created tremendous value for her audience. I observed other educators greeting her with stories of her impact. It’s amazing what can happen when you decide to share.



If you are considering blogging, summer is a great time to start. You can write some posts and also plan for some later posts you might want to explore when you have a classroom full of kids again. Pernille is constantly sharing what her students have to say about learning. She uses her blog to give them voice. If you are thinking about blogging, I would urge you to visit her blog. I’m sure you’ll find it inspiring.



I would also like to hear from you. How can I help you on your blogging journey? What’s standing in your way? What passions can you share through your blog? Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More Why Blogging Isn’t What You Think It Is

Elevator selfie while waiting for rescue!

Sunday we held our Commencement ceremony for 205 Bolivar Liberator graduates. It was a great day, and I’m so thankful for all the teamwork that makes an event like this a success. I am truly surrounded by rock stars!



It was an extra special graduation day for me. My son Cooper received his diploma. I had the great honor of presenting it to him. He plans to attend Southwest Baptist University next year to study computer science. I’m a proud dad!


You might notice in the picture I am wearing an abundance of beads and Hawaiian leis. The graduating class usually gets me a little gift that each person hands me as they make their way to receive the diploma. This year I was all decked out.



During this year’s Senior Trip to NYC and Washington, DC, there was some unexpected excitement. A group of us were stuck in an elevator for 45 minutes. It was the inspiration for my message to this year’s class:



It’s customary for graduation speakers to bestow some parting wisdom on the graduating class. I would like to do that today so I created a short list: 5 Life-Changing Lessons from Being Stuck on an Elevator…in New York City…on Senior Trip.



1. Keep Good Company



Surround yourself with people who lift you up and inspire you. You don’t want to be stuck on a hot, crowded elevator with negative people. You want people who believe rescue is possible and who can smile and face adversity with a good attitude, people who suggest things like ordering out a pizza or taking a selfie.



2. Be Problem Solvers



Work the problem. You start pushing various buttons on the panel, you bang on the door, you use the intercom to call for help. 



“We’re stuck in the elevator?” 



“Okay, we can help.”



“How many are in there?” 



“14” 



“Seriously, how many?”



Sheepishly, “Really, there’s 14 people in here.” 



But you don’t give up. You collaborate with your team to suggest ideas, “Maybe we could crawl out the ceiling, like in Die Hard?” 



For the record, I vetoed that idea. Or if you can’t solve the problem, you bring along expert help, like the New York City Fire Department.



3. Be Careful of Shortcuts



When you’re on the tenth floor and you’re tired and hungry you might be tempted to try to squeeze into a crowded, creaky elevator. But sometimes the easy way is not the best way. Give that extra effort. Take the stairs. Show a little more patience. Wait for the next elevator. When 12 high school students tell you there’s plenty of room, don’t listen!!!



4. Have Courage



Don’t let fear take over. Your mind starts racing, “What if no one hears our call for help? What if the cable breaks? What if we suffocate? What if we miss dinner? What if I need to go to the bathroom?” 



I was recently reading that Jesus’s most repeated command was to not be afraid. It’s mentioned over and over in the New Testament. There is a way to live a life of hope and faith where fear is not in control.



5. Make Plans but Be Willing to Adjust 



We like to try to plan life and have it work out just the way we want. We want things to go as expected. But then you get stuck in an elevator. That can be scary. But you have to adjust and keep believing in your dreams. Many of you have big plans for after high school. Some of you aren’t sure what you want yet. 



But I hope as a result of your time at BHS, you know yourself a little better, you’re a better problem-solver, and you can adapt to the challenges life throws at you. You may get stuck in an elevator now and then, but you can handle just about anything because you won’t give up.



And one bonus piece of advice – very important – use a high quality deodorant. If you’re ever stuck in an elevator, everyone will thank you.



Good luck and blessings to the Class of 2016!!! #ProudPrincipal

      

Read More 5 Life-Changing Lessons from Being Stuck on an Elevator…in New York City…on Senior Trip

Elevator selfie while waiting for rescue!

Sunday we held our Commencement ceremony for 205 Bolivar Liberator graduates. It was a great day, and I’m so thankful for all the teamwork that makes an event like this a success. I am truly surrounded by rock stars!



It was an extra special graduation day for me. My son Cooper received his diploma. I had the great honor of presenting it to him. He plans to attend Southwest Baptist University next year to study computer science. I’m a proud dad!


You might notice in the picture I am wearing an abundance of beads and Hawaiian leis. The graduating class usually gets me a little gift that each person hands me as they make their way to receive the diploma. This year I was all decked out.



During this year’s Senior Trip to NYC and Washington, DC, there was some unexpected excitement. A group of us were stuck in an elevator for 45 minutes. It was the inspiration for my message to this year’s class:



It’s customary for graduation speakers to bestow some parting wisdom on the graduating class. I would like to do that today so I created a short list: 5 Life-Changing Lessons from Being Stuck on an Elevator…in New York City…on Senior Trip.



1. Keep Good Company



Surround yourself with people who lift you up and inspire you. You don’t want to be stuck on a hot, crowded elevator with negative people. You want people who believe rescue is possible and who can smile and face adversity with a good attitude, people who suggest things like ordering out a pizza or taking a selfie.



2. Be Problem Solvers



Work the problem. You start pushing various buttons on the panel, you bang on the door, you use the intercom to call for help. 



“We’re stuck in the elevator?” 



“Okay, we can help.”



“How many are in there?” 



“14” 



“Seriously, how many?”



Sheepishly, “Really, there’s 14 people in here.” 



But you don’t give up. You collaborate with your team to suggest ideas, “Maybe we could crawl out the ceiling, like in Die Hard?” 



For the record, I vetoed that idea. Or if you can’t solve the problem, you bring along expert help, like the New York City Fire Department.



3. Be Careful of Shortcuts



When you’re on the tenth floor and you’re tired and hungry you might be tempted to try to squeeze into a crowded, creaky elevator. But sometimes the easy way is not the best way. Give that extra effort. Take the stairs. Show a little more patience. Wait for the next elevator. When 12 high school students tell you there’s plenty of room, don’t listen!!!



4. Have Courage



Don’t let fear take over. Your mind starts racing, “What if no one hears our call for help? What if the cable breaks? What if we suffocate? What if we miss dinner? What if I need to go to the bathroom?” 



I was recently reading that Jesus’s most repeated command was to not be afraid. It’s mentioned over and over in the New Testament. There is a way to live a life of hope and faith where fear is not in control.



5. Make Plans but Be Willing to Adjust 



We like to try to plan life and have it work out just the way we want. We want things to go as expected. But then you get stuck in an elevator. That can be scary. But you have to adjust and keep believing in your dreams. Many of you have big plans for after high school. Some of you aren’t sure what you want yet. 



But I hope as a result of your time at BHS, you know yourself a little better, you’re a better problem-solver, and you can adapt to the challenges life throws at you. You may get stuck in an elevator now and then, but you can handle just about anything because you won’t give up.



And one bonus piece of advice – very important – use a high quality deodorant. If you’re ever stuck in an elevator, everyone will thank you.



Good luck and blessings to the Class of 2016!!! #ProudPrincipal

      

Read More 5 Life-Changing Lessons from Being Stuck on an Elevator…in New York City…on Senior Trip





Being a teacher is challenging work. A recent blog post on TeachThought reports that on average teachers make 1500 educational decisions a day. And these decisions, when skillfully made, have the power to create amazing learning experiences for students. You are never just a teacher. This is complex work.




And it’s work that matters. Teachers have great influence on their students. It is not a responsibility to be taken lightly. Your words and actions can be life changing for your students.

But how do you make the greatest impact possible? How do you find your teaching superpowers? Every teacher has a unique set of gifts to bring to their work as an educator. The qualities you have that allow you to have the greatest impact are your superpowers. Here are four ways to build on your gifts and become the very best teacher you can be.






1. Focus on your strengths. No one is great at everything. To be our best we need to focus on our strengths and compensate for our weaknesses. Too many teachers feel ineffectual or less than because they aren’t like the teacher down the hall. They compare themselves to others and feel they don’t measure up. They may try to be like another teacher they admire. That’s not a bad thing. We definitely learn from emulating others, but we can’t sacrifice our strengths to be like someone else.






2. Exercise your gifts. Find the things that really make you and your students feel energized, curious, and fully engaged. Find what you do well, and do it over and over again. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also be trying new things, but it’s wise to regularly practice the things you do well. Your students will thank you. If you are a good storyteller, use stories. If you are great at asking deep questions, do more of that. If you have a great sense of humor, work that into your lessons. We all have unique gifts that can be powerful. With practice, these gifts become your teaching superpowers.

3. Have the courage to be different. Unhappiness comes when you try to be like everyone else rather than embracing the unique person that you are. Again, it’s unhealthy to compare yourself to others. Instead, compete only with yourself. Set goals and compare how you perform compared to what you set out to do. Work to be better tomorrow than you are today. Bring your passions into your teaching and you will have more energy, be more effective, and have more enthusiasm than ever before.

4. Learn to cope with criticism. Have enough confidence in who you are that you can listen to others and be open to change without feeling you have to agree with their viewpoint or attain their approval. There will always be critics who try to pull you down. Learn to distinguish these from the voices of those who want to help you get better. They will offer constructive feedback that can help you grow. And always remember that even if you are striving to be your best, you will still encounter criticism. 



If you are doing these things consistently over time and still don’t find the effectiveness and joy in teaching that you desire, it could be you need to make a change. Consider moving to a different position or a different grade level. Or maybe look at working in a different school. You want to feel you are making an impact and reaching your full potential as an educator. 



This great video from Daniel Pink offers two questions to consider each day to find your purpose and find your teaching superpowers.




Two questions that can change your life from Daniel Pink on Vimeo.



Question: What others ideas do you have for becoming your best? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

      

Read More Finding Your Teaching Superpowers





Being a teacher is challenging work. A recent blog post on TeachThought reports that on average teachers make 1500 educational decisions a day. And these decisions, when skillfully made, have the power to create amazing learning experiences for students. You are never just a teacher. This is complex work.




And it’s work that matters. Teachers have great influence on their students. It is not a responsibility to be taken lightly. Your words and actions can be life changing for your students.

But how do you make the greatest impact possible? How do you find your teaching superpowers? Every teacher has a unique set of gifts to bring to their work as an educator. The qualities you have that allow you to have the greatest impact are your superpowers. Here are four ways to build on your gifts and become the very best teacher you can be.






1. Focus on your strengths. No one is great at everything. To be our best we need to focus on our strengths and compensate for our weaknesses. Too many teachers feel ineffectual or less than because they aren’t like the teacher down the hall. They compare themselves to others and feel they don’t measure up. They may try to be like another teacher they admire. That’s not a bad thing. We definitely learn from emulating others, but we can’t sacrifice our strengths to be like someone else.






2. Exercise your gifts. Find the things that really make you and your students feel energized, curious, and fully engaged. Find what you do well, and do it over and over again. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also be trying new things, but it’s wise to regularly practice the things you do well. Your students will thank you. If you are a good storyteller, use stories. If you are great at asking deep questions, do more of that. If you have a great sense of humor, work that into your lessons. We all have unique gifts that can be powerful. With practice, these gifts become your teaching superpowers.

3. Have the courage to be different. Unhappiness comes when you try to be like everyone else rather than embracing the unique person that you are. Again, it’s unhealthy to compare yourself to others. Instead, compete only with yourself. Set goals and compare how you perform compared to what you set out to do. Work to be better tomorrow than you are today. Bring your passions into your teaching and you will have more energy, be more effective, and have more enthusiasm than ever before.

4. Learn to cope with criticism. Have enough confidence in who you are that you can listen to others and be open to change without feeling you have to agree with their viewpoint or attain their approval. There will always be critics who try to pull you down. Learn to distinguish these from the voices of those who want to help you get better. They will offer constructive feedback that can help you grow. And always remember that even if you are striving to be your best, you will still encounter criticism. 



If you are doing these things consistently over time and still don’t find the effectiveness and joy in teaching that you desire, it could be you need to make a change. Consider moving to a different position or a different grade level. Or maybe look at working in a different school. You want to feel you are making an impact and reaching your full potential as an educator. 



This great video from Daniel Pink offers two questions to consider each day to find your purpose and find your teaching superpowers.




Two questions that can change your life from Daniel Pink on Vimeo.



Question: What others ideas do you have for becoming your best? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

      

Read More Finding Your Teaching Superpowers