Saturday, April 20, 2013

A Challenge for Us All - Boston Heroes

            Many of you who know me know I like to run. I run marathons and have completed over forty and have every intention to keep running two a year for as long as my body holds up. One of my most memorable races was the 100th anniversary run of the Boston Marathon. As I watched the recent events replay on my television I was saddened. The bombs erupting just as runners were completing their last steps, draining their remaining energy stores, and their supporters yelling with every ounce of energy they had left. I recalled that moment of triumph during my own running of the race as I completed the last steps along Boylston. Pure joy was etched on every face around me. To see that taken away and replaced with horror was awful.
            As I watched the various clips I also saw something else. I saw that same joy and encouragement normally reserved for the race completion spring into action to offer assistance to those most hurt. I saw people running towards the explosion not away from it. I saw humanity at its best when someone had tried to reveal its worst. I read a poignant piece by Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) who reminded us through reminding the perpetrators of this act that "the good outnumber you, and we always will."
            On my flight home a runner sat down beside me. I knew this because she had her Boston Marathon jacket on. She shared a little of her experience as she was completing the great race. She was half a mile from completing the race when officials stopped them. The panic set in as various reports were received on various devices and people were completely confused. Bombs at a marathon? As the reality sank in she worried about her husband who was to meet her at the finish line. Fortunately he had moved away and was making his way to the 26-mile marker when the explosions occurred. The joy of the race was taken away from so many. She also spoke of the overwhelming humanity as people came out of their houses to offer items to help runners get warm as the chill set in, or offered a place if they couldn’t get back to their hotel. 
I thought about what ends up being a real challenge in horrific incidents like this one. We want so much to know the truth and who might have perpetrated this heinous act that we use a lot of ink and airtime to publicize their deeds. I understand the importance of exposing evil and putting a name and a face to it. Ultimately it reduces their power and reminds us of the wisdom of Oswalt’s comment. But I want us to learn the names of the heroes just as clearly. I want to know about the courageous acts of the runners and spectators who turned to face danger, the first responders who acted unfailingly to treat the injured without any certainty of the presence or absence of other explosives, the medical teams who worked diligently to save lives, reduce fears, and offer hope.
            Yes, we learn the names of the monsters throughout the history of our existence. Every time the names of those who performed this act are mentioned, there ought to be a ten-fold mention, or publication, of the names of the heroes. It’s a challenge I’m willing to take up. Names like Jessica Sexton, a nurse who sat by a child’s bed for hours after the bombing, or Carl Hauser a trauma surgeon who was on call that day and had to assess the 25 patients brought in and determine need during the 33 hours of the shift he put in, or Eric Goralnick an ER doctor who was one of the first responders at another hospital that treated 31 patients. I want to remember little Martin Richard as no 8 year old should have his life end so tragically moments after embracing his father who had completed the run
As this story continues to unfold and the world hears about another couple of names masking as evil, I hope you’ll also take up the challenge to remember and promote the helpers. They are all around us and deserve far more time in our memory banks than those who set about to create fear.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Seven Reasons to Attend Seven Keys in Seattle

I tweeted out seven reason why I thought educators should come to Seattle May 16/17th and attend a conference facilitated by Charlie Coleman (@Heart_Coleman) and I. We think it will be the type of conference that can really create the positive change in schools that we fell is necessary to move forward and promote positive student outcomes. It's happened whenever we've presented the material and we'd really like to have you join us ( Here's the 7 reasons (aligned with the 7 Keys):

Reason #1 Common Expectations will be achieved + you'll create a matrix that describes and defines what you value most at your school.

Reason #2 We'll create positive outcomes that all staff can deliver, model, and explain and all students learn. ALL means ALL!

Reason #3 Positive Reinforcement (4:1) that is authentic + meaningful (personalized) is the goal. EVERY student deserves our respect.

Reason #4 Support strategies will be developed and implemented that allow specialists to max their impact and kids to max their learning.

Reason #5 Collaboration is King! We are infinitely smarter together than we can hope to be individually. Teamwork trumps solo effort.

Reason #6 Data - a good word when used for the right reasons. Should inform our instruction and student learning. The conversation is key.

Reason #7 School-wide approach drives how "we do things around here". What's your rally cry? How is your school defined?

Monday, April 8, 2013

And We Wonder Why the Homework Is Not Done?

     When I get the opportunity to present on the topic of school culture and building relationships I often conclude with a personal story that ties together many of the concepts I've presented over the one or two days. I share my story with the participants neither for their sympathy nor their admiration as it's just a part of who I am. I haven't always been able to share the story and it is still a visceral experience for me but I share it because of the connections it makes for others and the responses I've had shared with me. Of all the moments in this work those are the ones I treasure the most and feel humbled that individuals would share some very personal and heart wrenching stories with me. One of these moments happened recently and Barb took it a step further by inviting me to share her story with others in the hope that it would serve as a reminder to both kids and adults about the infinite possibilities that lurk inside each of us. As you read this make the connection to the title of this post. Here is Barb's story:

     As a child, growing up was hard, we had lived in poverty. I am also a twin, and had lived with my dad and other siblings. With my mother gone and out of our lives, it was hard not knowing who and what she looked like. Our house was known as a party house, where there would be a lot drinking and there would be all sorts of people hanging around all the time. A lot of times I would wake up from under the bed from hiding because of the fighting going on. I would listen for people talking, if it was silent, then I knew that they had left or were passed out, I then would come out of hiding. I was pretty much scared of everyone that came to drink there. A lot of times we'd get hungry due to the fact Dad had drink up the Allowance or Welfare money, which came once a Month. I experienced a lot of negative things during the times when they would come and drink, especially one thing I would not mention that would have a negative impact for the years that followed. At 14, I had dropped out of school because, as a teenager, I thought I didn't need it. I was sure I knew it all.

    At 15, I ran away from home, being tired of everything and everyone, never changing routine at home. I ended up in Thompson, Manitoba, roaming around but I never touched alcohol or even smoked. I'd just do babysitting, in order to get room and board, or even crash with friends. At 17, that's when the hurt and anger surfaced because of my past experiences as a child. I had started to smoke, drink, and do drugs, this was to numb the pain, I was experiencing. The anger I felt was targeted on everyone I met and that got me into a lot of trouble, including jail time.

     At 18, I had my first child Walter and still, I was having a hard time, knowing I had to give him up. Due to the fact I was not educated and what kind of life would he get from a dropout. It made me think back during my time at school or what I vowed before, that's when I had to try and support myself and to try and send money to my son, who I had given up for adoption. I found my first job, as a waitress at Ponton Service Station. I worked there for 2 years. It was okay for awhile then again, my past had resurfaced again. My pain and anger, was due to the fact I couldn't forgive and forget. It was the same routine, using drugs, smoking and drinking, anger that would come with would land me in jail. During my time in jail, I thought of my life and how I messed it up so.

     At 20, I had my second child Precious, and then along came Shawn. This time, I thought about my past, what I went through, reminding myself what kind of life would I be able to give them. I had lived in an apartment building in Thompson, Manitoba. I remembered my times, I had spent hiding under the bed as a child, thinking I would not let my children live and experience what I went through that I would provide for my children and reach my goals I had dreamed of doing and having. 

     A drop out at 14, I would have to start from scratch but I intended to no matter what for my children. At a grade level 6th grade, I started to attend night school at Thompson Friendship Centre. Even though I had a hard time with babysitters I would try my best to attend. When I moved back to Cross Lake, I was accepted to College Preparation level1, which was a promising start. At 25 I attended Brandon Friendship Centre, this time at a grade 10 level. Then came Brandon Adult Learning Centre, which was a grade level of 11 and 12 in one year. After I graduated, I had done 6 grades in a two year span. I had set out a goal, I had always had in me but those things that had happened to me as a child had smothered those dreams I had within.

     Barb is quite a success today. She has a four bedroom house of her own, a vehicle and a skidoo. She works both as an Education Assistant and an On-Call Worker for a local agency. She credits her elementary school teacher, Judy Halcrow, for teaching her to believe there is hope and that dreams can be realized no matter what background you come from. It's a reminder of the amazing capacity we have as educators to light the fire within every student, to help them become the success they were intended to be. The final words go to Barb:

     There are things that will hold you back to accomplish your dreams, if we don't learn to forgive and forget; we will be stuck in that kind of life, the kind of life where we go or run to, to numb our pain within. Today I work in the same field as her and I'm sure she would be happy to know that the love and compassion she had given me has been passed on to so many others and I am sure will live and be passed on for years to come.

     Let's stop wondering why the homework's not done and return to the focus of helping kids become the wild successes they are destined to be.