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Posted by on in UNward!

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Like most young people and cats, I’m hopelessly curious and easily enticed by things that look different, move oddly or smell like a strange new breed.

Under 10, we call this wonder! North of 50, the adults in the room often call this foolishness.

I confess that my inner fool is still alive, and pops up like a jack-in-the-box when triggered by some fascinating discovery or new development -- which brings us to the year ahead.

As we gaze at the dawn of 2017, the view from my window is about as different, odd and strange as I've seen in my lifetime. 

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Posted by on in Teaching Strategies

The world is full of heroes.

Some of our heroes are people that exemplify qualities such as ingenuity, flexibility, agility, determination, or reliability. For example, we are impressed by the extraordinary speed and strength of basketball player Lebron James, or the extraordinary agility and accuracy of soccer player Lionel Messi. We are awestruck by the perceptiveness and intelligence of scientist Marie Curie. We admire the bravery of Rosa Parks or Amelia Earhart. We note the selflessness of Mother Theresa. These people all possess transcendent human qualities that we also possess. The difference, often, is that we hold the same qualities to a lesser degree. Sometimes the people we consider “heroes” are those that demonstrate in large measure qualities that we feel we lack.

But humans are not our only heroes. We also emotionally connect with institutions (the United Nations) or concepts (democracy) that exemplify values we believe in: justice, equality, freedom. We may admire the incredible abilities of different animal species as well. So by “hero” I am not refering to a testosterone-driven male figure but, rather, someone or something exemplifying an extraordinary human quality.

The curriculum is also full of heroes; every topic of the curriculum can be seen as heroic in some way.

You’ve probably noticed that many young people associate with heroes or idols. It is not unusual to see pictures of a rock star, artist, or actor plastered into lockers or onto bedroom walls. Our students can become quite fanatical about learning all there is to know about some athlete, actor, author, songwriter, or world leader. If our students are associating with heroes constantly in the world around them, shouldn’t we pay attention to this imaginative activity? Imaginative educators do; they bring out the heroic in the curriculum topics they teach.

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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 Education Leadership

inspire2017

It's becoming a tradition for me to begin thinking about in at the beginning of December.  As the days get closer to the end of the month, a myriad of emotions ensue ranging from hopfulness, passion, and to excitement, nevousness, and doubt.  For the past two years, I have participated in the One Word Challenge, and choosing next year's One Word hasn't been easy.  

The One Word Challenge is for leaders to identify one word they will use for the next year that helps to anchor them in stretching and reaching for something more.  At first, I thought it was a fad with people creating graphics of their word, posting them on social media for a few weeks, and then it disappearing - no different than 99% of New Year's Resolutions out there.  But, the challenge has been pivotal in my personal growth not only as a leader but a person in all areas. 

Last year, I instituted some leadership defiance and went with two words - Not Yet.  In the wake of the growth mindset craze, I wanted something to provoke me to not be comfortable and settle with my current state and limitations.  Over the course of the year, these two words stayed in my heart and on my lips when I was confronted with trials or roadblocks that did took me out of my comfort zone.

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Posted by on in General

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Three simple words that can silence a room almost as quickly as they are uttered. We all know it exists. We've known for quite some time now. But it's not going away. In fact, it appears to be widening in many areas.

And it's not as if we aren't giving it attention. We've thrown money at it to see if it that would work. That had little to no effect. We've had educators receive professional development led by "experts" that we just knew would do the trick. Strike two. We've even begun, in the last two presidencies, collecting disaggregated data in the hopes that increased vigilance and accountability would somehow be the silver bullet we'd been looking for. Strike three.

Now what?

I for one, believe that we are going about this all wrong. My concern is that, we are so focused on being politically correct, that we have lost sight of doing what is right. For kids that is. Sure, we can say that we are trying to narrow the gap and maybe that allows us to sleep better at night. But each of us knows that the gap will still be there in the morning when we wake up.

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