Saturday, February 2, 2019


Great picture of the bee!?

All But Done?  
After two years of steady extra work, 
our entire cohort striving towards a Doctorate 
passed our "Comps!"

Why is that a big deal???

After a Master's, then a Specialist, the only thing left was the Doctorate.  Earning the Doctorate requires coursework with the assignments, travel to the class site for seat time, taking a comprehensive test called the Comps, and researching and writing a dissertation.  #ABD really stands for All But Dissertation.

Once the Comps are completed, we buckle down and complete our paper.  Many of us are 20 to 50 pages into the first two chapters; Introduction and Literature Review.   Our next chapters, Methodology, Results and Implications, describe how we studied, what the results of the research were and how that translates to the industry.

Like this picture above, it shows the up close detailed view, clearly revealing even the bee.  But then there is the bigger picture that focuses on the skyscraper, like below.  Projects, events and procedures are often juxtaposed, with both the near and far requiring our attention.

The big picture or the details?

We used study groups, video chats, self-critical assignments, posting them on a Team Drive, multiple Hangouts, note cards, directed attention on our adviser's guidance and healthy habits.  Some even got motel rooms to keep from having to drive in and take the test on the same day as the drive.  After writing for 5 more hours, we printed our work and handed it in.  Sort of reminded us of The Paper Chase from 1973. 

What's next?  Finish the paper! Read and write!

Monday, July 17, 2017

I don't usually write book reports...

...But when I do, It's because they have deeper meanings

This exemplary sample of the PEDICULARIS GROENLANDICA, elephant head is clearly in focus. Do we look near first or far first?  
Do we look at what is right before us or off in the distance?
Fives and Twenty-Fives sheds light on what soldiers might do.

Fives and Twenty Fives, by Michale Pitre
The Things They Carry by Tim O"Brien

I don't usually take to writing "book reports" because that means I have to read the entire book. Yet a former colleague recommended each of these war novels and I was thoroughly intrigued. With benign beginnings, their true colors took time to develop, ferment and become clearly delineated. Both toggle back between war and peace time. Both include palatable descriptions of atrocities. Yet both weave a theme of the mind, and it's internal battle being much harder to wage. The rules of engagement are thoroughly blurred. Fives and Twenty Fives was written in response the US involvement in Iraq. The Things They Carried hearkens all the way back to Vietnam and assembles a few short stories about men and women during war times. 

Fives and Twenty Fives
This novel, typically first person but often in mixed tenses, ranging from past to present. Some incidents described are from a few years past to recent history to current events and activities. Regardless many vignettes articulate the thoughts, struggles and deliberations within the narrators mind and a few other influential characters. He bounces between Baghdad and USA, almost on alternating paragraphs. 

Fives and twenty fives is a story recording how a veteran strives to adjust back to civilian life, the demons he faces, and actively working to leave the past behind. This deliberation consumes most of the thoughts and processes within his mind. For instance, he describes a scene in Baghdad, then dovetails right back to his current conversation, then takes us back to Baghdad for the conclusion.

We get the idea that this back and forth tracking from one setting to another, from the past to the present, from the coping to the struggle, is common and substantial in the re-adjustment period for someone who has endured trauma so debilitating, like a war, battle or major life changing event. Early in the novel, a reader may become distracted by the constant change of venue, but by the end, readers accept and even expecting the multiple or parallel sagas under contemplation. We become accustom to this cycle or rhythm. 

Preliminary impressions suggest the fluid or dynamic nature within the mind of a veteran during assimilation back. A battle scarred mind might find it tough to shut off or disconnect from the past temporary life in an effort to rejoin civilization or society that he strove to insulate. THIS IS THE TRUE COST OF WAR. The young people that go and come back as somebody different with some physical as well as mental scars that take time to heal.


The Things They Carry by Tim O"Brien

This hiker carries everything necessary for a 5 day back-country excursion.  At the end of the day, he takes it off, unpacks his tent, sleeping bag and cooking gear.  The next day, he GETS to put it back on and repeat.

Another war novel, The Things They Carried, begins with an introduction to the plethora of items inside a Vietnam soldier's backpack. Listed could be anything from extra weapons, ammunition or communication devices to a talisman personally attached to the host; a photo of a loved one, a religious icon or a lucky charm. However much is in the backpack almost begs to be debated. We almost get wrapped up in the idea that what is in the backpack is important. The reader becomes engaged in the value or merit of each item, but this is just a distraction.

Of course, soldiers carry their necessities, day in, day out, but at the end of every day, they might get lucky enough to peel off their load, get rid of the extra weight and rest. The end of the day, battle or attack allowed the warrior the chance to recover, recenter and recuperate. The Sergeant orders "halt" and the first thing to happen, off comes the backpack and with it the weighty burden.

By the end of The Things, we realize the things that are in the backpack are only physical. They can be taken off or picked back up again. An alternative aspect, the mental and not the physical, draws us into the concept of a psychological or internal struggle that is not so easily laid down. 

Thoughts, memories or actions, done in the name of war, still linger, still haunt and still replay in the weary warrior's mind over and over and over. This brings us to the true theme. A warrior's mind never leaves the battlefield, no matter how much time or geography separates him from his past. The things that he carries are far weightier than the pack. Items of war, hate and poison that threaten to leach their toxicity into their host if nothing is done about it.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

What is NHS? or Working definitions for Leadership, Scholarship, Citizenship and Service

These pillars represent components of both the Honor Society as well as the Junior National Honor Society for Middle School Students. Induction in these types of service organizations leads to deeper connections, positive influences, role models, and further depth in the entire educational experience we call School.

Speaking about these pillars helped me articulate their true meaning. Leadership, Scholarship, Citizenship, and Service formulate the cornerstones of the application and acceptance process of the Society. They have deep, advanced ,and challenging definitions, but they might also be quite simple. Let’s investigate each term further.
Leadership carries many illustrations, quotes, quips, and little phrases to help us better explain what it means to be a leader. For our purposes, let’s say ”leadership” is doing the right thing, regardless. Acting with integrity, doing what is right, even if nobody else is doing it and taking the high road, even if nobody else follows.. Of course, it is nice to have “followers,” but they might not be right behind. Taking the high road often implies it is harder, more challenging, vacant or lonely--and probably even less traveled Regardless, do the right thing!
Scholarship carries an overtone of great study, perfect report cards, lots of book learning, but further exploration may lead to implications for all of us! For instance, if “scholarship” is doing things right, all the time, the rest of us can participate in scholarship by doing the best we can do in any and all endeavors. Academic avenues are not exclusive. We might do our jobs right, stack our boxes at work properly, work smarter, leave things better than found them, and not take those shortcuts. Our act of scholarship may not be doing the right thing, but doing things right! Some may even consider that management.
Citizenship is just being part of the team. We are all part of various groups, teams, clubs, cliques, as well as countries, cities, and states. Advocating for the entire community takes the focus off ourselves and onto the bigger group. Citizenship might be just as simple as advocating for the team! As a teammate, it could be giving it your all. As a friend, it might be acting as an UPSTANDER and not just a BYSTANDER. A student might behave better in class. Regardless of the group, each of us can act as a part of the team, participating, contributing, and bringing a positive attitude to encourage the betterment of everyone involved.
Finally, Service means making those around you comfortable. Friends, co-workers, parents, siblings, and classmates describe a few of the people we come in contact with throughout our day. Humbly placing others above ourselves, serving their needs and allowing them to pass through doors first are a few simple examples. A hostess, waiter, or concierge will foresee, plan for, and solve a customer’s need before the customer even realizes the deficiency. For instance, a good waitress will never let the tea disappear and have the glass rattle with ice.
Of course, these “soft skills” are only part of our overall purpose as educators. Yes we want to get our scores as high as possible, but not at the cost of these social skills so hard to measure! The Honor Society combines all four indicators and invites many students to apply, but only a portion actually achieve the status and gain induction into the society. Kudos to them.

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, March 5, 2017

Will a robot ever replace a teacher?

On the sound outside Seattle, brothers share a kayak ride. Shared experiences like these form the basis of influence. Shared experiences like these build trust. 
Shared experiences build relationships. 

Three considerations about education:
What is the curriculum?
Is it aligned with what’s tested?
Is the pedagogy (teaching) the best possible?

Teachers think in terms of these questions.  They guide our planning, discussions, professional development, and just about what we consider when building a daily lesson plan.

Initially, we must look at what we are teaching. We reframe the question in various perspectives: Do we teach what we want to teach? Do we just covering the basics? Do we delve deeper and look to truly investigate the content? Do we chase too many rabbits? Do we start on Page 1 of the textbook and head to the back? Cover to cover?  

Progressing, we look at the standards the state (DESE) publishes. When the state develops a test, they tell us what is going to be on the test. We then have to ask if our curriculum matches what they have published. We have to align our efforts to their scale and teach what is most important. We get some leeway and flexibility but our top focus is the Missouri Learning Standards.

Finally, we consider what we are actually doing in classrooms. Are we going from worksheet to worksheet? How engaged are our students? Do the materials look like they are from 1995 or are they current and fresh? Are we preparing students for a future that does not exist yet to solve problems that we don’t even know about yet?  

Often times, we are asked about the problems or issues in education. Seldom is there one problem but a myriad of issues to address before we can teach a child about meiosis or mitosis. Meals, hygiene, clean clothes, and safety influence the outcome and predict if a student will be able to work and participate in class, or will be too distracted to focus.  

Will we be able to ever replace a teacher with a robot? Only time will tell but for now, only teachers are sensitive enough to gather all the supporting data, process the facts, and then create a plan or the next step to address deficiencies - all while taking attendance, looking for pencils, prompting students to get to work, and collecting homework! True multi-tasking!  

Saturday, February 4, 2017

How does Perfectionism interfere with Learning?

“Successful Failure?”

Looking for the "perfect" piece of brisket?
ASAP BBQ got it, once!

What does "Successful Failure" mean for educators, parents and people that work to motivate lead and inspire others?

How often does it happen?  A student tries a problem but can’t figure it out on the first try so he gives up.  Or, she writes an essay with too many red marks on her page and never writes again, while struggling with self-esteem.  Or, he struggles playing catch so he quits the ball team, even though he can hit. Or, she has a bit of peer conflict, trying to compromise on what game to play and pouts, adding more strain to the tender relationship. All these little scenarios get played out over and over as we grow up and students failing to learn these coping skills carry the deficiency long into adolescence, and even adulthood.  As educators, how can we teach our learners how to overcome the discouragement, letdown and often times, self-inflicted pain of perceived failure? Below are a few possible interventions, supports and techniques for building up persistent learners.

·        Encourage play, especially play involving choices, decisions, play acting and characters.  Early forms of empathy come from the ability to see the world through the eyes of others and acting out, voicing stuffed animals, dolls, characters and even imaginary friends all have their place in a child’s developmental growth.  Even little cars, although often crashing, help children with fine motor skills, competition and organizational planning. Leagues that play games, without keeping score do well as the children are developing their skills, but once the fundamentals are mastered, objective scores become a necessity.
Building Dolls out of Corn Husks IS NOT A SCIENCE but an art.
Trying to make these perfect will only lead to frustration.  
·        Recognize your child’s response to quotes such as “perfect,” “right,” or “not good enough,” and AVOID the critical, leaving the perfectionism for the professionals. While still young, children have an intrinsic instinct to try and please their adult caregivers, but when their efforts are “never good enough,” discouragement leads to impending insecurities. Doubts and poor self-talk festers into a struggling self-esteem.  Dr. Maxwell Maltz, a plastic surgeon, writes about a patient, also a salesmen, that thought he needed an “ear job” before he could really sell.  Dr. Maltz counseled him into changing his way of thinking first. Maltz’s book Positive Psycho Cybernetics admonishes us to think only good thoughts about ourselves and adjusting our thoughts sufficiently supports growth and advancement better than plastic surgery. The salesmen thought his productivity was tied to directly to his physical appearance but was able to achieve his goals, without a costly and purely cosmetic surgery.

·        Consider balancing the positive and negative comments realizing the importance of the words we use to offer suggestion, praise, and even critique.  Scientists proclaim the negative in our brain is like Velcro and the positive slides out like Teflon.  A child remembers the negative comments, sarcasm and jabs, far easier than the positive feedback so sparsely doled out for a “home run.” Science tells us our brains focus on the details of the negative far more than we replay the positive events, actually diminishing the actual positive event.  School centered initiatives often tout the need for teachers to share four positive comments for every single negative comment with the students.  Thus a student hearing sarcasm frequently internalizes the message into a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Yes, the “funny” part of teasing contains a kernel of truth and the recipient remembers the feeling when the jab is made.  Retaliation, getting back at and coping take precedence.  Learning is stifled.  No longer safe or secure from ridicule, a learner shuts down and avoids the pain by avoiding the attempt.  The antecedent leads to the behavior and suffering consequences. The results of failure are greater than the rewards of success.  Recognize these trappings of perfectionism, its causes, and early signs to arrange for the necessary re-teaching and redirecting.  A child overly critical of himself becomes his own worst enemy.
The Jewel Box in St Louis Forest Park grows some fabulous specimens, but are they "perfect?"
I doubt it!
·        Caring adults should model successful failure. “Successful failure” sounds like an oxymoron but it is vital to growth, mastery and development. Just like a skier that NEVER tries a harder slope will plateau and never get better, learners need to push themselves to the point of failure.  Good leading demonstrates this cycle by showing pupils how to recover after failure.  For instance, a teacher may make mistakes deliberately but subtly to recover and progress forward.  The learning cycle repeats indefinitely. 
§  Try something new
§  Fail at this new venture
§  Try again by making minor adjustments (Frequently repeated and called learning)
§  Succeed and celebrate the breakthrough
§  Repeat the entire cycle at the next level
Video games are built on the premise that giving players the chance to try again keeps them advancing, through a series of increasingly difficult levels. Persistence, grit and determination, although somewhat intrinsic can be developed with motivation and positive feedback based on the student as a worker, esteemed because of effort and not just because of talent.  For instance, hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.  Likewise, classrooms should be filled with this learning cycle where students are failing up, trying, gathering suggestive and constructive aligning feedback, void of sarcasm.  Offering a critique is not the same as being critical.

               Teachers, counselors, care-givers, managers and others striving to lead are on a quest for motivated, persistent and gritty individuals. These good leaders manage the risks of the team aligning ability, talent and effort with encouragement, motivation and a safe environment. By advancing the level of difficulty with experience, pushing to improve without crippling, handcuffing or expecting perfectionism from him or others, a good leader, is also a good manager, overcoming “I can’t” with “I can’t, YET!”  The fear of failing should not exist!

Even Calvin Coolidge faced this when he assembled this quote in 1929:
Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence.
Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.
Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.
Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts.
Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.
Calvin Coolidge

How can we overcome, “I Can’t!” in our pupils? 
With the Power of "YET"

Perfectionism is…?
Detrimental and interferes with learning!

Compare and contrast the following cycles:
“Try, Fail, Quit!”
“Try, Fail, Try Again, Fail, And Succeed?”

How can we teach persistence, grit, tenacity and determination? 
Teach and model overcoming adversity!

BrainyQuote, 2017. (2001). Calvin Coolidge quotes. Retrieved February 4, 2017, from

Garson. (2016, January 12). Quote investigator. Retrieved February 4, 2017, from

Ginsburg, K. R. (2007). The importance of play in promoting healthy child development and maintaining strong parent-child bonds. FROM THE AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS, 119(1), 182–191. doi:10.1542/peds.2006-2697

Hanson, R. (2001, June 1). 01 Jun take in the good. Retrieved February 4, 2017, from

Maltz, M. PSYCHO- CYBERNETICS, A new way to get more living out of life. Retrieved from

Stuart-Kotze, R. (2008, October 23). Why failure means success. Retrieved February 4, 2017, from

Monday, November 28, 2016

Friends, Family, Faith and Traditions make the BEST HOLIDAYS!

Thanksgiving Wrap Up: 2016
When looking forward to a few extra days off for the Thanksgiving Holiday, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew we would have a big gathering around the fire, a Thanksgiving Dinner that couldn’t be beat and plenty of catching up to do, but that wasn't till Thursday. My first day off however, Wednesday, found me looking at old #TBT photos, remembering the years here as a Principal and becoming thankful for the relationships, connections and families throughout the building, district and community. Almost growing nostalgic in the process.  

For instance, one tradition is the Boys Basketball Thanksgiving Practice and their insistence on an “optional” workout on Wednesday at 8:00 am and then again on Sunday at 3:00pm.  Getting up out of bed on a “Vacation Day” for a middle school student really shows dedication and commitment.  Then running, practicing, drilling, and strategizing, all in the name of building a program started off as a nice touch but has evolved into a focused period of concentration and deliberation.  I began looking for those old photos, to share with the team the memories and reminders of those that have laid a foundation before them, but discovered much more along the way.  

It seems the friends, faiths, families and traditions is what makes these annual events so important, branding us as part of the bigger picture.  We all want to be part of a group.  We want to feel connected.  We want to be somebody, yet in all our business, preparations and running around, we forget to stop, enjoy the sunset, relish the conversation and reach into another person’s life.  
When we consider how to energize or motivate ourselves, it is often by remembering the reasons why? and for what purpose?  Getting energy from others by helping others is the best way to feel connected and part of something bigger.  This Holiday Season, think of somebody who needs something that only you can supply.  It may be a conversation, a listening ear, a personal visit on an elderly or shut-in to change a light bulb or something as simple as a pleasant and unique greeting.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

An argument seeks WHO is right. A discussion seeks WHAT is right!

What is right?
Who is right?
How can we get past the argument into the discussion?
Competition or Collaboration or Communication?

As we face problems, issues, obstacles and hurdles, I instantly think of the teachers at in my building as the best resources for developing plans to address the problems.  I know some concerns are not easy to articulate and others aren't easy to solve.  Many times, it seems like the problem is so ingrained, it is insurmountable.  Regardless, I think of their opinions, ideas and brainstorming sessions as valuable.  In fact, often times, when I get over my stubbornness, we apply staff created and designed solutions addressing things with deft, tact and creativity. 
Back in the day, a realtor told me, “‘No’ means ‘Maybe’ and ‘Maybe’ means ‘Yes! As someone is looking for a house, they may like everything but the carpet!  That is a ‘Maybe’ and it brings us one step closer to satisfying their housing needs. Additionally, ‘No’ just lets us know what is not working!  All we need to do is keep trying to maximize the benefit for ALL parties, from the students and parents to the teachers and district.  What works for ALL of us?!
Gathering opinions, insights and experiences for the true good of the group maximizes buy-in, effectiveness and participation. Proposing ideas and brainstorming brings out the best.
Keep up the collaboration through the communication and shy away from the competition!

An argument seeks WHO is right.  A discussion seeks WHAT is right!