Wednesday, October 22, 2014


It was a dark morning. Cold and wet outside. Probably the darkest morning so far that school year.

"Good morning, Paul. How are you feeling this morning?" she said in a tone that juxtaposed the weather.

"I am tired," he answered.

"Yeah, where do you feel tired?" 

"In all of my bones," he solemnly replied.

There was a pause. Then there was the honesty. "Me too, Paul. Me too."

She turned away. She knew the truth about October had just been spoken.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Noticing is Not Enough

Everyday, we are bombarded with information. Emails, texts, articles, images, tweets. If this isn't enough, we are exposed to many splintered conversations, interruptions, and distractions. Our lives move quickly, and we are pushed along when we aren't moving fast enough. Rare are the moments we take time to notice deeply and engage in a way that allows the humanity of our space to seep in below the surface.

Do not underestimate the power this space.

Today,  colleague of mine stopped in my room after school. He approached my desk and I greet him without pausing my furiously rushed email responding. He began to speak and I looked up from my computer screen, but the typing continued.

"I just wanted to stop in and ask you how you are doing. Recently, I have noticed you seem really sad."

Typing stops. Time stops. Focus narrows.

The fact of the matter is that noticing is not enough. In one of the fastest shifts that has ever taken place for me, I realized that noticing means very little unless we are brave enough to address our observations head-on with honesty, care, and grace. My colleague could have continued to notice with great detail some of the struggles I am experiencing this year; no action required. In a beautiful display of compassion, he decided that what he noticed was worth addressing. A simple conversation. Some kind words. A few pieces of advice. A ton of care.

Reminding people why we need them to be great is never a bad idea.

As part of team, we must be willing to notice one another at our absolute best and brilliant, and to have the insight to know each person's potential. In moments of struggle, regression, or change, noticing is not enough. When we are able to remind people in these moments of their most raw passion and ability, and the great importance they play in our tribe, we call them back to their best selves. We each fall from our best. It is when those around us coax us back to our full potential by reminding us of how much our community needs us, that is when the true shifts can take place. Allowing people to find their way back is easier when they know the arms are openly awaiting their greatness to return.

Slow. Notice. Stop. Act. Love. Repeat.

Sunday, October 12, 2014


Go out sea
(Photo shared by Tuan Anh T)

Over the past week, I have been immersed in real, deep, and meaningful connections. I have spent time with some of the smartest and most talented leaders in education at the BrightBytes Summit. We got to host Sam Davidson at our school and got the pleasure of hearing him talk about leadership with our kids.  Most intensely, I worked with my staff to help continue developing our curriculum. Along the way, I had a few great dinners and a lot of heart-felt conversations.

In all of these interactions and experiences, I have felt, for maybe the first time in my career, a consistent confidence that is not rooted in a situation or a conversational topic but that rests in my core being. An assurance in myself that I can only describe as something deeply felt in sternum. I wondered, as I felt this, how many other people feel this way about their experience and what efforts are made to cultivate this sense of self.

"I am so curious to see where you end up next. Maybe you're not done here, but this won't be your last stop," a gentle comment was mused in my direction. For the first time in a long time, I can honestly say that I don't know what is next. I know what is unfinished in front of me, but I can also see the expiration date and conclusion of that work.

Interestingly enough, I am just as curious about where I am going as the others, and if I am to be honest, my only real hope is that wherever I end up next allows for a complete disruption of everything I currently know.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Falling Into Place

In just twenty-five days of this school year it is becoming extremely obvious that the idea of transformation is starting to take shape as a very real theme in my life. Transformation of curriculum and pedagogy are in full swing as our humanities teachers enter new territory with a learning plan that we invested all summer in crafting. Transformation of practice has begun as we learn how to shift learning in a technology-rich environment, having more 1:1 learning environments than ever in our school's history. Our staff is navigating changes, personally and professionally, that bend us in new ways and require different levels of support and guidance. Things are different this year, and I can only hope that this foundation of change allows us to have enough energy and grace to sustain each other in transformational ways.

This week I took some time to listen to the TED Radio Hour on NPR. The topic? Transformation. If you haven't listened to this installment of the show, I would suggest you stop reading this and spend the rest of that time listening. Each story is chilling. Each is also truly beautiful. They made me pause and reflect upon my own story of change and struggle, but really on the magnificence that is allowed to take place when we embrace the new and the unknown. There is great depth when we are determined to turn tragedy in triumph.

In this moment of listening bliss, I could not help but also think to the kids I know every day. These kids, as adolescents, are going through one of the largest natural transformations we experience as human beings. This time is heartbreaking, confusing, and filled with excitement. Too often I forget the triumph that comes from the pain of growing, as our kids leave before the developmental shifts really start to level.

In this wandering of thoughts, I wondered if my journey this year is that much different from my own students' personal transformation. In more ways than ever before I am searching for a true happiness and purpose in my daily life. I'll explain this not as a search for something new, but for a deeper understanding of that which currently exists. With this search has come a flood of emotions, sadness, joy, and lots of confusion. With this search has come some of the most painful questions I have ever asked, and the budding acceptance around how fuzzy the answers are.

There are tons of smaller opportunities for transformations to happen every single day. Take time this month, as you connect and are hopefully connected to by others, to reflect on how these relationships and perspectives push your thinking, make you kinder, or allow for greater happiness. Take a minute to transform the facial expression of a student, making them smile with eyes instead of lips. Allow your behavior to surprise someone with your unexpected love or thoughtfulness.

In transforming others, we truly change our own self.