The Highest Honor in Education

All teachers become educators to make a difference in the lives of their students. Tomorrow I will watch a student who became a friend, a friend who became a brother get married to the girl of his dreams. And, he chose me to be in his wedding. There are many awards that I could win for teaching. But, nothing will compare to the honor that I will have to share this experience with Cody and Kate. He often writes about how I was a mentor to him. What he does not understand is how much of an influence he has been on me and my career.

When I look back on my career I will remember the conversations that we had in the weight room about life, about love, and about sacrifice. I will remember the pimple face twerp who listened to my every word as if I knew what the hell I was talking about. And I will remember the day that he came to my home and told me that he had fallen in love and how this is definitely the one.

I hope I have made some type of influence on all of my students throughout my career. I may not have been your best, or favorite, teacher, but I hope that on some level we connected and that you learned something from me whether that was from the content or just from life.

School of Agriculture Fail

While playing with the Little People Farm set…

“Hey, son, what animal is this?”

“Horse.”

“And this?”

“Cow.”

“What about this?”

” A Boka-Bok.”

“Hmmm… No, this is a chicken.

“Okay.”

Highly amused, but concerned, Heather decides to join in:

“Buddy, what is this?”

“Boka-bok!”

Well, shit.

Father of the Year Moment #641 – Leadership (I thank God every day for the mentors I had growing up):

Earlier this year, My oldest daughter and I had a conversation about leadership on and off the basketball court. Since her father is very long winded, she got more than she wanted:
Okay. you want to be a leader, then be a leader. But be careful; you will be criticized for your decisions. Everybody wants to take a leadership role until it is time for the criticism. As soon as the criticism comes, they will tuck their tale and hide in the shadows. Don’t hide from it; Learn from it. Use it to make yourself and the people around you better.
If you want to be a leader, then take adversity head on. If you are truly right about something, then you have to fight for it; be smart about how you choose to fight. Choose craftiness over brute force.
If you want to be a leader, then know that there are two things that are extremely dangerous to you, and to your group – sincere ignorance, and conscientious stupidity. Eliminate both.
If you want to be a leader, you need to be dynamic. Know the differing types of leadership and apply the correct type of leadership as situations arise. Find a balance between using data and using your heart in decision making. Too much data, and people will think that you are cold, too much heart, and people will think you are blinding yourself to what is right in front of you.
If you want to be a leader, then represent the whole. Leaders never speak as individuals, they are always representative of the team. Give the team the credit when things go right, take the blame when things go wrong. When they do go wrong, first look at yourself as part of the problem, then assess if there are people who are the problem – deal with them head on. If you have something to say, then say it to their faces. Never hide amongst the faction – that’s cowardice.
If you want to lead, then be quiet and lead by example. Anybody can be loud and demanding to get things done. Leaders themselves do what needs to be done. Leaders influence others without them knowing that they are being lead. They lead because there is a need. When people see you are willing fulfill that need, they will follow. When you choose to speak up, speak up for things that you are passionate about and are willing to sacrifice for – you may be called to do so.
If you want to lead, then don’t expect a leadership title. Leaders don’t need titles. Even if you get a title, nobody gives a damn. Leaders are leaders because they work harder than the rest. Make sure you work hard when people are not looking at you; share your hard work when they are. You do not need a statue to tell you how nice you are. Let others talk about your work ethic; you don’t need to proclaim it. Work behind the scenes.
If you want to be a leader, then expect to sacrifice greatly. You will sacrifice time; you will need it to perfect your craft. You will sacrifice friends; your friends will see the path you’ve chosen and understand. You will sacrifice relationships unless you choose people who are on your path and/or have common interests. It will be trying, but remember – the difference between a moment and a movement is sacrifice.
If you want to lead, then expect the haters. You will have critics everywhere. People will say, “Well, I would’ve done it this way…” But don’t listen – they’ve never done it. When asked to step up, they never will.
If you want to lead, then expect to be alone. Not so much “by yourself” physically (that will also happen), but mentally. You are carving out a path, and that path holds uncertainty. Uncertainty is uncomfortable. Uniformity is comfortable. If you want to lead, always choose uncertainty.

Leadership is not easily attained and is even harder to keep. Leadership isn’t for everyone. So, if you choose to follow, that’s okay. Just choose who you follow wisely. Don’t let someone tell you that they are leading you to the mountain top, only to find yourself in a crevasse.

Something tells me that she will never ask for advice again…

“Lessons All Around” or “Pay Attention to the Details, Dammit”

Everything that I keep in my classroom is a lesson. Not just the posters that I have on the wall that show grammatical fixes to composition issues, but also life lessons. I do not teach these lessons outright, but if students pay attention (and occasionally ask a question) they will see the lessons that are all around them. They are not exactly hidden, but students do have to pay attention.

I teach at an alternative school. In my classroom, I have huge windows. And in those windows are plants. Plants of all sorts and species. Some of the plants look like they have long died; some look as though they are barely hanging on, and some look as though they are thriving in the constant sunlight. All of them I keep alive…

every year…

My colleagues are impressed.

So, what is the lesson? The lesson is one that I had to learn at age 24.

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Trim those dead ends or they will slowly kill you.

That was the time that I had to learn to cut people out of my life in order for me to thrive. Most of my plants are very weather-beaten. They look dead because they have been sitting outside, exposed to the elements during summer break. By time I bring them back to my classroom, they have formed a hardness to them – some of them are tilted by the wind, some of them have grown extra limbs to provide shade from the sun, and some of them have leaves and petals that are hanging on to live limbs. If you do not take the time to care of these things, the plant will die a slow death.

People are no different. A lot of us have some king of hardship, trauma, challenge that we have been through and weathered. Getting past those burdens are important. But if we do not take the time to self-reflect and heal, we are going to have problems later. For me, taking myself out of the elements was not that hard of a task. Exiting the challenging environment led me to shed some of the weathered layers that were built. But, by far, the hardest thing that I had to do is trim off the dead leaves and petals.

Cutting people off is hard. What I found helpful is asking if the person or environment was helping me get to my goal. If the answer was no, then they need to go. It really does not make a difference what kind of relationship you have with this person. The fact of the matter is – toxicity kills goals.

Father of the year moment #322: Run, Dick, Run –

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This is my daughter.
This is David.
My daughter is learning how to read.
She is reading David a story.
Read, Daughter, read.
My daughter says “da… da… dog.”
David is in pain.
David is thinking about comps.
Pay attention, David, pay attention.
Heather is My Daughter’s mother.
David cannot find Heather.
David hears a car start and the tires squeal.
Come back, Heather, come back.

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