Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father's Day


What can a son say about his father on this special day?  What can a son say to the man who molded and shaped him into the man he is today?  How can a son thank the man who sacrificed his own interests so that I could pursue mine?

I can remember a lot about my childhood and growing up in a small town in Indiana.  But no matter what the story or memory is, my father is in every one of them.  He may not know it or realize it, but he was always there with me.  Sometimes he was there physically and sometimes he was there figuratively.  No matter the circumstances, he was there.

I can remember as if it were yesterday playing baseball in little league with my father as the coach.  He worked with all of the players making sure we improved our skills.  He taught that fundamentals meant more than winning, even as our team went 16-0 on the season and won the tournament.  I can't remember any of those games though.  Not one of them.  I do remember the pre-season tournament (called The Marathon) because we didn't win a single game!  My dad was (and probably still is) a great pitcher.  During the pre-season round robin tournament, for some reason the coaches pitched to the players.  While the other coaches were lofting 'beach balls' to their hitters, my dad took a different approach.  He was throwing heaters, curve balls, and even a few knuckle balls to some of us.  This was from the little league pitching mound too so we didn't have much reaction time.  At the time I couldn't figure out why he was doing it and it was pretty frustrating.  Having grown up some since then I know that he was teaching us a lesson.  If we could hit his pitches we could hit any little league pitches.  My friends and I still laugh about it when we get together to relive the glory days.  I guess going 16-0 helped heal some of those wounds.  Dad, thank you for teaching me that fundamentals are the backbone for long-term success.

I can remember a time when my father first asked me to help him carry something into the house.  I'm not talking about groceries or something small.  This was an entertainment unit that was in the garage and we cleaned it up to take inside.  He said, "Grab the other end."  At first I didn't think he was serious or maybe there was someone else standing behind me because he had never asked me to 'grab the other end' for anything.  I wasn't big enough to help him until then but with those four words, my relationship with my Dad changed.  I was finally big enough to help and that meant the world to me.  Dad, thanks for allowing me to feel like a big boy when I was still little.

I can remember the first time he let me mow the yard with the riding lawnmower.  In my mind I was ready for the responsibility and had been asking (begging) for awhile.  Finally, the day came.  It was a mild day early in the summer.  He made the first pass of cutting the grass around the edges of the yard and I stood on the top of our hill behind the house desperately wanting to mow.  As he rounded the garage and headed toward the house I kept thinking, "Let me drive.  Let me drive."  He must have sensed my eagerness and sure enough, he pulled the mower up near me and shut it off.  He said, "You want to mow for awhile?"  I think I was on the mower before he was totally off.  After a quick 'How To' lesson he said, "Let's go around once without the blades on, just to practice."  I didn't care if the blades were cutting or not, I just wanted to drive the mower.  So I agreed and took off.  I knew that I wouldn't leave the yard but for some reason I felt like I had embarked on a journey that would take days to complete.  There was responsibility placed in my hands; a passing of the torch in some way.  As I rounded the garage and headed toward the house I was grinning ear to ear inside but acting like it was no big deal on the outside.  He motioned for me to stop and I was going to pull up right beside him and shut if off, just like he did to me a few moments earlier.  I pushed on the brake but didn't slow down.  Of course I panicked and desperately tried stomping on the brake but still nothing happened.  I got closer and closer to the house and eventually brought the mower to rest on the old style basement doors.  You know, the ones that open up out of the ground made of flimsy metal?  Yep, I was bucking up against the house and bouncing on those basement doors.  My dad came to my rescue and turned the mower off before I busted a hole in the house and ended up in the kitchen.  What I remember most though was my dad asking if I was ok.  He wasn't mad and after a few more 'How To' lessons I was mowing the yard.  Dad, thanks for allowing me to mow the yard even though I was probably to young to do a good job. (As the years went on that privilege became a chore and the enthusiasm wasn't as high but I really did enjoy mowing the yard.  But I hated weed eating!)

I can remember when I quit basketball between my freshman and sophomore years.  That decision was not easy nor was it popular in my house.  My father played basketball on one of the best teams in our school's history.  He played in college too.  My grandfather was a basketball coach and my father coached high school basketball as well.  To say basketball was in my blood is an understatement!  So when I said that I didn't want to play basketball anymore, it was a dark day in the Hudson house.  My dad said, "If you don't play, you'll regret it."  I can't say that I regret not playing.  Sure, I missed it and probably threw away a lot of natural ability.  But what I gained was worth it.  A buddy and I drove to IU three nights a week to play tennis at the IU Tennis Pavilion.  I got to be pretty good and really enjoyed the competition.  I like that all of the pressure was on me and I couldn't rely on someone else to carry me.  If I missed a shot it was my fault.  If I lost a game, set, or match it was my fault.  That's a lonely place sometimes but it helped build my character.  Sometimes to a fault.  Sometimes I rely on myself and take on too many responsibilities without asking for help.  If something goes bad I want the blame.  As far as basketball went during my sophomore and junior years I played a lot of pick-up basketball in the park and kept my skills fairly polished.  I did play basketball my senior year and really enjoyed it.  Memories of playing basketball are some of my fondest of high school.  I don't regret not playing but I do wonder 'What if' sometimes.  As a father myself, I can't imagine the strength it takes to let your child do something you don't agree with.  Especially something that means so much to me and the family.  So, Dad, thank you for allowing me to pursue other sports and supporting me 100% in my decision.

I can't remember a time when I needed my Father and he wasn't there.  He came to every game, match, after school event, and program I was ever in.  Sure, he might have missed one or two along the way but I really can't remember a time when he wasn't there.  Every memory I have of my childhood involves my Dad.  Good and bad.  Physically or literally.  My Dad was there.

So, Dad, I just want to say 'Thank You' for always being there!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Discipline the Behavior, Not the Child

"I want him out of my class! And he can't come back until he's ready to follow my rules."

Have you ever heard these words come from a teacher?  If not, have you heard the tone? The frustration?  The exhaustion? The call for help?

There was one time as a teacher that these words came from me.  Instantly I felt horrible for what I had done and I knew that I would forever be a different teacher based on that one interaction. And I was different from that day forward...to the student.  I lost all of his trust, confidence, and desire to learn.  

Like I said, I knew that I was forever changed but I had no idea how much I affected the student. For the remainder of the year (luckily this happened in April) the boy was different.  No matter what I tried, he was done with me.  It would have been better for that student if he was moved out of my classroom.  I don't talk about this lightly and I think about this student a lot and wonder where/what/how he is today. I guess my biggest fear is that he lives under a bridge in a cardboard box, staring at an old yearbook picture of me as he plans his revenge for that fateful day.  Maybe I feel like I have WAY more influence over that student than I actually did, but I like to think I made an impression on him.

A few months ago I was visiting another building, not in the district I work in, and the first thing I saw was a teacher walking an unruly student to the office.  I've seen this before so I slowed my pace because I didn't want to be in the way just in case the 'party' was about to get started. The boy turned and looked at me and in that instance I was transported straight back to the day I became frustrated at my student.  The whole scene was an awful reminder of my actions.

As a building principal I understand the frustration that students can bring to the classroom.  I also understand that teachers have good and bad days.  So do the students.  When those bad days happen on the same day fireworks are bound to go off, quickly.  A big cause of office visits are based on frustration levels.  Some teachers have a higher threshold of frustration while others have a very very very low threshold.  Have you ever known a teacher to kick a student out of class because he/she didn't have a pencil?  Probably a low threshold kind of teacher.

When a student comes to my office I quickly remind myself to separate the student from the behavior.  I know that is very easy to forget in certain situations, however, it's imperative that you do it.  We never know exactly what the student is going through at home, who is bullying them in 1st period, or what their after school activities demand of them.  Life seems to be more and more stressful for adults and students and we, the adults, better be prepared to help students navigate their stress. When we deal with students in a disciplinary manner we can help reduce some of that stress by dealing with the negative behavior separate from the character of the student.

Monday, June 11, 2012

iTeach Academy Day One Resources

Today, two Indiana school corporations came together for the first iTeach Academy to learn more about integrating technology into classroom instruction.  It was powerful.  Overwhelming to some.  Right on target for others.

Sessions today centered more around the need for technology integration rather than 'how-to' resources.  Alan November (@globalearner) delivered the morning keynote and lead breakout sessions throughout the day.  There was a compelling case made for the use of technology, not just as an afterthought to a lesson, but as a way of life in the classroom.  The way Alan described it really hit home to me.  He called it, "Shoving paper down a wire."  That's what a lot (not all) of teachers consider technology.  Typing a research paper on the computer is NOT integrating technology.  That's just a really expensive pencil.

We want our students to begin blogging, making videos, and be globally connected with their school work.  Teachers will be asked to create google docs, prezis, and incorporate the 'flipped classroom' model.  Obviously this list is just a small part of what the educational landscape should start to look like when technology is actually integrated into classrooms.

Administrators will also be held to a high standard when it comes to technology.  No more should we need hour-long meetings to take care of 'housekeeping' business.  Place the agenda on google docs so that teachers can look at the agenda items and come prepared to join the learning rather than teachers sitting and taking in information.  We MUST model for our teachers what we want them to do for their students.

Tomorrow's breakout sessions include more 'hands-on' demonstrations for teachers.  Participants will learn iPad iWorks, curation of resources, iBook, Khan Academy, participatory learning, Web 2.0 tools, moodle, e-publishing for iPad, and iPad productivity.  It should be a another great day of learning for MCCSC and R-BB teachers and administrators.

Here are links to a few of the resources discussed today:

Twitter

TweetDeck (Twitter app)

Hootsuite (Twitter app)

Diigo

Jing

Google

Docs (via google)

RSS Reader (via google)

Polleverywhere