Friday, May 12, 2017

Looking For Boxes!

It is May 12th, 2017. Your 2016-2017 season is almost over. Another season in your career as a teacher. Done.

It is a time where you can see and feel the finish line, and yet you are also and almost exhausted. But you will get there. You always do.

Each season is like one marathon followed by another, and then another. Each of them unique. Maybe this school year you started out strong in August, but by October, the forces of life knocked you down, or made you angry, or frustrated you out of your skin.

Maybe, those forces of life – both personal and professional didn't knock you down until a bit later in the year like it did for my wife Susan and I when we lost the community of life with both her Mom, and our friend Rick DuFour in January and early February.  

Maybe 2016-2017 was just your best year ever! So much joy in your work! And you are trying to figure out how to hold on to these moments, these kids, these colleagues, and these parents… yet, like everything in our profession, transitions are part of moving on when you become an educator.

You will have to let them go.

In 2017-2018, it will be new students, new parents, maybe a new Principal, or a new school for you, or maybe even a different job within the profession you love- teaching. In most cases it means that somewhere in the next month you will need some boxes. Maybe you are looking for those boxes now as you pack things up and get ready for the transition to summer and the next season that lies ahead.  

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld explains it like this:

To me, if life boils down to one significant thing, it is movement.  To live is to keep moving.

Unfortunately, this means that for the rest of our lives, we are going to be looking for boxes. 

When you are moving or leaving, your whole world is boxes.  All you think about are boxes.  Where are the boxes?  You just wander down the street going in and out of stores looking for boxes.  It is all you can think about. 

You could be at a retirement party, and everyone around you is sad/crying, and you are looking for more boxes. That’s a nice box. Anyone know where that guy got that box? When he’s done with it, do you think I can use it? When you retire, then what? Well, you will either unpack, repack, or store the boxes.

Before too long this school season will be strangely reduced to fading memories, one season blending into another. They are not always easy to tell apart. Maybe those memories are in storage somewhere. Maybe they are in the box in your car. Maybe you will repack that box before next season begins.

And yet, there will be defining moments in those boxes. I remember distinctly the summer of 1986. July 24th (A Thursday). It was the day I turned in my keys, said goodbye to my summer school students, my girls on the Basketball team as summer camps ended, and to my room. Room 210. It was a room full of my teaching memories, and…

My boxes were packed.

In two short weeks I would shift my professional life to become a teacher and leader at Stevenson. But for the moment I was held captive by my 6 years at West Chicago. They had been filled with joy and laughter, and sadness and tough times. I had loved teaching in that school and teaching my students from that very dichotomous community. I was 28 when I arrived. And 34 when I left. Six of the best energy years of my life, right? 

Fast forward 30 years, and those seasons fade in your memory. There is one box left from those six years. It sits in a cupboard of our garage. I think you just remember those years the way you choose to. I remember them as a time of strength and fighting for what was right. Of knocking on doors and insisting students attend school. I wanted to offer life lessons for success far beyond my classroom walls.

And then this past week, I received a wonderful end of the school season gift: An email from a 1980-1981 student of mine. He jogged my memory, reminding me of how difficult of a student he had been, and how strangely enough my class was one of his favorite memories of those difficult days a long time ago.

His name was immediately recognizable to me. I also taught his sister. It works that way with families, as their children grow up. He connected some dots of names and moments, and they flooded back for me pretty quickly.

To say the least, he did not need or really use the content of my math class to achieve his successful career. But he did remind me that he took away a feeling of hope. The feeling he had of a teacher that refused to give up, or give in. I told him, that his note, or more specifically the sentiments expressed, was so much of the reason I decided to join this profession.

As this season ends and you reflect on your work, engagement and effort, know that above all else you are a hope provider: You provide direction, your demonstrate faith, and you give guidance toward student growth and learning.

Great teaching does not just sound exhausting. It is.

So my advice: Re-charge this summer! Prepare for the next marathon of a school season that looms ahead! Who knows, the next one may be even better than the one drawing to a close this month.  

Make and cultivate a few very close friends. Stay in touch with people. Give of yourself. Read widely. (What is on your summer list?) Exercise regularly. Fight the rut of routine. Leave time for leisure. Have more fun. Take up a hobby that gets you outdoors. Eat less. Laugh more. Encourage at least one person every day. Plant a garden. Loosen up your intensity.

Start today.

And for those of you packing up your boxes for the last time? Keep them somewhere close. They are your seasons. And they made a difference. Thanks for giving yourself to such a great profession. 

Your students, are packing their boxes too. May those memories be great ones indeed. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Who Is In Your FAMBAM?

It’s Spring!

And that means you are in the deep work of state testing and trying to clean up the end of the 2016-2017 school season. It is almost over! You can see the finish line on the horizon.

Last week in San Antonio at our annual National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics (NCSM) conference, I had the privilege of receiving the Ross Taylor/Glenn Gilbert national leadership award. It was a very rewarding experience and my deep thanks to so many colleagues for your gracious words of congratulations.


But that is not the real reason I am writing this specific blog entry. 

In my message to our attendees upon receiving the award, I mentioned: 

We find and build our community here – so that we can go to our home districts, provinces, and universities and build community there

And speaking of family and community, I am only standing before you today, because of the influence of, and the community with, so many incredible persons in my life. And like any family, we do not always agree, but like each of you, we have had the common bond of improving the learning of mathematics for our students. 

After recognizing many of my professional colleagues, I leaned in and recognized the most important persons in my life: Our texting fambam as we like to call it!

Here is what I said:

My wife, Susan, who is here with me today - somehow loves me enough to accept my passion for this great profession. She is willing to laugh with me and love me as we walk through these later stages of our lives together. She is the stabilizing force in our family life and for me. From her time in the peace core alone, she has taught me how to be more mindful of cultures and people different from our own. And, most importantly, she has taught me how to live my life, with no regret.

Her ninety-year-old mom, Jean, went through a challenging time in life during this past year and recently passed away, and I want to thank her Mom publicly today, for always asking me how my work was going and being interested in my professional progress, despite her own pain.

In our profession, we dedicate our lives to improving the lives of children, including our own. Our children Jessica, Tim, Adam, Jaclyn, and Anna are carving out their own journeys and finding their way in this world. I want to thank them, for letting me tell a few of their stories along the way! My love, friendship, and heart for them know no bounds.

There was even a picture of our Fambam that came up on the screen with two Golden Retrievers to boot. We looked like a pretty normal family. And, at least based on the 2015 Pew Research Center’s Social and Demographic Trends report, we are. We are part of the 54% of Americans living with some type of blended family other than with two parents in a first marriage.

In 1960 the dominant family form was two parents in a first marriage (73%).  I was age 9 in 1960 and had already lived with my Mom and Dad, then my Mom, then my Aunt (my Mom’s sister), and eventually my Aunt Dottie (another one of my Mom’s sisters) and her husband, my Uncle Al. By age 12, I would join back up with my Dad and my Step-Mom, and a Step-brother and later would spend time with a half-sister. In total I went to 7 different schools in 6 different towns or cities during my K-12 years. We were less a blended family and more like a family in the blender of life. As such, I did not really grow up much with my siblings.

And, I know my story is not unique. You have some variation of this blender too. 

As the Pew Report indicates – my situation was “very fluid” even through my college years, and continued to evolve and change throughout my adult life as I started my own family that eventually morphed into our wonderful blended family we share today.

As K-12 educators – teachers and leaders, the growing complexity and diversity of families for our 54 million K-12 children is to some extent the new reality we face in this 2016-2017 school season. Pew declares that roughly 3 out of every 6 children you teach comes from just such a blended family as ours (Either two parents in remarriage or not married, one parent, or no parent). The report is heavy in data and graphics with demographics of all types.

The report also indicates the importance and awareness of family design as part of our understanding the nature of the life our students experience at home. It may not be like the one we grew up with in our past. Or, it may be just like it. We each decide to join this profession for a variety of reasons- sometimes it due to that teacher that brought stability to an unstable life at home.

A few years ago our youngest daughter coined the phrase Fambam for our texting group. This includes all three of our children and their spouses and my wife and I. We are a blended family indeed! 

And yet, at least for our blended fambam, there is so much love and compassion. My texting group fambam blew up last week (meaning there were a lot of texts!), as each member reached out to my wife and to me with love in his or her heart for each of us.

This is just what fambams do!

So I ask, who is in your fambam?

And, I leave you with this thought from HEART! 

A fully formed heart, a heart that pursues happiness in its work for students, for colleagues and for you, finds completeness in its compassion.

This April, may your fambam, however constructed, find its compassion in and for one another! 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Relentless Heart of the PLC life!

A few weeks ago I experienced one of those magical moments that can 
occasionally occur in your professional life. Moments similar to the ones I 
would occasionally have as a teacher. You know the lesson rocks and all 
of the planning and effort to impact learning seems so worth it?!  

This was one of those moments.

The 2017 Solution Tree PLC Summit is now over, but the energy and the impact 
from the 2200+ educators in attendance will have a lasting residue on me, for at 
least the rest of this season – 2016-2107 – and hopefully into the 2017-2018 
school season as well.

I had the good fortune and the opportunity to speak at the PLC Summit for 
Solution Tree and to meet so many remarkable educators. Professionals 
in the trenches just like you and me, trying to make an impact and a difference
in the scope of our daily professional work.

It was at the end of Day 2, and like any one of us at the end of a long day of 
teaching, I was pretty exhausted. The day had started for me with my morning 
address on the hearprint of your professional and PLC life and ended 8 hours 
later after a string of non-stop lessons and meetings. Sounds like one of your 
typical teaching days, I bet!

Then the magical moment occurred!

During my morning address the educators in the room had a chance to complete 
postcard, and identify a colleague in need of a bit of a cultural lift: There was 
this recognition that our work as educators is just so very difficult, and yet, with 
the proper balance and with the influence and impact of our colleagues, we can 
once again reconnect to the purpose of our work and the energy needed to achieve 
that purpose.

I had a chance at the end of the day to read the postcards submitted by many of the
 attendees at the Summit. It was an emotional moment, as in some sense they 
reflected the commitment my colleague and mentor Rick DuFour would have loved
to read and hear about.

“What is the PLC hearprint we are leaving on our students and our colleagues” 
is a tough question to ask. Yet, it is exactly the question professionals should ask.

Each participant was asked to write down one or two commitments to action that 
would make a difference in supporting the development of the PLC work life in 
the person they identified. To say the least, the stories they told in just a few brief 
sentences were heartwarming, uplifting and courageous.

I ended my message that morning with a challenge to engage in

The Relentless Heart of the PLC Life.

I did so by using a reading, combined with musical version of 
Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Israel Kamakawiwo'Ole. Many attendees 
approached me and asked me to please post the words I read at the end of the
session. So, here they are. I hope they can be of use to you too, as you finish this 
current school year and season of your professional life.
                              
                                    The Relentless HEART of the PLC Life!

It takes great courage, a certain fearlessness, to pursue and to choose the heart print 
of the PLC life. 

To become an inspirational teacher and leader— to dig deep down and find the 
proper passion and compassion, energy and engagement, joy and gratefulness – 
takes courage

Our desire to influence others, to collaborate, to teach and to share with others, to be
more professionally transparent - every day – takes courage.

In the words of Helen Keller, Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all! 
And, the PLC life most assuredly calls us to become part of a great adventure!

Our Heartprint, however, is not just revealed in those moments of great heroism.  
I have often thought our Heartprint exists within the common everyday, mundane, 
and often-unseen moments of our professional lives.

That something extra you did for a child last week, that no one will ever really know. 
The lifting up of a colleague, when illness or personal difficulty set in. 

We each have a great teaching and learning story to tell…
And it’s very personal – Because our emotions and our fears about what will and 
will not work are different. 

For some, to have the heart to work in a collaborative team and take collective 
responsibility for evidence of student learning takes great courage. 
For others, not as much…

For others, to ensure that no educator is left alone and allowed to drift away from 
a state of U DE MO NIA  - or Thriving -  takes courage – especially to do so 
with a never ending patience and grace.  

To take initiative beyond your current comfort zone when you leave this Summit, 
and participate in a PLC culture and a professional life that provides hope and joy 
and notices others – takes courage.

To relentlessly slow down the pace of your life and find the Quadrant II time 
described today to keep your heart healthy, so you can be at your high energy 
best in this season – and the next - will most likely take courage too. 

Your heartprint as part of the PLC life will reveal your willingness to become 
intimate with your work – which means you  connect your own sense of success 
and personal well-being to the success and well-being of your students 
and colleagues…

We are in this room, at this moment, understanding that… Courage and heart will 
be the X-factors in sustaining the change to move toward such a collaborative culture
one day, one event, one team at a time.

Courage is the virtue that is needed if we are going to change the status quo that 
often engulfs us…at our schools. And avoid the entropy that can choke us.

The PLC culture is about taking ourselves and our students to those heartrpint 
places they have never been before…

And we cannot go to those “no limits – how good can we be - Gonna take you higher” 
Tim Brown type of places  - without courage and the HEART that will be required  

Courage gives us the energy to move forward!

Courage gives us the confidence to move forward!

Courage  - often discovered in those quiet Quadrant II low energy moments… 
 enables to leave a legacy that declares:  

I was here and I made a difference! 
  
In 2013, USC Professor Dallas Willard stated:

A person is essentially a collection of conscious experiences. 
Far more than just bodies or just appetites, we are our experiences. 

That is why we treasure the good ones.

As a faculty for this Summit: That is our hope for each of you here today. 
That your life will be filled with a collection of experiences that will forever 
be part of the good ones… 

And, that your experiences within the PLC life will shape you into the hope of being
 better for others tomorrow.

In the words of our mentor and colleague Dr. Richard DuFour:

 “Will you act with a sense of urgency, as if the very lives of your students 
depend on your action? Because in a very literal sense, more so than at any other
 time in American history, they do.”

Thank you for the courage to find your heart in this season of your 
professional life… As you join up and become part of…  
the PLC Movement!

Timothy D. Kanold     Read February 23rd, 2017  at the 2017 PLC Summit 
Phoenix, Az