Monday, May 25, 2015

Keeping Track of the Stuff That Matters

Last week on a dreary, chilly May day our middle school track team (of which I am the assistant coach) was scheduled to compete in our last meet of the season. To make matters slightly worse the meet was to take place at a school approximately 25 minutes away and it was the decision of the host school as to whether or not the meet would take place. As the afternoon wore on it became apparent that the meet would take place as scheduled. I must admit that upon boarding the bus, I was less than enthusiastic about the prospect of spending the next 90 minutes in the chilly, rainy weather.  Then something unusual happened, I checked the radar and noticed that the town where the meet would take place was not currently receiving rain. (In fact little did I know but it would not rain there, other than some late mist,over the course of the entire meet.) Subsequently my disposition turned sunny and I began to look forward to the competition.

After arriving, I had more good fortune when I found out that my high school Cross Country Coach was officiating the meet. I had not seen him in the past couple of seasons and it was good to see him in good health. We shared a quick embrace and some brief conversation but the moment was nevertheless special. Whenever I am lucky enough to spend some time with him I am often reminded of the influence that his teachings and spirit have had on my career as a coach and educator.  Over the course of my career I have had the opportunity to coach against him and later after he retired I was lucky to have him officiate our meets. I am grateful for the opportunities that we have shared over the years to renew our relationship and I cherish the brief conversations that have taken place between us.

 I think I can understand the pride that he feels when he considers the success of his former students as confident professionals. Currently in my 20th year as an educator, I can account for at least fifteen former students that are teaching and coaching today. In fact I coached against one of my former student/athletes this year and was able to observe the confident and classy nature in which he conducted himself.  I was excited to share that story that day with my coach and he said with a smile " look at that, it comes around."  Being able to continue a relationship with my coach as a professional over the years has always been special and I am indeed fortunate that it has continued to evolve. I  am looking forward to continuing the same type of professional relationships with my former student athletes.

As we began our last meet I couldn't help but think back to the start of our season and the discussion that I had with my throwers about our goals. We set two fundamental ones; have fun and continue to improve. We talked about how in our sport every competitive effort was recorded and  it would be easy to measure their growth. They would all seek to consistently improve upon their personal bests and that is how ultimately we would measure their success.

As I looked back I was reminded of the smiles that accompanied everyone's personal best as the season progressed.  A fist pump and a smile, often followed, when they learned that they had recorded a personal best performance.  My athletes had shown up every day, they had listented, they applied what they had they learned and yes they improved. Moreover I believe from the smiles, the enthusiasm and the laughter that they had fun along the way. 

As the Shot Put and Discus competitions unflolded throughout that final afternoon I was inspired by the performances of my athletes as they continued to reach new heights. One reached a distance in the Discus that no one ever has while I have been coaching, while several others were still fist pumping and smiling while exclaiming " yes", "personal best."  

We were at the end of  our season and we were still going beyond where we went before. The looks on their faces,  and the smile in their hearts that day is something I will not soon forget.  

While the last meet of the season initially had been one I was dreading, it turned out to be a day that I will not soon forget. It became a day to renew a long time relationship and it was a day to celebrate new personal records. Moving forward it is important for me to remember that even on the dreariest of days, keeping a positive attitude is a must; if not I just might not be able to keep "track" of the stuff that matters.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

A Is For Appreciation

" I teach because I'm still inspired by a great teacher that I had when I was a kid. So I get that what we do every single day truly matters." Author Unknown

Over the course of the past few weeks and throughout this week parent volunteers have been working hard to deliver messages of appreciation for teachers throughout our nation. They have worked with vendors to purchase materials, prepared meals or simply stood in front of a group of educators and delivered a heartfelt message of appreciation.  I want to start off this post by taking a minute to thank them for all that they have done and all that they will do to make this a special and memorable week for teachers.

Long before I ever decided to answer the call to become an educator there were teachers and coaches who influenced my life. Their passion, enthusiasm, humor, compassion or the level that they engaged me, impacted my ability to learn. While there were ones that I treasured, there were ones that I would prefer to forget as well. Nevertheless, whether they had a positive impact or a negative one I learned from all of them. They all have influenced the culture that I have created as either a teacher or a coach. I am fortunate to have learned from such a diverse group of individuals and appreciate each of their contributions to my life as an educator.

Twenty five years ago I began a lifetime of work that would involve experiences with thousands of students, summer campers and athletes from the ages of three through twenty one. The memories could fill up volumes of scrapbooks based on my interactions with them over the years. The relationships that I have developed with them in the various capacities continues to positively impact me both professionally and personally. I am grateful for the opportunity to build and maintain these relationships.  I appreciate their hard work,  desire,  curiosity,  passion,  humor and the uniqueness of each and everyone of them.  They continue to define my purpose.

In 1996 we opened the doors to Pond Road Middle School and since that day I have had the honor to work with outstanding educators who are passionately committed to making a difference in the lives of their students. They are innovative, creative, nurturing, dedicated and willing to go the extra mile to help their students learn. I appreciate having the opportunity to learn from them. Their influence has had a tremendous influence on my growth as an educator and a person.

My grade level team of sixth grade teachers, amazes me each and every day.  Watching them collaborate to improve their content area instruction or interact with their students makes them very special.  I continue to witness innovative lesson planning and genuine concern for the success of our students in all facets of their lives.  They continue to give of themselves to contribute to the success of our team as well. They execute various professional responsibilities at a high level that consistently exceeds expectations.  I appreciate their vision and work ethic and am fortunate to be included among them as their teammate. My relationship with each of them is unique and continues to contribute a great deal to the evolution of my role as an educator.

Throughout  the past two years  I have made a commitment to transform my instructional practice.  The transformations have included the building of a Professional Learning Network, the creation of  an educational blog, attending national educational conferences and providing professional development experiences. My building administrators and those at our central office have been extremely supportive of my efforts. I am grateful for their support and appreciate the steps they have taken to help me elevate my practice.

A driving force in my daily routine within the past two years has been my Professional Learning Network which literally extends around the world. Our conversations in small and large groups, the resources and professional development opportunities that you continue to bring to light, the inspiration and validation that you continue to provide, make a major difference in my attitude and the manner in which I approach my craft. My most sincerest thank you for your support. There are not enough words available to properly express my appreciation for the relationships that we have built.

My family continues to be the rock from which I draw the most strength. My wife being a school counselor allows us to have a strong empathetic bond. Our daily conversations really help ease some of  the daily stressors that otherwise I would experience alone. She has read and edited every blog post and has supported me 100 percent throughout my professional transformation. When the entire family arrives at an athletic event that I am coaching or something of an academic nature it always provides an immense source of comfort. The lengths that my family goes to in  order to provide support is something of which I have great appreciation and gratitude.

"It takes a village to raise a child." My wife and I are grateful to the educators that have influenced the growth and development of our children since they entered pre-school many years ago. Undoubtedly they have shaped their thinking and played a significant role in the people that they continue to evolve into. We appreciate the commitment and the sacrifices that they continue to make in this challenging but rewarding profession.

This week will focus on the recognition and appreciation for what we do as teachers.  It means a great deal that people go to great lengths to convey just how much they value what we do. In turn I thought that it would be equally as important for me to take this time to make note all of the things that I appreciateThese influences are not only appreciated but are vital to my success on a personal and professional level.