Teach & Serve IV, No. 3 | Journey

Teach & Serve IV, No. 3

Journey

August 22, 2018

Our work in education ought to include work upon ourselves. How do we improve? How do we better serve? How do we ensure that our journeys match our goals? How do we grow as leaders and as people?

In some parts of the United States, school has been in session for a few weeks. In others, classes are a few days away from beginning. In still more, teacher meetings and orientations are on the cusp of getting rolling. No matter the state of starting in which you find your institution, there is no denying it: the journey is upon us.

And I wish you good luck on the journey.

Each academic session, trimester, semester and year is a journey. We find ourselves at the on ramp with, I trust, energy and enthusiasm.

Not to strain the metaphor too much, but it would benefit each of us greatly if we begin with a plan for sustaining ourselves on this journey.

That plan will have many elements to it: checklists and standards and benchmarks. We might wish to leave room for detours and challenges. They will come. Our plans should be clear and direct while leaving space for the unexpected and flexibility. They will help us along the way.

An essential element to a successful journey is craving out time for evaluation and reflection. If our plans do not give us space to review our path, check in on our progress, assess our feelings and emotions along the way, we might get where we are going (spoiler alert: the calendar pages always flip – we will get to the end of our journey) but we will not reach all the potential of the way in which we might have arrived.

Our walk through our school years is a walk of getting things done, of encountering people and places and things and serving them, responding to them, helping them. Our paths through these months is sometimes meandering, sometimes punishing, always propulsive.

What our journey can be is inward too.

It should be.

Our work in education ought to include work upon ourselves. How do we improve? How do we better serve? How do we ensure that our journeys match our goals? How do we grow as leaders and as people? Our journeys should include reflection which helps us work upon ourselves – upon our souls.

Our journeys can be more than checking things off the list, no matter how brilliantly and effectively we do that. Our journeys should be more.

Our journeys should be about getting better about learning more.

Our journeys should be about development.

Let us make them count.

EduQuote of the Week | 8.20.18

Our job is to teach the students we have. Not the ones we would like to have. Not the ones we used to have. Those we have right now. All of them.

Kevin Maxwell

EduQuote of the Week: May 28 – SUMMER, 2018

EduQuote Will Return This Fall!

Let’s do what we love and do a lot of it.

– Marc Jacobs

Office Door Quotes 2

Superheroic Leadership Vol. 1 No. 20 – Wrap Up

Superheroic Leadership Vol. I * No. 20

Wrap Up

Superheroic Leadership is a light-hearted examination of what superheroic figures have to teach about leadership and what I have learned from their adventures.


Today marks the final edition of Superheroic Leadership. Hopefully,  you have enjoyed some of the reflections here…  and please revisit any you wish below!

in the fall of 2018, Superheroic Leadership gives way to A Journal of the First Year which will contain stories from my first year as a principal of a high school. 

Teach & Serve III, No. 41 – You Changed My Life

Teach & Serve III, No. 41 – You Changed My Life

May 23, 2018

This is the final edition of Teach & Serve for the 2017-2018 school year.  Teach & Serve IV will begin next fall on 8.8.18

At some point in the journey of their lives your former students recognize what happened and many seek out past instructors to tell them something profound: “you changed my life.”

Late May in schools is rife with many emotions. Teachers and administrators are ready to bid the year farewell and to get to summer vacation. Late May brings with it the promise that an opportunity for rest and recharging is not far away. Certainly there are some obstacles yet to clear what with exams or grading final projects, cleaning out of classrooms and turning in of reports, packing up materials and checking out of buildings.

Though the end is nigh, there are still things to do.

Our students have things to do, too and they normally do not accomplish one of the most critical tasks of the end of the school year. With varying degrees of seriousness and success, they approach their final projects and tests. They clean out their lockers. They sign their yearbooks and they say their goodbyes. But they typically leave out something very important.

Multiple summers down the road, when water has passed under bridges and calendar pages have turned, many former students realize they forgot something back in the spring months of their school days. At some point in the journey of their lives your former students recognize what happened and many seek out past instructors to tell them something profound: “you changed my life.”

It is not entirely fair to expect students living in these late May moments to understand what has occurred in their lives. Some do. Some know the debts of gratitude they owe. Some are able to articulate this to their teachers. But the vast majority have not the breadth of knowledge, the introspection or the reflective capacity to get it.

Not yet.

They have not lived enough life and that is okay. As educators, we know that our students are not finished products. They have more to learn.

And so do we because, in the late May morass, we are just as likely to forget to acknowledge to ourselves that we have, in fact, changed lives.

paintingWorking in schools is not like painting a wall. Teachers do not get to blue tape the edges of their students and fill in the gaps until they are fully colored and vibrant. Teachers do not get to see the results of the hours of preparation and the early mornings and the late nights. Teachers do not know the seeds they are planting as they are dropping them in fertile ground. Teachers do not always know the affect they have until long after they have had it.

At this moment, I know full well that many of your students are not paying attention to you in class, are pushing every button you have, are just as ready to be away from you as you are from them. I know that many of us are just as ready for summer as our charges are. I know that there is much to accomplish and much to do. I know this. But I know something else, too. In late May teachers need this critical perspective and I would like to provide it.

Please allow me to remind all the teachers and coaches and administrators and educational professionals: you have changed lives these last nine months. Please allow me to remind you about something that is profound in our work:

You have changed lives.

Treasure giving that gift, even if those who receive it are not always able to acknowledge that they have.

EduQuote of the Week: May 21 – 27, 2018

Medical Services Week

I’ve never met a person who does not want a safer world, better medical care and education for their children, and peace with their neighbours. I just don’t meet those people. What I meet, over and over again, as I travel around, is that the essential human condition is optimistic – in every one of these places.

– Eric Schmidt

Office Door Quotes 2

Teach & Serve III, No. 40 – The Final Thank You of the Year

Teach & Serve III, No. 40 – The Final Thank You of the Year

May 16, 2018

Bottom line at this busy time of year: if you can only steal a moment to thank someone, to show your appreciation for one person on this list, make it yourself.

You deserve it. Know that in your heart. Feel it in your soul. Repeat it in your head.

Any way you look at the present situation, this much is true: there is very little time left in this academic year.

Please allow me to encourage one last practice: say “thank you.”

Find 10 minutes, just 10 for appreciation and gratitude. Go somewhere quiet. Put on your earphones or put in your earbuds. Sit alone. Reflect. Take out a piece of paper or use you iPad or phone and make a list of those to whom you might say, “thank you.”

  • Thank your family and friends, you boyfriends and girlfriends and significant others who support you in this work.
  • Thank those who put you in this school, the administrator or H.R. personnel who hired you.
  • Thank the parents who entrusted their children to you.
  • Thank the students who sat in your classrooms, who played on your fields, acted on your stages, made music in your rehearsal spaces, deliberated in your student councils and mock trials and model UNs.
  • Thank your colleagues, those with whom you’ve journeyed this year, for their guidance, support and love.
  • Finally, and critically, thank yourself.

Give yourself credit for all you have done, for the long work you have begun, for the way you have influenced your students, for the gift you have been to them. Thank yourself for getting near the finish line, for perseverance, for faith. Thank yourself for each time you went on when you thought you could not, for each step you took when you were exhausted, for each time you went the extra mile or five or ten. Thank yourself for being part of this vocation, this incredibly important work.

Bottom line at this busy time of year: if you can only steal a moment to thank someone, to show your appreciation for one person on this list, make it yourself.

You deserve it. Know that in your heart. Feel it in your soul. Repeat it in your head.

You.

Deserve.

Thanks.

Give it to yourself, please.

EduQuote of the Week: May 14 – 20, 2018

Police Week

Understand, our police officers put their lives on the line for us every single day. They’ve got a tough job to do to maintain public safety and hold accountable those who break the law.

– Barack Obama

Office Door Quotes 2

Superheroic Leadership Vol. 1 No. 19 – Favorite Fictional Teachers

Superheroic Leadership Vol. I * No. 19

Favorite Fictional Teachers

Superheroic Leadership is a light-hearted examination of what superheroic figures have to teach about leadership and what I have learned from their adventures.


During this Teacher Appreciation Week 2018, it seems appropriate that I revisit my personal list of the best fictional teachers.

Here goes!

Obi Wan Kenobi and Yoda are awarded this distinction for their ability to inspire students to come to the truth, their connection to an inspirational greater power, their commitment to teaching (even if they have to sacrifice their lives for it), their wise sayings, their ability to DO and not just teach, their skill with their chosen tools, and their dedication to dealing with even the most complaining and petulant students (i.e. Anakin and Luke Skywalker!)

Ralph Hanley (the Greatest American Hero) is awarded this distinction for his ability to keep his students out of trouble while saving the world, his balancing of the life of a superhero and a teacher, his ability to walk on air, his understanding that one person can make a difference … believe it or not, it’s just him. You know you want to hear it… click HERE for the Mike Post theme song! Oh, and a quick bit of trivia… Ralph Hanley’s name was originally Ralph Hinkley, but that surname was changed after the attempt on President Reagan’s life by John Hinkley, jr.

Ms. Norbury (from Mean Girls) is awarded this distinction for her sweet sarcasm, her being the best of a bad crop of educators, her love of a well-turned phrase, her pusher-ness – she pushes people – and her incredible likeness to Liz Lemon.

Professor Charles Xavier (of The X-Men)is awarded this distinction for his intelligence, his supernatural power to know what people are thinking, his love of the marginalized, his ability to “push” people to do what is best, his living of a full life while differently abled and his beautiful dome.

Laura Roslin (of Battlestar Galatica) is awarded this distinction for her faith in adversity – a quality all good teachers possess, her courage under extreme circumstances, her ability to inspire loyalty and confidence in others, her career track (teacher to Secretary of Education to President of the Colonies – though this last step took the rest of the Cabinet being obliterated by the Cylons and her standing with a fist. So say we all..

Professor Ross Geller (one of our best Friends) is awarded this distinction for his undying commitment to his subject matter, his desire to educate all around him, no matter how much they don’t want to learn, his enthusiasm in all circumstances, his never-say-die attitude (he gets fired from positions and keeps coming back), his thumbing his nose at rules by dating his students, and, never forget that… he’ll be there for us.

Professor Henry Jones, jr. is awarded this distinction for making education exciting, his practical, real world application of his subject matter, his dislike of reptiles, his ability to survive every calamity including nuclear explosions and Shia LaBeouf, his battling evil – like the Nazis, and not his years, but his mileage.

Jane Eyre is awarded this distinction for her courage under fire, her devotion to her studies and her pupils, her overcoming impossible odds, her passionate love, and her fleeing of her relatives.

Mrs. Nelson (you heard Mrs. Nelson Is Missing, right!?!) is awarded this distinction for the fact that she knows how to illustrate to her students to be careful what they wish for… Enough. Said. I hate it when she’s missing…

My favorite is Mr. Glen Holland (from Mr. Holland’s Opus) who is awarded this distinction for surprising himself by finding a life in education, for teaching his students as much about life as about music, for making good choices even in the face of temptation, for reaching out to those in need, for inspiring his students, for finding his compass and being one of mine.

Teach & Serve III, No. 39 – Appreciation

Teach & Serve III, No. 39 – Appreciation

May 9, 2018

To my teachers, professors, colleagues and friends: THANK YOU. You have given me the gift of education and that is a blessing I can never, ever fully repay.

In the midst of Teacher Appreciation Week 2018, I am reminded, with more intentionality than I would typically apply, of the many teachers and educators who have made a difference in my life. During the course of the week, I have been tweeting my appreciation of the impact they have left on me. This post continues and expands on this theme.

The first teacher who made a mark on me was my grandmother, Lucille Kirk. She taught elementary school at Brown Elementary in Denver, Colorado, and she never, ever made teaching seem to me to be a chore. She made it seem an adventure. I have heard from so many of her former students of the life she led and the lives she changed. What a gift she must have been in the classroom. She was surely a gift to me as a grandmother.

I am more grateful than I can express to Mrs. Janet Batman, Ms. Barb Baxter, Mr. Henry Sellers and so many other teachers who took care of and inspired me when I was in kindergarten and elementary school at Parr Elementary School in Arvada, Colorado. These three educators and their colleagues nurtured in me a love of reading, of adventure and of imagination. Drawing through-lines across the map of my life, I can see the seeds they planted becoming the trees from which I now swing and in which I build makeshift houses. I wish I could time travel back to share with them my admiration and love.

At Regis Jesuit High School in Denver, Mr. Ralph Taylor and Mr. Dan Sarlo taught me about analysis and academic rigor. Mr.  John Vowells, SJ and Mrs. Anne Smith awakened a love of theater. Ms. Charlotte Read and my good, good friend, Mr. Michael Buckley introduced me to writing and photography. Mr. Tim Newton (good luck on your retirement!) challenged me to become a better artist (and to draw something – anything – that was not superheroes or Star Wars). Sister Benita Volk engendered in me an undying love of the English language. Dr. Chris Wheatley deconstructed and reconstructed everything I thought about education when I was in his classrooms at The Catholic University of America. These people set me on the course my entire life would take: the course of being an educator.

I wish I could be in a library run by Teri Brannan, my old Parr Elementary classmate. I wish I could observe Sean Gaillard, my best friend from college, as he shepherds the school at which he is principal. I wish I could more often see my sister, Janna Petersen, at work in her library. I miss Angie Mammano, the first teacher I could call “peer” who showed me in my initial years of teaching at Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville, MD, what this life is all about. I remember being amazed by Kim Smith, stunned by the knowledge and humor of John Staud, humbled by the gentle good will of Chris Pramuk, all of whom I worked with early in my career when I came to teach at my alma mater.

I cannot fathom the impact my best friend Jim Broderick King has had on me. He is one of the best teachers I know. I am humbled by those who came into my life as teachers when I was an administrator. Mike Meagher and Barb Bess could both put on clinics in excellent teaching. My friend Ryan Williamson is as passionate about doing right by students as teacher I have ever met. Cameron Turner, a former student of mine, is a better teacher than I will ever be. Leslie Larsen is the most empathetic teacher I have ever encountered. My son, Matthew Sheber Howard, will join this profession in the fall and I could not be any more proud. And my wife, Caroline Howard is simply an unequivocally and immensely gifted educator.

I am humbled to be joining the staff of Mullen High School in Denver in 3 short weeks. In my time there, I have already seen brilliant instruction, compassionate approaches to students, caring teachers and staff and a real commitment to this life and vocation we all share. I am already intimidated by their passion and zeal and I know their students are well cared for and loved. What a wonderful environment to join.

It is true that the work we do with students can be hard. It can be challenging. It can be heart wrenching. It is also true that appreciation for that work is, sometimes, faint and distant. We do not always hear “thank you.” We do not always feel the difference we so clearly make in people’s lives – in our students’ lives.

To my teachers, professors, colleagues and friends: THANK YOU. You have given me the gift of education and that is a blessing I can never, ever fully repay.

I will continue to try to be worthy of it.