Packing…Moving…Change

moving quote.jpg

Hello dear friends! I have to deeply apologize at my recent absence on both Twitter and writing on my blog! Since January 3rd we have been furiously packing…then moving….and now subsequently unpacking! My coworker, sixty students, countless, wonderful (and probably exasperated) construction workers, and I have spent weeks making the transition to our new Ag Ed Center.

As the quote above summarizes well, we seemed to hit a snag or a significant delay at almost every turn. Yet, time and time again my students stepped up to the challenge. We found another way and made it work! I’m one who likes to hit the ground with everything in order…I claim I’m not a “perfectionist”…yeah right…I’ve come to realize I definitely am (and working to make more realistic timelines). This presents its own set of problems when moving, but I’ve been comforted by my alumni support group, administrators, and co-teachers who remind me this is a process and it will definitely not be “perfect” a year from now or five years from now.

Yet, we can guarantee each year we will improve at our utilization of the facility and we will ramp up the quality of programming/partnerships as a result. I’m comforted hearing that from those I deeply look up to in my support network.

As with gearing up for dramatic changes in my professional life, my passion project of writing/blogging is about to experience a shift as well! 🙂

Moving towards discovering our core and the message we hope to embody through our writing is a never-ending journey for those of us who spend time reflecting through blogging. As I continue along in my journey, I’m getting closer to the core of the message I hope to leave the world with someday in my collection of reflections.

I’m not satisfied, simply “renting” a message or space that is close enough…

That being said, for close to a year, I’ve been wrestling, synthesizing the cascade of thoughts that led to the creation of what will be my new “home” base for my writing and reflections. There has been plenty of packing up old memories of past posts, moving them over, and designing a new layout that captures more of the fullness for this next chapter. Below is a link to the new site for this blog:

https://perennialeducator.wordpress.com/

I’ve struggled for the past couple of months with the thought of leaving Profiles in Learning behind…but in actuality I haven’t left it behind…it has simply transformed closer to where I need to be. Closer to the core of where I’m heading…a passion for preparing young people, preparing my family, and preparing myself to act towards cultivating positive, lasting impact.

Lasting impact starts within…it starts with saying yes to the moments and opportunities granted by life that align with our personal mission. I’m prepared to make the most of the moments offered by 2019 through living my mission statement:

Live | Learn | Last

This journey of growth/reflection is not over. It is definitely just beginning.

Writer’s Note: I’d be humbled if you decide to join in the fun of moving with me to our new site at https://perennialeducator.wordpress.com/. If you have feedback to help improve the site, I’m always on the hunt for great insights that will improve my website design skills…it is definitely an emerging hobby and far from a refined skill!

Finally, thank you, thank you for being amazing readers and learners. Exciting growth is ahead for all of us and I’m thrilled to hear the ways you are making a lasting change/impact in your own life, in the lives of others, and in the life of our communities. Thanks for all you do as educators, parents, students, and life-long learners!

MOMENTS #OneWord2019

moments

Hello 2019!! This is actually the first year I have ever done the One Word Challenge! It was exciting as I thought through potential words…they were all over the board:

community, passion, dreams, together, belief, us, fearless, sincere, time, action, hope, choices, courage, and moments

It was during our North Central District FFA Officer’s retreat where we dug into ourselves to process during the first night of reflections and identify the word we would choose. I came in already believing I would choose Courage. It had been a theme of my recent readings and I knew it was an area of continual growth in my life. Yet, Moments arose…quite literally out of nowhere.

As I look at the “gut” list where we spent one minute capturing all the words that immediately came to mind, I knew based on placement that Moments was one of the last three words that came to mind. It was still 2nd in my final three showdown…and yet as I processed further I knew there could be no other word for 2019.

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In 2019, I need to do better in cherishing the Moments I live. Moments with Annelle, by being intentional about helping make those Moments we spend together become memories we will always remember! Doing so will require me to be present in those Moments and love Annelle with an undivided heart.

Moments of capturing opportunities and not letting them slip by! Listening intently to the calling of the Lord and pausing to hear rather than rushing through the day. It will be in those “little” Moments that the Lord will choose to rock the world/life of someone I interact with if I allow him to work through me.

I must fill the Moments of 2019 and my life beyond with renewal, passion, and purpose. If I want my life to be perennially lasting then, “Putting First Things First” through renewal must take priority for the sake of my health and my family.

Passion-filled Moments will bring spark into my life and allow me to value the opportunity to work besides inspiring young people. Passion will infuse energy into the Moments that too often we take for granted and write-off as the humdrum of life/work.

Purpose-fulfilling Moments will bring alignment of my personal passion projects with the career and life God has prepared for me. Prioritizing and valuing the Moments that move the needle towards my purpose/core will bring peace and focus.

This year along with Moments, I have revised my own personal mission statement which reads simply (yet encapsulates all the above thoughts) now as: Live | Learn | Last

Finally, taking a cue from Jon Wennstrom’s inspiring post entitled “Leadership Lessons from Rocky Balboa”. He speaks about having our own soundtrack that inspires and lifts us up each day. This year I have put together my own soundtrack of songs inspired by MOMENTS for 2019. I thought about providing commentary and reasoning behind each song, but as I thought more about it, they stand on their own just fine. They actually through their unique beat/lyrics resonate the thoughts of my heart and soul better than I could justly describe myself.

Hope you enjoy and may this New Year find much growth and blessings! As always thanks for reading and growing with me!

MOMENTS Playlist for 2019:

  • Get Up (feat. Lecrae) by Blanca

  • Moments by Nathan Feurstein

  • Dream Small by Josh Wilson

  • Ready Set Go (feat. Capital Kings) by Royal Tailor

  • It’s A New Day by will.i.am

Planning for Impact

planning for impact

The ability to have lasting impact almost seems to have mystic qualities. There seems to be certain people or organizations, that no matter what, find the secret sauce of creating lasting impact for others.

Parker Palmer, author and community thought-leader, comes to mind as someone who has done that either through his written word or presentations. Classic reads of his include: The Courage to Teach and Let Your Life Speak. All of them move quickly past the superficial, surface platitudes and take deep dives into the soul and spirit of our living and the work we commit our lives too.

Companies, such as Starbucks or Apple seem to relentlessly captivate the human spirit and find ways to impact our lives that no one would have dreamt possible before. These wide-flung impacts seem to come out of thin-air from nothing. Yet, these impacts did not occur by mistake. It is not some magical, unattainable quality, even us engaged in the craft of teaching and learning can capture it!

Each of the examples provided above were not by accident. They were intentional, purposeful. Planning for impact may seem straightforward enough, but do we honestly do it? What is the impact we hope our educational efforts will impart on our students, parents, and community-at-large? How are we engaging our full staff and community stakeholders in planning for that impact? Are we having broad community-building conversations about how our culture of learning in school can positively impact all persons within our community?

These answers will NEVER look the same from place to place and all the more better, and here is why:

  • Each community has specific needs that an educational partnership with the local schools can create Win-Win dynamics for ALL stakeholders.
  • The interpretation of impact varies from person-to-person, this adds meaning and buy-in, when these interpretations can be valued and expanded upon.
  • No process will ever be perfect, but a process built in tandem with the greater community will receive more grace and support than one held solely in the hands of those directly engaged inside our centers of learning.
  • Finally, our impact can be exponentially accelerated and deepened when we sign-on diverse partners in our work of teaching and learning. Others desire to have impact and if we can create a channel where their gifts can be used for that cause I can promise previous barriers will fall, and fall quickly.

The question becomes what will you do as we enter an exciting time to think about planning for long-term impact. The upcoming year is 2019. By December of 2019 we will be unveiling our 2020 Blue Valley Agricultural Education Vision, our vision will layout plans specifically for the next five years, but will broadly tackle questions of impact through 2050. I’ll be excited to share insights from the process and how we approached facilitating these broad community conversations.

If you were looking for an excuse to have conversations of long-term impact. Let me provide it! There is no better year to have those conversations than this year of 2019. I challenge each of my educator peers, no matter what role you play; whether as a principal, counselor, university professor, or K-12 classroom instructor. Layout a plan for the next five years for yourself personally, your family, and professionally. Finally, seek ways to have engaging conversations on the topics/questions forged above.

We are stronger together. Planning for lasting impact requires all stakeholders to be engaged, it won’t happen overnight, but we can be the spark! Cheers to a New Year and as always, thanks for reading!

Writer’s Note: Some exciting happenings in the world of Profiles in Learning are sailing down a river near you! First has to do with a few blog posts coming up! Roger W. Davis (who partners with me on designing beautiful graphics for the site) and I are cowriting a blog post about overcoming writer’s block as educators and why it makes a difference. We’ve all been there before, too much going on or the faucet of inspiration has run dry…maybe it is both! Hopefully though, we will provide the spark of motivation to see the value in breaking through! Expect that post sometime in January.

Next, I’m in the midst of working on a community blog post…what’s that you ask? It will be different from any post I’ve written thus far and it is stretching me (I’ve told myself this is a good thing!). It is an interview style blog post with five other outstanding educators from different fields and backgrounds. The topic for now is a secret and only the five select educators and my loyal cat Patches know it. 😉 I’ll be excited to share that post in January as well.

Finally, there are a few more tremendous updates and I’m horrible at keeping secrets, so this is killing me, but for now my lips are sealed. Stay tuned to Twitter and this blog for further updates through the New Year! Thanks for being educators of lasting, positive impact and above all thanks for being such good friends on this journey!

Perennial PD

perennial pd

One year ago today I started this blog. Since then I have published 82 posts….thank you to all those who have read and engaged with my writing! I’ve been so humbled and grateful from all your insights and growth you’ve caused in my own thinking and reflection.

As I’ve written over this past year it has not always been easy to sit down and write. Sometimes it felt that the mounting task list needed to always take priority. Sometimes it was that eating sense of guilt I felt from “neglecting” my other duties while writing. Sometimes it felt that my voice wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) matter, so why bother?

The greatest wins of 2018 for me have been successfully fighting back against those doubts, fears, and limiting perspectives! This blogging journey has laid the foundation for lasting professional and personal growth. A concept I have been wrestling with for over a year has been how can I be a ‘perennial’ force both in the classroom and at home. Questions such as: How do I last and not burnout? How can I sow the seeds of lasting, positive change? How can I provide vision and act towards long-term goals in teaching and raising a family?

These are not easy questions and ones I still do not have solid answers for, but I do know that my roots of understanding have grown deeper and my trunk of discipline has grown stronger. I’ll be around for another season and many more I can assure you! 😉

When thinking about Perennial PD it’s important to realize that it should not be seen as a one-time event or an occasional feel-good conference…it should be continuous, a way of life. Below are just a few thoughts to begin planting for us in the seed bed of 2019 as we pursue Perennial PD:

  • First, how do we engage in professional/personal development that prepares us to be lasting agents of positive influence in our schools, communities, and families?
  • Secondly, how can we chart a path forward that replaces short-term outlooks in all various aspects of our lives and ensures we are truly putting ‘First Things (Really) First’?
  • Finally, how do we provide time and safe spaces for healthy, sincere conversations about holistically balancing our calling in education with our personal/family needs?

Being ‘Perennial’ requires courage, integrity, and above all belief. A belief that we are committing to work and to a life that matters. A belief that we are making a positive difference in the lives of others. A belief that we will continue growing; while also maintaining a love for who we are and who we are becoming.

Next year I look forward with great excitement to see the growth we will all experience on our respective journeys! Let’s enjoy and cherish another holiday season with close family and friends! May this Christmas season be filled with many joys and blessings!

Finally, with great love, thank you for joining me on a year of growth and reflection. As always thanks for reading and inspiring my growth!

Deck the Halls

deck the halls

As a #CompelledTribe we write monthly community blog posts and this month is centered around the traditions within our holidays! As I reflected on this topic so many directions came to mind, but I’ll start with Grandpa Bruce and I.

You see Grandpa Bruce and I’s relationship goes way back…. I’ll still never forget helping Grandpa remove a whole stone retaining wall and then replacing it stone by stone to ensure it was straight and true. Yet, one of my favorite memories of us working together was a couple years back.

It has been a family tradition for Grandpa to put up Christmas lights at the house for at least a few decades. Yet, with Grandpa not getting any younger we discussed as a family that it may be time to help because he was still bound and determined to walk the roof line and put them up. So, that is where this story finds me. Discovering 24 feet off the ground that I have a very real fear of heights as I’m peering over the gutters.

Trying to steady my hands as I reached out over nothingness to grab hold of the next string of lights. Clip. Clip. Clip. What a joyous sound! I kept telling myself…one more string of lights closer to being done with this dreadful project! Who on earth could find any pleasure in doing this I thought. To pass the time and calm my nerves I kept replaying (quietly humming) the song Deck the Halls.

After about an hour more Grandpa ready to plug in the lights turns and says, “Okay, Anthony moment of truth.” I was too busy blessing the solid, unelevated ground to look up. That’s when I heard Grandpa give a disapproving chuckle, “Well, I guess we should have checked the lights before we strung them up.” Head shooting up I saw a few bulbs were out and a couple of strings were only half-lit. “Looks like we’ll need to take some down,” Grandpa said as he grabbed the ladder…rehashing the same fearful process I helped bring down the lights we had just placed!! Next we spent the majority of the afternoon replacing bulbs and checking, then rechecking light strings.

During the process, Grandpa and I got to do a lot of visiting. Reliving some of his special Christmas memories as a child from the Depression and Dust Bowl. The time seemed to fly by too soon. What had been an arduous process just hours previously became a completely enrapturing time as he shared stories I’d never heard. When we had successfully strung all the Christmas lights, we stood back and took stock of our work. Grandpa simply said, “Thanks Anthony for spending the day with me it was fun.”

Like a load of bricks it finally hit me…yeah traditions like “decking” out the edge of the house line with lights may seem like a fruitless adventure, but it wasn’t the act of putting up the lights, it was who I was spending time with, that mattered. What makes the time I spend with Grandpa Bruce so special is that I lost my last biological grandparent when I was nine years old. Marrying into the family made no difference for Bruce as he embraced and has loved me as one of his very own grandchildren. These will be memories I remember and cherish the rest of my life.

As we celebrate the traditions in our holidays be sure to look around and see how your life is “decked” out with those who are sources of love and support. It is less important to think about having the perfect tradition, rather let us focus on appreciating how traditions are a conduit in building relationships across generations and distance. Hope everyone has a wonderfully blessed Holiday season!!

Writer’s Note: I apologize for my recent lack of posting, as I tie up some loose ends for the holiday season I’ve got some posts coming up on the docket I’ll be excited to share with you all! Safe travels and as always thanks for reading!

Our Tenacity Stat

our tenacity stat

As I began writing this post I was sitting in the San Antonio Airport watching the Big 12 Championship between Texas and Oklahoma. As a Kansas State fan, won’t lie it was a hard game to watch. Yet, all these championship and college bowl football games mark the start of basketball season!

I’ve got a long connection with basketball. Starting from playing pick-up games as a kid while living in Puerto Rico. I was then a coach my second year of teaching and deeply valued that opportunity.

As a coach and now an avid spectator, I’m always tracking rebounds. I consider it one of those key stats that demonstrate evidence of tenacity by the players and team. Successful rebounding is all about presence and awareness on the court.

Sure points are important, but sometimes it’s possible to play the better game and still “lose”. Evidence of the better game is the scrappiness displayed when players get on the floor for a ball, jump higher for the ball, turning a miss into an unexpected opportunity. It’s exciting, makes the fans go wild and can create momentum for the next big play.

Tenacity in the classroom is embodied by grit and determination. How do you have students display it? How does it show up in your facilitation of learning?

I was thinking about this as Annelle and I watched the K-State Women’s basketball game this past weekend. What are my tenacity stats in and outside the classroom? Two thoughts came to mind:

In the Classroom

  • Asking Right Questions vs. Giving Right Answers: It seems easier to just “tell” the student the answer to their question, right? I mean there is only a limited amount of time in the hour so let’s get on with it. Yet, what if I was present enough in the moment to ask the right questions that would engage the student in ownership of their own learning? Harder…yes. Requiring greater levels of mental grit and endurance…you bet. Yet, the payoffs for student learning can be tremendous. Especially, if we make it a consistent habit. Honing our mental muscles to respond to student questions with our own questions that can guide deeper student understanding, resulting in greater understanding.

Outside the Classroom

  • Planning Two Weeks in Advance: This year I have been applying several habits from the book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Habit 3 ‘Putting First Things First’ really spoke to me and I’ve been keeping a priority planner which includes spending Sunday afternoon planning for not the immediate week ahead, but the week following. This has been a difficult mindset shift, but has helped me increase my personal effectiveness both personally and professionally.

We can start helping students build their personal tenacity and grit only by modeling it ourselves and experiencing struggle. If we are living and teaching with tenacity, it will allow us to relate with empathy towards the struggles that our students are facing in learning a new concept and give us insight into why some students would rather just give up. Let’s be honest it is the easier option and often the safer option. These classroom moments can become powerful coaching opportunities, to help guide students through those emotions and successfully overcome the struggle.

Again living and teaching with tenacity is crucial. So, what are your tenacity stats?

Writer Note: Huge thanks to Roger Davis for creating the beautiful graphic for this post! I’m excited to partner with him on future blog post graphics! You can follow him on Twitter via @rwdavis_edu. Have a wonderful rest of your weekend!

Till the Heels Fall Off

Till the Heels fall off

As I’ve noted in earlier posts…personal fashion isn’t a strong suit of mine. Typically, I don’t buy my next pair of black dress shoes till I’ve gotten as much milage out of them as possible. I vividly remember walking with students at National FFA Convention a few years back beneath the bridge between Lucas Oil Stadium and the Convention Center. Suddenly, on my next step without warning my foot dropped hard. I looked back and behold my right shoe heel had ripped off completely. The timing couldn’t have been better though! We were walking to the charter bus and it was our last evening in Indy…so I didn’t have to try thinking of how I’d need to patch my heel for a few more days of walking! 😉

Then there was my students’ favorite shoe incident my first year teaching. We get to work on landscaping projects around our community and I don’t view my role as a foreman, they take that ownership, I view my role to model effort, hard work, and a little fun when it counts! So, of course, out shoveling up old landscapes in my dress shoes, competing with a group of boys to clear a section out the fastest and next thing my right heel (yep…) got stuck on the shovel…umm a little embarrassing. We got some great laughs and figured out an epic story for the Payless ShoeSource salesman.

Though these shoe incidents bring back great memories and joys; the metaphor speaks to a lie…a lie that was destroying my passion for working with young people; a lie that almost destroyed my marriage; a lie being widely peddled by society.

This lie: It is a badge of honor to work yourself till the heels of life fall off. 

It earns no badges to be burned out! It earns no badges to neglect the most precious relationships of your life! Yet, what does societal pressures say? MORE. MORE. We don’t frame the questions about what plates will you remove from spinning…we try to find ways and strategies to just make them all balance and maybe add a few more.

I can’t mislead you, I’ve been a very slow learner of this and there are times even now that I am struggling. This year has been a hard reality check; I cannot be it all for all people. Though I thrive off my current schedule, it is by no means healthy for me or my young family, notwithstanding that it is in no way sustainable. I’m wearing out the heels of my life much too fast and I’m only 27.

All of us need to be strong, healthy models for those newly entering our teaching profession. We need to be teaching them how to be strategic in saying ‘Yes’, we need to provide opportunities for personal reflection and growth. I’m blessed that my school administration has allowed me to come down to San Antonio this whole week for the National Association of Agricultural Educators Conference. It has recharged my battery; equipped me with tools to enhance my teaching, but above all expanded my support network in the profession. This week is shaping up to be a game-changer, but the goals I’m developing for myself look different than ever before.

I’m looking at strategically scaling back in different facets of my work life, starting this Spring Semester. Putting First Things First at home, so Annelle stops getting the left over pieces of me…

The following observation will come off as harsh…please be aware it is for me not my readers…

What did I do with the shoes I wore out? Did I idolize them, hang them on a plaque (okay the shoe shovel we almost did)? NO THEY GOT THOWN IN THE DUMP…IN TATTERED PIECES! Serving only a fleeting purpose…ouch…this cannot be my life!

We must start talking about teaching differently; because it is unlike any vocation, our goal should not be to seek balancing competing silos. This compartmentalizing is wrong, we need a holistic view of an educator. Many of us find our life mission in this field, so how do we harmonize that with our desires and need for family and personal development.

I don’t have the answers, I’m a young pup, but I know that I need to be better, I know I can be better! It starts with the first step in harmonizing my schedule to reflect the values of my life.

I’ll finish with a final anecdote:

My wife loves her pairs of boots. One pair in particular she has taken great care of and has taken to be resoled over the past ten years, close to three times. They are still functioning like new and show little wear. Yet, she uses them constantly!

I’m not disposable, its not a badge to view my life as disposable, even if my time seems to be filled with worthy work…I need to be resoled. Lord give me the resolve, strength, and courage to do so!

Writer’s Note: Thank you for reading these past few posts. They have been weighing heavy on my heart and this writing process has been an outlet of great reflection and outpouring. You are all making a huge impact on the lives of young people and I’m blessed and honored to count you all as friends and colleagues. Keeping changing the world one child at a time! 🙂

God Doesn’t Make Mistakes

God Doesn't Make Mistakes

Wandering through the sea of purple and activity booths, it was a little overwhelming seeing all the opportunities I could involve myself into as a whopping three-day old college student! Walked past the usual clubs and intramural sport booths. Nothing was clicking…nothing just calling, “Hey Anthony this is where you are needed!”

I was turning to leave the activity fair and a young lady was yelling past the crowd, “Hey you! Can you please stop!” She looked fairly out of breath and the only thing she could get out next was, “You’re perfect!”

Next came a string of reasons to join the K-State Rowing Club and become a coxswain. I was a little embarrassed to admit to her that I had no idea what she was talking about. Finally, she said, “Just come to practice today at the Boat House around 4:30.”

She had piqued my interest. What was rowing? It was early afternoon by that point. I raced back to my dorm room and found their Facebook page. On the very first post was the declaration of need: “WE ARE DESPERATE FOR ANYONE 5 FOOT 2 INCHES AND WEIGHING LESS THAN 120 LBS!”

Ummm…that’s me! I’m 5’2″ and I’m a scrawny thing!! Found directions to the Boat House and I didn’t look back. Standing there on the edge of the dock, I couldn’t even begin to imagine how being apart of this rowing family would change my life. Watching the first boat shells hit the water I was taken back to the Doctor’s office where my stringy 12 year-old little legs dangled precariously off the edge of the examination table.

Occasionally in life we are asked, what would you tell your younger self? If I could have gone back to my 12 year old self that day I’d had said, “God doesn’t make mistakes.”


It had been a weird two year journey up to that point. I hadn’t really noticed that my brothers were quickly surpassing me in height. Remember the movies where the kids race and have their parents mark their height in pencil on a wood frame? We were a normal family in that regards. I remember racing to the spot monthly…closing my eyes and stretching up nice and tall. Occasionally, sneakily, even standing on tippy toes to which my mother would say smiling, “No cheating…flat on your feet.” Each month I’d turn around disappointed.

My brothers were bean sprouts each month their heights kept climbing. Mine…let’s just say it was foretold by my Mother’s favorite story she would tell every gal I brought home (except my wife…finally got smart). When I was born, I was so small the doctors declared, “Well he sure isn’t going to be an NFL player, but he’ll make one hell of a jockey.” (I’ve strongly contended that my Mother has taken complete liberty in fabricating this story purely for motherly embarrassment motives.)

My parents could tell this was bothering me. They were also concerned that maybe I was experiencing a health problem. So to the doctors we went. When he came in with the prognosis, it was pretty straightforward.

“Hate to say this, but he’s pretty well done growing. Two inches max based on the space in his growth plates. I am happy to share we do have options that we could do that would help get him to the average height of his peers.”

He went on to describe the various options. The one he recommended was growth hormones. To this day I’m glad my parents allowed me the ability to make this very adult decision. By the time I weighed the pros and cons…I felt I was better off keeping what I had versus facing the slim chance of having complications later on.

Yet, I made this decision not based on any love I had of who I was. No, it was completely rooted in the fear of losing what little I had. My whole decision framework was based on a negative view of who I was.

This would compound and grow. By my 8th grade year I hated the fact I would never be good at sports. I hated that everyone would ask, “Did you drink coffee when you were younger?” Not asking out of concern, but to put me in my place. I didn’t know what it was called at the time, but I remember what it felt like. A hole…a big gaping hole, I was no one, I was nothing. Okay, maybe the occasional armrest…at any rate it hurt.

The worst came though when a young girl I had dated for a few months broke up with me, her reason, “Honestly, you’re a great guy. I just really wish you were two inches taller, I just can’t see myself with someone my own height.” That comment cut so deep…I look back and know now she didn’t realize how much it hurt me. I also realize now that she was shallow in her relationships and that God had a much better…and might I add taller person waiting for me. 😉

All this culminated in making choices that almost destroyed my life. All because I was blind to the blessings that God had provided and focused on what I lacked.

Rowing was God’s way of waking me up. Through rowing I forged friendships that I still have today. Through rowing I gained a love and knowledge of why God made me the way I am. I suddenly realized that my height was disarming…welcoming. I wasn’t big and intimidating, people who felt out of place in a room I made it the habit to befriend them.

I realized that I could squeeze through a sewer drain retrieving a soccer ball that would have been lost forever. I realized that I can get crazy great deals at any clothing store in the kids section!! I realized that I could relate and comfort future students who were struggling with self-worth and need to hear God Doesn’t Make Mistakes!

We cannot allow others or society determine our worth. Our worth has no measure that this world is capable of quantifying! So let’s stop judging the worth of others…let’s stop judging the worth of ourselves. God Doesn’t Make Mistakes…his purpose for our lives is simple…LOVE. Love without abandon, Love without conditions, Love always.

This post was inspired by the message shared by my #CompelledTribe friend, peer, and #EduHero, Allyson Apsey. Here is a link to her post: https://allysonapsey.com/2018/11/24/if-you-knew/amp/?__twitter_impression=true

Allyson’s message of #IfYouKnewEDU speaks of the students, parents, and peers who are hurting all around us from sometimes deep scars. We don’t always show it, but it is there. It is real and it is sometimes very raw. Being open and vulnerable is hard. Let us have deep grace and compassion for all those we meet on our journey; and if nothing else just love.

Just, remember…please, always remember: God Doesn’t Make Mistakes!

Fashionably Unfashionable

Fashionably Unfashionable

I’m grateful for a wife who has a sense of fashion and a willingness to offer advice on my poor choices. She’s always on point in regards to making sure nothing clashes. At least this means our children will be sparred from having me make their initial clothing outfits. If only navigating the fashion trends of education were as easy…

I’ve only been teaching five, very fast and short, years. Yet, in some ways it has felt like educational whiplash. Each year there has been a new trend that is replacing a program or initiative that had been around since well the start of last year (reason for replacing…it wasn’t working). As technological innovation has speed up, so has the pace of (perceived) change. Yet, most of the time it feels more like a reflex of impatience than actually thoughtful consideration for impact on students and our communities.

There are no “quick fixes” to “better” education. There is only the intentional choice that each and every student matters. No matter their zip code, last name, color of their skin, or ability to ‘do’ school. We don’t need the latest, hottest educational tool or program. What we need is our best selves showing up day in and day out, thinking of how to best serve our students right in front of us.

As I’ve finished reading 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey the most important concept I’ve walked away with is: ‘What is in my circle of influence?’

In a nutshell: What do I have the ability to influence?

My choices – YES

My thoughts – YES

How I facilitate my classroom – YES

How I make my students feel – YES

How I make my co-teachers feel – YES

How I make my parents feel- YES

It might not seem “fashionable”, but spending time working on who we are as people is critical. When we do so, we ensure that the choices we make, the thoughts we have will reflect warmly in the way we facilitate our classrooms. It will also be reflected in the way we make others feel around us.

Every good work, starts inside. In our hearts and our minds. Layering on “quick fixes” may be fashionable in the moment, it may even make us feel trendy… Yet, none of that can compare to discovering and having comfort in who we are as human beings and as educators.

Fads fade.

Fashions change.

Relationships with kids, parents, community stakeholders, fellow teachers, and administrators will always be there. These relationships call upon our best, our greatest self. We may not all be “fashionable”, but I know we are all determined, eager, and willing to do whatever it takes for those we love and care for.

Don’t sweat being fashionable…we can be fashionably unfashionable together!!

More Smiles, Less Sermons

more smiles and less sermons (1)

“The same thing can be said of much of the Bible: Its smiles carry more meaning than its sermons.” – Eugene Peterson, p. 96 A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

“Advice is like snow — the softer it falls, the longer it dwells upon, and the deeper it sinks into the mind.” – Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Below are two stories of teachers who influenced my life in the earliest stages of my youth. Both speak to the influence of our words and actions on the youngest before us. This is the first time I’ve transcribed these stories so I apologize if there seems to be rambling in their telling.

Two things finally forced the envelope to share these stories. First, teachers really do have an impact, no matter the stage in life. Secondly, WE ALL have influence on the lives of young people; therefore we must be intentional with our words and actions.

In simple, let’s let our smiles carry more meaning than our sermons. Enjoy!


As a Kindergartener and 1st Grader I was a hellion. I refused to sit still, wouldn’t stop messing with my classmates. Actually, as I reflect the only real memory I had from Kindergarten was sitting in the corner looking between the legs of the chair watching my other classmates. When I got to 1st grade I hadn’t improved much, if anything I had just gotten sneaky about my naughtiness.

Yet, even as a rambunctious, disrespectful 1st Grader I still thought about what I wanted to be when I grew up. I was either going to be a truck driver or an astronaut. At that time I was obsessed with everything space, my parents had gotten my brother and I a backyard telescope and I just loved it. (Mind you this was before 4th grade when I became a self-declared Civil War buff).

Our first-grade teacher had us do a simple assignment where we drew what job we wanted to be when we grew up, I drew being an astronaut of course! What happened next, I have full understanding was meant to be instructive as I have thought back later on the episode, and was most likely an outpouring of pent up frustration with me, she just wanted me to behave better.

Sometime the following week we watched a space shuttle documentary, I was surprised and interested, that was until the video showed a series of clips of space shuttle after space shuttle blowing up. Some just exploding on the platform others in mid-air. My teacher paused the video after the clips and said, “Sadly, astronauts do die…” She continued on commenting how astronauts were good students and I honestly cannot remember the rest because I just wanted to start crying. I left school that day and cried, my parents were confused, because I was adamant that I didn’t want to be an astronaut anymore.

My teacher got her desired result, I never misbehaved in her class again and I didn’t do much else either. I didn’t answer questions, didn’t play with my classmates, I just didn’t want to do anything. I became very quiet, shy almost because I was afraid something else would be taken from me just like my dream to be an astronaut. The rest of 1st grade was a blur, just staring at the clock and waiting for time to go by. When we moved to an entirely different state and different elementary school, I can’t say I was too upset.


It would take a few years before I felt comfortable speaking up in class or having confidence in who I was. I thank each and everyday my 4th Grade teacher Mrs. Graves, for kindling my fire to become a confident reader. I’ll never forget when she wouldn’t let me be removed from class for phonics practice, I had been receiving since 2nd grade and dreaded. She advocated for me when I needed it most, but she was also firm too.

I remember having a heated argument with a classmate about something with the living museum we were tasked in creating of a colonial town. Rather than yelling or berating us with a lecture, she swooped in with a big, warm smile, “I’m so excited to see you are both so passionate about these details for the doctors office. Why don’t we look it up and see which would be most realistic for the time period?”

Again, as I reflect back I sheepishly think to how annoying I must have been, but Mrs. Graves never let that on. During one of our tours of James Madison’s mansion, Montpelier, I didn’t leave her side asking questions and commenting about how beautiful the property was. All throughout she smiled, answering my compounding questions and when I said I wanted to buy the house she laughed, saying, “If anyone could do it, it would be you.” All I wanted was to be just like Mrs. Graves!


When I started bus driving, I never thought in my wildest dreams I would meet my Kindergarten and 1st grade-self, but I found that in one of the young men who rode my bus (God’s got a crazy sense of humor). As I think about situations that need to be addressed, I pause and smile thinking, “He will remember these interactions for the rest of his life…God, help me choose words and actions that will help and not harm. Build and not tear down.” I’m blessed to have had a model like Mrs. Graves to base my actions.

Pairing smiles with hard truths seems like an odd choice, but it is the difference between speaking from need versus speaking from abundance.

What I mean by “speaking from need”, is by choosing to get angry, impatient we begin to speak from our self-centered needs. Maybe it’s the need to feel in control or the need to protect our ego. Either way it is not helpful for the recipient of our feedback or ourselves. We may get the results we want, but the relationship is now damaged…nothing that is self-serving is worth that cost.

When we “speak from abundance”, we are choosing to engage in passionate patience with others, we allow our smiles to do as much of the talking as our words. I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not always good at this; yet I’ve come to realize the wisdom found in a smile. Smiles are not a sign of weakness, they are a manifestation of inner strength.

Therefore, let us go and allow our smiles to have more meaning than our sermons!

Thanks for reading and have a blessed Thanksgiving week!