Sunday, July 24, 2016

96 Crayons and a "Box of Dreams"

For young kids, school supplies can be a big deal. Pencil pouches are cool, trapper keepers are fun, and a brand new box of crayons is exhilarating. When I was a young boy, I always brought my box of 24 crayons on the first day of school, and I remember being amazed - and a little bit jealous - of my classmates who brought a box of 64 crayons (with a built in sharpener!) I remember thinking how awesome it would be to have that. Several years ago, I shared this silly childhood memory with some of my office staff. When my birthday rolled around later that year, they presented me with a box of 96 crayons (with built in sharpener) and a note about “dreams coming true.”

In a meeting with seniors that year, I told this story and encouraged them to hold on to their dreams ... even the silly ones. (There is a tradition at that school, that as seniors walk across the stage and receive their diploma, they discreetly give a gift to the principal during the handshake.) At graduation, as I presented each senior with their diploma, each graduate gave me a crayon. I will always treasure that “Box of Dreams” ... and that box of 96 crayons (with the built in sharpener) will always sit in my office as a reminder of the great colleagues I have had, and continue to have ... and as a testament to the power of dreams.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Remembering the Roses

Smelling roses is not something that happens by accident.  It is easy to spot their beauty from a distance, but you generally have to put your nose right down there if you want to enjoy the fragrance.  And it's usually worth the effort.

Not too long ago, a colleague sent me this picure of the home screen on her phone.  Our staff is currently in a "Voxer" book study, and she wanted me to know that she was a little behind.  (Yep ... she had 131 messages that she had not yet listened to!)

I was in meeting this week, and the woman next to me showed me that she had 98 unread text messages.  My own home screen continually reminds me that I have over a thousand emails that I have not processed.  We are constantly being notified that something needs our attention: a facebook comment; a Twitter notification; an urgent text; another email; someone is talking to us on Voxer; or maybe, someone is actually calling our phone.  We are pulled in many directions, and often times, we feel we are spread too thin. It seems a bit ironic that the more "connected" we are, the more discombobulated we feel.  And I listed examples of social media, but that's only one facet of our busy lives.  We have work to do that is sitting right in front of us; we have families at home that need our attention.  There are errands to run, bills to pay, a gym membership that needs to be used ... and I hope somebody remembers to feed something to the kids!

But we will not be victims of a busy life.  Our life does not happen to us; we build the life that we want.  But like smelling roses, this process does not happen accidentally. It is an intentional process that begins when we clarify our values.  This leads to a sharper focus on our priorities.  My family recently told me that I have been preoccupied with my phone.  I don't ever want there to be ambiguity about what the roses are in my life, so I'm making a concerted effort to exercise "moderation" with social media.  

I'm currently behind on two book studies, but that's ok ... I have been playing Go Pokemon with my kids.  

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Interuptions ARE my Job!

One of the most talented and dedicated educators I ever worked with was a lady named Barbara Gajewski.  I had the privilege of calling her a colleague for several years when she was the college counselor at the high school where I was an administrator.  She was outstanding at her job, so her time was in high demand.  Parents wanted to talk to her about scholarships, students needed her to write letters of recommendation, and college admissions officers were constantly calling. I know she spent many hours on the weekends writing those letters of recommendation.  I wasn't aware of a harder worker at that school. 

I will never forget the time that she gave me one of the most important bits of advice I ever received.  (She was not intentionally giving me advice; she was just relaying to me something she had learned.  But I held her in such high esteem; I took these words as advice ... and I took them to heart.)  I was sitting in her office, and she said, "Danny, I used to be so frustrated when students and teachers kept coming by my office.  I would be frustrated with the constant phone calls.  I had a lot to do and these constant interruptions were a distraction; they were keeping me from doing my job.  And then one day I had an important realization.  It dawned on me that these interruptions, WERE my job.  That person on the phone or that person at my door is important, and they deserve my attention and my energy"  I remember being struck by how poignant that insight was to me, and I have thought of that lesson many times over the years.

You're busy!  I know you have a lot of things on your to do list.  It would be so tempting to be frustrated with the constant interruptions. But never underestimate your ability to make someone's day by how you respond to those little distractions - the ones you could easily view as an annoyance.  You never know which moments with people will be the ones that they remember ... for a long time.  So embrace the interruptions.  Make the most of those unplanned, unscheduled moments. They could end up being the most important moments of your day.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

I'm Uncomfortable

Hi ... my name is Danny, and I’m uncomfortable.  I find all these changes overwhelming, intimidating, and at times …  even scary.  I just started a Twitter account several months ago, so I could connect with other educators, and I’m still not sure what some of the functions are.  I felt a bit foolish a few weeks ago when a friend showed me something simple like how to tag people in a picture.  Our system is moving to all things Google, and that is a bit unnerving. I knew a little bit about Power Point, Excel, and Word, and now I’m having to figure out how to use Docs, Slides, Forms, and Sheets … not to mention a whole new email system.  Right now, I’m a little embarrassed that I can’t figure out how to store and retrieve all my info on Google Drive.  I just started a blog this month, and I barely have a clue what I’m doing there. I just started an Instagram account, and my son told me I screwed up my first picture. Yep … it’s fair to say that I’m uncomfortable.

But here’s the thing: I’m absolutely certain that I’m growing. And I’m equally certain that these changes will allow me to be more effective in my job. I have made a decision that my commitment to growth must override my desire to stay comfortable.  Make no mistake about it, venturing into uncharted waters brings a level of vulnerability. There is some risk that is inherent with any change.  It can be challenging … but we must embrace the changes anyway.  The risk is worth it.

Imagine the teenager who wants to be a great football player, but he remarks,

“I’m just not into lifting weights.”

Or the aspiring gymnast who says,

“Stretching just isn’t my thing.”

It is easy to see how naive, short sighted, and absurd these sentiments are.  When people say these sorts of things, we can't take their commitment to their goal seriously. Have you caught yourself saying, “Technology just isn’t my cup of tea” or “I see how that’s good for some people, but I’m not good at technology”?  I know I have said many times, “I’m just not a technology guy.”

Well guess what ...

I want to be the best, so I have made a decision to jump in “head first.”  It’s important to know that this decision is based not on how I feel, (because as I said, I’m uncomfortable,) but on what I know to be the right thing to do.  We never grow if we refuse to step out of our comfort zone.  So I’m stepping out. Maybe your goal is not to be THE best … but if you are an educator, you know that your work impacts students … and those kids deserve YOUR best.