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Posted by on in Leadership

NEWSFLASH: There are people on the Internet that don't like each other. There are people that don't like each other in person too, but today's pitfall of technology has enabled a myriad of people to partake in voicing their opinions in a whole new* way (*new, being about 20 years at this point). Recently, a childhood friend of mine was sharing his thoughts on a recent experience he had while in the store and came across someone who talked a lot of trash online. He referred to them as "Keyboard Warriors" and "flexing their Facebook muscles". I literally laughed out loud. What a phrase. It's not new -- where was I not to hear this? Especially me... someone who is loved and loathed as a leader.

If you have followed my career or me online, you are well aware that people who don't care for me express their dismay, often frequently. 9 out of 10 instances, it's done so by a phony name. That's OK -- that's your First Amendment right to do so (as long as you're in the parameters of not threatening or causing any type of harm). What's different from the past 20? It went from the Letter to the Editor in the paper, to message boards, to social media. With a mere click, you can like, retweet, heart, share, snap, and comment on anything and everything. Fake names is nothing new; from Mrs. Silence Dogood to Deep Throat, false names have been used out of fear or breaking the law. History has depicted that these individuals were timing, calculated, and put great thought into their hiding. Today, it can be done in a matter of clicks.

Some keyboard warriors are entertaining, others are gadflies. Some have good intentions, other just try to stir the pot or throw gas onto a fire that they think exists. Other keyboard warriors are just obsessed, addicted, and will do anything to try to make someone else's life miserable. The epitome of cyber bullying and cyber harassment, the folks you find today doing such petty acts are often also classified as trolls.

Back to my keyboard warriors, while I think no act of harassment and bullying is acceptable to anyone of any age, mine are former or current educators. Licensed professionals from the state who are charged with protecting your children. Retirees who currently collecting a pension and receiving health benefits. How disgusting and pathetic is it that people who are / were responsible for 'educating' your children (and you're paying for them with your tax dollars) have such a sadistic side? Thankfully, such behaviors in New Jersey can be stopped under the auspices of the law. Under the criminal code in NJ, proving a displayed pattern of harassment can result in a loss of pension, benefits, and even could come with jail time.

There are some positives about keyboard warriors and those who flex their social media muscles. Takeaways include: no credibility due to no real name; a showing of obsession by cyber-stalking an individual, showing lack of credibility (and showing mental illness), and that you're effective at what you do. If you have people following your every click online, chances are you're doing something effective and meaningful. I am somewhat old-fashioned; I do prefer people say something to my face, and not their keyboard. These people won't - they are too scared to do so.

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Posted by on in Leadership

It's been the first time in a long time where I start pressing the keys.  I blogged for a long time and took a hiatus.  Were my words and thoughts so important that I needed to share them with the masses? Hell no. My words and thoughts are just that...words and thoughts.  However, when issues arise, I have a platform to turn to.

The past 2 years have been a whirlwind for me. I've had the chance to crisscross the country, working with all walks of educational life in rural, suburban, and urban districts.  I've worked with districts that have had money to roll in and districts that are getting by paycheck to paycheck.  While I love doing what I do, being away from my family is painful.  My girls are 3 1/2... FaceTime is wonderful, but it only does so much. You can't kiss your kids goodnight, eat dinner with them, or snuggle up and read a story. Hence, I've been looking to get to work again in a close proximity.

Last month, I applied for a Superintendency that was close to home.  I interviewed and was offered the position. Out of 50 applicants and 10 colleagues who were interviewed, I was fortunate enough to be selected. While being the first pick is always an honor, it's just as much of an interview for me as it is for the Board. No words can describe a Board when you find the right one. It was a great fit. 

As contract negotiations began, the word got out that I was the guy. While it normally does, and small towns spread rumors super fast, this was nothing like I've ever seen.  In less than 48 hours, I was getting social media follows, emails, and phone calls from most of the community. Given my lightening-rod style, those who stalk my every keystroke and those who follow me online put 1 & 1 together, and the onslaught began.  Everyone knew it was just a question of when, and this Board was totally ready for it.  I loved that; a supportive Board who backs their pick in unison.  If you don't have that from day 1, you have nothing.

The following week, it was clear that I would not be able to start on the date that the Board wanted.  After reviewing and re-working my calendar to accommodate previous commitments and engagements, I would still be out 14 school days in October.  This, along with the annual NJ School Boards Convention, would put me at 18 calendar days of the district.  I could not move forward with a clear conscience knowing that I would be there for a modicum of time in the first month when the first month is one of THE most important months and knowing my absences would create a myriad of problems.  If I was a taxpayer, I would be livid.  Sadly, I declined the offer.  I am not the first, nor will I be the last Superintendent who had talks break down and conclude that this may not indeed be a good fit at this time.

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Posted by on in Leadership

Mention the word, “leader,” and many people conjure up an image of a larger-than-life character who seemingly single-handedly transforms their organization for the better. A leader, as many also erroneously believe, is determined by having a title or position of importance. John Maxwell said, “Leadership is influence, nothing more and nothing less.” Teachers all over the world, regularly lead positive changes in their classrooms, schools, districts, and beyond without fanfare, recognition and often without a formal title or position. They lead because their colleagues respect and trust them. Their leadership begins from the heart. Their passion for reaching and teaching young people and love for what they do is evident. Extraordinary teachers are leaders because they inspire and motivate others to be and do their best. How they lead is multifaceted and is only limited by their creativity.

Unfortunately, too many teachers fail to identify themselves as leaders. Many educators share the mindset that leadership is for a “talented” few. This limiting belief stifles the potential of teachers that could otherwise make a larger impact on student learning and achievement. The inclination to think about “my class, my students” or even “my team”  prevents teachers from developing a greater vision. Instead of viewing themselves as leaders that accept not only the responsibility of their class but also the responsibility of all students; they see themselves as “just teachers” and limit their potential impact. Their talents and abilities largely remain an untapped resource that could enrich the lives of many more people.

The paradigm shift from “my” to “our” is subtle but powerful. When this shift happens, when teachers start to view themselves as leaders who are empowered to inspire positive changes not only in the lives of “their students” but in “all students,” they are motivated by an even higher purpose. “Every child, every day” takes on a whole new significance.

Every teacher can and must lead if they care about kids. Not all will become outstanding leaders, but everyone can improve. Leadership skills can be learned. What teachers will soon realize is that they are already leading! They need only to expand their circle of influence beyond their classroom walls.

There are as many ways that teachers can lead as there are teachers. Here are eight ways that teachers can make an even more significant impact on student learning and success. 

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Posted by on in Leadership

goose

I've been hearing geese honking all day. It seemed last night that they were louder than usual. Since moving by the river, I expected to hear the rapids, but I certainly didn't think I would be sitting reading, hearing geese honking. I'm never sure whether they are flying back and forth to the duck ponds across the road, or going home. Wonder where their home is? Are they local geese, Oregon geese, or are they from somewhere else? Do they look the same as the other geese? Do they speak the same goose language?

The other day I read geese fly home each year. I have that instinct too, since moving to Eugene. I wonder where these geese are going? I was used to seeing geese at home in Northern California. I lived forty five minutes from Lake Tahoe, in the middle of nowhere. Mountain life was so different than Eugene. But geese in both places were comforting as my life shifted dramatically.

Have you  ever looked up and simply watched flocks of geese gliding above? We used to have a couple Canadian honkers vacationing on our property from January to May each year. Our 'snowbirds'. We named them Edgar and Matilda. It was really funny. I didn't know geese had a personality and noisy voices. I had never been around that close, before. I knew they had a funny, nasty hiss when they were waiting for the corn bucket, or not getting their way. Just like couples everywhere, pretty much. And teams resolving conflicts, which are inevitable in transforming organizations and schools.

My husband and I put out cracked corn every day, a very big enticement for company and sure enough, all of a sudden, like clockwork we'd hear the pair fly overhead, land gracefully, skimming on our pond. Never was sure how they could spot that the corn was out, then circle back around. They came for their daily visit, creatures of habit, so to speak, in rain, snow, ice, never mattered. Except for us, gingerly wading through snow to get their treat out. 

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Posted by on in Leadership

 joshua-earle-234740.jpg

I have found my entrance into politics exciting, exhausting, and invigorating. I knew that this would be my most challenging endeavor yet, but this is on another level. This is hard and not just in the ways that one would think.

Now, I did not think that running for a seat in the United States House of Representatives was going to be an easy task. I was fully aware that this would be the most difficult journey I had ever embraced. It's not necessarily the tasks in front of me, but how they make me question myself and reflect incessantly.

It is so easy to lose sight of what put me on this path. Instead of focusing on being the agent of change that I have been throughout my life and educational career, I find myself painted into various boxes. Our national political climate is in a state of chaos. This includes attacks on the entire working class, notably all educators at all levels. These broad attacks require a response, and the flow is constant. Respond to this, respond to that. Comment here, comment there.

As an educator, whenever I find myself confined to a box or set of expectations, I reflect and take risks, implement new approaches, and break out. I encourage the students and staff that I work with to do the same exact thing. Now that I am here, I feel that I am not doing this enough.

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