Thursday, March 19, 2015

Are You Using the Right Tools?

As with most aspects of life, having the right tools makes all the difference in the world.  Plumbers need basic tools that carpenters need as well, but they both need other tools specific to their jobs.  Baseball players need the right equipment, runners need the right shoes, and golfers need the right clubs.  Unless you're Tin Cup.

If they have the wrong tools they quickly acquire the tools they need in order to continue their professional trade.  They don't seek out other professionals in their field and say, "Hey, I have the wrong tools but can you help me make them work?"  

The same concept applies when it comes to teaching.  Some teachers have been carrying the same 'tools' with them for years.  Some of those tools still work great for certain tasks but teachers need to be ready to add new tools to accomplish their job.  I admire and respect teachers who are seeking out help and guidance when they need it but I feel sometimes they are asking for help to make their 'tools' work when the reality is they need different tools.

A major part of my job as an administrator is to help teachers select the most effective tools, not to try and make old tools work better.  If it's the wrong tool, it won't get the job done no matter how long it's been in the toolbox.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Education Apps Are This Generation's Baseball Cards

I'm noticing a trend with tweets, emails, blogs, and educational publications recently.  We have a baseball card mindset when it comes to apps.  Think back to when you were a child and baseball cards were extremely popular.  Maybe they weren't popular in your circle of friends but you couldn't help but notice that baseball trading cards were buzzing.

What was the point of baseball trading cards?  Adolescents flocked to local stores in search of that elusive rookie card or the card of their favorite player.  They bought small packs of cards all the way up to boxes full of baseball cards hoping to find "that one" card.  They purchased hard covered binders with plastic pages to keep track of their most valuable cards.  The most valuable card was probably placed in its own small plastic case to keep it in mint condition.  Some cards were traded but mostly cards were accumulated and stored away.  The number of cards in a collection was thrown around as a sense of pride and for bragging rights, "I have 358 baseball cards."But that number was nothing to other collectors if the cards in the collection weren't worth the value of some single trading cards.

Thinking about all of the apps being discussed around the Internet, Twitter, and around schools made me see a connection between apps and baseball cards.  For some people, it seems like they are just collecting apps for the sake of saying they have a bunch of apps.  They install apps, use them for awhile, and then place them in a folder where they go to collect e-dust never to be used again.  Folder after folder after folder, filled with apps someone else said they just had to install.

When it really comes down to it though, most people have very few apps that are worth using.  Instead of people trying to collect as many apps as possible, let's start selecting and using apps that are useful.  Let's select one or two apps and really use them to their full potential.  Put students in front of apps that help them create their learning.  Put teachers and administrators in front of apps that help them do their job to their full potential.

We are creating an app world that is becoming too much like the baseball trading card world.  When all is said and done, those baseball cards aren't worth the card stock they're printed on.  Will all of our devices suffer the same fate?  They will if we treat them like a storage space for apps and not a device to create learning.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Putting Yourself Out There

In most areas of life, putting yourself out there is an uneasy feeling.  In my last post I discussed how I have put myself out there when it comes to running.  Running did not come easy for me.  Not the physical act of running but the thought of becoming a runner was my struggle.  You hear runners say that it doesn't matter how far or how fast you run.  If you get out there and run, you're a runner.  It's still a concept I'm trying to accept.  Most of the time I feel like I'm a person who runs, not a runner.

Recently, I saw this picture on Twitter that could possibly lead to something I have wanted in my career for some time now.

But in order for this possibility to happen, I had to make the first move.  I had to decide if I wanted to put myself out there.  After speaking with Lily, a trusted friend and colleague, my decision was made.  I made contact with the representative to voice my interest.  There were more phone calls and texts to Lily and Cameron, a person I greatly respect and admire.  After speaking with them again I decided to submit my materials.

I have no idea what, if anything, will come from this decision.  What I do know is this, nothing will come from it without putting myself out there. (As a disclaimer, I'm not leaving my current position.  This would be for something extra, on top of my current role as elementary principal.)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Climbing the Stairs

On March 15, 2014 something very significant happened to me.  It was an average Saturday afternoon but something uncommon was about to happen.  On my way upstairs to bed I realized that I was winded when I reached the top.  Now, I'm not talking winded like bent over, trying to catch my breath kind of winded.  What I did notice was that I was needing to take deeper breaths than usual.  I thought to myself, "I'm 36 years old.  I can't be out of breath from walking up the stairs."  Yet there I was, breathing deep and quicker than usual.

The next day the family and I went to church and when I got home I sat in my recliner (a favorite spot of mine) and made a life-changing decision.  The series of events that followed came without much thought or planning.  I climbed those same steps as the night before (seemingly less winded) and changed my clothes.  First came a pair of basketball shorts, followed by a regular T-shirt, socks, and tennis shoes.  I went downstairs out the back door and I ran.  I didn't know how far or how fast I could run but I didn't care.  I just ran.

I made it about 1.5 miles before I couldn't go any more.  My legs and lungs were on fire but I had something that wasn't hurting, my pride.  There were a lot of excuses for not wanting to run.  People would see me running and think, "Look at him.  Must be his first day running." The things that stopped me from exercising were all in my head and mostly revolved around how I thought others would view me.  But this day, I didn't care.  I just ran.

Since that day I began training.  I wasn't training for a race but for a healthier lifestyle.  I gave up drinking Mt. Dew that day and I haven't looked back.  Until that day, I probably averaged five or six cans of Mt. Dew a day.  You read that correctly…a day.  I haven't given up caffeine but my caffeine intake is considerably lower than before that day.

On Saturday, April 19 I ran my first 'official' 5K.  It was a very small, local running event and I was proud that I entered and ran the best I could.  Having never ran an official race before, I didn't know what to expect or what to do when it was over.  I stood around afterward and to my surprise, I finished first in my age division.  Ok, there were only two people in my age division but still, I won.  I was a little embarrassed on the outside but I was proud on the inside.

Fast forward a few months and I have ran a few more official 5K races and I even ran in the inaugural Bedford Half Marathon.  I trained hard for that race and my goal was to just finish.  My official time was 2:07 (two hours and seven minutes).  My hope for finishing was 2:15 so I was happy with the result.  It was nice to have friends like John Roth, Lester Burris, Ben Burris, and Allen Burris there to run "with" and for the encouragement and support.

My running schedule usually includes three or four runs per week (I really like rest days) with a normal run between three and six miles.  My pace is coming down and now I'm looking to add distance.  I've signed up to run the GiveThanks4-Miler in Mitchell on Thanksgiving morning.

What a difference a few months (and stairs) can make!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Winterfest - Day 3

This is the final post in this blog series covering my experience at Winterfest in Gatlinburg, TN.  As I have written before in this series, I was deeply touched by this experience.

Day 3 started early at 7:00 a.m. with us singing and praising God through songs.  If the first two days were moving, this day put me over the edge but in a great way.  Because this was a Sunday morning it somehow felt a little more like church and it had a special feeling.  The songs were perfect and the song leader was enthusiastic and full of life.  It set the stage perfectly for the morning's lesson.

Patrick Mead came to the stage to deliver a powerful message about all of us needing the church.  His Scottish accent in the twang of Tennessee was a humorous addition to his delivery.  Sunday morning's message from Patrick centered around our enthusiasm and attitude at church.  My biggest take-away was about communion.

Ever since I was little I can remember communion being a somber time during church.  Adults hung their heads, children were hushed or quickly taken out of the room if they were fussing, and there were no sounds.  The first Sunday morning I attended the Mitchell Church of Christ I was shocked by what I heard.  No, not the preaching of Allen Burris, but what I heard during communion.  As the plates were being passed around, the congregation sang.  Can you believe that?!?  Not only was it not quiet but people were actually encouraged to sing during communion.  To be honest, I'm not sure I enjoyed it but it was a different experience and I appreciated it.

Patrick encouraged the group to stand up during communion and to talk with each other, encourage each other, and join in fellowship with each other as we all took part in the communion.  Somehow I felt closer to others who were in my group and we even branched out to speak with total strangers.  Although we didn't know each other we had a connection through communion.

As communion ended we were brought back into the lives of our three teens as they continued their spiritual paths.  Sadly, one girl from the video seemed ready to step off of her path.  The other girl was ready to stick to her path, no matter how rocky or hard it became.

The boy's path is the one which literally lead me to tears.  I'm not sure if it was the experience of my first Winterfest, the spiritual high I was feeling from being surrounded by more Christians than I ever had before, the songs, the communion, the great messages, or something deeper.  Whatever it was, I cried. I'm not ashamed to admit that either.  It was such a powerful moment.  The boy had been through so much and his path had been so tough.

The video cut to him making the decision to be baptized and discussing what that truly means.  When the youth minister asked him when he wanted to be baptized the boy answered, "Right now." The scenes were all in slow motion, the music was perfect, and it led viewers into the heart of the scene.  We watched as the boy walked from the youth minister's office to a hallway.  From the hallway we watched the boy climb a stairway which brought him into a back room where he was ready to change his clothes and his life.  We had a front row seat for the boy's decent into the water, pausing to remove his ever-present stocking cap, and then down into the water.  While all this is happening we hear nothing but music.  No words are allowed to be heard and the visual imagery is all we have of the powerful scene.  No words were needed.

The boy is taken down into the water and is baptized.  As he comes up out of the water his face is glowing and the smile on his face is infectious.  And that's when it happened.  I cried.  I was so happy for the boy who I didn't even know.  This wasn't even a 'real' person.  He was an actor playing a part.  But what a part to play!  I tried to wipe my tears in a macho manly way but to be perfectly honest I didn't care who saw me at that moment.  I was so wrapped up in the story and what the story meant.

I couldn't think of a better way to end a great first experience at Winterfest and I'm excited to return next year.  In the meantime, it's time to put into practice what I experienced.