4 Invitations for Students

4 invitations for students afhogan

Educators work in a seemingly contradictory space. All at once we are surround by people and secluded from our peers. For the vast majority of the day, we are literally walled off from each other in most schools. This undoubtedly impacts campus culture.

I recently wrote about the power of an invitation, especially in view of this isolated life that educators often live. After reading, Bill Ferriter challenged me to take this treatment that I had originally targeted adults with and extend it to the classroom.

I loved the challenge!

Or at least the idea of it.

The more I reflected on this shift in focus, the more I began to realize that each invitation we might extend to students requires a certain amount of vulnerability. I’ve long been a believer that as the adult in the room, we should be the ones placing ourselves at the most vulnerable place in the conversation, but believing that and living that out are different experiences. The reality is that leading new, risky, “out their” change will almost always involve operating out of a vulnerable posture. Embrace it. (Just so you know, I’m telling myself as much as I’m telling you.)

Here are a few ways we can engage students in an invitation into something more. They start out relatively easy, but the level of vulnerability required feels like it exponentially increases as the invitations continue.

Invite Students To Share Your Story

I love the way that I have heard about other educators inviting students into the process of sharing the school’s story online. Adam Welcome even uses students as social media interns on his campus. There is such tremendous value in telling the story of our school (or of your classroom) online, and I love the idea of inviting students into that space. How great would it be to ask students to pay attention to the ways we celebrate our successes at school and value others by sharing about their accomplishments? I’m going to try this next year with the 5th and 6th graders I serve, and I’m excited to see how this invitation goes.

Invite Students to Teach

Many of us have had this experience: There’s a student in class who you think genuinely might know more about a given topic than you know as the teacher, and you have to “teach” him or her. Why not embrace that, model humility, and invite that student into a place to share his or her expertise? I think it would be great! A little out of the comfort zone for most teachers, but a valuable invitation to validate students and share the stage in your classroom.

Invite Students to Share Their Interests in Your Content

I came across these two tweets recently, and I don’t know if I can capture how much I really like this idea!

What would change if we operated out of this posture? What would we do differently? There would be practices we adopt and practices we shelve (some for the rest of our career). We would learn a great deal about what we’re trying to fish for most of the time–what’s engaging to students. I think it’s worth extending the invitation, but I’ll be the first to admit, it takes a leap of faith to put yourself out there for this sort of input.

Invite Students to Coach You

Alright. Stick with me. Some of the easier suggestions seem risky (at least to me), but this seems pretty out there.

I think it could work though.

You would need some clear scaffolding and some specific structures in place to make it work, but think of the power of inviting a student to speak into your life as a professional. There’s a part of me that thinks this is just too risky. Or too much work. Or just too much to fit into an already busy school year. Or just too scary.

I think the ceiling is pretty high on how beneficial this could be though. Even if you just brought in a former student (which might be even better), I think it would be a powerful invitation that would lead to a remarkable experience for both student and teacher.


Still, this seems like a big risk to take, and I want to acknowledge that here. There are well worn practices that could be overturned here. We could learn that a strength really presents to our audience as a weakness. We could find that our assumptions, in all sorts of directions, were off base.

And that’s hard. Don’t hear me oversimplify this. It’s hard. Really hard. But like most experiences that require us to step into vulnerability, it’s worth it.

I thought that this blog post was done here initially. Turns out it wasn’t. I’m going to share the rest here.

I truly see my role as an assistant principal as a teacher of teachers. Thankfully, I’m quite content to not be the sage on the stage. I sure don’t have all the answers even in the conversations I’m most comfortable engaging, and there are just so much that I defer to the expertise of others. Even if I wanted to, I’m not equipped to be the keeper of knowledge.

So, as I look toward next year, I feel the weight of these invitations in a very real way:

  • Invite teachers to share our school’s story
  • Invite teachers to teach our staff
  • Invite teachers to share their interest in what I have to share
  • Invite teachers to coach me (current or former or both)

All of a sudden, I feel the weight of these suggestions.

As a leader, I feel a great deal of pressure to get this right. After all, if my claim is that students will benefit from the ways their teachers live this out, I think that holds true for the adult learners as well.

I’m certainly not claiming to have all the answers or anything like that, but seeing these invitations in a different light reminds me of how important they each are. I’m glad to be reminded of it. It keeps me from thinking life is as simple as a list on a blog post can seem.

Beyond that, it energizes me to lean into vulnerability required from leaders (titled and untitled) as we do what we know is best for learners in our schools. It makes me excited for the next year, and it motivates me to be my best.

So, in whatever role you find yourself next year, find those invitations that need to be extended to those around you. Best of luck in your invitations! Such great growth awaits!

Make an Impact

Make an Impact

I don’t think anyone gets started in education without the hope of making a difference, but some sure seem to make more of an impact than others.

Why is that?

Even among the well meaning, I see a range of successes.

Like most people, when I think back on the teachers I had, I had good teachers and bad teachers, memorable teachers and forgettable teachers. I spent some time today thinking through what pushed teachers to the positive two extremes for me. Happily, the good, memorable teacher was not terribly elusive to me; still, I think it’s worth the effort to dig into what sets apart those teachers who end up being more memorable than the rest.

This motivated me to do all I could to be the teacher who made a difference.

If I could go back to first year teacher me, I would have a lot to say. These five suggestions would be part of that conversation.

Invest Time In Relationships

This should go without saying, but there are more possibilities for this to go awry than I’d like to leave it up to chance. I think it’s important for students to see teachers as professionals; I really do. Many teachers (especially those early in their experience as educators) err on the side of being the “friend” teacher. Don’t get me wrong–the relationships are key, but I think they are key in a different way. One part of the real power of the relationships comes from having a clear role as the teacher in the class and being someone who will care for the prerequisite needs of students in addition to those explicitly academic needs. These teachers make students feel welcome in class and create an environment that helps students know there will are consequences for failure (but one of those consequences is that we’re going to pick ourselves up and keep learning).

Listen Without Judgment

As a high school English teacher, there were a lot of opportunities for me to explain ideas in an official capacity. As the teacher, the onus was on me to answer questions like “What did the author mean when he did X?” or “What’s the author saying about the state of society today when her characters respond like that?” Rather than answering those questions myself, I tried to model the struggle the authors were often encouraging readers to grapple with and pushed the responsibility for answering the question out to the students. Then, my role shifted from question answerer to conversation facilitator (which I greatly preferred). Like it or not, students found themselves free to sort through their beliefs lived out in the context of the narratives we encountered. I usually saw some who seemed so sure of themselves quickly left stuck really considering the implications of their positions, but more I often was floored by the quiet student who, given the chance, took the opportunity to share his or her brilliance with the class. This doesn’t happen if we’re giving them the answers.

Extend Grace

I’m a firm believer that students benefit from high expectations. But more than sending out individuals capable of meeting and exceeding the highest expectations from life’s next challenges, I hope that we send out young people who are ready to make the human decision when the time calls for it. Learning doesn’t happen in a linear fashion for most students. I certainly can’t draw a linear timeline to tie many of my own learning experiences together. And yet too often, I get the feeling that teachers feel they don’t have permission to yield to their better judgment and extend grace to a student. I don’t mean to say that we have armies of teachers out there waiting to enforce rules simply because they are the rules, but I don’t think we can do any harm by taking the pressure off (because as school progresses, we all know it is most certainly on) some of our students with the opportunity to experience a bit of grace under extenuating circumstances. It makes a huge impact.

Notice When It’s An Off Day

Students rarely enter the room and announce that their day isn’t going well. At least not in as many words, right? It comes in all sorts of other forms. Listing those off isn’t necessary here, but it is important to consider how we respond when we notice it. One day I came back from being out, and a student in my first period told me this: “Mr. Hogan, I was having a bad day, but you weren’t here. You always seem to notice it and make those days better.” As a fairly introverted teacher, I was always just looking for things I could make conversation about. I had no idea the impact I was having. I’ll never forget that.

Admit Your Failures

Somehow part of being a leader has morphed into being (or at least presenting yourself as) flawless. I can’t stand that. Reality is that we all are making plenty of mistakes. Not careless ones–just regular, everyday, accidental mistakes. If we don’t show our students a model for taking ownership of our mistakes, what are we saying to them about how they should handle this in the future. It’s important in all contexts, but it’s a special priority of mine to make sure young men see grown men take ownership of their actions–no matter how big or small they may be–and respond appropriately. So many teachers do a great job of this, but the impact is only increased as more educators step into that place of vulnerability talking about our missteps. It’s not always fun, but it’s always worth it.

These five suggestions aren’t magic. In fact, they’re far from it. If you try these out, it will make your job more complicated, more involved, but it will also make it more rewarding. Your impact as an educator doesn’t happen by accident. What are you doing this summer to make sure you make the impact you want next year? What else should we add to this list?

The Power of an Invitation

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There is such great power in an invitation.

A while back, someone invited me in to help support a new chat that was starting up. I had spent time in a few chats, but although I knew it felt like I was learning a great deal, I sure didn’t think anything special was coming out of my engaging online that would make someone notice let alone recognize and invite me into a new chat. But someone saw something in me and asked me to be part of something new.

As a result, I’ll never be the same. And not just as an educator.

I think we underestimate our power as educators, as people to speak powerfully into another person. At least I do at times. And on the one hand, it feels like nothing, right? An invitation to join in seems so insignificant that I forget the power that we have to speak hope into situations, to speak life into those we are in contact with until I’m on the receiving end of the conversation. But I can think of several times when something that probably seemed like nothing to the speaker left significant, positive, life-giving impact on me, and I know that I need to stop erring on the side of caution, of reluctance to step out into a bit of vulnerability, and make this a significant part of my regular routine.

But I don’t want to just leave it at that. Acknowledging that invitations are powerful and that change is needed isn’t enough. I need to make a habit of including this communication, and I’d like to share a few ways I think we can make a positive impact with a simple invitation.

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Invite someone to critique something you are working on

It’s not always fun to have a critical eye on your work, but asking someone to look over your shoulder to help you refine something that’s important to you is a big deal. To me, it’s a great honor to help someone accomplish a goal that has personal or professional important, and so often as educators our work has both components.

Ask someone to share their voice and expertise in conversation

I host a weekly Twitter chat with my friend and colleague Jeremy Stewart, so this is an easy place, but it’s still one I’ve neglected. I need to be better about thinking through the topics we are discussing and intentionally engaging those who have so much to offer in that conversation. Understandably, most people aren’t hosting chats, but I think there’s an easy face to face parallel; as conversations come up on campus, bring those informed voices into the conversation and take a moment to explain why you brought that person in before or after. It’ll make a difference.

If you blog, invite someone to write with you or to guest post on your blog

Most educators who are blogging are doing so to share the ideas they’ve been mulling over or sort through their learning. I’ve been awful at doing this, so I’m sharing it not only as an idea for others, but also as a call to action for myself. What a great opportunity to share that space and encourage another educator to connect and share!

Here’s our reality: We cannot do our work in isolation. We fool ourselves into thinking we can from time to time, but each time, after we’ve hit the wall (again), we remember that we need others. Take time to get ahead of the curve and invite others into something that matters to you.

When You Know Better #KidsDeserveIt

When You Know Better

This post initially appeared on the Kids Deserve It blog. To find out more about Kids Deserve It, take a look at #KidsDeserveIt on Twitter or check out their newly released book here

When we meet students under the most ideal circumstances, we know a lot about them. We know about their interests, their family life, their academic performance history, and their behavior at school. We know about what books they like, what works for them, what not to try with them, and what might really push their buttons. When we’re working in the ideal, we know enough that we don’t have to make any assumptions as we prepare to educate the student.

But, all too often, life is not so ideal.

So we set out to do our best with less than an ideal amount of information about students. We try to get to know them as well as we can as soon as possible. We try our best, and in most cases, achieve remarkable results in rapid time. Teachers–you are incredible in your ability to work with so many variables that seem to always be changing as you educate the students you are given.

At some point, though, assumptions begin to creep in and fill the gaps in what we know about our students. I think they’re even made with the best of motivations so that we can serve students as well as we can as soon as we can.

Maybe it’s when things get busy. Maybe it’s when we get tired. At some point, we slip up and do the thing we said we wouldn’t–make an incorrect assumption about the student, and we have to work our way out of the unintended consequences of that assumption.

I’m not going to spend time listing out the ill advised assumptions that are sometimes made. They are out there, and they are too common. What I’d rather focus on is what we can do differently.

What if we committed to making these two assumptions about everyone we interact with at school?

People are doing the best they can.

When you know better, you do better.

I’m not asking you to be naive or to live with your head in the sand. I know that there are exceptions to nearly every rule, but this isn’t a post about those outliers. This is about the everyday. This is about how granting grace to each and every person with whom we interact–even if they’re the fiftieth person who’s doing that thing that annoys us that day.

Operating out of these two assumptions is about not letting little things get to us. It’s about believing that kids can (and will) do better when we teach them. It’s about how we should stop looking at the half empty/half full glass and get busy filling people up.

What if you approached each and every day with the attitude that students were doing the best they can? What would change?

Think about it. Tomorrow, what would change if you moved through your day with those two assumptions?

People are doing the best they can.

When you know better, you do better.

How would you respond to misbehavior?

How would you intervene when you noticed academic struggle?

How would you handle minor misbehaviors that you allow to get to you over time?

I’ll be the first to admit that changing a habit isn’t easy. But this is worth it.

If we made this change, I think our schools would be different. I think they would be better.

Even if things aren’t bad now–even if they’re great now–defaulting to these two assumptions changes our posture as we educate students. Every kid deserves a fresh start with us each morning. Every kid deserves a chance to learn in an environment that’s going to push him and support him as he takes on new challenges. Every kid deserves to be known. Each kid deserves a chance.

We can be the ones to make the difference. We can imagine it better. We can change their world for the better at our schools. Our kids deserve it.

What Does This Mean For My Students? #WGEDD

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I had the privilege of attending the What Great Educators Do Differently conference in Katy, TX recently. It was a wonderful experience all around. The sessions were great, and the people were even better. Really, I don’t think I could have asked for a better time. At the end of our two days together, I ended up with a wealth of new information, new challenges, and strengthened relationships with a fantastic group of educators.

The weekend was one of those that leaves you with so much information that you don’t know where to start with implementation. It’s also one of those times that you know you have to organize your thoughts because the ideas were too good to leave as talking points over a weekend; they need to hit the ground at school.

In his opening remarks, Jimmy Casas challenged us to keep this question in the back of our mind throughout the conference: “What does this mean for my students?” I’ve been turning over what seems like a countless number of great ideas from the conference in my mind ever since.

I’d like to share some of those contagious ideas I came across over the weekend. They’re a mix of encouragement and challenge, but there is a huge upside to us taking each of these comments seriously as we serve students.


We are wired to be risk averse. Brave is uncomfortable. – Angela Maiers

I love this idea. We are faced with challenges each and every day that are uncomfortable (or at least I am). Hearing the encouragement that it’s not something wrong with me that causes that reaction, rather it’s something that is hard wired into me that creates it was encouraging to me. I know that I need to work to be brave for my students, and this comment from Angela Maiers is already helping push me toward being bolder for what’s best for each and every student on my campus.

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We can’t change the kids, but we can change the way we teach. – Pernille Ripp

We all have obstacles to overcome. Some are new at the beginning of each school year; some are consistent for longer periods of time. All too often we focus on the things we cannot control rather than the things we have great control over. Most of this blame game, for me at least, is the result of me wanting to put some distance between me and my problem, especially when I recognize my shortcomings. Pernille Ripp’s reminder that we can change our actions is exactly what I needed to hear. I am in control of so many of the variables at school; I should worry about those and not dwell on that which I cannot control. I love our students, and the more I take on the responsibility for creating positive change for them, the better off they will be.

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In a great teacher’s classroom, everything happens intentionally. – Todd Whitaker

Have you ever been in a great teacher’s classroom who can’t tell you why things are going well this year? Didn’t think so. This idea from Todd Whitaker reminded me that our work doesn’t happen by accident. I need to be better about planning out my day to maximize my output. Just being busy isn’t enough. Our students deserve quality effort from us, not just a lot of effort.

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Never pass up the opportunity to say something great about your school. – Joe Sanfelippo

This is something that I’ve known (and probably even told other people to look at), but I still need to get better at this. Over the next few days, I need to sit down and target when I think students, teachers, parents, and community members will be on social media and look seriously at what I can share to tell our story well for each of them. Sanfelippo is a master at this, and I’ll definitely be checking out the #GoCrickets hashtag for models of what I can do to share my school’s story well.

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Want to double your credibility with a student? Offer a sincere apology when the time calls for it. – Jimmy Casas

In the middle of all the technology and pedagogy and leadership conversations that happened throughout the What Great Educators Do Differently Conference came this comment from Jimmy Casas that offered an incredibly empathetic, human response to students. It might be my favorite thing I heard all weekend. Students learn so much from their interactions with adults, but we are quick to place blame and slow to take ownership for our mistakes. To me, this is one thing we just can’t afford to get wrong. Especially for our young men, accepting ownership of our mistakes and taking responsibility for our actions is imperative. I’m thankful this idea was shared with me.

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So, there it is. There’s plenty to ponder, but I’m enjoying thinking through these ideas and considering how each of these ideas can change school for the better for our students!

Also, it’s worth your time to take a few minutes to explore the #WGEDD tweets. So much brilliance and wisdom wrapped up in 140 characters there!

10 Big Ideas From #TCEA16

10 Big Ideas From #TCEA16

I recently had the chance to engage with so many influential educators at TCEA in Austin, and I have a lot floating around in my head that’s waiting to find a landing place. That conference is definitely one where part of the challenge is managing all the new ideas and considering what challenges you’ll accept before planning them all out over a period of time.

Since I find myself in the thick of wading through a sea of good ideas, I thought I would blog about it. I’ve picked ten ideas that stood out to me. These ten ideas stand out as concepts I’ll continue to come back to in order to push my thinking, especially with regard to technology in the classroom.

Admittedly, a lot could be done to unpack each of these ideas, but rather than sharing a series of mini posts, I simply wanted to share the big ideas that have stuck with me from my learning last week. So, here’s what’s on my mind lately.


“Our kids will not know the difference between a social media site and a website. It will all be the same.” – Kasey Bell

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“You may be sitting next to the smartest person you don’t know.” – Steven Anderson

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“We use social media for conversations because that’s how we learn.” – Steven Anderson

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“Twitter chats precede faculty meeting conversation by 12-18 months.” – Tom Whitby

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“Your comfort zone should never impede the learning of your students.” – Tom Whitby

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“Our technology decisions should be based on education and learning, not on business sense.” – George Couros

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“Quit telling people to think out of the box. It’s how you innovate inside the box that counts.” – George Couros

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“In education, how often does ‘data driven’ mean we become ‘weakness focused?'” – George Couros

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“Isolation is now a choice educators make.” – George Couros

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“The higher up we go in the traditional hierarchy, the more people we serve; not the other way around.” – George Couros

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So, there it is. There’s plenty to ponder, but I’m enjoying thinking through these ideas and considering how we can change to push student learning to a greater extent.

Help push my thinking. What do you agree with here? Disagree with? How are you making change happen based on these ideas?

Let me know what you think. I look forward to hearing from you!

Share 6 Encouraging Words #6WordEncourage

#6WordEncourage encourage

The semester is moving right along, and we’re getting close to that point in the year where many could use a shot of confidence in the arm to help make the second month of the semester as successful and positive as the first.

It’s something we need to plan for. Testing is on the horizon for many, and it often seems like there is so long between breaks that many can become frustrated with where they find themselves. If we don’t do something to stay mindful of our own well being, we often neglect to care for ourselves as we continue to serve others.

So, let’s make an effort to change that.

FIND SIX ENCOURAGING WORDS

Take a little time to post that encouraging Tweet or share a thoughtful Facebook message with a few colleagues and extend a little encouragement their way. If it feels funny to try this over social media, grab a stack of sticky notes and start writing out positive thoughts for your peers. For an added challenge, try to do it in 6 words. Yes, six words is totally arbitrary (and it’s highly unlikely to be all you have to say), but I like the creativity required to work within a restriction like this, and I like that we can get across powerful encouragement in such a short message.

Don’t think it can be done? Here are a few things that I think people would like to hear that are communicated in six words:

You are good at your job.

The way you serve others inspires.

Thank you for serving so faithfully.

Your work leaves a profound impact.

You’re the teacher they will remember.

Thank you for always being positive!

Of course there is more that could be said that what you can pass along in six words, but each one of those statements are things that educators work hard to live into. They’re also really high marks for success. When we reach them, we need to celebrate that. When we’re still striving for them, we need not beat ourselves up. Far more important than getting this right in 6 words is getting the encouragement sent to those who need it most.

To the one who started out working tirelessly and is now exhausted.

To the one who can’t balance everything alone anymore.

To the one who lacks confidence in his work.

To the one who doesn’t see the greater good accomplished by her efforts.

To the one who helped students make remarkable progress but feels like a failure because they didn’t pass the test.

To those who want to get better but fear change.

To those who trusted before, got burned, and want to trust again.

Educators–we cannot afford to let time–especially this stressful, critical time– go by without investing in each other. Take time to encourage a colleague.

Please share examples of #6WordEncourage in the comments. Reading through the words others have to share is sure to jog our memory for new people I can seek to encourage.

Finally, to you–the one who will be pouring into others–thank you. You’re sustaining those who support so many.

My #6WordEncourage to you? >>> “Your work gives life to others.”

My #OneWord for 2016: Well

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In 2015, if I thought it might help me grow or push my thinking, I was in.

After actually getting engaged in dialogue on Twitter for the first time, I launched a blog and blogged a lot (this is post #74), launched CSISDchat with Jeremy Stewart, attended two EdCamps (EdCampNavasota and EdCampKaty), and engaged and engaged and engaged on Twitter.

This time last year, I didn’t know what Buffer, Nuzzel, and Voxer were. I use them daily now.

And in a lot of ways, it’s been great. So many relationships have started. So many have deepened. I’ve been growing all the time, and it’s really stretched me.

The problem is that it’s really stretched me.

It’s been a lot.

There’s a lot of things I can do that I just don’t have enough time to do or to do well (or not without a significant opportunity cost somewhere else in life).

I could keep up my daily #91winterblogs challenge for the next two months, but I miss the depth that blogging less frequently brought. I’m stopping the challenge to do what’s best for me.

I could jump into three chats a week without blinking an eye (LeadUpChat, TXeduchat, and CSISDchat–which I host). But I really have to be careful about pursuing professional growth while my kids are awake. I’m still going to be engaged, but I have to be even more dedicated to planning time with my family and friends.

I could go on, but you get the idea.

In 2016, I’m going to make the transition from doing “whatever I can” for growth to “growing well” throughout the year. I want to live well with my family and in my other relationships. I want to serve and lead well at school and in my church. It’ll mean I say no to some things.

I’m not going to totally shut it down, but where I’ve done a lot in 2015, 2016 needs to be done well.

Here’s to living well in 2016!

Four Mistakes From Fall 2015

Four Mistakes From Fall 2015

Everyone makes mistakes. Recognizing that is a big deal, but if I’m not careful, I will end up dwelling on the recognition end of the equation and not looking at what I can do to remedy what I can control in each of my mistakes.

With that in mind, I want to share four mistakes I’ve made this semester and an idea or two about how I might correct them.

Call it accountability, call it sharing my learning, call it what you like. I’m sharing.

Four Mistakes From Fall 2015

POOR PLANNING
Over the summer, Jeremy Stewart (@J_Stew314) and I worked together to put a plan in place for a district Twitter chat. Out of a few conversations, #CSISDchat was born. It’s been a great experience, but I severely underestimated the time and energy it would take to start and maintain a weekly Twitter chat. Thankfully, the chat has meaningfully contributed to the lives of many both within and outside of College Station ISD, but I was surprised to see how much it took to do what it looked like was effortless for others to accomplish. It left me with respect for the many who lead chats I benefit from and with the reminder that for #CSISDchat to flourish and continue to support and challenge educators, this will take some intentional planning. Happily, that’s something I can do.

A BAD ATTITUDE
In August, we ran a program for a group of incoming 9th graders who we knew would benefit from a strengthened foundation of skills–both academic and behavioral. It was a great idea that served a group of students who needed the help and I had a bad attitude about giving up my time to help these students. I’ll spare you the details here and just say that the time was well spent, the relationships that started during that week in August have grown throughout the semester, and I will not discount the value of this sort of work again soon.

MISPLACED EXPECTATIONS
My experience blogging has been great. I’ve learned so much through both the topics I’ve explored and the process of sharing my writing. (I’d be a better English teacher now with this experience for sure… not sure why I never explored this while I was in the classroom.) But, for a long time, and at moments when I’m tired or don’t feel great about my performance at work, I worried far too much about how my blog posts would be received. I think that’s a typical issue that bloggers go through, but for me, the blog experience has brought to light the need to make sure this isn’t something I’m carrying over into other areas. I don’t want to go throughout my days worried about what others think, so I need to work on that.

FINDING BALANCE
If I only get one thing right next semester, this needs to be it. I didn’t plan my time well this year. That meant that time got wasted, I got behind, and the things I value most don’t get the time they deserve. In short, my wife and kids need to get first dibs on my time. I need to do a better job of making sure that happens and that even if they get a lot of time, it’s not what’s leftover after giving of myself at school or at church.

So, there it is. It’s been a great semester, but not one that’s free from mistakes. I’m excited about tackling these areas in which I have control to make some real improvements. Hopefully I’ll be able to see real growth in each of these areas over the next semester.


This blog is post #17 in my 91 day winter blog challenge. I’m posting a blog each day. Check out other posts at #91winterblogs, or subscribe in the top right corner of this blog to receive these blogs as emails. Thanks for reading!

Embrace Challenges

Growing up, I can remember my dad going to exactly one movie: Apollo 13.

As a Mechanical Engineer, how could he resist the pull of a movie where the engineers are the heroes of the day?

This is the scene he came home telling me about:

I love the way they approach this.

They’re faced with an impossible challenge and asked to be creative. Engineers who’ve precisely crafted aircraft for particular purposes with years of testing (to keep a mistake like this from happening), and they’re the ones tasked with developing a “creative” solution.

While it’s certainly impressive that they accomplish this feat–very square peg into very round hole–the way they go about out it leaves me with a lot to think about.

After the problem was defined, their first reaction was to say, “Let’s get it organized. Let’s build a filter. Gotta get some coffee going.”

I love that their first instinct was to be positive and proactive. There’s no complaining, no frustration, no negativity. Instead, in the space where those less than productive reactions could live, ingenuity and creativity win the day. Even though it seems insignificant, I like third line, too. They’ve got the coffee brewing, and after some of the most strenuous work of their lives, they’re ready to put in the necessary time to fix this problem within the timeline using none of the parts and pieces they would request if creating a design on their own.

The cast of characters is wonderful here. They’re clearly a team, and they put forth a wonderful product that’s a clear solution to the challenge at hand. But I don’t recognize any of them. And I like that. I really like that. I’ve seen the movie dozens of times, and these guys, though they get their moment here, they’re just a group who came together quickly, solved a problem, and saved people in the process. (OK, I’ll concede that they were probably brilliant NASA scientists among the most capable in the world, but they’re still the guys who weren’t the face of anything. They’re working in what seems to be a basement of some kind; not exactly glamorous.)

In our work as educators, the parallels here are clear. Regardless of the seemingly impossible nature of the challenge, we have to remember to respond to problems proactively, be invested for the long haul, and trust that teams of invested experts can make the impossible reality.