Shifting from “thanks for all you do” to genuine gratitude

“Thanks for all you do.” This has to be one of the most over-used and superficial phrases of “gratitude” uttered in our society today. Personally, I’ve long despised this phrase – with a passion. Why? For starters this is so ridiculously vague. It’s not personal, specific or even meaningful.

The Holiday season is upon us. A time for showing gratitude. How do we show those that we serve, work with, co-exist in this space that we genuinely care?

At my school, our administrative team is divided by grade levels. This school year, I knew very early on in the year I was blessed with an extremely special group of educators. Often and ongoing I let them know I cared deeply in a genuine way for each of them. Daily rounds, often leaving notes, sending a tweet or a quick “hey, I really liked —- within your lesson today,” etc.

I truly went above and beyond for them daily the entire first semester. My office was rarely occupied most days because of my strong presence around the building – especially within learning spaces.

As Thanksgiving came and went I was determined to do something special for this far beyond “thanks for all you do – happy holidays” type lines, candy, cards, etc. Purchase Starbucks? Nah, already did that last year. Dinner? Nah, not unique enough. Then an advertisement came on our local NBC affiliate in the Raleigh-Durham, NC market for the Carolina Hurricanes NHL team. Bingo. That was it.

Immediately I made up my mind. I was going to call the Hurricanes organization in the morning and inquire about group tickets. No backing down. After discussing this with my boss and thinking on it a week after getting a price quote from the ‘Canes sales rep. I made it happen.


Last weekend, over 15 educators and some of their spouses enjoyed fellowship, laughs and most of all staff bonding over the world’s greatest sport (in my humble opinion) it was simply magnificent. Yes this was a huge investment both time wise and fiscally but it backed up so much of what I constantly say and do over and over. The teachers I serve truly matter greatly and I was determined to demonstrate this. Truly priceless.


When you tell someone “you’re significant” and “you matter” are you being genuine? Is there authentic meaning behind this or are you giving more of a “thanks for all you do” answer. Words matter. Actions are greater.


This holiday season and ongoing strive to always demonstrate authentic gratitude in your actions no matter the situations life throws our way.


Receiving a holiday card like the one at the bottom of this post with such genuine words on it from the above referenced people makes it all worthwhile after all.


Adding and receiving value from those around us

The 2018-19 school year has been a sprint. Nonstop. So much learning and growing with a workflow that that can often be intense. Blogging has fallen off my radar these past few months. I’ll admit it. I’ve articulated such many times over the course of the past weeks especially.

However, today something powerful happened. No not me jumping back on the blogging horse – beyond that. A group of three district peers and friends Michael Parker West, Erica Everett, Terrance Hinnat and I met for a few hours to discuss school community and how it connects to the powerful EdNC article from our fellow district colleague Christina Spears (who unfortunately was unable to attend)

This professional development session while small was powerful. Three school administrators and one aspiring administrator gathering on a Sunday afternoon at Panera over warm beverages and side items to dive deep into successes, similarities we’ve seen, are aiming to achieve, etc. in alignment with Mrs. Spears’ article.

This all came to be a few weeks ago with Erica reaching out to around 20 district peers via email. The collective group had a choice of meeting dates/times to choose from with today being the eventual winner.

During the course of our meeting we all realized that each of us had connected directly or indirectly from Twitter over the course of the last 2-3 years. We have become so close as district peers that each of us had lost sight of that. What a strong connection tool Twitter is. It has enhanced all of our personal learning but also school community bonding through hashtags. #WendellHowlout and #WeAreCarroll are significant school community connection drivers for Mr. West and myself at our respective schools for sure.

While district and school learning is always strong, sometimes the learning and personal connections we choose are the most powerful. Who knew a colleague-initiated two hour meeting on a fall Sunday afternoon in Raleigh with 4 district colleagues would be so powerful? It was.

Value added. Value received.


Unplug, unwind, relax and recharge

No matter your role in education there is one constant – the work is tough. Consuming, involved, detailed and challenging are all words that could easily describe the overarching work we collectively do on a daily basis. Rewarding, inspirational, exciting and engaging are all words that could describe the work as well.

No matter your aspect in this work whether an elementary classroom teacher, central office administrator, high school counselor or middle school assistant principal, you’re constantly on – pedal to the metal from August to June when the school year ends.

As connected educators sometimes we never slow down. Even those of us working all or part of the summer sometimes don’t take time to slow down, cut off and self-care. We’re always learning, growing, reading, blogging, PDing, etc. on top of other professional obligations. I know this because I’m often guilty of such as well year after year.

This year I put a stop to that. The month of July — I all but cut off. Very little tweeting, no blogging, no professional reading, a month related to self-care. Why? I knew when August 1 came it was going to be pedal to the metal. Nonstop until the end of the school year. The blogging would come (here it is!) the professional literature, books, resources, tweeting, Twitter chats, vlogs, etc. would all be there to enhance the work.

The value of self-care is well documented by a wide variety of extremely reputable resources:



Spending several days on my family’s farm in Ohio away from the hustle and bustle of the fast-paced world of the city and our profession personifies being cut-off. Peaceful. Calm. The above photo captures the essence of that. The learning, growing and work will be there. At the end of the day when we have time to invest in ourselves we need to do such. I’m grateful I have and encourage my brothers and sisters in education to do more of this. I’m all for professional growth, but I’m also for the value of self-care as well. Sometimes we fail as the later. Its vital we invest in that too.

We live in a fast paced world and work in a profession that is rapid as well. This requires us to be on – ongoing. Cutting off, resting and relaxing for a full month has been incredible. I’ve continued being on during my time off many times before. This go around I’m so thankfully for cutting off because I’m completely refreshed and recharged. Ready to take on the 2018-19 academic year like none other!

The power of Twitter, being a connected educator and the PLN on my career

Blogger’s note:

This blog post originally appeared on the ASCD EDge blogging platform in May 2016. 



As a 4th grade teacher in urban Raleigh, NC going into the 2011-12 school year my forward-thinking principal came up with an iniative that was, at the time, very progressive within public education. The summer leading up to the new school year, he was reading up more and more about the power Twitter had on education if utilized effectively by key stakeholders within the building. Despite being around, 4-5 years at this time, Twitter wasn’t really utilzed by anyone in education and was seen globally as a way for folks to put their opinions out there and “connect” with their favorite celebrites. Thankfully for me, this former boss of mine opened my eyes to this groundbreaking technology that has truly revolutionalized my career on many levels.

How it started

In those inservice days ahead of the 2011-12 school year officially starting, my former principal introduced our staff to Twitter. As a seasoned educator who was always forward thinking, I immediately saw the potential benefits.

To maximize the effects of Twitter, my former boss had every certified faculty member on staff from classroom teachers, intervention coaches, specialists, counselor, etc. create a Twitter account. It was then expected that every certified staff member sent out three tweets per week. This gained traction as the year rolled along with the message being engrained within the school culture. Every “school messenger” phone call that went to home to parents included mention of Twitter, being sure to follow your child’s teacher on Twitter and basics of Twitter/sign up information on the website and many letters going home from the school of with students. The PTA was on board, classroom teachers and as the year progressed, more and more parents.

As a classroom teacher that year I started to really cherish the social media platform. After the first quarter I found myself tweeting more and more and ecliplsing the “minimum requirement” for tweets. I continued to promote the platform with parents and by the middle of the school year over half of the parents in my classroom followed me on Twitter. As my following increased so did my tweets. I was now not just tweeting but adding photos of student work, promoting upcoming classroom projects, and dabbling with school-wide function promotions. By the end of the 2011-12 school year I was sold. Twitter for educational purposes was the real deal. What an effective way to reach out to parents when you promote it and stand by it.

The 2011-12 school year was a gamechanger for my career. After that school year I started to branch out more and more with the usage, classroom promotion spawned into school wide promotion, then district promotion. Photos, videos, and my network started to grow.

Beginnings of the PLN

Network? Yes, the Professional Learning Network (PLN) It started out as connectivity with educators I knew from around my district getting ideas for curriculum, school promotion, PBIS implementation, etc. Then I began reaching out to educators outside of the district from around our state…folks I never even met in person but came highly recommended from others. Then this spawned to nationally and even internationally. Before long, a few years after this whole classroom Twitter started I had a strong PLN of connected educators from literally all over the nation and beyond.

Through the usage of Twitter, I became more connected with educators from North Carolina through #NCed bi-weekly chats, EdCamps throughout our state and school visits of connected educators throughout my PLN. EdCamps, while powerful face to face conversations about various areas of importance within education also serve as a great connectivity/tweetup tool as well as a fantastic way to grow your PLN.

In my current position as an elementary curriculum coach, I utilize Twitter for two key reasons: school promotion and academic resources from my PLN. I’m in classrooms K-5 daily and if something amazing is going on (which is often) at our school I’m taking a photo of it and Tweeting it out utilizing our school-wide hashtag. Teachers come to me all the time for advice about curriculum and content that goes beyond our pacing guides and curriculum mapping provided by the district. I get a lot of my answers along with great articles from my PLN via Twitter. By the same token, I’m able to contribute a lot of my knowledge with other educators through my PLN. It’s truly a win-win.

Next steps

Beyond Twitter and EdCamps, I also utilize the Voxer app, mainly with a group of connected educators from around our state, which adds text, voice (walkie-talkie style) and photo as another layer of connectivity. Voxer is actually how I helped get assistance/advice when coming up with a hashtag to utilize at my current school. I wanted something simple, short, yet effective. I posed the question via voice with Voxer and within a few hours had feedback from 10-15 leading educators from around North Carolina to assist in hashtag ideas based on the information I’d given (school initials, PBIS theme, mascot, etc) now we have a great one that accomplished all the goals I had lined up.

Today, Twitter/Tweetdeck as a resource and connectivity tool are as much a part of my day as email, face to face conversations, walk-arounds, meetings/trainings at our central office, PLCs, etc. I’m so thankful for this platform to opening my eyes to far more than just the walls of how things are done in my school and even district.

I’m thankful to work in a very Twitter-friendly school district that embraces the technology for many of the reasons mentioned above and even has it’s own bi-weekly chat (#WCPSSchat) now which is connecting more and more intra-district (and visitors) educators.

Whether you’re just getting started with Twitter, moderate or advanced, I highly recommend the following three books:

The power of being a connected educator through EdCamps, Twitter & Voxer

Blogger’s note:

This blog post originally appeared on the ASCD EDge blogging platform in June 2016. edcamp-leadership


As the 2015-16 school year has wrapped up and we are now a few weeks into summer break, now is the perfect time to reflect on the power of connectivty within our profession. What does it truly mean to be a “connected educator?” Hmmmm. A few months ago, I made my initial leap into blogging with the following post: Read at your own leisure if you choose but that post essentially maps out my 5 year journey through being a connected educator and explains in short what the term means to me.

While Twitter is the longest standing form of connectivty related to my profession followed by EdCamps and most recently Voxer the three are all of equal importance to my continued growth, learning and connecting.

EdCamp movement

I first heard the term EdCamp 4 years ago while a 4th grade teacher. A first year teacher who I served as an unofficial mentor to mentioned this concept to me, showed me a video overview (which is actually one of the links listed at the bottom of this post) and asked my thoughts. She knew I was very forward thinking and already heavily connected via Twitter for eduational enrichment purposes. I liked what I saw but the movement was just getting started and I didn’t have buy-in from connected educators. I wasn’t ready to make that leap.

Fast forward to the fall of 2013. At this point I was out of the classroom serving as a school-based Administrative Intern. At this point I became connected through Twitter with Dr. Steven Weber who at that time was principal at Hillsborough Elementary in nearby Orange County Schools (NC) along with a parent at our school, Mr. Nathan Stevens who was heavily involved with the makerspace movement through his position with the College of Education media services at NC State University. Both Steven and Nathan took me under their wing and highly encouraged me to check out this “new thing” called an EdCamp. They’d both been to a few “camps” and encouraged me to go to one that fall in Raleigh – EdCamp NC. I attended. My first EdCamp I just listened, took it all in – valuable PD but the unconference layout took time to understand and soak in. However, I was a believer. Later that spring along with a colleague, attended EdCamp Rowan in Salisbury, NC and became more involved. Connecting face to face with educational leaders from around the state and having rich discussions and learning sessions about our profession in a school setting. Hooked. From then on I, I started spreading the word about EdCamps and have since attended EdCamps in Charlotte, another in Raleigh, and returned to Salisbury the following few years. This year, I’m on the planning committee for the second annual EdCamp Leadership NC held in Raleigh. In a mere three years I’ve gone from skeptic to firm believer in this process. It’s not just me. I’m fortunate to work in the Wake County Public School System, not only one of the largest districts in the nation but also most progessive. My district is constantly a leader in “the next thing” and I’m proud to say has played host to several EdCamps which continue to grow in strength and attendance. The movement is truly grassroots and growing. It takes some encouragement and and arm twisting at times to get folks to go to that first EdCamp, just like it took Dr. Weber and Mr. Stevens years ago but I’m thankful they did…and I’ve “paid it forward” to countless colleagues in my district and throughout my PLN encouraging them to attend and in turn their new love spawns similar results.


I’ve been on Voxer for a year now. I’ll admit prior to a little over a year ago, I had never even heard of the iOS and Andriod app. I was sold at EdCamp Leader NC last summer on the value of this app as an educator. One of the sessions was about Voxer. I attended only because I had heard bits and pieces about this app and wanted to learn more. Wow. Blown away. In that session so many statewide “heavy weights” within education…all talking about Voxer and specifically #NCed Voxer group. Now I was familiar with the #NCed chat hashtag and “group” as it had been (and continues to be) very much a “go to” for me content and quiestion bouncing wise. But this group – conversations could be text, photo or VOICE? Oh my goodness – next level. My inner-nerd went into overdrive – huge. From right there in that sessions one of the group admins added me and from that moment on I at least follow from afar with the 100 or so members from around the state sometimes chiming in text or voice commentary. Easily as much learning happens for me educationally in that Voxer group as does on Twitter. Valuable. Please check it out. If you’re a North Carolina educational leader in any capacity hit me up and we’ll ensure you can join the conversation.


Wrapping it up, this journey as a connected educator I equate as a 5 year journey with the train going down the tracks and just now starting to speed up. I’m excited what the future of this journey will bring not only to me as a professional but also what can help me in adding value to the colleagues I work with directly, indirectly and the studens we all serve. Powerful doesn’t do it justice.

At the bottom of this post I’ve included several articles and links which are all great introductions to EdCamps, Twitter and Voxer. All worth checking out no matter your level in the process of connectivity.

Lastly, a huge shout out to Dr. Steven Weber and Mr. Nathan Stevens for adding significant value to my connectivity as an educator. You can follow both at: @curriculumblog and @nathan_stevens


21st century professional development

Blogger’s note:

This blog post originally appeared on the ASCD EDge blogging platform in July 2016. 


Modern Day PD

2016-17 will mark my 12th year in education. I’ve seen a lot change in my decade plus both in methodolgy, styles of teacher learning, student learning, the rise of social media for edu learning/connecting, etc. Considering my mother was a career eduator, I’ve literally been around the education setting my entire life and have seen a lot of changes within our profession both directly and indirectly.

One of the biggest shifts from the professional lens has been the way we receive professional development. With budget cuts to resources gone are the days often times when a large percentage of a staff could travel long distances to see speakers at workshops for PD then bring the contents back to the remainder of the faculty. This still remains to a point but most of the PD is site-based. As we shift from the traditional “sit and get” PD more and more, how do we effectively ensure our teachers, the most ones who have the most important positions in the school…the backbone of the faculty if you will receive PD effectively?

As a curriculum coach, this is one of the hurdles I’m faced with (one of the many hats I have in my position) while I’m afforded some of those traveling PD experiences mentioned above many times, I too, am not and the PD has to be school based.

I’ve learned to get creative. First of all, every school has a lot of experts in certain areas. Think about it. Coming from the elementary lens, ever school has a few teachers who really and truly excel in guided reading instruction, or introduction of CCSS multiplication methods, always on the cutting edge of classroom education apps, Daily 5 integration, 4Cs woven into literature, the list goes on. Utilizing these “in house” experts is huge! As opposed to the principal, assistant principal, myself or someone from our district central office coming out to give PD, while we can assist, teachers love learning from their peers that are “in the trenches” with them. We’ve had great success with this model at my current school and previous school as well. It’s a win-win gets some teachers out of their comfort zones by recognizing skills they have and would benefit sharing with peers and teachers are learning from eachother in personalized PD settings this way no one is learning things they already know about, have previously heard, already are experts on, etc. This makes the PD much, much more meaningful.

Being in the 21st century brings about all sorts of new technology. Example. Last spring one of our Kindergarten teachers came to me asking about the Seesaw app she had heard about. I mentioned that I had a connection on the other side of our school district who was a Seesaw ambassador and had already mentioned to me doing a PD at our school for interested faculty. I hyped it to our faculty enough that the entire staff was interested in at least learning. So…. we did a Google Hangout PD. The staff had their laptops, could see and hear my friend (45 min away) ask questions and she could see our progress in live time. It was truly meaningful PD! The link below is a tweet from the event….

Visting another workspace

Another way to grow as professionals is by visiting other educators’ workspaces, seeing them “in action.” The Science specialist at the school I serve is dynamic – always on the top of her game, asking questions, attending district encouraged Science kit PD, learning and growing. The students love learning from Mrs. Hodges and we’re lucky to have such a great educator at our school. However, she wanted to learn more. She came to me with ideas for PD beyond what she was getting. Immediately I came up with taking a day, visiting two schools within our district one middle, one elementary and seeing two amazing Science teachers in action to see how they interact in their work spaces and asking questions during down time. I spent a day with Abigail at these two schools having amazing observation experiences, discussions both with the teachers, students about their learning and eachother at the end of the day about what we saw and how Mrs. Hodges could apply what she saw into her practice. Talk about meaningful PD – she still mentions it and clearly so do I….


Edcamps are a wonderful way for educators to learn and grow professionally – at your own pace and skillset. I’ve blogged in ASCD EDge before about the power of EdCamps and they still remain true. If there is one in your area and you’ve never attended – GO. Take a leap of faith. I promise you won’t regret. If you’ve been before encourage peers in your school and/or district to go that have never attended. Everyone gets a lot out of EdCamps and it’s always a good use out of a Saturday or Monday morning and afternoon!


Of course, in my opinion, the most powerful PD out there is your PLN (professional learning network) via Twitter & Voxer. It takes time to build and maintain an effective PLN but it’s so worth the investment. Feel free to check out my blog post from a few months back on this very topic if you’re not connected……yet.

In education today within professional development, you have to be willing to think outside the box. Both from content, delivery and being respectful of your faculty’s time. Never lose sight of the later. I truly believe the teachers have the most vital role in the school – we need to honor and respect that. Not by giving them “one more thing” in PD but rather PD that is truly meaningful for every faculty member. It takes more on the planning end but will be worth it in the end by a mile.

Refreshed, recharged and ready to go in 2016-17


Bloggers note:

This blog post originally appeared on the ASCD EDge blogging platform in August 2016. web1-back-to-school-logo-2

As I write this blog we are now one week into the 2016-17 academic year for traditional calendar schools in our school district. I’m eager to see where we go as a school with implementing both school-wide initiatives as as well as district-wide initiatives and vision. Two words – You Matter.

Most exciting this school year are the embarkment on three initiatives that will serve as a constant theme this school year and revisited/woven into most of the PD and reminders throughout the school year in an effort to be embraced by the faculty and in turn part of the school culture and community.

I knew I had a winner on my hands when the very next day at school I saw this sign in a 4th grade teacher’s room… matted and framed with Angela Maiers’ You Matter manefesto. Powerful. This was followed by numerous staff members asking me face to face or via email for more information about Maiers’ movement, books, blogs, videos, etc. Several faculty members are embracing this concept not only with their students but also one another. My relationship PD was student-student, faculty-student and faculty-faculty. You Matter served as the center piece.

How powerful would it be if we had a culture not only at our school but many schools that after a year, two or more of this movement and this could occur….

Intertwined with many links and resources found within The Skillful Teacher, Cultural Proficiency and Mindset. The faculty at our school now has a baseline of understanding to work around with the whole child and one another in an effort to move mountains for our students in 2016-17.

When the staff sees me leading by example constantly growing, learning and pushing myself out of my comfort zone this goes a long way toward them wanting/wishing/being interested in expanding their own mindset as we all work to do what’s best for kids and expanding our scope as educational professionals. Excited to see how all of these deep skills presented initially and revisited throughout the year will take off and hopefully blossom throughout the school year. Here is to a fantastic 2016-17…

Links to books referenced in my presentation and/or this blog:

20,000+ NC educators marched – now what?

Wednesday, May 16, 2018 was an incredible day for democracy in our beloved Raleigh, NC. Exhausted from years of low per pupil funding, failure to reach national average for teacher pay and perceived lack of respect from the legislative majority within both chambers of the General Assembly post recession North Carolina educators had enough. Roughly 1/3 of the districts in the state closed for the day allowing educators from all over the state to make their collective journeys to  our beautiful capital city for the #RedForEd march for respect. This allowed for the event to not only happen, but being a glowing success with a broad-reach of statewide and national coverage.

As a school administrator, a sizable chunk of my position is supporting teachers, students and the school community at large. This day was all about advocacy for a public education system that is often perceived, especially in the past decade, at the state and federal level as under attack by many forces. That said, this made my presence at the march a necessity. Time to step away from the day to day to stand proud with my brothers and sisters in education.


For years, I have been an advocate for public education. I stand up and ensure the story is being told. Verbally, through social media, within the community, etc. I’m always advocating. There is a lot of negativity being circulated, and often loudly, about what “is happening” in public schools. These are often baseless, half-truths and sadly even completely falsehoods. We as educators should be constantly telling our stories of what is happening in our schools. Share it often, share it ongoing.


Additionally, while Wednesday’s events were a beautiful thing we as educators must build momentum off of this. Many educators have been content for years with standing on the sidelines when it comes to education policy and legislation that directly effects public education.

As I posted several months ago – the time is now to get off the sidelines. At the very least, all educators should be informed and at least fairly knowledgable with policies coming from the state level that directly impact our profession.


We simply can’t leave the sky high energy from Wednesday’s events in Raleigh. Become part of the process. Be involved in local and state policy. Take that seat at the table. Engage in conversation.


Embrace the uncomfortable.


I was so very proud of many educators who came Wednesday who I know were so far out of their comfort zone in marching but were all there in support of one common goal – full funding and respect coming from the state level toward public education. That’s a beautiful thing.

The energy can’t stop there. We have the resources. Utilize them. Share our stories. Learn. Grow. Advocate.

If you’re not happy with what the lawmakers who represent you are doing with public education funding and beyond – we all hold the greatest power within our democracy…



Survive and advance. Harnessing perseverance in our daily lives.

Survive and advance. Today marks the 35th anniversary of NC State University’s unbelievable 1983 NCAA tournament run that ended in dramatic buzzer beating fashion over the heavily-favorited University of Houston. This game has long been viewed as one of the greatest championship games in all athletics – amateur and professional alike.

The 1982-83 NC State Wolfpack team had one heck of a journey throughout that championship season. So many twists, turns, close tournament games that ESPN featured the team’s improbable run in one of their most successful “30 for 30” series documentaries. If you have not seen Survive and Advance, please do yourself a favor and watch. You will not be disappointed in this incredible example of perseverance.


Merriam-Webster defines the word as this:


continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition the action or condition or an instance of persevering steadfastness
How many times do we face challenges in our lives, career or even within our families? Sure it is easiest to bury our hand in the sand, ignore and simply hope the issues will rectify themselves. This often isn’t the case. We need to be strong, adjust our sails (as Dr. John Maxwell says) and be willing to change course. Giving up, should not be in the cards though.
The 1982-83 NC State Wolfpack men’s basketball team embodies so many strong character strengths. This tight-knit group stayed together through thick and thin even when times were tough. Every player on the bench believed in head coach Jim Valvano just as much as he believed in each of them.
Jim Valvano NC St
Did the season end as they planned? Yes. They envisioned an NCAA Championship. Did it happen remotely how they envisioned? Not by a mile. That’s what makes this tale of perseverance so amazing – even 35 years later.
How will you adjust when your plan doesn’t go as mapped out? Adjust the sails or stay the course?

Relationships, relationships, relationships. The foundation for all aspects of education.

As I twirl through Twitter and see tweets from educators, hear district leaders across the nation speak in person or on video, blog posts, articles or even books we hear a lot about curriculum. We hear a lot about content. We hear a lot about data.

Relationships have become a significant buzz word in our profession in the last 2-3 years especially. However, everyone in our profession or outside of it can always, even if they’re 50 years removed from their K-12 experience can remember a few teachers and/or school leaders who made a significant impact on their life. Someone who believed in them through thick and thin. Someone who didn’t give up on them when doing just that would have been much easier. Someone who forged a solid, genuine relationship.

As educators we have a responsibility no matter our role to get to know each of the students we serve. In the hallways, in the cafeteria doing classroom visits. Getting to know students’ academic strengths, weaknesses but also their likes outside of school. Allowing students to see us as humans. Not most of the students we serve, all. Yes, including those kids. Education isn’t about teaching the ones coming to school eager to learn but in also generating interest in those that often might be labeled as “unreachable” or a “challenge” possibly even a “lost cause.” This is unacceptable but unfortunately some in profession are guilty of this.

Stop. Pause. Embrace the uncomfortable. You know I’m right about the above. Step out of your bubble if you think otherwise for a minute.

We must must ensure that we are reaching all students not almost all or most but all. Once we have them all and truly have them then and only then can we truly tackle content, curriculum and plow through but its still so uber important that we continue the relationship piece ongoing.

When I was a classroom teacher I spent the first two weeks of school doing next to no academics. Did this put me “behind” some? Yes. However I knew I had to and I mean had to set my foundation. By the end of the two weeks my students would move mountains for me. In turn we moved mountains together and the students’ academic results spoke for themselves. My principals were amazed at how well so many of the students did some were those kids. The ones the previous teacher(s) would say “oooooh I’m so sorry Mr. Fetters…” when class lists were distributed. Ironically many of those kids are some of the students I made the biggest impact on in my career and reinforced the most how much I love this profession. Visiting a child at a game on a Saturday afternoon can truly turn a student’s world around for the positive. Believe me, I’ve seen it and lived it.

Fast forward to now as a school leader. Every student has a story. It is paramount we get to know the students we serve far beyond the surface level. Chats at lunch are a time for me to get to know the students on the grade level I support. During observations whether informal or formal, seeing the students in the classroom asking questions about their learning I often learn as much from them. In the hallways, at sporting events, plays, performances, reaching out to parents for balancing phone calls for positive reasons, always offering support in any capacity, the list goes on.

When you tell a student you believe in them, mean it. The students we all serve can tell when we’re authentic or superficial in a nanosecond. We life in a superficial world all too often as I’ve posted about in the past. We need to be authentic and ongoing in our relationships with students, their families. Everyone has a story. Yes, even those kids. Get to know their stories, all of them. You’ll be surprised what you find and you’ll be surprised in the content you can cover by not just plowing through right out of the gate. The “unreachable” can be reached – if you make a valiant and authentic ongoing effort.

This concept isn’t new. My career high school English teacher mother told me often throughout my undergraduate career at Wilmington College going into my first few years in education the “challenging” students will be your favorite. “Listen to them fully, believe in them and guide them.” She was so right. As a classroom teacher and school leader this is so very applicable daily.

Content, curriculum and knowledge are all powerful but you must have your solid foundation first. Do you in your classroom? How do you root the faculty you lead in truly seeing the value of this? Are the right people on your bus?

Deep thoughts rooted in a rock solid foundation of solid, genuine relationships. They take time to build up and foster but are always, always worth it. After all, #KidsDeserveIt, right?

Proud to be on the #TeamKidsFirst faculty where we foster this overarching mindset daily. Follow the hashtag to see our work in action. social Media Carroll