Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year Reflections

When I think about classrooms that work I always come back to the importance of students being allowed opportunities to reflect on their learning.

I also tell people that they should always be learning. This year I learned a lot about myself.

So, in keeping with my beliefs, here are some thoughts about what I learned:

2014 will go down as the year I lost my big brother Rick. In many ways the time from diagnosis to death was short. And many people have said, "at least he didn't have to suffer too long." Having to deal with the death of a loved one taught me about myself and my family.

I learned that my sister-in-law is one of the strongest people I know. I learned that a few months of hell can feel like a few years of hell. But, a few hours of laughter, in the midst of this sadness, can feel like no better time in my life. When I went and visited for, what turned out to be, the last time - we laughed. I didn't learn the importance of laughter that day. But I sure did validate the necessity for finding humor in even the darkest moments.

2014 will go down as the year I had my "perfect school year" ruined by someone else's success.  Before anyone reads this and says that I'm not being very kind to my current school leadership team, I want to emphasize that when I left for the Summer I was looking forward to the 2014-2015 school year like no other time in my history of being involved with education.

Then my principal was given a promotion in our school district. Then they created a new leadership position at our school. Then our literacy coach got a promotion. Then they pulled one of our assistant principals and they replaced him with another from our district. Throughout this school year they kept hinting that they were going to be taking another one of our assistant principals too.

We went from a principal, three assistant principals, and a literacy coach (and me) who had been together and were ready to move forward with instruction like our district had never seen, to a new principal, a new associative principal, a new assistant principal, and a new literacy coach. EVERY one of these new people is competent and EVERY one of these people is great to work with - so what's my problem? The problem is that, with so many new faces, we needed to put all of our plans on hold. We had to learn how to work together. And, our students and teachers suffered from a less than perfect leadership team. Maybe that is the biggest thing I learned from this - the leadership team at any school must work as a cohesive unit if we want to have student success

2014 will go down as the year I really made a fool of myself. Making a fool of one's self is something that is not recoverable. The only answer is to move on to a different school district where there will be less people who ever want to cross those bridges I blew up - I didn't just burn bridges; I napalmed them! Ironically, my heart was never stronger. I did what I did because I truly believed (and still believe) that everyone should be treated fairly.

But sometimes, when you are just a peon, it is better to keep your thoughts and comments to yourself. Sometimes, people don't understand the facts. Sometimes we need to just let the big boys play the political ping-pong.  I certainly got paddled. And, worse than anything, I got other people hurt and I lost a ton of credibility.  I won't (and am not allowed to) say anything else on this subject. All I can say is, at 57 years of age, I don't plan on getting involved in political messes ever again.

2014 will go down as the year Sheila and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. 25 years of living with someone is a long time. But I can't imagine being with anyone else for the next 25 years. We've had some really great times, we've had some less than fun times, but we have survived all of these times together. So from this I have learned the importance of the expression "... till death us do part."  When two human beings make a vow like that in front of family, friends, and God - how can you NOT make that work. Relationships take time; they take constant tinkering; and they take the gentle touch of a baby.  I learned that we will make it another 25 years (and beyond).

Happy New Year. May each of you experience the beauty of a great relationship with someone. And may each of you avoid death and destroying your credibility. It WILL be a great 2015. There are many new experiences to be had and I am looking forward to my reflection at the end of December of next year.