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My One Word 2017 - AWAKE!

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.

I fully recognize that this year will be hard. We have no clue how difficult it may truly be, so we need to be ready for anything and everything. We need to keep our eyes and ears open, and our hearts. We must be informed so that we can keep our students informed. We need to recognize the differences in ideologies while also working to bridge the gap between people. Make no mistake, this will not be easy.

As educators, it is important for us to recognize that being awake and educating doesn't just apply to the classroom. It extends far beyond the curriculum that we must instruct our students. We must be fearless and willing to take risks to move our students (and ourselves) out of their comfort zone. We must be willing to tackle the uncomfortable conversations & topics that are necessary for us to become truly awake and grow exponentially.

We have a platform to make a difference for the future of our world. This is not the time for us to shy away from these responsibilities. Instead, this is the time for us to awaken ourselves, our students, and all those around us. This doesn't just apply to the current political shape of our country and the world. It means that we must be willing to discuss the most uncomfortable topics that are impacting our students in their own lives.

I already said that this will not be easy. It will not be pretty; raw, genuine conversations seldom are. But don't our kids deserve it? Have a conversation about racial inequities and inequalities, poverty, depression, war, suicide, abuse, police brutality, politics, and whatever else your kids may need to talk about. These topics may not be included in your curriculum, but I can guarantee that you can find ways to incorporate these discussions into your subject. Don't believe me? Just reach out and ask how!

We are at a crossroads in history now. We can move forward and go with the flow. We can stand still. We can retreat backwards and act like nothing is happening. We can turn left or right to avoid the topics and issues altogether. Or we can forget about the road and forge our own path to create real change. The choice is yours.

I choose to be awake. I choose to disrupt. I choose to lead by example. I choose to take risks to help advance my students and the world. I choose to support any person who works to do the same. I choose to help those who may need help waking up. I choose to be the change that I wish to see in this world. I choose to appreciate 2016 and embrace 2017, fully awake. What do you choose? 


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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.

  • Guest
    Jennifer @ TheCompelledEducator.com Sunday, 01 January 2017

    Wow! This is such a powerful post, Sean! Thank you for the reminder of just how important our roles as educators are, and it's a responsbility we can't take lightly. I look forward to learning from you in the new year.

  • Sean A. Thom  |  @SeanAThom
    Sean A. Thom | @SeanAThom Monday, 02 January 2017

    Thank you so much Jennifer! We can never underestimate the power that we have! "With great power, comes great responsibility."

  • Guest
    Sanee Sunday, 01 January 2017

    Love this post, Sean! You are so reflective, honest, and vulnerable in your writing. I am here to fight the good fight with you!

  • Sean A. Thom  |  @SeanAThom
    Sean A. Thom | @SeanAThom Monday, 02 January 2017

    Thank you Sanee, I know you are in it with me! If we want our students to be open and honest, we have to model it for them!

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