Monday, January 22, 2018

Diet & Exercise are ALSO Important "PD" for Educators…CRITICALLY IMPORTANT! (Take it from me...I KNOW!)

As professional educators, the volume of professional development (PD) that we can receive to enhance our practice is endless. There’s so much out there to learn toward making us all great at what we do. And when we take full advantage of all we can consume, our students are the ones who come out on top.

One topic that is not a typical PD workshop topic is “Diet and Exercise.” Certainly, when I was a classroom teacher, had I been sent to workshop on diet and exercise, I am sure I would have gotten a good nap in that day. I taught when I was in my late 20s through my late 30s. The furthest thing from my mind in those days was “diet and exercise.” I was too busy trying to be great in the classroom. Why would I need to spend an hour or more learning about taking care of my heath? In my mind, I was the picture of good health….although I ate fast food 5 – 6 days per week…hmm.

In my late 30s, I became a principal. This meant I slept less now and ate a whole lot more fast food. As a new principal, I was putting in a 12 – 14 hour day daily. On my way to work in the wee hours of the morning, I would stop at a fast food drive through window and order breakfast. For lunch which typically was at about 4:00 p.m., I would ask someone to bring me some fast food for lunch. On my way home late at night, I would stop through the fast food drive though for something to hold me over until I got home for a late dinner. Then I would start the process all over the next day. This went on for fourteen years as a principal, but in my mind, I was feeling great and in the best of shape. Little did I know, a life-threatening crisis was waiting for me right around the corner.

When I became an education consultant in 2015, my fast food diet intensified because now, I was on airplanes every night all night and all I had time to eat was fast food…so I thought. Midnight - 2:00 a.m. fast food dinners and then sleep 3 hours and start it all over the next day. Again, in my mind, I’m fine. Nothing will ever happen to me. Then on May 1, 2015, I reached “that corner.” In the middle of a keynote address at the University of Miami…BAM!!! A massive heart attack….right on the stage in front of an audience of 200 Miami administrators! MY main artery…the LAD, was clogged 100%! The fast food and the sodas (about 6 sodas per day) caught up to me and almost did me in. To make a very long story short, I almost lost my life on that stage. I ate fast food two hours before the presentation! I thought I was invincible. I’m talking to someone out there!

An ambulance was called and I was rushed to the hospital, with my audience watching in disbelief. The surgeon got a stent in my artery in the nick of time. You should have heard me yelling and screaming…thought I was going to die. After the surgery, the doctor informed me that Type II diabetes accompanied the heart attack….OMG!!! He said I had to change my lifestyle now. No more fast food, fried food, sodas, etc. Trust me, he didn’t have to tell me twice! I went cold turkey and hit the treadmill and exercise bike in every hotel I stayed in which I continue to do to this day. I lost 40 pounds in 4 months without even trying. I just did what I was told to do…eat right and exercise.

Hey teacher out there…hey administrator out there…hey support staff member out there…put that burger, fries and soda DOWN! It’s not healthy. Take it from me. I thought I was a machine. I thought heart attacks happen to other people….not me! Well I learned the hard way and I’m now sharing it with you. My focus was on the work…I repeat…MY FOCUS WAS ON THE WORK…THE CHILDREN. I didn’t give my health a second thought. I know there is someone reading this blog post who is in the same predicament I was in. I know you are out there. I am encouraging you to heed my advice…my warning and STOP!

I take good care of myself now. No insulin or any diabetes meds required. I manage it through diet and exercise. I still work hard and I’m still on the road often. I’m typing this blog post on a plane in fact. But I eat right. I exercise for about 40 minutes daily. I am encouraging you to do the same. Don’t tell me you don’t have time. Like the doctor said to me, MAKE THE TIME! It boils down to prioritizing, commitment and time management. You are of no use to your students if you are either laying up in a hospital recovering from a crisis that you had control over…or worse!…yeah, I said it. I want to make you feel uncomfortable with your bad health habits if applicable. Your students need you healthy so if I’m talking to you, let’s get it together. Enough said. #bam.

Monday, January 1, 2018

FAITH: Your Faith in Yourself as the Classroom Teacher MATTERS!

Note - Today is the final day of Kwanzaa & I'm examining how each principle correlates with CLASSROOM TEACHER SUCCESS. Today's principle is Faith (IMANI in the East African language, Kiswahili). Take a read & feel free to comment.

Of the 7 Principles of Kwanzaa, this is by far the most important one for me personally. I consider “faith” to be the bedrock principle…the foundation upon which all of the others stand. I find it to be equally foundational for classroom teacher success. At the end of the day, you as the classroom teacher must have faith in yourself and in your ability to bring out the very best in your students.

In my book, The Teacher 50: Critical Questions for Inspiring Classroom Excellence, (a book comprised of fifty self-reflective questions for teachers), it opens with the question, “Are my students at an advantage BECAUSE I am their teacher?” In all actuality, I could conduct the entire accompanying workshop on this one question. A tremendous amount of self-reflection, self-assessment, discussion and emotions come out of this question from the teachers in my audiences. I am essentially asking teachers, “Are your students better off because you are their teacher? Is there something advantageous for the students as a result of you being their teacher? Are you the best possible teacher for your students? Would your students be better off if they were with another teacher or even in a different school?”

This is not an easy question to answer. It forces one to be brutally honest with and about oneself. It speaks volumes about how you see yourself as a classroom teacher, but also how you see yourself as a person. My contention here is that as a classroom teacher, your response to this question must be an emphatic YES! Think about it…imagine you’re the teacher of a classroom of twenty-five students and their academic, social and emotional lives are very much dependent upon you and their academic, social and emotional well being will determine their success. That translates into you carrying quite a heavy burden and responsibility into your classroom daily relative to the life chances and opportunities your students will have. Looked at this way, it then becomes imperative that your students are in the midst of a teacher who is unwavering about his / her beliefs about whether or not the students are in fact at an advantage because you are their teacher.

As a classroom teacher of children, you have no choice but to have faith in yourself. You can have all the credentials that are humanly possible to accumulate relative to degrees, certifications and professional development hours but if you lack faith in yourself and your ability to be great in your classroom, then all of the credentials you accumulated are for naught. Of course, your credentials are invaluable and I would encourage any educator to accumulate as many as you can because this benefits children, but equally important is your faith in your ability to execute all that you have learned. You have got to walk into your classroom everyday with confidence. You have got to walk into your classroom everyday knowing that your students are in the best possible hands. You have got to walk into your classroom everyday with the anticipation that your students are going to achieve at the highest possible levels because of the faith you have in yourself, the faith you have in your skillset and the faith you have in your students…despite whatever challenges and obstacles that may come your way.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

CREATIVITY: You Can’t Meet New Challenges with Old, Outdated, Obsolete Strategies!

Note - Today is Day 6 of Kwanzaa & I'm examining how each principle correlates with CLASSROOM TEACHER SUCCESS. Today's principle is Creativity (KUUMBA in the East African language, Kiswahili). Take a read & feel free to comment.

The education profession is one that is always changing and evolving…and some may argue, to a fault. When I entered the ranks of teaching in 1988, it was something entirely different by the time I reentered in 1992. By the time I became a school administrator in 1998, it had evolved even more so. Every 4 – 5 years after that, it evolved again and again. As I look back on education from my beginning to now, it has changed so drastically that what I was doing in my earlier years, I would consider obsolete today. With these constant changes in education, I had to change and evolve along with it if I was going to remain relevant and effective. How are you evolving? How are you adapting to change? How are you keeping up with the pace of change? Or have you remained set in your old ways?

There are so many perspectives as to why education changes so often and rapidly, and these perspectives are typically accompanied by discussions of whether or not the change is in the best interest of children and whether or not educators are a part of the decision-making process to bring about change. At the “end of the day” however, we can all conclude that change is inevitable.

Looking at change through a different lens, society changes at rapid rates too. Technology changes, the media changes, trends change, clothing changes, circumstances change, needs change, interests change, goals and aspirations change, government changes, life changes, people change, our children change, the world changes, EVERYTHING CHANGES! All of the aforementioned have direct implications with “classroom teacher success.” So the question becomes, have YOU changed? Again…have YOU changed? As great as you were in the classroom 5 to 10 years ago, you can’t continue your trajectory of greatness if you haven’t adapted to change. Because the world is constantly changing, your students are changing with it. How have you adapted to change?

I have old video footage of me as a young assistant principal and a principal. Every time I watch those old clips, I almost feel embarrassed to watch them because there is so little relevance in the message to contemporary times…but at THAT time, what I was articulating along with my actions was relevant. Over the years, I had to change, evolve, adapt and grow with the times.

My topic for this blog post is: CREATIVITY: You Can’t Meet New Challenges with Old, Outdated, Obsolete Strategies. I am saying here that toward adapting to change in the classroom, you must be able to evoke creativity, innovation and unconventional strategies to solve new problems. You must constantly reinvent yourself over time. As great as you were last year (or even last month), those strategies you employed may no longer work this year, as society has changed even in a year (or a month).

The number of children who enter schools who are living in poverty increases by the year. The challenges associated with poverty are real and they require the best version of yourself daily. Here, I’m not even talking about how you infuse professional development into your repertoire of strategies. No, I am talking about how you reach down within yourself to find new ways to solve new problems with students who have the greatest need. I am asserting here that all of us have untapped talent and potential lying dormant within that we’re not even aware of. In fact, we live our entire lives having only tapped into a small fraction of the greatness that lies within us. We must therefore on a very conscious and deliberate level seek to tap into ourselves….evoke creativity toward finding novel ways to be great in our classrooms. Our students require it from us daily – particularly those students who are most at-risk.

For the basketball fans out there, think about a 7-game playoff series. A given team had a strong regular season, they are the number one seed in their bracket and playing the lowest seed. They practiced for Game 1. They prepared for Game 1. They studied game film for Game 1. They subsequently go out onto the basketball court for Game 1 and get blown out of the arena. Even if you’re not a basketball fan, I think you can agree with me that the strategy that was executed for Game 1 can now be rendered old, outdated and obsolete! The coach (teacher) has to now look within for a whole new game plan based upon how the opponent performed in Game 1 toward being victorious in Game 2. It works the same way in the classroom…a continual renewal of ourselves…evoking creativity toward bringing the best version of ourselves to our classrooms daily.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

PURPOSE: You Will NEVER Reach “Peak Teaching Performance” Until You Have Firmly Grasped Your “WHY!”

Note - Today is Day 5 of Kwanzaa & I'm examining how each principle correlates with CLASSROOM TEACHER SUCCESS. Today's principle is Purpose (NIA in the East African language, Kiswahili). Take a read & feel free to comment.

"Purpose" (Nia) is my absolute favorite principle out of the seven principles of Kwanzaa. For anyone who knows of my work, you already know this….you know that at the heart of everything I present is “purpose” and “attitude.” For the past 48 hours, I was trying to come up with a good title for this blog post. I couldn’t come up with anything that I liked until I was driving with my wife in the car last night and it hit me! I said to my wife, “write this down before I lose it…You will NEVER reach peak teaching performance until you have firmly grasped your WHY!” Then I said, “BAM…That’s It! That will be my title for Nia!”

Now I know that this title is a rather bold assertion…I get it…it might even turn some folks off, but I stand behind it! Hey teacher out there reading this blog post, you will NEVER reach peak teaching performance until you have firmly grasped your WHY! What am I saying? It is a staple in my workshops with teachers to ask them the question, “WHY do you teach?” Typical responses include, “To make a difference in the lives of my students,” “To make a positive impact on the lives of my students,” “To give my students hope,” “To help my children to learn,” “To ensure that my students have opportunities as adults.” “To prepare my students for the real world.” I love these responses…I have no criticism of any of them, but I do question whether they are addressing the teachers’ “WHY.” For example, when a teacher states, “I teach to make a difference in the lives of my students,” my response is “Why does this matter?” In other words, I am challenging the teacher to dig deeper. The teacher’s response to my query is probably the road to his / her “why.”

Your “why” is your purpose. It is your reason for being…in this case, your reason for being in the classroom. It is very specific. It is very narrow. It is very focused. Once I explain it that way to my audiences, I give them time to reflect and to interact with one another. Resultantly, it is typical that their responses change to something much more focused. By the same token, it is also typical that many of the same teachers that responded initially no longer have a response. The reason is because what they thought was their purpose was actually only a strong desire...but it wasn’t their “why.” In searching for one’s “why,” sometimes you have to take out a shovel and dig deeper to find it. Until we do so, we are being driven by surface level desires. It is not uncommon for a teacher to say to me at this juncture of a presentation that, “I don’t think I know my WHY.

When I became a teacher in 1988, I was very clear on my “why.” Having been born an African American male and raised in an urban African American community in New Jersey, I knew first hand the challenges of this reality. I lived it. So as I walked through that front door at PS 221 in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, NY for the first time, I had a firm grasp of my “why” from the outset which was to build men out of my boys. This did not imply that my girls were of less importance…nor did it imply that my curriculum and my other roles and responsibilities were of less significance, but because of the national crisis that we currently face with so many African American boys academically, I felt a need to zero in on them. They were why I woke up in the morning. They were my purpose…they were my “why.” Building these boys into positive, upstanding young men was what drove me daily. It was my passion…it was my purpose. This continued through my principalship and beyond. It woke me and it drove me. Hey teacher out there, what is your “why?” Why do you do this work? What keeps you up at night related to your work? What preoccupies your thinking? Whatever your answer is, it is probably your “why.”

The title of this blog post is You Will NEVER Reach Peak Teaching Performance Until You Have Firmly Grasped Your “WHY!” As I stated above, this title is a rather bold assertion because it essentially says that reaching peak teaching performance is contingent upon you identifying, walking in and firmly grasping your purpose. I am proclaiming boldly here that you MUST find your teaching purpose, and your teaching purpose must be much narrower than “making a difference and an impact.” Certainly, you will want to do both, but as they relate to your purpose, they are too broad. I put them both in the category of “noble desires.” Your purpose…your “why” is narrow, specific and to the point. It tugs away at you. It keeps you up at night. It occupies your thoughts. It drives what you say and what you do. It keeps you focused on the task at hand while simultaneously driving away and blocking out the distractions.

Think about it – there are people who have made extraordinary accomplishments in all walks of life. Some of these people are very well known and others are only known within their circles but have done extraordinary work nevertheless…they’re doing big things like teaching children to think critically and analytically for example. They are performing at peak levels. We can assume here that they are performing at peak levels in large part because within their work, they have identified their purpose for the work which drives them day in and day out. As you begin to mentally prepare for the resumption of school in January, be sure to have either identified your purpose for your work or start the process of identifying it so that you can ensure that you are reaching peak teaching performance daily which translates into your students achieving at the highest possible levels of accomplishment.

Friday, December 29, 2017

COOPERATIVE ECONOMICS: Don’t Forget to Teach Your Students the Invaluable Lessons of Financial Literacy and Entrepreneurship!

Note - Today is Day 4 of Kwanzaa & I'm examining how each principle correlates with CLASSROOM TEACHER SUCCESS. Today's principle is Cooperative Economics (UJAMAA in the East African language, Kiswahili). Take a read & feel free to comment.

Just before Christmas, 2017, I posted on my Facebook page that I was going to launch my first ever blog page on December 26 to coincide with the start of the Kwanzaa season. In my post, I committed to writing a blog post for educators for each of the seven days of Kwanzaa and that each day would address the principle of the day relative to how it correlates with classroom teacher success. I knew that the principle that would give me the greatest challenge writing would be the one that I am addressing here – Cooperative Economics. For the past several days, I asked myself, “How will I make this principle work since it doesn’t have an obvious connection to classroom teaching success.” Then it hit me…Financial Literacy and Entrepreneurship. Many, and I mean MANY students graduate from high school having no understanding of money beyond spending it. I therefore decided that I would devote this blog post to the following three categories as it relates to the classroom teacher:

            • Money Management
            • Leveraging Money
            • Entrepreneurship

Money Management
Let me say first and foremost that as either an elementary or secondary school teacher, I understand that your plate is more than full with endless responsibilities that go well beyond the instructional side of your work. But as full as your plate may be, your students cannot afford to leave your classroom at the end of the school year without some level of understanding of how to manage money. Although you may be an elementary school teacher and money management may be a long way off for your students, you can still plant some seeds now. They have to know that money is not solely for spending. They need to know something about saving, budgeting and investing money. They need to understand how to maintain and balance a checkbook. These are simple yet important concepts you can address in an interdisciplinary format throughout the course of the school year. If we are truly preparing them for life after grade school, managing money has got to be a part of the conversation.

Leveraging Money
Again, the subject areas that we teach are simply not enough. I am known to say that “we teach children first and subject areas secondarily.” I consider that sequence to be a game-changer but so many of us continue to see ourselves as “the Math teacher, the  Science teacher or the English teacher.” I say no, we are teachers of children first! To that end, children need to know something about not only making and managing money but leveraging money as well. As I stated above, they need to understand that there is more to money than spending it. In this case, even at the elementary level, your students need to understand how money works…how “money makes money”…how money grows…how money works for you, even when you are asleep…how to leverage money through debt. I’m not saying that the discussion needs to be intense nor in depth, but I am saying that there is a need to incorporate the discussion into your lessons throughout the course of the school year.

Entrepreneurship
It is my strong contention that the discussion of entrepreneurship is unavoidable at the school level. Your students need to understand that entrepreneurship is yet another means of earning a living and thereby another level of managing and leveraging money. In the two previous sections, I’m talking about your students managing their money after receiving it in a paycheck. In this section, I’m talking about your students independently (or in partnership) owning their own businesses. They would therefore need to know how to manage their money from a different vantage point relative to both, reinvesting their earnings back into their businesses and managing the money that is not reinvested. What’s key here is planting seeds of entrepreneurship and managing the money of a business while they are young.

So many children do not realize the “power” and potential they possess to do virtually anything they set their minds on achieving. In the world of work, the possibilities are endless, but they must prepare for it. Entrepreneurship on the other hand enables them to take full ownership and control of their own businesses. For those of you who teach in economically disadvantaged communities and service underserved students, this conversation is particularly vital. Underserved children in particular need deliberate exposure to all the options and possibilities that exist while they are still in school toward filling the void of what may be absent in their conversations at home. The seeds of business ownership must be planted now which include, in the spirit of today’s principle - Ujamaa, envisioning a future of collaborating with other members of their communities toward investing in their neighborhoods and building up their neighborhoods through the development of viable and much needed businesses and services. Obviously, they won’t all opt to become entrepreneurs but at least with the seeds that you plant, you are giving them something to think about and consider now, and possibly build upon through time.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

COLLECTIVE WORK & RESPONSIBILITY: Show Me a DISCONNECTED Staff and I’ll Show You a MISERABLE School!

Note - As today is the 3rd day of Kwanzaa, I decided to look at each of the "7 Principles of Kwanzaa" and examine how each correlate with CLASSROOM TEACHER SUCCESS. Today's principle is Collective Work & Responsibility (UJIMA in the East African language, Kiswahili). Take a read and feel free to comment.

Somewhere in America, there’s a school where once the morning bell rings, students are in their assigned little worlds called classrooms along with their teachers ready to learn the day’s lessons. At the elementary level, they will spend the bulk of their entire day and year in that same little space preparing for a later time in their lives that is probably quite inconceivable in the present moment. At the secondary level, the students will travel from classroom to classroom but like the elementary classroom, they will be preparing for a later time in their lives that is quite inconceivable in the present moment.

At this same school, the teachers are working diligently every day to help the students turn their dreams into their reality. There’s one big problem in this school however….and when I say big, I mean major! In a previous blog post entitled, Unity in the School Community, I stated,

There's nothing like walking into a school where staff not only know one another, but they like one another, they appreciate one another, they care about one another, they respect one another, they collaborate with one another, they support one another, they learn with, from and for one another, and they're excited about what they do and who they do it for...the students. I call this a "BAM" learning environment. There is UNITY amongst the staff and the learning environment is therefore healthy, vibrant and optimistic. There's energy, excitement and enthusiasm for the work, the students and one another. It's an environment where the entire staff wants to be there daily...because they have a common purpose, mission and vision for their work...they are ONE...they are unified. UNITY abounds through the staff and the overall school community.”

In other words, I was talking about unity amongst staff…harmony amongst staff…a sense of family and community throughout the building. In this essay on Collective Work & Responsibility, I want to take it a step further. It is one thing to be in harmony with one another – that is a good thing. But it is an entirely different thing when that harmony has a purpose. What an advantage for children when the purpose of harmony amongst staff is effective collaboration between staff.

Going back to the school I referenced above, there was unity in the building. They got along well, but it stopped there. They spoke to one another, they had small-talk with one another, they ate lunch with one another, but they did not collaborate with one another professionally. The entire school suffers as a result because the staff is disconnected on a professional level.

Through my work, I have come to know that there are schools out there where collaboration amongst staff either doesn’t exist or it’s minimal at best. This is particularly troublesome because those same schools are comprised of so many brilliant, extraordinary educators, both veteran and new. When they hold all of their pedagogical knowledge within themselves, no one else on staff benefits from their presence. Each have their own unique experiences in the classroom and in their preparation. Each have something special and unique to share. For example, in any given school, there are staff members who are trying to resolve an issue, whether it be instructional-related, content-related, data-analysis-related, lesson planning-related, climate / culture-related, relationships-related, parental engagement-related, etc., but within that same school, there are staff members who resolved these issues years ago. The problem is that they are not talking to one another professionally. Since this sort of collaboration is not occurring, the staff cannot benefit from the presence of one another and in the end, children suffer…the school suffers due to a “disconnected staff” and the consequence is a “miserable school.”

As today is Day 3 of Kwanzaa, today’s principle of Collective Work & Responsibility is absolutely crucial. Teachers cannot confine themselves to their classrooms. They must work collectively and collaboratively with one another to reach common goals. The challenges that so many of our children face in their lives is quite overwhelming for them, which requires constant collaboration by staff. Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) must be standard practice in all schools. Optimal student performance across the building cannot occur when staff is not functioning as a team….as a cohesive unit. I happen to be an avid football fan for example. Not only do I watch the games through the lens of a fan, I also watch the games through the lens of an educator. I am watching the unity, harmony, interaction and collaboration between players on the field. That unity, harmony, interaction and collaboration on the field are crucial to being victorious. Well it works the same way in the school amongst staff. When the unity I discussed in a previous blog post along with harmony, interaction and collaboration between teachers is present, the effects of Collective Work & Responsibility are more than apparent in the school.

An Afterthought on Why I Didn't Reference the Role of School Administrators
After reading this blog post some have inquired on social media why I didn't reference the role of school administrators toward initiating the process of collaboration. The answer is simple....I deliberately left any mention of school administrators out because I am speaking directly to teachers and their roles. The unfortunate reality is that schools do in fact exist where staff collaboration does not exist BECAUSE it has not been initiated and led by the administration for whatever the reason. When this is the reality of a given school, it doesn't resultantly dismiss the need for collaboration between staff members....the need is still there. Teachers must therefore take the initiative despite the absence of leadership in this effort and begin the process nevertheless.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

SELF DETERMINATION: You Have Got to Want Success for Your Students BADLY!

Note - As today is the 2nd day of Kwanzaa, I decided to look at each of the "7 Principles of Kwanzaa" and examine how each correlate with CLASSROOM TEACHER SUCCESS. Today's principle is Self-Determination (KUJICHAGULIA in the East African language, Kiswahili). Take a read and feel free to comment.

Remember your first day, week, month, year as a rookie classroom teacher? Did it go according to plan? Was the experience all you expected it to be? Did you know right then and there that you made the right career choice? Or were there times that you wondered whether or not teaching was really for you?

I recall vividly my entire first year as a 6th grade classroom teacher in the city I was born and raised (East Orange, NJ) after substitute teaching the previous two years in Brooklyn, NY and East Orange. I have no problem admitting that my first year was a complete disaster! To say I was subpar would be an overstatement…I was that bad. I didn’t know what I was doing. I couldn’t make the sort of connections with my students that would make me successful as their teacher. I was not an education major in college so I had no pedagogical foundation. I can honestly say that the experience was one of my biggest defeats in life. At the end of the year, I left for summer break wondering if I’d ever return to teaching.

After being away from the school for a week, I convinced myself that I could in fact perform at a high level as a classroom teacher the next school year. I literally started preparing myself mentally every day throughout the entire summer, starting in that first week of summer break. I told myself that I could do it...I convinced myself that I could do it. I started writing mock lesson plans and literally practicing my teaching in my apartment. I was determined…I was hungry…I was driven…I was ON FIRE! I was NOT going to be defeated for a second year because I was convinced that if I’m defeated, the children are the losers. SELF-DETERMINATION governed my attitude for the entire summer of 1993. The children who were assigned to me were going to soar that next school year. I was going to be ready!

Well, to summarize the following school year, I have said for the past 23 years, the ’93-’94 school year was not only my best year of teaching but my best year in education which includes my fourteen years as a principal. Why? Because I was hungry…I was DETERMINED. I had experienced enough mediocrity. I was ready to be GREAT in the classroom…how about you?

As I type, today is December 27, 2017. How has the first half of the current school year gone for you? Has it been all that you anticipated it would be? Have you accomplished the things that you planned on accomplishing? Are your students achieving at the levels you expected? Are your students where you expect them to be socially under your guidance? Are your students dreaming BIG as a result of your presence? Are your students on the right trajectory toward maximizing their potential? Has the first half of the school year been fulfilling? Obviously of all the educators who will read this post, the responses will vary, but my point here is YOU…not your students. You have got to want success for your students badly. Let me say that again for the people in the back…YOU HAVE GOT TO WANT SUCCESS FOR YOUR STUDENTS BADLY! It’s extremely easy to point to the variables that we have zero influence and control over and proclaim that “if only this would change or if only that would change…” I certainly was guilty of that mindset my first year, but the summer of ‘93, I started looking at myself…I started looking at myself differently. I concluded that the variables outside of my classroom that were shaping my students lives, I could not influence nor control but I had maximum influence and control over MYSELF.

How determined are you to see your students succeed? How frequently do you engage in your own self-reflection and self-assessment of your attitude toward yourself as a classroom teacher, your attitude toward your students, and your attitude toward your practice as a classroom teacher? This is a vital component toward developing and enhancing your self-determination which is crucial. You have got to walk into your classroom every day with a deep level of determination to have your best day ever, every day. But key to reaching that level of determination is an ongoing examination of your own self-determination through the self-reflective, self-assessment process I stated above in order to make the required self-adjustments daily.

When you get back to school in January, ensure that it is evident within your attitude and evident within your actions that you want success for your students badly. Find ways to block out all of the distractions while eagerly approaching all of the challenges with a mindset of “I GOT THIS!” You must be determined. Self-determination is a vital ingredient toward accomplishing that objective.

Diet & Exercise are ALSO Important "PD" for Educators…CRITICALLY IMPORTANT! (Take it from me...I KNOW!)

As professional educators, the volume of professional development (PD) that we can receive to enhance our practice is endless. There’s so m...