BEING THANKFUL

This time of year causes many of us to reflect on the things we are thankful for. I am certainly no different. There are so many things for me to be thankful for.

First and foremost I am thankful that I am a Christian and have the blessing of forgiveness of sins. God has blessed myself and my family in so many ways. I am truly thankful for that as well as many other things in my life.

I am so thankful to be a father and husband to two wonderful children and a beautiful wife of 31 years. Together we raised two amazing kids, one of whom has followed in my footsteps and became a teacher. They have grown into great adults who have married two amazing people and we are blessed to have two beautiful granddaughters and counting hopefully. The people I just mentioned are an incredible support system in my life. I can’t tell you how thankful I am for everyone of them!

I am so fortunate and thankful to be an educator and impact young lives, I hope in a positive way! Each day I get to wake up and spend my day with teenagers. Some would think that is crazy! I love kids and they need positive influence more than ever. Kids are wonderful and they need guidance. I am so thankful I’m in the position to be an influence. That thankfulness goes both ways though. I’m very thankful for of the influence they have on me as well. Kids are great to be around and I love their creativity and their thirst to knowledge. They definitely help keep me young.

The same place I get to go every day to be with the wonderful kids I spoke of is an incredible staff who share the same passion I do for impacting young people. It is an honor to work with them. I am not from Western Yell County but have treated as I am. It’s an amazing place with amazing people.

Last but not least I’m thankful for a PLN I am privileged to be a part of and am impacted by them daily.

These are many of the things I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving. What are you thankful for?


THE NEW KID IN TOWN!

Being new can be tough, especially on kids! It can be difficult for adults as well.

The new school year is upon us or perhaps in some cases has already begun. Undoubtedly, there will be new students and teachers on every school campus regardless of state or country.

NEW KID IN TOWN

We’ve all been the new person at some point in our lives. It can be really tough. Some people do well in this situation but some struggle to be bold enough to meet new people, to introduce themselves, and forge their way into a particular setting. Strangely enough we all know that it can be very lonely even in a room full of people.

I’ve been an educator for 21 years and I am 52 years old. I try to attend conferences in different areas and places. Sometimes I feel very alone when I am the only one from my school or district and other schools have teams or have those established relationships. I have had to make myself be bold enough to meet others. It’s not always been that way. Fortunately, most of the time other educators are very accepting and understand that same feeling.

With all of us knowing that difficulty of fitting in, think about that kid that is new to a school. That’s so difficult. It breaks my heart when I see a kid sitting alone at a table during lunch or standing alone outside in the morning before school. Sometimes they are alone even when they’ve been at a school for some time. That is equally difficult as being new somewhere.

BE A BUDDY

As the new school year begins be a buddy or mentor to someone. It might be a student and it might be a fellow staff member. Hopefully, all schools try to assign buddies and mentors to new students and staff members. It helps so much for someone to show “the new guy” the ropes. It is so difficult to be somewhere and not know anyone or not know where to go or what to do. It can deflate a person’s confidence quickly.

ISOLATION IS BAD

We don’t want kids isolated. We know not only from research and data but our own personal experiences with kids that isolation can lead to being bullied, depression, and other mental health issues. A brain imaging study by the University of Michigan suggests that the same parts of the brain that are activated by social rejection as by physical pain. This is significant in that teens choose to isolate themselves for protection from pain. I could go on with data that we all know exists but I think we all see the point.

MOST IMPORTANT LESSON

Perhaps the most important lesson is that we need to help our students be helpful and kind to not only new students but those that isolate themselves too. Character education and mental health education is so important! However, we can be a living lesson every day in the example we set in how we treat others. It’s important to BE THAT EXAMPLE!

Bottom line: It’s tough to be new and/or alone! Let’s take it upon ourselves as leaders to not allow those kids to be isolated.

Give Me An I!

There was a Toby Keith song several years ago, I Wanna Talk About Me. It tells the story of a relationship where the girl just talks about herself all the time. While I don’t want to talk about myself but I know we all encounter people who always steer the conversation back to themselves, take credit where it’s not due, or take full credit where others had contributions. There may be other scenarios as well that could apply here.

Something I seem to encounter frequently is that people want to talk about themselves and let me know and everyone else the things they are good at. While that is not necessarily a flaw I wonder if this is done in order to make themselves look better? Is it an insecurity? Is it arrogance?

I’ve always felt if you’re doing a great job people are going to know it. The biggest question is; are you doing it for recognition? If so and if you’re an educator you might be in the wrong profession! There is certainly a difference between self promotion and I statements as opposed to someone using their leadership ability and knowledge to help others.

Why though?

I honestly think that there are educators whose hearts are in the right place but for whatever reason feel the need for recognition as well. In some ways we all seek recognition. Perhaps that particular type of person has insecurities? Or maybe that person just likes recognition and attention, maybe it’s a large ego? I don’t know the answer to all these questions and I am in no way trying to judge.

Cream rises to the top!

I am of the thought process that there is always plenty of credit to spread around. I feel it’s my place as a leader to give credit to those around me that are part of a team with me. It is my place as a leader to take the blame when things don’t go well but make sure any mistakes are corrected whether they are mine or someone else’s. I truly believe leadership and character reveals itself within time. In other words, the cream will rise to the top!

Servant Leadership

I statements and self promotion seem to be running rapid in education and leadership in general. I’m not judging anyone but this type of thought process has no place in servant leadership! I have met so many wonderful educators who give of themselves and aren’t afraid to put themselves out there and be vulnerable. I love that! You can’t be a servant leader and an I person at the same time!

Thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts.

Sending the wrong message!

Do you start countdowns in your classroom or school for the end of the year or Christmas break? I know that’s a common practice. However, what type of message does that send? I know we all need breaks and there is certainly nothing wrong with looking forward to weekends, Christmas, and summer break. That’s very natural and that time is needed to get reenergized.

What message are we sending though? What does that say to our students and even our community? Perhaps it tells our students that I can’t wait till you’re gone? While I would certainly hope this is not the intent of any educator, we must remember how fragile the teenage mind, psyche, and ego can be. Consider those students where school is by far their must stable and safe environment. They get two meals and people that hopefully are encouraging and nurturing all throughout the school day. If they aren’t receiving that then there is certainly something amiss!

Kids are our most valuable commodity and resource. More than ever kids need the love and support of not only their teachers but all school personnel. So, as you start a countdown on your board for everyone to see think about how it might be affecting those kids who in their world you are the brightest spot of their day!

We all became educators because we wanted to help kids. At least I sure hope we did. If that indeed is the reason we are all here then why would we start a countdown to get away from them? A legitimate question indeed! It is definitely food for thought.

I’ll leave you with two quotes, one from the great Todd Whitaker and the other from the movie A League Of Their Own.

“The good thing is teaching matters, the hard thing is it matters every day.” Todd Whitaker

“It’s supposed to be hard. If it was easy everyone would do it. The hard… is what makes it great!”

Jimmy Dugan, A League of Their Own

Legacy Of A Legend

This past week University of Arkansas former Athletic Director Frank Broyles passed away at the age of 92 from complications of Alzheimers.  If you are a Razorback fan or an Arkansan you probably understand the significance and the impact of Coach Broyle’s life and leadership and the impact it had not only on Razorback fans but the state in general.  I wanted to write a post celebrating his life and leadership.  Even if you’re not a Razorback or a sports fan please continue reading.  There are many lessons to learn from his legacy of leadership.

He took a mediocre to average football program and coached the Hogs to their only national title in 1964.  He was not only a great football coach but was a great leader who understood that you helped develop the people who worked and played for him and helped shape them into great leaders.  On the 1964 national title team he coached Jerry Jones, owner and billionaire of the Dallas Cowboys.  Jones recently acknowledged the influence of Broyles in his acceptance speech into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  Here is a statement from Jones following the death of his former coach and mentor: “Outside of my father, Frank Broyles was the most influential man in my life.”  What an impactful statement!

The Broyles award is named in his honor for college football’s best assistant coach.  He had great influence and helped shape the careers of so many assistants who went on to have successful head coaching jobs.  Some of those former assistants include; Barry Switzer who won a national title at Oklahoma, Johnny Majors at Tennessee and Pittsburg, Fred Akers at Texas, Doug Dickey, and Jimmy Johnson who won both a national title and two Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys. There were other great influences as well including Jim Lindsey who is now a real estate mogul in Arkansas.

There are  so many leadership lessons that can be learned from Broyles’ legacy and leadership.  He not only developed those around him but hired great coaches for Arkansas’ athletic programs including Nolan Richardson who coach the Razorbacks to their one and only basketball national championship.  That list also includes John  McDonnell who holds 42 national titles in track and cross country.  He hired Eddie Sutton in the mid 70s to coach the basketball program that was not very competitive until Sutton’s arrival and he helped launch the program into the national spotlight.

The list could go on and on.  The bottom line is there are so many life and leadership qualities that can be learned from Frank Broyles.  Not only does his coaching tree reach far and wide, he wrote a book in his 80s entitled: Coach Broyles Playbook for Alzheimer’s Caregivers.  His first wife Barbara died from Alzheimers complications as well.

There are five qualities that Frank Broyles possessed that are invaluable to all leaders regardless of whether they run a corporation, are principal of a school, or teach a classroom:

  1. He understood that you have to develop leaders around you to be successful and allow them to fly when the time comes.
  2. He also understood that you had to make hard and difficult decisions and own those decisions! (His career was not without controversy)
  3. He had vision! He led the Razorback’s transition into the Southeastern Conference which has been instrumental in athletic and financial success which not many others could see at the time. 
  4. He knew how to bring people together for a common cause.  He brought an entire state together to support a university and help raise millions of dollars while AD and into his retirement.
  5. He was willing to give back. to society which shown in the writing of the aforementioned book.

You don’t have to be a sports fan to understand and appreciate the great leadership skills that Frank Broyles possessed.  He will be greatly missed not only at the UA but throughout Arkansas and college football.

No Greater Compliment

As some of you know I had a brother, James Anthony pass away recently.  For those of you who knew of the news I appreciate so much the thoughts, prayers, and messages of encouragement.  My wife and I were honored to have been his caretakers the last few months of his life.  However, my purpose is not to discuss his illness but his impact as an educator as a special education teacher for 27 years.   

I want to give you just a little background about my brother before I get started.  He was a passionate Arkansas Razorback fan, loved everything Disney (he visited Disney World 20 times), a passionate educator, and a wonderful brother!

During his visitation we were inundated with great memories and stories of those who had worked with and knew him while growing up and his time as an educator as well.  He loved to joke around and that was obvious by the stories people told during that time as well as messages that were shared with me by friends and co-workers. 

There were a couple of moments that resonated with me more than others that night.  One particular visitor that night was a mother of one of his students.  His name is Brandon.  Brandon’s mother told me she just wanted to pay her respects to Mr. Anthony.  She went on to say it showed how much he cared about his students and how he much he cared for Brandon and the patience he showed.

There was another instance that night that resonated with me as well.  A young boy and his parents arrived shortly before the visitation was hours were complete.  He was a sixth grade student in my brother’s class.  I spoke with him even though he wasn’t very talkative.  It was obvious he was uncomfortable with the situation and circumstances.  He had requested his parents bring him to the visitation.  He told his mother I need to see him.  She went on to tell me how great a teacher her son thought Mr. Anthony was and how nice he was.  She made a statement that made the most impact for me in all of the wonderful things that were said about my brother during this time.  She told me, “Mr. Anthony definitely had an impact on my son’s life!”

As an educator, there is no greater compliment. My brother was a great person and my best friend.  I will miss him.  I think his colleagues and most importantly his students will miss him as well.

HAVE WE FORGOTTEN ABOUT RURAL SCHOOLS?

 

Education always seems to be front and center in the public eye. This is certainly true in politics.  There are certainly many opinions about what should be done with education, however, there seems to be a forgotten aspect of the educational argument: rural education!  

Don’t misunderstand me, all schools are important. However, they all have different issues and needs.  We say that best practice for teaching students is a variety in instruction and not a one size fits all mentality.  It’s no different from the standpoint of schools.  Rural schools, urban schools, and everything in between have many different needs that must be addressed.  It is vital that we don’t forget rural schools or any other schools in the education equation.

There is a legislative session currently going in Arkansas.  As you might guess education is a very big topic.  There are many bills being presented in both the senate and the house.  Vouchers, home school families receiving public school funding, home school student participation in extracurricular activities, school choice to name a few.  In all of these important issues it appears that the rural school is being ignored not just at the state level but certainly at the national level as well.

Daisy Dyer Duerr (@daisydyerduerr) is a former a high school principal and current keynote speaker who is a rural school advocate. I highly suggest following her on Twitter and follow her podcast, Totally Rural.  She is wonderful from an education standpoint and is a great person as well with a deep, wonderful passion for all students.

Daisy suggests five ways to improve rural education:

  1. Accessibility to broadband access will help close the digital divide that exists for rural areas.  Dr. Paul Lasley, a Sociologist at Iowa St. University says, “High speed internet is as important to today’s young adults as electric lines and paved highways were to their parents and grandparents.

*According to U.S. News and World Report the latest data shows only 55% of people living in rural areas have access to the speed that qualifies as broadband while 94% of urban population does.

  1. Establish or bring back community vitality: This should not only include college readiness tracks but opportunity for careers in the community.  This can and should include partnering with local industry.  Schools cannot be ENGINES OF EXODUS in rural America.
  1.  Advocate for these rural areas.  Rural schools and areas must be represented!
  2.  Revitalize rural America by growing and developing rural entrepreneurs and Farm Bureau Shark Tank Challenge. Listen to the Totally Rural podcast to find out more about this.
  3.  Universities should adopt a rural education master’s program. Incentivize the good work being done in 285 of the 320 persistent  poor counties.  Daisy also adds to this point that innovation should be rewarded and risk taking should be celebrated by those institutions.

Internship programs and vocational education should be promoted and supported as well.  The schools themselves typically do support vocational education but it should also be supported at the state and national level as well.  At Western Yell County High School we are in our first year of an internship program that has been very successful for our students.  We also have a great academic partner with the Arkansas Tech Career Center in Russellville, AR as well as a neighboring school district that promotes both college and career tracks.  This allows our students to have and see opportunities they otherwise wouldn’t see in high school.

The Arkansas Department of Education has done a great job making sure the rural schools in Arkansas have sufficient broadband access.  The ability of our students to take online classes through Virtual Arkansas has been tremendous.  Our students have access to concurrent credit classes through Virtual Arkansas and Arkansas Tech University.

While all of the aforementioned items are wonderful more still needs to be done so rural students are not lost in the equation.  Rural schools need to have advocates.  Students deserve the very best education that can be afforded to them regardless of locale!  The rural school is being forgotten and not being represented as it should.  That needs to change!

Learning as I go: Experiences, reflections, lessons learned

Rachelle Dene Poth @rdene915 #FUTURE4EDU #QUOTES4EDU #THRIVEinEDU

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