Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Leadership Lessons from Kung Fu

About this time two years ago, I wrote a post called Leadership Lessons from Captain Kirk. I followed that up last winter with Leadership Lessons from Luke Skywalker . I thought I would continue my annual tradition of drawing on pop culture references with my latest post. As a child I loved the action and the mystery of the television show Kung Fu and how it blended the old west with the far east. As an adult, I'm drawn more toward the philosophy and wisdom that often shines through the episodes. I recently viewed the pilot episode again and in doing so, I took away several leadership lessons that can be adapted to our work as educators.

There is a first time for everything: The series begins with young Caine standing outside the Shaolin monastery for days waiting to get in. After successfully passing the entrance test, he is told by the head priest that only full Chinese students have ever been admitted to the temple. The boy drops his head in despair because his heritage is half Chinese and half American. He quickly looks up in hope when the priest says, "There is a first time for everything." Are we afraid of change at school and in the classrooms because that is the way we have always done things? If so, it's time to take a lesson from Kung Fu and try something new!

Fear is the only darkness: Early in his training, young Caine meets master Po, who to his surprise is blind. The young student comments, "Of all things, to live in darkness must be the worst". The master quickly replies "Fear is the only darkness". He soon teaches the student many things, including that limitations are only in our mind. When asked how he can hear the silent grasshopper at his feet, the old master simply replies, "Young man, how is it that you can not?" As educators, what fears are holding you back? Let go of them and you'll be amazed at what you can accomplish.

Two Kinds of Strength: The young students receive daily training in the martial arts. During the training, the master reminds the students that there are two kinds of strength. The outer strength is obvious and diminishes with age. However, the inner strength is something that will continue to grow into old age...and beyond. Do we as educators develop our inner strength? Do we help our students develop theirs? As educators, we need to help our students develop a strong moral compass and the strength of will to exercise it long after they leave our school.

Redirection: Again, during their martial arts training, the master teaches the students an important lesson. It is easier to redirect a force than to stop it. He demonstrates this by tripping a powerful adversary that is charging him. It was not the size that mattered, but the skill in redirecting. I think this can be applied to technology today. Some people wish to put a ban on technology. That's trying to stop a powerful force. Why not redirect it and have the students use their devices in the classroom for something that we want to them to learn? That's redirection and guiding a force that can help us achieve our goals in education!

Humility: As Caine finishes his training and prepares to leave the temple, his beloved mentor gives him one last bit of advice, "Remember, a wise man walks with his head bowed. Humble like the dust." That phrase always stuck with me and it can be hard to do when we live in a culture that prizes winning by any means and encourages cults of personality. Dedicated educators do this naturally. We are not in it for the money and we are not in it for the fame. We are here to make each child successful and our accomplishments are seeing our students succeed.

I know many people reading this will not be familiar with the television show Kung Fu and may never watch an episode in their lives. That's okay. It's not about the show, it's about the lessons we can take away from it and apply to our schools, our classrooms, and our lives. I hope the points listed above were useful and that they help you on your educational journey. If you have watched the show, then you'll understand when I end this post by saying, "Be sure to always do what is best for the students...Grasshopper!"

Kung Fu "The Beginning of Wisdom" (worth the 3 minute watch:) 


"What we think, we become." - Buddha

"The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." - Lao Tzu

"Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall." - Confucius


Friday, December 2: No Students / Records Day (Optional Report)

Monday, December 5: Celebrate Monday Assembly (Empathy) 9:05 am
Tuesday, December 6: Lunch with the Principal for those with Tickets 12:10-1:00 pm
Wednesday, December 7: REED (Robertson) 8:15 am
                                        Jon at MEMSPA (Rob Witherspoon on call)
Thursday, December 8: Staff Meeting 8:05 am (led by Debbie Bartnick)
                                     Jon at MEMSPA (Rob Witherspoon on call)
Friday, December 9: Jon at MEMSPA (Sandi Benson covering in the office)

Monday, December 12: Celebrate Monday Assembly 9:05 am
Tuesday, December 13: 3rd Grade Teachers to Johnson with Reading Coach 1:00-4:00 pm
Thursday, December 15: Collaborative Learning Time 7:50-8:50 am
                                       Elementarty Principals Meeting 1:00-4:30 pm
                                       Christmas Celebration at Rusty Bucket 5:00 pm

Monday, December 19: Student of the Month Assembly (Empathy) 9:05 am
                                     Wayne County Hearing Retests
Tuesday, December 20: Santa Secret Shop in Room 18
Wednesday, December 21: Santa Secret Shop in Room 18
Thursday, December 22: Breakfast with Diane & Joe 8:05 am
Friday, December 23: Students dismissed at 12:10 pm


Nathan Lang 

Jon Harper

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Tommy Boy

Though it doesn't seem that long ago, it's been many years since I coached wrestling. One of my favorite memories from that time revolve around a student named Tommy. Tommy was a tough kid who also had a tough time in school. When the football coach who was helping me recruit for the team told me about him, he said, "Tommy is a good kid, with a good heart, but he could easily go down the wrong path". That described a lot of my wrestlers those first couple of years. Tommy was a pretty good wrestler and performed well (when he was academically eligible). By the time he was a senior, he was invested, on the right track and was even a team captain. He could always be heard pumping up the team with his rendition of "Let's get ready to rumble!"

After graduation, Tommy decided to follow in his father's footsteps and join the military. Unlike his father who was in the Navy, he had set his sights on Pararescue. These soldiers are trained both as paratroopers and field medics. The average cohort starts at about 100 cadets and graduates only 15-20 two years later. I promised Tommy that if he made it through, I would be at his graduation. Two years later, I joined his parents in Arizona for his graduation with 16 other cadets. It was one of the proudest moments of my life. But the moment that stood out to me most of all was when his father said to me, "Coach, you saved my boy's life." Now, I hadn't actually saved anyone's life and I felt pretty humble being surrounded by people who really were going to save people's lives, but I understood his message. Tommy could have gone either way and our relationship and his commitment to being a leader of our team kept him on track.

This week, we take time to give thanks for all that we have. I would like to give thanks for the opportunities I have had as an educator and coach to make an impact on people's lives, to encourage and inspire, and to share a small piece of student's lives. I give thanks, because for every ounce of energy I have given, I have received ten times worth back from students, staff, and parents that I have had the pleasure to work with over the years. I'm thankful that I have a chance to make a difference in people's lives and I'm thankful that I'm surrounded by people who choose to do the same each and everyday. I'm thankful for Tommy and for all the other Tommy's that I have known and will know along the way.

Let's Get Ready to Rumble!!


"Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more." - Oprah Winfrey

"I am grateful for what I have. My thanksgiving is perpetual." Henry David Thoreau

"The thankful receiver bears a plentiful harvest." - William Blake


Wednesday, November 23-Friday, November 25: Thanksgiving Break!
Monday, November 28: Student of the Month Assembly (Respect) 9:05-9:25 am
Wednesday, November 30: Principals Advisory/School Improvement Team 8:20 am
Thursday, December 1: Staff Meeting 8:05 am
                                     PTA Popcorn Sales
                                     Lifetouch Picture Retakes 1:00 pm
Friday, December 2: Records Day (Optional Report Day)

Wednesday, December 7-Friday, December 9: Jon to MEMSPA Conference
                                                                        Rob Witherspoon on call Wed & Thu
                                                                        Sandi Benson covering office Friday


Paul Liabenow

Mike Domagalski

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Connected Educator

We hear a lot today about the need for educators to be connected. Often that refers to being connected with people through social media or online. But it is just as important (or more important) to be connected with those we work with in our building and our school community. The more people we are connected with, the more we can learn, share, and grow. There is a saying that the smartest person in the room is the room. Translation: We are all better together and we all have something to learn from one another.

One of the common misconceptions about being connected with others is that somehow we are more connected when we have more followers on social media or readers for our blogs or people we know at conferences. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy having people ready my tweets and blog and meeting up with friends at conferences, but that does not relate to being connected. A true connected educator is one who interacts BOTH ways with people. I'm going to share two good examples of "connected educators".

The first is George Couros. I began following George on Twitter about a year before I met him. When he came to speak at the MEMSPA winter conference, I was impressed at how friendly he was. In fact he came to several of the social events and during the dinner, he sat at one of the back tables with me. I was surprised he wasn't at a special "speakers" table. I had several conversations with him during the conference and also exchanged several emails over educational issues during the next year before we met again when he presented at our district Level Up PD. What was amazing to me was that with over 100,000 followers on Twitter and having authored The Innovator's Mindset, he still felt it was important to connect, share, and collaborate with educators. He makes it a point to follow people back, share their stories and help where he can. With George it's not about me, me,'s about we, we, we.  (I had the urge to say "all the way home" after that)

The second example of a truly connected educator is Dave Burgess. I was first introduced to Dave when I read Teach Like a Pirate. I wanted to know what all the buzz was about that I was hearing on Twitter. That book was a huge influence on me and my practice. I started participating in the weekly #tlap chat and still remember excitedly telling my wife when Dave Burgess followed me on Twitter. But it was more than just following back. Dave would comment on blog posts, send emails, and then I met him in person. He didn't disappoint. It wasn't so much his presentation, which was incredible, but it was his way to talking with me in his easy going manner. Dave is a great example of a connected educator who isn't just about promoting his material, but sharing and supporting other educators whether in person or online.

In the past twenty years, I have come across many "connected educators". Some of them are authors and keynote speakers who travel the world and some are people that have never presented outside of their school. Being connected means collaborating with, sharing with, and listening to others. It's about being a continuous learner and also sharing what you have learned with others. Being a connected educator is a challenge I pose to all educators, whether you are a first year teacher or a 30 year veteran. We all have something to learn and we all have something to share!

Image Credit: Sylvia Duckworth 


"Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else." Margaret Mead

"I can resist everything except temptation." - Oscar Wilde

"My fake plants died because I did not pretend to water them." - Mitch Hedberg

It's funny, because it's true! 


Monday, November 21: Celebrate Monday Assembly 9:05-9:20 am
                                       Administrative Meeting (Building Utilization) 1:30 pm
Wednesday, November 23 - Friday, November 25: Thanksgiving Break!

Monday, November 28: Student of the Month Assembly 9:05-9:25 am
Wednesday, November 30: Principal Advisory/School Improvement Meeting 8:20 am
Thursday, December 1: Staff Meeting 8:05 am
                                      PTA Popcorn Sales
                                      Lifetouch Picture Retakes at 1:00 pm
Friday, December 2: No School (Records Day - Optional Report Day)

Friday, December 9: Report Cards go home


Dave Burgess

George Couros

Saturday, November 12, 2016


This month our Compelled Tribe of educational bloggers is focused on the shared theme of Unity. After election day, I was having a very difficult time writing about unity, because I wasn't seeing much of it. To be honest, I wasn't feeling it either. This has been a divisive time in our nation's history and one only needs to look at social media to see how divided we are. For the first time this year, I didn't have a blog post ready to share at the end of the week, because I couldn't find the motivation to write about unity. And then, Friday came and we celebrated Veterans Day. Students came to school dressed in Red, White, and Blue. People shared messages of gratitude to veterans and shared family stories of those who had sacrificed for our country on social media. For a day, I saw people come together and I saw the unity and the inspiration that I had been looking for.

When I think of unity, I think of people coming together, supporting one another, and believing in one another. Not that we all have the same backgrounds, heritages, or even ideas, but that we can work together toward the common good. That's difficult when people have different visions of what the common good looks like and how we should get there. However, it's our differences that give us strength and the struggle that we must endure with ourselves and one another will make us stronger in the end. If struggle produces learning, we are learning a lot during this time in our history.

As educators, we often have similar struggles. We have students from all sorts of backgrounds, cultures, and beliefs. We have students with diverse learning styles and learning needs. We have students who need extra support and students who need the opportunity to go beyond the lessons. The struggle to meet each child where they are at and bring them as far as they can go is what makes our school and our profession exceptional. Our unity comes from our shared vision that each child can learn, will learn, and that we can make the world a better place one student at a time!

"Out of many, one"


"Where there is unity there is always victory." - Publilius Syrus

"Talent perceives differences; genius, unity." William Butler Yeats

"The essence of the beautiful is unity in variety." - Felix Mendelssohn


Monday, November 14: Celebrate Monday Assembly 9:05-9:20 am
Tuesday, November 15: Elementary Principals at Wayne RESA 7:30-9:30 am
Thursday, November 17: Collaborative Learning Time 7:50-8:05 am
                                       Elementary Principals Meeting 1:00-4:30 pm
Friday, November 18: PTA Popcorn Sales
                                   Title I Principal Meeting 8:00-10:00 am 
                                   PTA Family Night at Zap Zone 6:00-9:00 pm

Monday, November 21: Celebrate Monday Assembly 9:05-9:20 am
                                      Building Utilization Meeting (all admins) 1:30 pm
Wednesday, November 23: No School (Comp Day)
Thursday, November 24: No School - Happy Thanksgiving!!
Friday, November 25: No School

Monday, November 28: Student of the Month Assembly (Respect) 9:05 am


Thursday, November 3, 2016

Leader vs Learner

Recently I finished a leadership course and in one of our final sessions I was asked the question, "What significant change has occurred as a result of this course?". After reflecting for a while, I realized the biggest change had been in my perception of myself. I went into the class thinking of myself as an educational leader, but I left the class thinking of myself as a learner. As soon as I said the words, I actually felt like a weight had been lifted.

I once shared that an elementary principal had told me that good leaders take their job seriously, but not themselves seriously. Thinking of yourself as a "leader" sounds like serious business. Thinking of yourself as a learner takes a lot of weight off the shoulders and feels more humble. Leader makes it sound like you need to know everything, Learner makes it sound like there is room to grow. Leader shows others the way, Learner is still looking for the best way to go. Now, being a learner doesn't exclude one from being a leader. In fact, the best leaders (in m opinion) ARE learners. That's the type of leader I want to be.

As educators, our view of ourselves is very important. We behave the way we see ourselves and the way we want others to see us. Being a leader is a great role, but it's a role. Being a learner is a way of living and a way of doing things. Don't strive to be a leader who learns, but be a learner who also leads. Coming to this realization has changed the way I view myself and it feels pretty good! What is your perception of yourself? Does it match a role that you have or the way you live your life? Are you a leader or a learner?
photo credit: Tom Hussy


"Learning never exhausts the mind." Leonardo da Vinci

"I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it." - Pablo Picasso

"I am still learning." - Michelangelo, age 87

Brad Meltzer - Thank your teacher! 


Monday, November 7: Principals Advisory Committee 8:20 am (Debbie's Room)
                                     Celebrate Monday Assembly 9:05 am
Tuesday, November 8: District PD in AM (Priority Project)
                                     Building PD in PM (5D Self Assessment)
Wednesday, November 9: Achievement Team Meeting 8:20 am (Nadon)
                                         Jon to ABC meeting 1:30 pm at Central Office
Thursday, November 10: Staff Meeting 8:05 am (Katie Dodge-Snap&Read)

Monday, November 14: Celebrate Monday Assembly 9:05 am
Wednesday, November 15: Wayne-Resa meeting with prinicpals 7:30-9:30 am
Thursday, November 17: Collaborative Learning Time 7:50 am
                                         Elementary Principals Meeting 1:30-4:30 pm

Monday, November 21: Celebrate Monday Assembly 9:05 am
                                       All Administrative Meeting 1:30 pm
Wednesday, November 23: No School
Thursday, November 24: No School HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!
Friday, November 25: No School


Todd Nesloney

Adam Welcome