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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 not only has remained, but has continued to grow with his community. He now resides in the same county with his wife and their two young sons. Sean currently serves as an administrator at Camden’s Promise Charter School, where he focuses on the professional development of teachers and building various social-emotional skills with students. Graduating from Rutgers University with an undergraduate degree in Communication as well as a graduate degree from the University of Scranton in Educational Administration helped open the doors to what has now become nearly a decade long career in education.


 


 


 


As a result of connecting with people everyday of all ages, ethnicities, cultures and beliefs, Sean has learned how to listen and meet the individualized needs of different groups of people. In order to help organize parents and educators to come together in academic spaces, it has required him to search for innovative, functional, and inclusive ways to solve problems.


 


 


 


Despite Sean's childhood aspirations of one day becoming an attorney, he has since become an unwavering advocate for positive youth development and education. Growing up, Sean experienced difficulty financially and emotionally in an unstable household while also battling a sometimes crippling learning disability (ADHD). School became both a place of refuge and a source of trouble for Sean. If not for certain teachers and school faculty encouraging him as a young person, he would not have pursued higher education and would not have been able to impact countless 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 youth and their futures. 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.


 


 


 


As a leader in education, Sean has rooted his success in incorporating three major values that he applies to every facet of his life: honesty, integrity, and transparency. All great leaders exhibit honesty regardless of how difficult a situation may be. In these times, we need someone who will honor the trust of their constituents, despite possible backlash. Sean has displayed his commitment to integrity by maintaining a strong moral basis in all decisions, never being swayed by personal gain, and combating corruption wherever it exists. Transparency is also something that is not frequently witnessed in politics. Without it, it is easy for elected officials to lose touch with the people they serve. Having worked in education, Sean understands the power of collective responsibility while encouraging collaboration and the inclusion of diverse opinions to impact change. His unique background matched with his life experiences have allowed him to truly understand the struggles and needs of so many American people.


 


 


 


As the next United States Congressman from the state of New Jersey, Sean promises to apply the most effective policies to positively influence the collective growth of all New Jerseyans and Americans. He intends to only put the best interests of his constituents, state, and country first, regardless of how unpopular that may make him within the political machine. This is how we give politics, power, and our country back to the people. This is how we place our future first.

  • 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 Sunday, 24 September 2017