Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Cause Over Competition

Sometimes I enjoy learning about myself more than anyone or anything else. I know. That sounds pretty arrogant, but I'm continuously amazed at how much I still have to learn about myself.

For example, if you want me to shut down, it's easy--put me in a competition. It's just not in me to be competitive against other people.  This is one of the many reasons I stopped playing sports at a young age; I make a much better fan than a player. I'll cheer for my team, and I'll analyze their actions and think of how they can improve. Of course, I'll do that for the opposing teams as well. 

Not that long ago I was playing basketball, and I was guarding a friend who is a lot better than I am. (Hint: most people are.) It was my job to guard him, so I was going to do everything in my power to stop him. However, he was draining every shot that night. If I guarded him closely, he just drove past. If I gave him space, he just shot over me. The thing is, every time he hit a shot, I felt good for him. It didn't bother me that he was embarrassing me. I was honestly happy for the guy.  I think I even gave him a high-five after a couple shots. It's not uncommon for a teammate to ask me if I know whose team I'm on because I'm happy either way, no matter who wins.

The last time I played organized sports is when I was in 7th grade. I played football. At the end of the year I was given the sportsmanship award. I will never forget about what my coach said about me.
"What I love about Brett is that even though he was a starter, he never complained one time when I took him out of a game. When I wanted to put him back in, he was easy to find because he was right next to me cheering on his teammates." 
None of this is to brag. It's just who I am. I am only in competition with one person, myself. The only person I want to be better than is the person I was yesterday.  It is what I loved most about Matthew McConaughey's speech when he won his Oscar. He said that the person he is chasing is himself 10 years from now.

This is what bothers me about the current state of education and what goes on in a lot of other areas as well. Everything is a competition. I constantly come across the mentality that if you don't give somebody a person to compete against, then they won't strive to compete at all. I push back against that mentality.

I want to give people a cause to fight for, more than a person to fight against.  

When you are fighting for a cause, you always have something to compete for or against. People win enough championships, they eventually win enough awards, and they will walk away from competition. I don't know many people who walk away from causes.

This mentality drives so many of my decisions. This is why I tell my own kids they have my permission to not take their state exams seriously because I don't let them get pulled into this competition to have the highest test score. And we don't talk about grades in my house. I will sign a report card if I have to, but I will probably only skim it, if I read it at all. When my sons' state test scores come in the mail later this year, they will immediately find their way in the trash can without being opened. They don't get to compare grades or test scores with each other. I don't put my kids in competition. I just ask them that they be the best them they can be, and be better than they were yesterday.

One of the hardest times in my career was at the end of my first year of being an eLearning Coach. We had a team of 15 and my boss was given the task by his boss to rank us 1-15 because they were going to be cutting our team down by a number that not even my boss knew. Each one of us had to go in for an interview and just talk about the work we were doing. I thought long and hard about just bowing out and heading back to the classroom.  I loved my classroom, and I miss it dearly every day. I will miss that role until the day I retire. My best years are ahead of me, but I fear my favorite years are behind me.

I hated what we were being asked to do, go in and fight to beat out others, because our team was not in competition with each other. We were collaborators! We were brothers and sisters! But here we were trying to fight to stay in our position. So why didn't I just back down? Because of the cause. I love education and want to make our schools the best they can be. It's something that is etched in my heart.

So I went into that interview with the mentality that I was going to refuse to place myself above anybody else on my team. For the majority of the interview I talked about what each person on the team brought to the table. I talked about the different gifts each of us had and how well they complemented each one of us. I honestly tried to give my boss every reason to keep other people on the team over me.

The day I got picked to stay on the team, and five of my teammates were cut, was one of the hardest days of my career. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to continue to fight for my cause, but I was crushed that my colleagues, my friends, had an opportunity to think less of themselves.

That is what happens when you make things a competition. You always have a winner, and you always have a loser. You give somebody a reason to feel good about themselves, and you give somebody a reason to feel bad and defeated.

When you have a cause, you are taking a situation that is already struggling and you're trying to turn it around. Let me say it this way: you are taking a situation where people already feel like they are losing and you're helping them turn into winners. Nobody looses when you fight for a cause.

We need cause-driven leadership! 

We need leaders who will have their people take on a cause and not a competition. I remember working in a school district where the mission statement was "Equity and Excellence for All Children". That's a cause I can get behind and I can fight to provide. The district I am in now is "Bridging Excellence and Opportunities". My current superintendent often talks about being the bridge between college and career readiness. Again, that's a cause I can get behind. It's not for me to decide where my students end up. I'm just going to be the best bridge I can be to help them get there. I'm not out to build a bigger and better bridge than other school districts. I cheering for those guys and gals. I'm pulling for each district around the state and beyond! We are all pulling the same direction. At least, we're suppose to be.

Not really sure how to wrap up this post. I could spend more time on cause-driven leadership and maybe I will soon. This post was more for me than anything. It's my 100th post on my blog. I'm a little bummed that it's taken me this long to click on "publish" 100 times, but here we are. I hope to get better at this, and I hope to write more often because I know I can. Me 10 years from now is blogging a lot more than I am today. Me 10 years from now has written a book and has his doctorate degree.

The causes that I am fighting for will still be there 10 years from now. I am not sure how much of dent I will make in them over the next 10 years, but I will make a bigger dent in them today than I did yesterday and it will be the best dent I can make. In the end, that's the only competition I need. 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Blogging Challenge

Ok, this blogging challenge/homework has been going around for a little while now and it got around to me thanks to my good friend, Shira Leibowitz. Here is her post!

Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
Share 11 random facts about yourself.
Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
List 11 bloggers. They should be bloggers you believe deserve a little recognition and a little blogging love!
Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer and let all the bloggers know they’ve been nominated. (You cannot nominate the blogger who nominated you.)

11 Random Facts

1) I hate the outdoors. I will only spend lengthy periods of periods outside for 2 reasons, a sporting event (watching, not playing) and if my kids ask me very nicely.
2) I was a teenager when I got married.
3) I play the bass guitar.
4) I currently have 52 tabs open in Chrome. 
5) I used to want to teach high school language arts. Then I realized I wasn't very good at language arts and didn't have the patience or desire to grade 100s of essays/stories.
6) I had a college professor talk me into getting my middle school endorsement my senior year of college. It saved my career. I was made to teach middle school but it took somebody else pointing it out to me for me to see it.
7) My brother Kyle and I can carry on a conversation with nothing but movie quotes.
8) I almost left education 5 years ago.
9) I miss being in the classroom every week but I would miss what I do now the same if I ever went back to the classroom.
10) I desperately want to go skydiving one day.
11) The longest I have ever stayed in one position is the paper route I delivered for 6 years as a kid. I have not stayed in any of my professional positions for more than 3 years.
12) I have always wanted to speak at a school's Red Ribbon week. Preferably either at a school district I work or have worked in or at my alma mater because I think relationships are critical when having those discussions. Although, I'd love to speak anywhere students were willing to hear my story. 
13) I'm an open book and could do this all day. I've deleted several things from this list.   

My 11 questions from Shira
1. When you were young and people asked what you wanted to be when you grow up, what did you answer? A teacher. I never wanted to be anything else from the time I was in the 3rd grade. 
2. What is one piece of advice you have to offer a first year teacher? Teaching is about relationships. If you don't have a healthy relationships with your students and colleagues, this job will be very hard for you. 
3. What is one piece of advice you have to offer principals? You don't have to do this alone. You have teachers, students, parents, and a community that want to see your school success as much as you do. You set and cast the vision and let the team carry out the mission. Also, see the advice above for teachers. 
4. How do you like to spend time off from work? Anything that involves family and church. 
5. What is your most important professional priority in the coming month? Taking our 1:1 to the next level. We're a semester in and it's time to push our thinking a little harder. 
6. What inspires you? Kids inspire me. They are so passionate, creative, resilient, and hopeful. It also breaks my heart when I see those things ripped away from our kids by a cruel world. 
7. If you could learn anything new (time, effort, practicality, and difficulty aside) what would you want to learn? To draw comics. I'm terrible at art and would love to be able draw comics for my boys and to teach them to draw. 
8. What makes you laugh? My boys, Micah, Nathan, and Levi! If you follow me on Twitter or are friends with me on Facebook, they've probably made you laugh too. 
9.  What is a goal you have for yourself in the coming year? To start writing a book. I have lots of ideas for books but have yet to sit down and really start one. 
10. Who do you admire? My Bishop, J Todd Nichols. He's a very inspirational man. Also, Bill Ferriter. He's like a big brother to me and pushes me to be a better educator and leader. 
11. What are you currently celebrating? I am celebrating the birth of my savior, Jesus Christ. It's something I celebrate all year long. 

11 Bloggers + 1

Tim Wilhelmus
Jeff Tron
Brian Bennett
Michelle Green
Jason Bailey
Candice Dodson
Allie Holland
JD Ferries-Rowe
Marc Seigel (The only non-Hoosier on this list.)
My eThugs - JT Cox, Melissa Stewart, and Katie Hutchinson  (Time to start blogging!)
You - seriously, if you're reading this and want to join in, why would I stop you?

My 11 questions for you.

1) What is the most rewarding professional experience you've ever had?
2) If you were made the emperor of education, what would be the first 3 things you would change?
3) What was the last book you read for fun? for work?
4) Who is your favorite director? (If you say Brett Ratner or Michael Bay, I may unfollow you.)
5) If you could be on any TV show, what show would you want to be on?
6) Paperback, hardback, or eBooks?
7) Who's your favorite celebrity to follow on twitter?
8) How close or far away are you right now from where you thought you would be at this point in your life when you were a kid?
9) What's the most embarrassing hair style you've ever had? Bonus points if you include a pic!
10) I always loved how baseball players have a song they walk up to when they bat. What song would you pick?
11) What's your favorite browser and how many tabs do you have open? (I'm really looking for affirmation that I'm not the only one with an addiction to tabs.)

Have fun!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

One Semester into our Chromebook Initiative

A year ago today I was preparing for Christmas, wrapping up my 7.5 year career in Evansville, saying my goodbyes to friends, colleagues, and former students, trying to sell my house on Craigslist without a realtor, and preparing for my new job as Director of Technology in a new school district. 

A year later I am preparing for Christmas, reflecting on one year of employment at Greater Clark County Schools, I've settled into our new home, made new friends, stayed connected with the old friends and former students, and finished up our first semester 1:1 with Chromebooks in grades 3-12.

In no certain order, here are some things I've been thinking about after a year as a Director of Technology, and a semester into our Chromebook initiative. 
  • People will do amazing things when you give them the time and the space to reach for greatness.
  • Focusing on the positive takes work. Focusing on the negative is easier and more natural. 
  • If you can't write down on paper what you are doing and why you are doing it, then you don't know what you're doing.
  • Nothing is ever as bad as it seems. 
  • Yes, you can hand out 6,000+ Chromebooks in 3 days. 
  • Yes, you can roll out close to 9,000 Chromebooks total! 
  • I can make it through a week on less than 30 hours of sleep for the entire week. #teamnosleep
  • If teachers and students don't see the connection between chromebooks and curriculum, they don't use them at all or only for minimal task like test taking. 
  • If what I just wrote above occurs, that's my fault. 
  • There is nothing more valuable than a teacher who will empower his or her students to change the world. 
  • Nothing is more fun than watching a teacher light up when they come across something that will help them be a better teacher. 
  • Nothing is more difficult than watching people struggle and fail. Even though you know the struggles and failures are only temporary.  
  • I never get tired of stories that start with, "This kid never says anything but..."
  • I love hiring people and then watching them succeed!
  • You probably thought this blog post would be more about what actually happened and not these random thoughts written at 2:30 in the morning. 
  • There is much work ahead.
  • I love my job! 
  • I should have blogged more this past year.