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Posted by on in Social Emotional Learning

 

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Friday was an interesting day for my students and myself. We saw a demagogue be sworn into arguably the most powerful and important position in the world. We watched an inaugural address that basically said America was terrible: our schools are "flushed with cash" with students "devoid of knowledge", our people are on welfare and not working, gangs and drugs are destroying our country, and mothers and children are trapped in poverty.

Throughout the speech, we were all thinking the same thing, how would this impact us as individuals? At the time, we didn't really know, but I think we are getting a clearer picture. Actually, we received some strong indicators within the first few hours of his presidency and it started with the transition of the White House website.

Before you read any further, please know that I am aware of how the site updates and transfers when a new president comes into office. Not only am I aware, but I made sure my students also understand how this works. This knowledge does not change the high level of concern that we felt after hearing of some of the changes.

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Posted by on in Social Emotional Learning

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 No matter where you look on social media, you will undoubtedly see posts about how happy people are to see 2016 come to an end. The year was marred by issues of violence and brutality in all areas of our country, deaths of many people who contributed to society, the election of a demagogue to serve as our president, and too many other occurrences to list. It is easy to see why so many people are eager to watch the calendar flip to a new year.

I understand it, but I don't agree with it. 2016 was an interesting year for all of us. It was even more so for me. This was the year that I became fully awake. I immersed myself in the issues that we are experiencing in our world. I became more educated so that I could bring these lessons to the students and staff in my buildings. I stepped my game up and started tackling issues and questioning on a much more public level. It has not always been easy or well-received, but I committed to being awake and working to awaken others.

I appreciate 2016 for all that it has done. I recognize that 2017 brings a lot of uncertainty. Nobody quite knows what direction our country and world will move after January 20. We have no clue how the events of 2016 will impact us at home or in our schools. This can create fear and trepidation, but we must not succumb to that. Instead, we must be more brazen, more steadfast, and more daring to do everything we can for our families, our communities, and our students.

This is why my one word for 2017 is awake. I am a lot of things, but I am an educator first and foremost. This extends to my family, my students, my staff, my community, my social media networks, and wherever else I can make a positive impact. Last year was the tip of the iceberg for me. I am awake and plan on doing everything in my power to create positive change in our world.

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Posted by on in Classroom Management

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This was the week I retook control of all aspects of my life. Things would be different this week. Everything would turn around and become better this week. Instead, I wasn't good enough this week and my students did not hesitate to let me know.

This week I started waking up a half hour earlier (3:45AM!) to start my morning workouts. This week I managed to start going to bed earlier. This week I refocused my eating habits to reflect my fitness goals (Elite Spartan Beast on 4/29) . This week was the start of a journey that required me to conduct 17 formal teacher observations in 8 days (12 days including post-observation conferences). This week the lessons for my 3 daily classes were absolutely on-point. Everything was going so well for me this week, until...

Then my students informed me that I am a grumpy teacher. One of my students coined the term "Grumpy T" (T for Thom) to describe me. This started a class-wide discussion in one period where the class agreed that I had been grumpy and different all week. This shocked me and I felt incredulous when I heard this. My body felt great from the workouts, I was getting more sleep than before, I was eating much healthier, and I was loving all the observations and genuine conversations I was having with teachers. How could I possibly be grumpy?

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Posted by on in Leadership

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There I was, standing in the Gettysburg National Military Park Visitor Center staring in awe at the Gettysburg Cyclorama painting while listening to the story of Pickett's Charge with my students. Hearing the story of the bloodiest battle in the Civil War, with more than 51,000 casualties, immediately made my head spin. 

Events of this magnitude are hard for us to fathom. At one point, I turned to my students and we started to discuss how people were willing to take such a hard stand and fight and die for the freedom of others. Imagine seeing the oppression and abuse from slavery and finally deciding that this was not acceptable. What goes through the minds of people upon realizing that they may die to obtain liberty for a group of people that they do not identify with?

While there were people ready to make the ultimate sacrifice to change the lives of others, surely there were others who were not willing to get involved. What were these people doing during these times of struggles? Were they sitting home nestled in the safety of their carefully crafted reality ignoring what was unfolding around them? Did they lean toward one side or did their opinions reflect a more ambiguous mindset? What did their silence say about them?

Here we are in 2016, over 153 years removed from the Battle of Gettysburg and the looming end of the Civil War and slavery. We are still witnessing acts of violence and intolerance directed towards people who are minorities in our country. We have a president-elect who continues to stoke the flames of hatred and inequality by appointing a self-proclaimed racist as his chief strategist, who owns stock and has financial interests in a company trying to push our indigenous brothers and sisters off their land, and who continues to appoint individuals to positions of power that have histories of standing against what America stands for. 

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Posted by on in Social Emotional Learning

 

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I have experienced so many emotions since learning that 25.5% of this country voted to elect Donald Trump as the next president of our country. Mad, angry, shocked, frustrated, betrayed, scared, and worried are just a few of the feelings that have flooded me. As an educator and a student of human emotion, I understand that love is the only answer to all the issues that this country is facing.

This is why I choose love, but there are things that we need to discuss. Love does not involve blindly accepting what is given to you. Love means questioning and exposing things that need addressing. Love requires us to feel uncomfortable and to take risks to better ourselves. Tough love is an absolute necessity if we are going to move forward and obtain any kind of peace.

Before you read on, I need you to recognize that you might not be ready for the kind of love that I am going to dish out. Real love requires brutal honesty and a step outside of the very comfortable confines of the realities that we have created for ourselves. I ask that you proceed with an open-mind and recognize that this entire piece is grounded in nothing but love for my fellow human. If we are going to continue moving this country forward, we need everyone to embrace love and stand together.

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