Today marks another day of reflection on the events of September 11, 2001. We remember where we were, how we reacted, and the weeks, months, and years of trying to figure out why. While I'm sure many of us took a moment today to reflect and remember, amazingly, for a large group of people today was just another Wednesday. Those people are our students.
Today I had to sub for a class and as I was taking attendance once student said, "Hey, isn't today September 11?" As I looked around for a reaction or further discussion I realized that these kids weren't in school nor where they probably even aware of how deeply the events of that sunny, Tuesday morning 12 years ago impacted our lives (and theirs) everyday day since. September 11th for them is just another moment in history; just as Pearl Harbor, the moon landing, Watergate, Iran-Contra, and many other events are for me. The first historical moment I remember was the Challenger explosion. I was a kindergartener and the only reason I remember it was because my mom told me to "sit down and watch this" while I waited to go to 1/2 day kindergarten. The class I sub for today wasn't interested in talking about 9/11, instead they were focused on what the right answer to #3 was on their homework.
As I returned to my office, I had a variety of emotions as I thought back on the students lack of interest in discussing 9/11. However, as I thought about it more, it occurred to me that this is exactly the reaction these students should have. They weren't around to experience all of the emotions play out on live TV. They weren't around to experience the sadness that ensured for months as a nation morned. Nor did they have to experience what seemed like the never ending fear of "what's next".
After 12 years we are still here. We are one nation, under God, united (well, except for congress) and dedicated to upholding the values which were established by our forefathers almost 250 years ago. We have been resilient and have not let terrorist dictate the lives of our children 12 years later. We (adults) will never forget that traumatic day, but at least we can take comfort know that for our children and our children's children, September 11th will be just another day in history.
Over the last year I have read two books that have really encouraged me to reflect on my story and how I want to be remember when it is all over. Both "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years" by Donald Miller and "Love Does" by Bob Goff focus on creating not only a better story for yourself but also those around you. Reflection on one's life is a major theme that runs throughout each book. It is mentioned how Bob has a book in which he has written down over 500 memories of the details, feeling, and emotions of various times throughout his life. This got me thinking...how could I remember those important, or not so important, times in my life? As I reflected upon this, a common theme quickly became apparent...music.
Music, songs, and artists have a way of connecting our past to the memories that we hold dear. Instead of trying to document my memories, I allow them to come to me through music. I have created a "Ultimate Playlist" folder in my Evernote account where I will write down the name of a song and the memory it brings when I hear it on the radio. It is amazing how the gift of music can evoke feelings of happiness, sadness, pride, love, anger, or any of the many emotions one can experience. I soon found myself with an every growing list of songs on my "Ulitmate Playlist". Here are a few of the memories that came quickly rushing back when I heard the song:
GooGooDolls--Iris & Dave Mathews Band--Crash Into Me, My entire senior year of high school.
Amazing Grace, My grandma's funeral when I was 9 years old. I still get choked up each time I hear it.
Del Amitri--Roll To Me, My first date with Shelly.
Hey Jude--Beatles, Osmond High School jazz band.
Queen--We are the Champions, Every state high school wrestling championship since 1992. (especially 1998 & 2012)
Blackstreet--No Diggity, Decorating for Jr/Sr Prom at OHS in 1997.
I have found that creating my "Ultimate Playlist" has brought back lots of great memories that I will always cherish. It has also made me reflect upon who I am, where I've came from, and how it will guide me on my path in life. I would encourage you next time you are listening to the radio to let the music take you away...you never know where you may end up!
The rest of the list (for now):
Man In The Mirror--Michael Jackson
Love the One You're With--Stephen Stills
Two Steps Behind--Def Leppard
In Your Eyes - Peter Gabriel
I Just Want to Celebrate--Rare Earth
Big Pimpin--Jay Z
Like the Rain--Clint black
Ain't No Rest for the Wicked--Cage The Elephant
Carry on My Wayward Son--Kansas
Son of a Preacher Man--Dusty Springfield
Piece of My Heart--Janis Joplin
Crash Into Me--Dave Matthews Band
Signed, Sealed, Delivered--Stevie Wonder
Ah Leah--Donnie Iris
Somebody to Love--Queen
Welcome to the Fold--Filter
Roll to me--Del Amitiri
The One--Backstreet Boys
As I consider "Why I lead" I am sure that many of the reasons that come to mind are the same for many of us; to make a difference, impact the school and community on a larger scale, build relationships, etc. However, one important aspect of being a leader is being able to reach out and connect with students and staff from all different backgrounds, talent levels, and socioeconomic status and inspire them to fulfill their potential...or "FIND GREATNESS".
What does "Finding Greatness" mean? Greatness is different for each and everyone of us. Last summer, prior to the summer Olympics, Nike ran a great ad campaign that really spoke to me and put into two, one minute commercials (found below) what I believe is one of my roles as a leader. My role is help our staff and students reach and obtain their moment of greatness, regardless of what level that may be.
It is easy for us to identify greatness as a state championship, hitting the game winning shot, nailing a musical performance, or scoring a 32+ on the ACT. But the truth is, that for many of us, greatness lies in the smaller, personal accomplishment that never make the paper or deserve a parade. Being a part in making these smaller accomplishments happen is what makes being a leader so worthwhile for me.
Thinking back upon my last five years in administration, I have been fortunate to be apart of many of these moments. While greatness comes in many forms, the memories I treasure most are when students feel a since of accomplishment that they have found their greatness. As leaders it is our role to help students reach these levels of greatness by providing them with the skills, resources, and most importantly, the support they need in a nurturing and safe environment.
Some examples of the other forms of greatness I've experienced:
Having a student whom that I battled with, but never gave up on, for four years walk across the stage at graduation and shake my and and say "thank you"--that is his moment of greatness!
The student that struggles to get a qualifying score on the ACT but is determined to get into a four year school and finally gets accepted--that is her moment of greatness!
The wrestler that hasn't won a match all year, gets a pin at the conference tournament--that is his moment of greatness!
Moments of greatness happen everyday, in every building. We just have to open our eyes and enjoy those moments. As a leader, embrace the challenge and celebrate when those students, staff, and patrons achieve their moments of greatness!
For the past 11 years I have been collecting artifacts, memories, stories, pictures, etc in a file I call my "feel good" file. I wish I could give credit to the person who gave me this idea or encouraged me to start mine but I honestly can't remember. If it was you who gave me this idea, Thank You!
The premise behind my feel good file is that if times are rough or if something didn't go the way I had planned, I can always go to the file to bring a smile to my face. A card from a co-worker, an email from a fellow principal, a piece of art my own children drew while sitting in my office waiting to go home after school, parent letters of support, and many others are included in this file. However, I have taken a different spin to my "feel good" file. I not only include those things that bring back good memories, but I also include artifacts of times when things might not have been going so well. Why, you might ask, would I include things that weren't positive? The answer comes from the following quote from Gordon B Hinckley:
“It's not as bad as you sometimes think it is. It ALL works out. Don't worry. I say that to myself every morning. It will all work out. If you do your best, it all works out. Put your trust in God and move forward..."
By including artifacts of the down times, I can remind myself that I have been through though times before and will make it though whatever is placed in front of me now. Many times we can look back and laugh at the incidents which we thought were major at the time. As long as we learn from these experiences we can grow and become better educators and people.
Here is a list of my favorites from the "feel good" file:
I would encourage every educator to start a "feel good" file. Regardless of how my day is going, I know I can always open that file up and get a good laugh....or at least a smile!
Today officially marks the end of my first year serving as principal at Milford Jr/Sr High School. As I take some time to reflect upon the year that was, I realized how blessed I am to work in such a great district with amazing students, parents, staff, and patrons. Milford is a special place that has provided me a great place to work and live for the past 11 years, serving as a teacher, assistant principal and now principal.
I have learned many lessons throughout this past year, some good, some bad. Whether it was a success or a failure I have grown both personally and professionally in too many ways to count. However, the greatest lesson I've learned is that you can't do this job alone. As an administrator one needs to surround themselves with people they can seek out for advice and support on a daily basis. Once again, I have been blessed to have these people in my life to not only help guide me in making sound decisions but to bounce ideas off of or just vent. I consider my support system the best assest I have and would like to thank each and everyone of you for making this past year one of the most challenging, yet rewarding years of my professional career. Being actively involved in my professional organizations, as well as active on Twitter, has allowed me to form relationships with a network of experts in their field that I can count on for a variety of issues.
My advice to any aspiring administrator is to begin developing these relationships and become actively involved in your professional organizations. I have a variety of networks, which I have listed below. As you can see there are many, varying greatly in what they offer. Also, include those in your network that may challenge your currently thinking. It is when we are challenged and stretched that we can truly grow in this profession.
Thank you to the following groups and individuals for all of support and advice:
--Ryan, Chad, Mitch, Matt, Gale, Ross, Mike, Colin, Ben, Barry, Charlie, Aaron, Steve, Bob, etc...Thanks!
character that has helped guide me on my path.
would receive from being an active tweeter. All 1400 followers are truly #Rockstars in my eyes.
Keep up the great work in helping move education in the right direction for the benefit of our students!
be around but you are always there with a hug or a smile to brighten my day. I Love You Shelly, Calyn,
Addi, and Zephyr
Thanks again for making this past year great and I look forward to facing the challenges of administration with you in the 2013-2014 school year!
Milford Jr/Sr High Principal