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Time To Get Real...

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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.

Combine these issues with the demands of being a principal in a special education school, being a father to an amazing, inspiring, but very energetic 2.5 year old, being a present and supportive pillar for my wife, and you can see how these weeks have been very difficult for me. If I can see this in myself, I know that others must also notice the differences in me. I had two choices, embrace it or ignore it.

This was an easy decision for me. I know that we all grow when we are open and honest with each other. I genuinely believe that every cloud does have a silver lining. My struggles gave me the perfect opportunity to show honesty, openness, and transparency with my staff, so of course I embraced it.

During one of our daily morning staff meetings last week, I addressed my staff. They knew about my shoulder issues as well as my wife's employment, but they did not how it was impacting me as a person. I started by apologizing if at any point during that time frame I had seemed inattentive, mentally absent, or just off. I explained how I have struggled and what that has done to me. I opened myself up and provided a closer glimpse into my mental, emotional, and physical being.

During this conversation with staff, I was able to look into the eyes of these people and see the love and care in their eyes. A lot of them could see a difference in me, so I watched as they nodded their heads and agreed with what I was saying. In that room, without saying a word, my staff provided me so much love, support, and motivation. They were there for me the way I have always tried being there for them. Knowing that made things seem much more manageable and possible to handle. My team has my back!

Look, we all struggle. Let's face it, life is not easy. These struggles impact how we function on a daily basis, both personally and professionally. If we keep these difficulties to ourselves, nobody has any clue what we are going through. On the surface, we may show disinterest and that we do not care. This is the last thing that you want the people you care about, including your colleagues, to think. When we talk about and share our difficulties, we involve those we care about the most. It can open doors that you didn't even know existed. Most importantly, this sharing and increased vulnerability, shows others that you are human and that you struggle in the same way that they do. Be human, display transparency, be real, and most importantly, be yourself!

Real Quote Pic

***I have since found out that my I have a partial tear in one of my shoulder ligaments. Physical therapy and natural healing is the prescription, which means no surgery! I've also been able to get back to training and working towards my race day form.

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Born and raised in Cumberland County, New Jersey, Sean has grown his career and family from his native district. Sean again resides in the same county with his wife and their two young sons. He recently concluded his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for United States House of Representatives in New Jersey's 2nd Congressional District. Sean currently serves as an administrator at a school in Camden, NJ, where he focuses on the growth & development of teachers and building social & emotional skills with students. A Rutgers University graduate, Sean studied Communications. He later completed a graduate degree at the University of Scranton in Educational Administration and has spent almost a decade working in education.

As a result of connecting with people of all ages, ethnicities, cultures, and beliefs, Sean has learned how to listen and represent the interests of everyone. In order to help unite parents and educators, Sean is adept at innovating to solve problems.

Sean is an unwavering advocate for positive youth development and education. Growing up, Sean faced challenges financially and emotionally. The product of an unstable household and battling a significant learning disability, Sean has overcome many obstacles. School became both a place of refuge and a source of trouble for Sean. If not for certain extraordinary teachers and school faculty encouraging him, Sean would not have pursued higher education and would not have been able to impact his students the way he does today.

Throughout his career as an educator in New Jersey, Sean has based every decision solely on what is best for his students’ future. He has worked to create new, effective programs as well as supports for students and parents addressing social issues. Sean has demonstrated his student-first approach by never being afraid to privately and publicly question decisions that impact teachers, students, and the educational process. As a result, he has been able to create strong, lasting relationships across our state with the students, families, and communities that he has served.

In May of 2018, Sean and his community suffered the tremendous loss of a former student, Maurice Lewis, to senseless gun violence. After countless conversations with his friends, family members, and members of the community, they decided that they had to do something to honor his memory and the good that he did in his life. The idea of Reese's House, a whole-child youth center focused on the academic, physical, social, emotional, and mental well-being of kids with a strong emphasis on innovation and entrepreneurship was born. To accomplish this, Sean created an educational 501(c)(3) nonprofit called Our Future First. The goal of the organization is to offer affordable professional development and growth opportunities in schools for educators and students while putting all profits to the purpose of creating Reese's House in our hometown of Millville, New Jersey.

  • Jon Harper /  @Jonharper70bd
    Jon Harper / @Jonharper70bd Thursday, 02 June 2016

    Sean your example and transparency gives the rest of us the strength to do the same. What is great is that now your staff will feel more empowered to share when they feel weak. You've essentially taken a moment in time when you felt powerless and vulnerable and you empowered all of those around you. I look forward to reading your next post. And by the way, you far exceeded the challenge.

  • Sean A. Thom  |  @SeanAThom
    Sean A. Thom | @SeanAThom Sunday, 05 June 2016

    Thank you for the support and praise Jon! If we can all begin to share a little more, we will understand each other better. As I said in your "My Bad" podcast interview, we are #BetterTogether!

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Guest Thursday, 23 May 2019