Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Only once a year?

Every new year brings the opportunity to start fresh.  It is an easy opportunity to make things happen or to forgive yourself in whatever way you need it, and begin again.  Sadly, January 1st only comes once a year.

Beginning January 1st, make your plan to not wait until January 1st ever again.  If you want to set a goal, make a resolution, or choose to live by your personal mission statement, don't wait on the calendar to choose your starting point.  Choose it yourself!  Don't wait for the next Monday or the next 1st of the month, choose your own starting gate and go!

Monday, December 29, 2014


Only a few more days to make yourself a few new promises for 2015.  I've seen a recent trend that makes sense to me.  Rather than the usual resolutions that end up as disappointments after a few days or weeks, quite a few people are setting goals that change habits and involve a support system.  Rather than a promise to "Do Better..." at some thing or another thing, make your resolution measurable and share it with the world!

Principal Salome Thomas-EL (@Principal_EL) set a goal of running 500 miles in 2014.  He challenged folks to join him on Twitter.  Check out hashtag #500in2014 to see examples of how a great Twitter community can work together to achieve goals!

By resolving to run 500 miles during the year, he was able to change his exercise habits and involve others.  He didn't promise to run every day, or even more generic, to get more exercise.  He sustained an injury along the way.  It slowed him down for a bit, but it did not kill his goal!  His goal was a year-long endeavor rather than a simple resolution to do better!  Way to go Principal EL!

He also publicized his progress on Twitter.  What a great way to keep yourself motivated!

Now I need your help.  For 2015, I am going to create a list of books to read.  I am thinking somewhere between eight and twelve for the year.  I will track my progress with #12books2015.

What are the must-read books for 2015?

Monday, December 22, 2014

Beach time!

So much to do!  So much to get done!  Gotta hurry!  Gotta go, go, GO!

This sounds like pretty much everyone I know for the next few days!  Traveling, last minute presents, and let's not forget the thirteen trips to the grocery store to get the sliced almonds for the green been casserole and the marshmallows for the sweet potatoes!  Then for those of us with kids, the morning of December 25th is all about surprise and smiles and laughter!

Then we get to some point after the craziness, and we get to slow down.  That point where we stop hurrying to get ready for the holiday and we actually relax.  

I wonder if there is a way to make things slow down over the next few days instead?  Can I slow down and soak in the next few days and relax, even though the trips to the store will still be necessary?  So many people, myself included, typically need a few days off after the vacation, to recover from the vacation. 

In the summers, I call this relaxing period, "Beach time."  After several days on the beach, with nothing to do but enjoy the minutes with my toes in the sand.  Things slow down and there is not much urgency at all.  I relax.  That doesn't mean that I sit in a chair under my EZ-Up the whole time.  For me, I am catching sea critters and fishing with my boys.  We play in the waves and play games on the beach.  I read a few pages and chat with friends.  I take a thousand pictures.  I am actually quite busy on the beach!  But it is the most relaxing busy that I know.  Beach time.

Is there a way to get myself on beach time for the next few days?  I am gonna try it out!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Two Steps Forward

Last year, around this time, I was gearing up for my big New Year's Resolution.  I was determined to eat better, lose a few pounds and make exercise a habit again!  I know...I shared this resolution with about 200 million other people in this country!  I resolved to start this on January 2nd because there is always leftover pie on January 1st!

So on January 2nd, I really worked hard to make it happen.  I started off great!  Through January and February, I ate more vegetables and less bread.  I stopped going back for a second helping at every meal.  I started going on some long walks and even ran a bit.  I did push-ups and pull-ups and other exercises that can easily be done at home and in the office.  By the end of February, I had lost about 20 pounds and I was feeling good!  I had established a few new habits that were working for me!

On February 28th, a friend asked me if I could play for his indoor soccer team because they were missing a few players.  I eagerly agreed and played pretty well.  It was a blast!  With about three minutes left in the game, I was chasing down a ball that was heading towards our goal, I flipped the ball against the wall to my right, then cut left.  Unfortunately, my knee cut right, and POP.

I tore my ACL.  I knew it.  I limped off the field, and grabbed some ice.  A few days later, the doc confirmed my injury and scheduled surgery for March 20th.  What a downer!  For the first time in quite a few years, I had made a resolution that actually stuck!  It stuck because I chose a few easy habits that I could actually maintain.  The question became, would I be able to keep up with my new routines through the six month recovery period?

Post surgery included  massive back pain and a nasty hematoma under one of my incisions.  Six months turned into eight months.  A few months into rehab, I felt like I had failed to maintain my new habits.  I wasn't focused on the veggies as much and there was really no way to get my exercise with a bum knee.

What's the point?
Looking back now, I realize that I didn't exactly fail.  I may have missed days (or weeks) but the general habits are still there.  Missing one day or week does not mean that I destroyed my resolution.  It does not mean I broke the good habit and I need to start from scratch.  It doesn't mean that I need to wait until the next January first to begin again.  A habit is not broken so easily, especially if my resolve to keep it is strong!  "Two steps forward, one step back" is still progress!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

I Predict...

When faced with a tough decision, what are the questions you ask yourself?  Do you play out the potential scenarios?  Do you weigh the potential benefits against the potential detriments?  Among all the questions, do you ever actually ask yourself, "Will this make me happier?"

When faced with a tough decision, we all have different thought processes that come into play.  Robert Biswas-Deiner says, "We make a lot of our decisions based on predictive future happiness."  While I don't think this is necessarily new information for me, I know it is the first time it has been presented to me so clearly.

When faced with a tough decision, I try to take my time, consider all the factors and options, gather the opinions of others, then choose.  Now, I am going to ask myself one more question, "Am I giving my future happiness too much emphasis as I decide?"

It is hard to imagine purposely making a decision that does not eventually make me happier.  I'd like to think that I won't make a decision out of fear that the choice will actually lead to less happiness.  Sure, there will be times when I must muddle through the thunderstorms in order to find the end of the rainbow, but isn't it worth it?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Choose Bravely!

When you take a risk and try something new, you are exercising your freedom.  When you avoid the risk, you are still exercising your freedom.  Your choice to do nothing new is still your choice, given to you by your own freedom.

Whether you take the risk or do nothing, you own the choice and the outcome.  Choose bravely!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Drive Safely!

I remember loving cars when I was little because of the dashboard.  I loved all the little gauges with the needles that pointed out one measure or another.  I wondered what they measured and I liked to watch them move.  It took me a while to understand the tachometer.  I didn't quite comprehend how the engine speed could differ from the car's speed.  I was also intrigued by the "red zone" on the tach.  That was the engine's danger zone!

These days, I keep my eyes on the gauges in my truck to make sure my car doesn't over heat and everything is running well.  I'd prefer not to break down on the side of the road!

I was chatting with a co-worker a few days ago and he told me that he was hurrying home from work and there was a Sunday driver in the left lane with a line of cars backed up behind him and an empty lane ahead.  He was traveling 15 miles an hour under the speed limit and gradually getting slower and slower.  He said, "The slower he went, the higher my road rage gauge climbed!"

That got me thinking...we all have personal gauges for a variety of things.  We all have measures that go up and down depending on our circumstances.  Theses gauges may be more or less sensitive to certain issues than other folks.  For example, your road rage gauge may not budge when you encounter a slow driver in the left lane.  But, maybe you get cranky when that same driver throws his cigarette out of his window.  That may make your litterbug gauge jump to eleven!  I think these personal differences are somewhat based on your own personal wiring.

 I know there are tons of inventories out there to help get in touch with our personalities, our internal wires.  I think those inventories can be quite helpful for people to get to know themselves.  I have done several of them and I know that I am a learner, I am orange (True Colors), and I like to ask questions.  I also know that I need to be more patient and I need to be a bit more organized.

However, those inventories provide a snapshot.  A somewhat static, overall measure.  Realistically, many of the traits on our personal dashboards are more like the gauges in our cars.  They change constantly due to other factors.  How often do we monitor our personal gauges?  Do we know when we are about to hit the "red zone?"  Do we monitor our dashboard to make sure we don't break down on the side of the road?

Drive safely, my friends!

Monday, December 15, 2014

What's your story?

Daniel Pink, author of A Whole New Mind, writes, We are our stories."  He says that our need to be heard is more prevalent and urgent in today's world than ever before because it allows us to express how we fit in this world and why it matters.

Spend an hour in any Kindergarten classroom, and you will undoubtedly hear 60 different stories about 60 different things, and that may just be from one kid!  We are our stories.  We take vacations and we tell people about them.  We get a flat tire and we tell people about it.  We hear a story from a friend and respond with our own similar circumstance.

For years now, my response to folks who fall victim to Murphy's Law has been the same, "Look at the great story you will be able to share for the rest of your life!"  Indeed, we love to tell the stories of our best adventures...and misadventures.  My friends and I have quite a few college stories that we continue to tell 25 years later.  There were many misadventures to be sure!

Wouldn't it be incredible if we created a culture in our schools where we shared our misadventures in learning?  As we encourage kids and teachers to take risks in their learning, let's also encourage them to brag on their misadventures.  Everyone loves to say, "I got it right on my first try!"  Let's create a culture where even more pride comes from, "I got it right on my 20th try!"

Friday, December 12, 2014

Happy Dance!

Last year, at a regular faculty meeting, the disco lights came on, the music played and we danced!  We talked about the courage it takes to make our school worthy of all the little people that were counting on us.  We also talked about the need to stay happy in our pursuit of excellent learning.  These talks were not preachy by any means, as the faculty owned a brave and happy attitude and brought it to life!

A few teachers, a bit out of character for them, decided they were going to head out to a local restaurant for lunch and courageously crank up some music and start dancing.  I don't remember why it didn't quite work out for them, but I thought it was really cool for them to try it!  Very happy and brave!

Thursday, December 11, 2014


I have always had career goals, but I've never written a career bucket list.  The idea excites me!  I'm definitely going to write down the things I want to do!  I'm also going to give myself a running head start by writing down some of list-worthy items that I have already accomplished!

What is on your career bucket list?

I googled the term, "Career Bucket List," and, as usual, someone else has done this before me!  This website by Tal Gur has some ideas: http://belowzerotohero.com/career-bucket-list-ideas

My favorite is, "Become the sheriff of a small town."  I'm probably not going to add that one to my list, but it is fun to think about!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

I go to Work!

In 1989, Kool Mo Dee released, "I go to Work."  Great song!  For years and years, I never said this phrase.  I always said, "I'm going to school."  Until quite recently, pretty much my entire life has been at school.  Whether I was the student or the teacher or the administrator or the consultant, I was always going to school.  I loved saying that!  I am proud of my profession and I am proud of my service to children and teachers.

Over the last six months, my career path has taken me into an office setting.  I still care passionately about high-quality education and I came here to see if I could serve our students from this vantage point.  Luckily, I can!  Upon my arrival, I knew that my learning curve would be HUGE!  Six months later, it is still steep.  I am still learning more than anyone in the building.  I still ask questions all day long. I am still the lead learner!

Yet, over the last six months, I have said, "I'm going to work."  Perhaps...since I am still learning so much, I should still say, "I am going to school!"

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Where did those words come from?

Last night, during the Teach Like a Pirate twitter chat (Mondays 8pm to 9pm CST, search the hashtag #tlap), I replied to one of the questions with a statement that I have been thinking about all day.  The question was, "How do you empower your students and colleagues with shared leadership?"

I responded with, "Don't be a school leader that doles out permission.  Be a school leader that clears paths for innovation."

Wow!  I am quite sure I channeled someone much wiser than me to get those words out.  I can't stop thinking about the realities of fully bringing this ideal to life.  So many times, folks have great ideas so they go to their supervisor for permission.  How do we move to a place where people grant themselves permission based on a few questions:
  1. Is this best for students?
  2. Does this idea move us towards achieving our vision or our goals?
  3. Will any of the other excellent facets of our campus suffer because of this?
With the right answers to these questions, permission would not be needed!  Instead, wouldn't it be excellent if the school leaders could respond with:
  1. I can't wait to see how it goes!
  2. What paths can I clear for you?
  3. How can I support your leadership?
Finally, can this be done in a classroom full of students?  With excellent design, I think it can!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Seven Days, Seven Scary Things!

On December 1st, I wrote about my plan to do one thing each day that scares me.  Well, I have gone through seven days in December and done seven things that scared me and I just noticed something.  Not one of those scary things included a parachute, a Youtube video, or local law enforcement!

All seven things did include some kind of conversation.  Not a single one was confrontational or even a disagreement.  It made me wonder, what kinds of things can make it hard to chat?

It may be tough to fully listen.  I have always told students, "Try to listen with your eyes, your ears, and your heart."  Listening with all three can be a challenge!  Empathic listening, from Habit Five, is something I believe in.  It is also not always easy!

It may be tough to be honest.  As we all know, honesty is the best policy...unless it isn't.  If we are ever out in public and I ask you if my clothes match, please just say, "Yes!"  If I ask you before I leave my house, be honest.

I think the toughest challenge may be to stay true to your beliefs.  When people disagree, conversations can be tough, especially if there are several correct thoughts, or answers, or beliefs.  Sometimes, we whitewash what we say to be sure that we don't offend each other.  Sometimes, we defend out beliefs so strongly, we dishonor a differing opinion.  Can you stay true to your beliefs while honoring someone who thinks differently?

I am sure there is much more to this entire concept than I have written here.  I should re-read Fierce Conversations, by Susan Scott.

As I forge on through December with my plan to do one thing each day that scares me, I'll be watching my conversations to see if I can learn more about why they can be scary.  I'll also continue to steer clear from local law enforcement!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Who said that?

I like quotes!  They typically convey an important message in a few short words.  They are poetic.  Twitter and Instagram seem to be filling up with more and more famous (or not so famous) quotes.  So many, that I don't dare try to read them all.  Too many to soak in!

Yesterday, I was talking to a group of dedicated educators and I think I rattled off four or five quotes in the course of an hour.  They were definitely some of my favorites but now I wonder if listening to me was like walking down the greeting card aisle??? Did they hear what I believed in or were my words going in one ear and out the other, like reading through all those greeting cards?

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Is your table round?

Have you ever organized a meeting and sat around a table with a bunch of folks to brainstorm?  Perhaps you were looking for a solution to a problem or an improvement to a process.  Maybe you were designing something new?  Regardless of the purpose, once the design has been created, tasks must get done!

Who will do each task?  A well-rounded table typically sees each task fall to the person who happens to show strength, expertise, or passion for it.  The schedule-driven person may create the timeline and manage the process.  The talented writer may take care of the communication.  The artsy folks may lead the creative process.  People typically fall into the roles for which they are best suited.  This is one of the advantages of a well-rounded table.

This leads to the question, "Is your table round?"  In other words, is your team made up of folks who may not necessarily agree on things, but certainly bring individual strengths to the table?  Sometimes, we end up inviting people to the table who think like we do.  There are definitely advantages to this.  Easier conversations and quicker answers would most surely happen.  But does it give you the best end to your assignment?

Dr. Stephen Covey says, "If two people have the same opinion, one of them is unnecessary."  The point is that if your table is surrounded by people who think like you do, the team may not reach the greatest levels of success.  It takes courage to invite folks who think differently than you to the table but it just may lead you to something far better than you could have imagined!

Next time you invite folks to your table, make sure it is round!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The To-Do List

One of the best school counselors I have ever known, was the master of the To-Do list.  She wrote down everything she needed to do and everything she wanted to do.  She got things done!  Her method of organizing herself each day was quite scientific.  She wrote her tasks in pen and crossed them off with a Sharpie.  It always made us giggle when she would walk back into her office, write something down that she had just finished, then immediately drew one, straight line through it with her Sharpie!  She would say, "I didn't have THAT on my list but I gotta write it down!"

Her list included the important things:  counseling kids and teachers, working with parents, teaching guidance lessons, helping a teacher, planning for school improvements, etc.  Her list also included regular tasks such as:  cut-out shapes for lessons, make copies for meetings, and order supplies for Red Ribbon Week.  She used her list to get the important things done and the rest of it too!

Dr. Steven Covey says we need schedule our priorities.  If it is truly important and vision-focused, it is worth prioritizing!  Ensuring that the important things were accomplished increases effectiveness.

I tried to use her method for myself, as I was always trying to find ways to increase my own efficiency.  After a few days, my list looked like a mess!  This method didn't work for me.  I modified and adjusted in an attempt to make it work. A few more days, and it still didn't work!  I asked her how she was able to keep it going so well and how she didn't let the little things get in the way of the big rocks.

She told me that no matter what order her tasks were written, she knew she needed to take care of the people on her list first.  (The people were highlighter yellow!)  If someone was counting on her, it got done first.  She did the little things along the way.  She also told me that her list was her way of celebrating all that she did for the people that were counting on her!  In other words, her list helped her effectively take care of her relationships because without them, nothing else mattered.

At that point, I changed my perspective.  For me, I focused on the people that were counting on me, rather than creating a written record of all that I did each day.  What a difference!  Thanks, Lorie!  You helped me improve!

Monday, December 1, 2014

31 Scary Days!

My first glance at my Twitter feed this morning reminded me that today is December 1st and we have 31 days left in the year.  I saw numerous tweets and a few blogs about making these last 31 days count, trying new things, being a better friend, listening more and talking less, practicing generosity, and so on.  All good things to remember during the holiday season!

I also saw my little note to myself that has been stuck to my desk for almost two years.  It reads, "Do something every day that scares you!"

I'm sure that I saw this on Twitter and wrote it down.  It is an interesting thought!  I don't think it necessarily means that you need to perform death-defying stunts each day.  It probably should not include attempts to get to work in record time, breaking every traffic law on the way.  But, can I do some thing each day that scares me just a bit?

For the next 31 days, I'm going to record my, "...something that scares me..." each day.  I hope to publish this list to my blog soon afterwards.  Today, I had a conversation with a friend about his health.  He mentioned that he needs to lose about 80 pounds.  I took a deep breath, and bravely told him that I was worried about his health too.  I told him that every day he waits to turn his health around will make his turn-around tougher to accomplish.  I looked him in the eye and honestly told him that he needs to prioritize his health.

I think he was surprised to hear me say it. I was a little surprised too, but what I told him was the truth.  Usually, we want our friends to tell us what we want to hear.  Sometimes, we want our friends to tell us what we need to hear.  It can be quite difficult to know the difference.

I also told him that I believed he could do it and that I would do some push-ups with him every day if he wanted me too!

Thirty days to go!  Join me!  Record yours for 30 days!