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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in transparency
Photo shared by on in School Culture

I was recently a guest on the "My Bad" podcast (check it out here) with Jon Harper (follow this guy on Twitter and check out his EdWords blog, he is the real deal!) and he asked about my new role as a featured blogger for BAM! Radio Networks: EdWords. He asked me if I would be as transparent with my posts on that platform as I am on my site. I had to think for a second and then I answered the question, with a resounding no. It was at the moment that I realized I must be even more real and transparent than what I had been before.

Being a featured blogger for EdWords is an honor. I understand that with an elevated platform, it becomes necessary for increased transparency. I will now be able to reach even more people with my voice. I hope to use this increased degree of transparency to impact educators on a deeper level. Before I can do this, I need to increase my transparency with my staff and this happened last week. I have struggled, both personally and physically, for the last several weeks due to various reasons.

For starters, I injured my shoulder during my last Spartan Race (race recap here) and I have not been able to do much in terms of working out. For those who aren't too familiar with me, I suffer from extreme ADHD and I rely heavily on my training for Spartan Races to balance myself out. After suffering this injury, I was thrust into a deep funk. I found myself depressed about my physical condition and felt powerless. The only thing I could control was my eating and I became a bottomless pit that consumed anything and everything in sight. I could have easily worked on cardio and leg strengthening, but could not find any motivation to do so. I was numb. ***

Next, we found out that my wife, a bilingual elementary teacher, would not have her contract renewed because her district had to cut the program due to budget deficits. I lead a private, special education school so our family relies on her health benefits through the public school system. To make matters more interesting, she is 22 weeks pregnant with our second son and she is due at the beginning of October. She is showing and there is no way she will find a job anywhere with the knowledge that she will be out on maternity leave.

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Posted by on in Social Emotional Learning


“I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” - Michael Jordan

Alas, we have arrived at the first leg of the final leg of the marathon I dubbed: “This Ain’t No Industrial Age Homie!” What can I say? It’s Thursday afternoon (and will most likely be Friday tomorrow, and Saturday the day after), I have a monster headache after a full day of teaching stoichiometry and smart thinking (don’t ask), and I want to tell you something, so you can tell it to your students:

Be Like Mike and Tell ‘Em to Be Like Mike

Remember the saying: “Failure is not an option?” What a bunch of bull ordure.

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Posted by on in Education Leadership


There’s a lot of buzz in education right now about vulnerability. Many are talking about how it impacts leaders and their ability to connect with others, and more are talking about the trust that’s required for school wide risk taking to become a reality.

If you ask me, we’re starting the right conversations.

One of my favorite lines that I’ve come across as I’ve navigated the vulnerability/risk taking conversation is by Brené Brown. From her perspective (and more and more, I’m becoming a believer and adopting this mindset as well), “Vulnerability is not weakness, rather it is our most accurate measurement of courage and the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.”

Hers is a pretty bold claim. Think about what’s really at stake in that line. She’s saying that three of those things that seem non-negotiable for student success–innovation, creativity, and change–they’re an impossibility without embracing vulnerability.

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Posted by on in Teens and Tweens

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.

Last Friday night was graduation at the high school where I teach. Graduation – a time for family, memories, and celebration. This past Friday, however, will be a graduation that will forever stay in my memory. Moments before the ceremony began, a parent of one of our graduates had a heart attack and passed away. Her funeral was today. The reality of life is that death is a part of life, and sadly many of these graduates are all too familiar with the reality of death.

This year alone several of our students have lost a parent due to accidents, illness, and tragic circumstances. Other students have lost grandparents; one of my students lost three of her grandparents in the month of April. Students have lost their friends who should have been graduating in the Class of 2015 to cancer and cystic fibrosis. Students have lost siblings. I am amazed by a student who I have the privilege of teaching next year who wants to organize a local Out of the Darkness Walk in memory of her sister. Our valedictorian is planning on studying pediatric oncology; a decision surely influenced from losing a younger sibling to childhood cancer. Hardly any student has not been touched by the reality of death. Other students have absentee parents or have been abandoned by parents, and these students also mourn the loss of celebrating graduation with estranged fathers or absentee mothers.

How can you help a student cope with loss?

Initiate conversations about a family member who has passed away. The last thing most students want is to think that everyone has forgotten about their loved one. Share a favorite memory or story. If you did not know the person they lost, point out specific attributes or accomplishments of the student that would make their mother or father proud.

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Posted by on in Professional Development

Ask me to explain symbolism in Gatsby or the narrative structure of Frankenstein. I can tell you two secrets that can help you interpret almost any poem. Who or whom – no problem. I can show you how to structure an essay, improve your style, and find your voice. This is the part of teaching that I walked out of college knowing how to do.

College did not prepare me to sit in a funeral with several students while we watched a 17 year old say good-bye to her mother which happened last week. Or go to a funeral of a student. College did not prepare me to respond to a student who tells me she is pregnant and she doesn’t know how to tell her parents. College did not prepare me to sit across from a parent during a conference who tells me through tears they have no idea why their child is struggling or what else they can do for him. College did not prepare me to be a guidance counselor, academic adviser, or role model, but I am all of these on a daily basis. Honestly, I’m not sure how to actually prepare for this part of the job.

Teachers are held accountable for teaching the standards, assessing students properly, giving constructive feedback, and getting students ready for standardized tests. I am paid to do this, and most teachers I know do a good job at this. But that’s the baseline of teaching, and my reward comes from relationships that go beyond content. If I have just taught English, I have fallen short on my goal as a teacher. I’m hoping to teach the 2Cs – communication (written and oral) and character (public and private).

I was reminded of something that I wrote earlier in my career that sums up a teacher’s life. I am reposting and telling you this so I will not be accused of self-plagiarism (yes, that’s a real thing). And while this was written by me about me, I submit this not out of a look-at-me-attitude but a this-is-a-typical-teacher’s-life perspective.

“Who would have thought that teaching American literature would have me coaching powder puff (back-to-back champs), sweating and freezing in the bleachers of too many different types of sporting events to count, playing piano for five theatre productions, writing countless college and scholarship recommendations each year, attending recitals, viewing art shows, making hospital visits, and sadly even going to funeral homes? I’ve celebrated and cried with students. I’ve cried for students. This is what teachers do. And while we do this out of love and concern for our students, the reward in the classroom is an added bonus to knowing that we have done what we set out to do in teaching – impact lives.”

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