Being genuine in all walks professionally and personally – wrapping up 2018-19

I haven’t blogged much this school year. 4 times to be exact. I’ve fallen off the blogging “wagon” – I’ll own it. No excuses. My last post was New Year’s Day.

The 2018-19 school year has been very rewarding. Plenty of challenges, growth opportunities and inspirational moments galore mixed in. I’ve also backed off on my tweeting lately devoting more time to diving deeper with supporting students,  teachers, support personnel, school community  while advocating at the state and local level for public education at an increased level.

I’m back. Back to blogging. Back to picking up the “twitter game.” On Twitter there is often a lot of talk. Many educators are strong at sounding fantastic behind their keyboard or phone. A lot is sincere but also all too often superficial. Self promotion masked as “best for kids” and “best for education.”

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Allow me to catch up. As articulated in an earlier blog this school year it is vital that we lead intentionally by showing genuine gratitude for those we supervise daily. For me this year it included a group outing over the Holiday season to a hockey game, joining up at the ‘Day of Action’ education rally downtown Raleigh with teachers (see above), showing authentic appreciation beyond Teacher Appreciation week gifts (below), etc. The list goes on.

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For me, I have been determined daily to be present. Rarely in my office. Intentional at being present in the hallways and in classrooms. Daily. Students are never saying “Mr. Fetters is here…” or teachers asking “Do you need something?” My presence is part of the daily flow for the teachers I serve. This is true no matter how stressful or busy the day is – you make time. My presence in classrooms should never be anywhere near limited to teacher observations. Ever.

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Being visible and getting to know the staff you directly oversee is vital. Everyone has a story. Get to know the gist. This includes students just as much.

 

Be yourself. Be authentic. Build capacity in others. Work smarter. Share your space. #BecomeBetter together.

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Be yourself. Be honest. Be true. Be genuine. Authentic.

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School administrators – work with your team to continually push yourself out of your comfort zone to be the best leader you can be. For the sake of the students, staff and school community. #StriveForGreatness. 2018-19 was a fantastic ride and sure am looking forward to what 2019-20 brings.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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The power of being genuine – story of my life.

Genuine. According to Merriam-Webster the word is defined as this:

1a: actually having the reputed or apparent qualities or character

  • genuine vintage toys

b: actually produced by or proceeding from the alleged source or author

  • the signature is genuine

c: sincerely and honestly felt or experienced

  • a deep and genuine love

d: actual, true 

  • a genuine improvement

2: free from hypocrisy or pretense: sincere 

  • His apology seemed genuine.

In today’s society far too many of us have gotten away from a true understanding of the word, much less putting it into action within our daily lives. The loose usage of important labels such as friend, kind, nice, etc. are becoming all too frequent.

I often speak to the power of Dr. John Maxwell’s “value added” approach in daily life. This is something I strive to do daily and seek those who add value in return. “Live your life with intentionality – make it significant,” are words from Dr. Maxwell to live by.

 The past few years especially more and more I have aimed to live not only by these “value added” principles but also by the sentence that I tweeted in a #SaturdaySpark⚡️ several months ago. Usually these are inspirational sayings, lines or quotes – but this was one that spoke to me as much, if not more than any — because it is something I am to live by daily:

The longer I live the more I realize that some people are good listeners, (uninterrupted – not hearing – listening) genuinely care and are tried and true friends. These will be there through the good times and the not so good times. Thick and thin. Sometimes its a learning process. Life is hard. The aches and pains of growing up as a person, professionally and personally can be taxing.
I know who these people are in my life. My tribe. My people. They build me up, encourage and offer constructive feedback on going and this is reciprocal. They have my back I love them. I know them and they know me. I love them. They love me. Do you connect with this? How genuine are you? It took me until my mid-30s to get to this point and I’m still evolving but I’m getting there – always striving for greatness. Sometimes takes weeding out. Quality > quantity.
Some people are good at talking the talk, but fail miserably when it comes to walking the walk. These people are not genuine. They need weeded out – no room for them on this train. Nonnegotiable.
One life to live, make the most of it. As the great Mike Ness wrote and performed so many years ago with Social Distortion:
“Life goes by so fastYou only want to do what you think is right.Close your eyes and then it’s past;Story of my life.”
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Relationships matter: the inspiration all around us

With the hustle and bustle of the 2016-17 school year now in the rear view mirror I find myself with time to catch up, take a breather and relax briefly prior to 2017-18 ramping up in full force in a matter of weeks. Time increases rapidly – and certainly never seems to slow down.

I just completed my 12th year in public education. From my humble beginnings as a first year teacher in small town Ohio to relocating very early in my career to the great unknown of the Triangle region of North Carolina, to obtaining my graduate degree in school administration and taking on leadership roles within the school I’ve always been invested heavily in relationships. Student to student, staff to staff, school community stakeholders, the list goes on. They’re genuine and ongoing as I’ve referred to in previous posts, its vital we are sincere as all those we serve, especially the kids, can spot a phony in an instant. Words and sincerity matter. Period.

This has always been my hallmark. Long before “relationships” became a buzzword in our profession. Long before my connections and eventual school partnership with Angela Maiers and Choose2Matter. Certainly before I met Mike Erwin and became involved with the Positivity Project beginning this past school year.

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At times we lose focus of how much our words matter. The students we all serve listen and hang on every word we say. As a younger 3rd grade teacher back in 2007-2008 I began branching out beyond the walls of my classroom. It was my third year teaching and I wanted to begin taking a bigger role. Looking back it was one of my first risks as a young, wide-eyed educator. I took time to get to know other students on the grade level outside of my classroom, their parents, getting to know them beyond student A, student B, etc. Having check-ins at lunch, or on the playground. The mentality shift from my students to our students had begun for me officially.

A month ago, that “wave” of third graders from my first elementary in Raleigh graduated from high school. In the months leading up to the big day I was amazed how many of these former third grade parents & students began reaching out to me via social media, phone, work email, etc. to ask for my address. They almost all had the same sort of blanket message “Mr. Fetters you made such a big impact on me/my child a decade ago we’d love for you to attend my/their high school graduation.” All told I received 10 invitations this year. Some were students I had in class, several were those I never taught but got to know through weekly check-ins. They were our third graders – clearly I made an impact.

I was able to attend a high school graduation this year that the bulk of students from my original WCPSS elementary school attended. Most of the students that invited me were there. It was amazing to see so many of them, hear of their accomplishments, aspirations, while also making me feel quite old in the process.

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I was able to attend one graduation party that day, a girl who I didn’t have as one of my students, but of course she was ours. Her mother reached out to me repeatedly and really wanted me to come to their house afterwards so I did. This young lady is incredible. Her exact words to me were “you always said you believed in me when I was in third grade – not a lot of people did but I knew you meant it. I wanted to prove you right.” I was taken back. Do words matter? Absolutely. Sincerity? Absolutely. This young lady has gone to places many never thought she would go. She’s going to move mountains. Just a small sliver of the impact we can and often do make on a daily basis within the profession regardless of our capacity.

These students have inspired me as much as I inspired them years ago. So powerful. Such an opportunity for rich reflection.

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Its easy to get caught up in the moment as educators. We all have tough days and the work we do is challenging. It truly takes a village. We all have a lot going on in our personal lives, career, homes, etc. but its essential we keep doing right by kids as the pinnacle of every decision we make as an educator. That should always be a nonnegotiable.