Friday, October 31, 2014

My fortune cookie

I have experienced twenty incredible years in education!  The greatest majority of my time has been joyous and productive.  I can look back at my career and pinpoint many highs and a few lows.  I can draw out the waves of joy and despair within the profession, but without a doubt, my career happiness has slanted upwards!

I was the only male teacher on campus for my first year.  I was quite sure that I was already the best teacher on campus and that I would walk out the door at the end of the year with the award.  After only three hours, I calmly walked next door and asked Ms. Kiley for help.  I had a lot to learn.  More than most actually.  Most novice teachers begin with better equipment than I did.  Looking back, my students may not have learned anything that first year, but they did have fun!

What I lacked in my toolbox, I made up for thricefold in passion and enthusiasm.  I wanted to learn everything I could to become a better teacher, and I loved every opportunity to do so.  For several years, I went to every professional development opportunity I could!  I wanted to learn and implement.  I needed help and sought it.  More than most, I also took my new knowledge and put it into action.  I equate my willingness to learn and implement new stuff with jumping into the deep end of the pool.  Many teachers will learn something new, then tiptoe into that new endeavor one tiny little improvement at a time.  I prefer to jump in the deep end of the new and fail my way to success.

Once my classroom time turned to office time, as an assistant principal, I once again jumped on every learning opportunity!  I was blessed with three fellow administrators to show me the way.  I was also blessed with a district that prioritized professional learning the same way I do.  My interest in high-quality student learning simply broadened.  It became an excited passion for high-quality learning, regardless of age!

As a principal, the need to focus on learning for all was paramount to success.  Student learning was always the focus.  If high-quality teaching was the vehicle to get there, then high-quality professional learning were the keys to that car!  Professionally, I now firmly believe that passionate, high-quality faculty learning leads to the best possible student learning.

After 20 years, my desire to create a passion for learning extends from our youngest students to our most experienced teachers.  Engaged learners with a desire to improve make the school a better place for kids.  As educators, we should always model a desire to learn new things and fail forward.

When teachers model excellent learning, students benefit.  That is my fortune cookie statement.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The one who Sang!

I walked past several classes on a field trip at The University of Texas.  Throngs of 2nd graders were heading from one place to another.  They were quite excited to get to the next place and four of the teachers looked like they were tightrope walking their last threads of sanity.  The fifth teacher was singing loudly and her students were singing along.  General happiness and no problems!

Were the classes composed of different children? No.  The only difference seemed to be the attitude of the teacher and her response to the situation!  The kids in her class won and the teacher won.  Win-Win!  Well done, Master Teacher!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Dirty Hands

I just chatted with an Agricultural Science teacher from Somewhere, TX.  His passion for his content is incredible!  He loves helping kids not only understand the content, but he designs learning so that hands get dirty every day.  With a greenhouse as a classroom, I joked that it is easy to get hands dirty when you are working with soil and approximately 1000 poinsettias!  We both giggled, then he said, "Even the best math teachers should ensure that hands get dirty every day."

So true.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Good Morning! Now choose!

If I wake up with a few extra minutes in the morning, I like to take a quick peek at my Instagram account, @Glennwilly.  If you are not familiar with Instagram, it is definitely Facebook Lite!  Simple pictures, posted by folks I choose to follow, with occasional comments.  I can scroll through the entire timeline in just a couple of minutes.  Plus, I can keep up with my middle school boys!

I follow a couple of folks on Instagram that post inspirational quotes.  They are oftentimes good reminders to start the day.  The one that pops up most frequently mirrors the theme of choosing my attitude.  Easy to say, but occasionally difficult to do.  Nevertheless, my attitude is the one thing I cannot be forced to let someone else to choose for me.

Viktor Frankl, former death camp prisoner and author of, Man's Search for Meaning, said, "Everything can be taken from a man but one thing; the last of human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."

Tony Dungy, Superbowl winning coach, said, "You can't always control circumstances. However, you can always control your attitude, approach, and response. Your options are to complain or to look ahead and figure out how to make the situation better."

Dr. Stephen Covey narrates through The Leader in Me, "Choose your own weather."  Kids love this analogy and so do I!

Easy to say, sometimes hard to do.  But I wake up each morning and start by choosing Happy and Brave!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Brave and Happy

I teach because I believe that our children should be amazingly better than their parents.  I learn because I also believe that I should be better today than I was yesterday.

Anyone that has ever chosen the path of a teacher and found themselves standing in front of a class of children, understands the need to live bravely and happily.  To many, the idea of operating bravely in a classroom is interpreted as a joke; a statement about today's unruly children and today's broken education system.  On the contrary, teachers need bravery to genuinely create learning experiences that have never been seen before.  I believe our students are smarter than ever!

 If we are to make learning authentic for our students, we must bravely breakthrough the boundaries of what has been done before and challenge the limits of what our students have previously mastered.  Bravery means to keep our expectations high, regardless of the obstacles, and doing everything possible to ensure that students meet those expectations.  Everything.  Dave Burgess, author of Teach Like a Pirate says, "It is not supposed to be easy.  It is supposed to be worth it!"

Happy should be self-explanatory.  Novice teachers almost always talk about, "...seeing the light go on," as the greatest joy in the profession.  Indeed, it should be!  Anyone who loves working with children knows that joyous moments happen all day long for myriad reasons!  But oftentimes, the freshman insight fades.  Joy is killed by things such as high-stakes testing, mandatory curriculum, a new initiative, too many restrictions, and of course, "Not enough time."  The truly effective teacher doesn't let their happiness disappear due to such things.  The truly effective teacher loves their job more and more, each and every day!

Brave and Happy is my prescription for making every day in your classroom worthwhile for your students and for yourself.  I am looking forward to this journal experience and I invite your comments and questions.  Thank you!