Education’s Greatest Thief

Over the last two days I’ve had the opportunity to attend an incredible teacher training called iChampion Summit at Tarleton State University. The school district that I work for is a partner in presenting this conference and it truly is a worthwhile event! Heck if you attend, you could even see me present a workshop or two. ūüôā

The keynote speakers challenge and engage.

But this post isn’t about the incredible things that these speakers are asking us to do.

Instead, I am just going to be real for a minute and while some might label me an “awfulizer,” I’d tell Jimmy Casas (the really good keynote who had awfulizer as a slide..) that until we can talk about Education’s Greatest Thief, then we can’t really move forward.

And what is¬†Education’s Greatest Thief?

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Think about it.

We all have stories of bitter teachers. In all likelihood we have all commented on that bitter teacher and how he/she needed to retire ten years ago.

But have you ever stopped to wonder about the generations of bitter students, much less the teachers!!

And why do we have so many bitter people in and around education?

Because….

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Unfulfilled Expectations + Justified Disappointment = Bitterness

And in education we don’t talk about unfulfilled expectations nor do we acknowledge justified disappointments. We are just supposed to pretend that everything is fine and that leads to bitterness.

No! I’m not saying everyone is bitter.. but I am saying that until we are ready to have a conversation about the reality of education and the challenges that students and teachers face in the classroom on a daily basis, we will always have unfulfilled expectations and justified disappointment.

I feel so passionately about this, I’ve made a little video. If you feel so inclined, I ask you to watch my video and join the discussion.

And yes, I completely messed up the title of my new favorite book.. It’s called The Gifts of Imperfection.

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Comments appreciated. Haters not so much.

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Dust from the Arena

One of my all-time favorite quotes is from Theodore Roosevelt’s speech titled “Citizenship in a Republic,” but better known as “The Man In The Arena”¬† that he gave at the Sorbonne in Paris, France, on¬† April 23, 1910.

I’m sure you have read it or heard it quoted, but in case you haven’t…

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming;

but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;

who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly,

so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

It’s hard for me to read the quote and not get stirred up! I want live daring greatly! I guess you could say reading the biography of Theodore Roosevelt in fifth grade made an impact on my life!

To live life IN THE ARENA. That’s my goal.

And you know what?

There are times when living in the arena means that you get beat up and are covered in dust and sweat and blood.

This is where I find myself professionally. I’m in a season of living in the arena and I’m coming up short over and over again.

In my picture below, I’m on my way to my most recent round in the arena.

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And I lost again.

But you know what? I didn’t do anything wrong and I have nothing to be ashamed of.

And that is why I’m writing this post.

When we are in the midst of the dust and sweat and blood inside the arena, all we can see is that we are being trampled and that once again we have to pick ourselves up. And no one wants to share that. No one wants to put themselves out there for ridicule or worse.

But here is what I have to say.

I am PROUD that I am standing in the arena taking the hits. I could have easily given up. I could pretend that I didn’t try. I could pretend that it doesn’t hurt like hell to be passed over again and again. I could pretend that my self confidence hasn’t taken a huge hit.

But I’m not.

Because I’m determined to live an authentic life and I want my daughters to see that life is about “great enthusiasms,” “the great devotions,”¬† and I truly believe that I’m spending¬† my time and efforts on a “worthy cause.”

So for any of you out there that know me in real-life… if you notice the dust on my face, I wouldn’t mind it if you helped wash it off. The dust is pretty thick in this arena and its getting hard to see….

My path is full of rocks

For the last few years I’ve been working hard on my professional goals and trying to advance my career in public education. I’ve done everything “by the book.” I’ve done the course work. I’ve passed the tests. I’ve done absolutely everything that I can do, even so far as having my research published in an educational administrative journal. And I’ve hit the wall over and over again.

Each time I’ve hit the wall, I’ve reevaluated. I’ve asked myself hard questions and I’ve learned important lessons.

But this weekend, after soul-searching after yet another difficult wall, I realized that I’m going after my goals in a traditional approach.. the accepted approach… the textbook approach.

And you know what?

The textbook approach has NEVER worked for me.

My dad has often laughingly said that I created my own degree plans in college and created my own jobs. And you know what? I have. Why? Because I had to in order to survive.

But during the last few years, with a good job and some, what I thought were attainable goals, I forgot that I don’t fit the box that others want. I gave absolutely everything I had to doing what was expected, traditional and allowed.

And I found that not only does that not work for me, I didn’t get the promotions that I worked so hard for. And I really want to give up.

But I’m not.

I didn’t learn to finally read fluently in fourth grade for nothing!

Traditional approaches to education didn’t work for me as a child. My path to reading and basic math was HARD and I have the elementary report cards to prove it.¬† The four C’s I got in second grade on the second marking period were disappointing. Staying in at recess in third grade so that I could figure out math problems wasn’t fun.¬† Having to read into a tape recorder at night and play it back and listen to myself read the words wasn’t easy. But I did it. And I learned to read and I passed my math classes.

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No, I’m not showing you the grades on the inside!

Everyday I could have given up. But I didn’t.¬† My brand of gifted (remembering pretty much every room I’ve ever been in, including the orientation of the bed compared the window for every room I’ve slept in for the last 40 years..) doesn’t make the standard list of gifted and talent attributes.

What I learned is that I have to fight for myself and be willing to take the path full of rocks. The path full of rocks is often lonely, its tough and you are destined to get scrapped up along the way. But it is worth it, because the view from the peak is incredible.

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So that’s what I am going to do.

I’m setting out on my own path. It’s not a path of manicured grass with a pretty pond. It’s a path of rocks and I’m going to conquer it.

Watch out world.

The Lessons from A Seam Ripper

The Seam Ripper is a necessary and useful item if you sew. The seam ripper has a sharp point that allows you to get under a stitch or a knot of threads and break the seam and pull out a seam that you realize to late that was wrong.

My brand of sewing seems to be twice as much seam ripping as actual sewing.. as for every line of stitching that is kept I feel like I take out 2!

This weekend as I was taking out a truck load of seams from a project that is teaching me lots of life lessons, I thought about the gift and the lessons of the seam ripper.

So here are a few of my deep thoughts from my time with the seam ripper.

  1. Just because something looks good from the front, doesn’t mean it looks good on the back.

  2. Just because something appears to have been done correctly, doesn’t mean that it was.

  3. It may seem like a tiny mistake when you make it, but if you take the time to fix it, you realize that it was a big one that was on track to derail the entire project.

  4. If you stop and think about what you are doing before you do it, you will save time as having to go back, take apart what you have already done and start again the right way takes twice as long.

  5. Learn how to use the tool so that you don’t make a mess of the project.

And there you have it… a few life lessons that we all need to be reminded of.. even if you don’t have a monster project to finish that you made an utter mess of so you have ignored it for two months and now you have to take miles of seams out of the quilt in order to fix it and finish it!