A Journal of the First Year | Twenty-One


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23| May | 2019

It is my intention to share some reflections on the highs, the lows, the excitement, the routine, the successes, the failures and everything in between which I experience the course of the next 10 – 12 months, my first months as a full-time principal of a high school.  Writing this journal will help me grow. Reading it may make you laugh…


It is with a measure of surprise that I write this, the final installment of A Journal of the First Year. It is cliche to suggest that I don’t quite know where the year has gone and how the days, weeks and months disappeared so quickly but I suggest it nonetheless. As I told our seniors yesterday at their graduation rehearsal, not every minute or every hour of every day sped by, but, taken in their totality, they absolutely flew.

I am so very grateful to my colleagues for this year. I am grateful for a community that, on the whole, understands a shared mission and pulls in the same direction. I am grateful for a community that cares about our students and, as a rule, tries to put their needs first. I am grateful for a community that reached out and, almost without exception, welcomed the new guy this year.

I am grateful.

I have spent much of my time this year trying to learn about this school – about its history and its people – and, after 12 months, I feel that I have discovered much. I am also aware that I have much more to learn.

I am more prepared, because of this year, to be a better principal next year. I am ready to spend much time this summer, when there is more of it that is unstructured on my calendar, to reflect upon what I have learned and to consider ways to better serve this community. I am excited for Year Two.

I know that I will be a different leader because none of us should be stagnant in our approaches to our work. I will push to be different. I know that I will be more vocal (though that may come as a shock to some of my colleagues who might be thinking “how can this guy be more vocal?!?) and more involved. I know that I will share my opinions more readily. And I know the school better.

I am hopeful and I pray that I have been a good servant leader this year. I am hopeful and I pray that I will be a better servant leader next year.

And I end this post and this year as I began: grateful to have been blessed with this ongoing opportunity. I promise I do not take it for granted.

A Journal of the First Year | Twenty


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16| May | 2019

It is my intention to share some reflections on the highs, the lows, the excitement, the routine, the successes, the failures and everything in between which I experience the course of the next 10 – 12 months, my first months as a full-time principal of a high school.  Writing this journal will help me grow. Reading it may make you laugh…


As I sit to write this post early on the second to last Thursday of this, the first year I am principal of Mullen High School, I am aware of many things. First, my bandwidth is getting more narrow with each passing day. Second, I want to remain as positive as I possibly can during these last hours of the school year. Third, this year has positively rocketed past me.

My bandwidth has narrowed to the point that I am going from moment-to-moment through my calendar and through my days. This is not a bad thing. I am attending to all (I hope!) that needs to be completed – though not is as timely a fashion as I might like. But the pace is leaving little time for anything generative and protecting time for generation even in May is something I’d like to change for next year. I will have to protect some time but, more than that, going through our end of year rituals for a second time and living through our particular end of the year flavor will, I hope, help!

I am trying my very hardest to be as positive as I possibly can as the end of the year approaches. Students are fatigued and worried about projects and finals. Faculty and staff are, likewise, engaged in wrapping things up for themselves and in their own rights. I believe – strongly – it is incumbent upon me, in the role I am lucky enough to hold, to be the most positive person in the school. I am doing my level best to be that person.

And it is amazing to me as I look forward two weeks in the calendar to note that I will have been here for a year and that I will have started my second. It’s amazing and it’s wonderful and I am so glad my feet are here.

EduQuote of the Week | 5.13.19

Instead, we try to give them affection, confidence and guidance, more or less in that order, because experience has shown us that those are their most immediate needs.

E.R. Braithwaite 

Teach & Serve IV, No. 40 | Walk the Track

Teach & Serve IV, No. 40

Walk the Track

May 8, 2019

“I promise, if you need to, if you want to, I’ll walk the track with you,” he said.

This is important.

Especially this time of year, this is very important.

We have much to do, much we are asked to do and much that we take upon ourselves. We have full calendars, overflowing plates and deadlines – many of which we truly cannot miss. We work with students and adults who have challenges for us, who make demands on our time and who, on occasion, may cause us a bit of stress.

Stress happens.

At this time of year in particular, we sometimes feel stress, sometimes feel strung out and sometimes feel we are not at our best.

So, please, when that feeling comes upon you, walk the track.

Somewhere in your building or on your grounds, I trust there is a space you can walk, an open, extended space where you can get out of your typical environs, get moving, get a pace on. Hopefully there is someplace you can go when you need to stretch your legs.

Perhaps there is a track.

Getting up and walking it is more than a chance to change your venue and your vantage point, this is a chance to get up and get out, to exercise whatever feelings have built up in you by exercising yourself. This is a chance to shake off ennui and frustration and to do something proactive to assist in your own renewal.

A person with whom I work and whom I respect very much made a pledge to our entire leadership team this past summer and I have not forgotten it. “I promise, if you need to, if you want to, I’ll walk the track with you,” he said.

I think I should take him up on that request more often and I should do so immediately.

It is important.

EduQuote of the Week | 5.6.19

Teaching is the most powerful force that changes our world one student at a time.

Debasish Mridha

A Journal of the First Year | Nineteen


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02| May | 2019

It is my intention to share some reflections on the highs, the lows, the excitement, the routine, the successes, the failures and everything in between which I experience the course of the next 10 – 12 months, my first months as a full-time principal of a high school.  Writing this journal will help me grow. Reading it may make you laugh…

I am addicted (a carefully and correctly chosen word) to my email and my calendar. I am not sure, frankly, if this is a good or bad thing. I lean towards it being a good thing because this particular addiction makes me more productive and responsive. Looking at my calendar lets me know what’s coming and for what I need to be prepared. Looking at my email allows me to reply to people frequently and readily.

These seem important things and my first year at Mullen High School has reinforced this perception.

However, I am well aware of the gratification I receive from feeling like I am doing a great job at balancing many, many things. I am aware that I pat myself on the back, repeatedly, when I believe I am doing a good job keeping many plates spinning.

I suppose there is nothing inherently wrong with this feeling.

What I try to guard against, however, is the idea that I have more going on than anyone else, that what I do is more complex than what others do, that my days are more… wait for it… busy than other people’s days.

I don’t always do a good job of guarding against these feelings. I’d like to do better.

Because, here’s the thing and it’s a thing I knew before I came to Mullen but it’s a thing that is being reinforced each-and-every day, especially in the spring: we are all busy, busy, busy, so busy. We all have so much going on that the term “busy” itself loses any sense of reality.

Who’s to judge who has more going on than anyone else and, at the end of the day, why is this competition important?

It’s not. The magic of this time of year – of pushing through until summer comes – is found not in our busyness, but in enjoyment and celebration of our students, our colleagues and our accomplishments.

As principal, I have to be the ring leader for these celebrations, not the guy saying how busy I am. I want to be the easy like Sunday morning principal, the calm in the storm, the least stressed guy around.

It’s the least I can do for the people with whom I journey.

EduQuote of the Week | 4.29.19

Teaching is a dialogue, and it is through the process of engaging students that we see ideas taken from the abstract and played out in concrete visual form. Students teach us about creativity through their personal responses to the limits we set, thus proving that reason and intuition are not antithetical. Their works give aesthetic visibility to mathematical ideas.

Martha Bolles

Teach & Serve IV, No. 38 | We Are Not as Special as We Think We Are

Teach & Serve IV, No. 38

We Are Not as Special as We Think We Are

April 24, 2019

Sometimes, in our recognition of our differences and in our celebration of what makes us special, we forget two important truths: there are thousands of schools doing very much the same work we are and we can learn an awful lot from those schools.

Society values things that are unique. We place great price on “one-of-a-kind” items. We pay more for signed memorabilia. We often seek out the “variant edition,” something simply different from the norm and, therefore, somehow more coveted.

Society values things that are unique.

Is it any surprise, then, that many educational leaders and teachers and students believe their school is better when it is different from most if not all others? Is it any surprise that many strive to make their schools different?

We want our schools to be unique places, with cultures endemic to who we are and who we want to be. We want our schools to be special, to have feel and a flavor, to stand out. We want our schools to be different.

There is much to praise about this desire, and much to value.

However, we ought to be careful to avoid a significant pitfall here.

Sometimes, in our recognition of our differences and in our celebration of what makes us special, we forget two important truths: there are thousands of schools doing very much the same work we are and we can learn an awful lot from those schools.

When we tell ourselves how different we are, we can forget that there are others ministering to students, in most cases, literally just around the corner. When we rely on how special we are, we can forget that we have so much to learn from others walking the same paths we walk.

We know that teaching our students collaboration is critical to their success. How can we collaborate with others if we believe we are so unlike them (and, often we believe we are so superior to them) that they have nothing to teach us and that we are speaking an entirely different language than they? How can we learn if we decide we have no one from whom we can learn?

Innovation, yes. Isolation, no.

We are engaged in the work of education and we look to make ourselves better at every turn, we strive for continuous improvement and a growth mindset, but, let us be honest, we are not as special as we think we are and we would be well served to seek out those doing the same work we are both to learn from them and to share what we know.

In that manner, we improve and so do they.

 

EduQuote of the Week | 4.22.19

I’ll always choose a teacher with enthusiasm and weak technique over one with brilliant strategies but who is just punching the clock. Why? An enthusiastic teacher can learn technique, but it is almost impossible to light a fire inside the charred heart of a burned-out teacher.

Dave Burgess

EduQuote of the Week | 4.15.19

If you look at your class as anything less than life or death, you do not deserve to be a teacher. If you walk into the classroom ten minutes late, week after week, you need to resign. You wouldn’t come in late on your job all the time, but I venture to guess that some of you do it on Sunday.

Bill Wilson