Ideas Worth Wrestling With

@MrBrettClark 1 Comments

I'm really working hard on getting back in the habit of blogging. As last year came to a close, I just couldn't stand the fact that I wasn't writing as often as I had just a couple of years ago. If I'm being completely honest, I would admit that I had started to feel a little stagnate in my thinking. I needed to get my creative juices flowing again. I have a new logo, a new design, and now this is my fourth post this month.

It's not the redesign of the website that is getting me back into blogging, but it's a reminder about why I blog in the first place. I blog because I believe in the power of reflection, it forces me to wrestle with my own thinking, it makes me consider the viewpoint of my potential audience, and it simultaneously gives me a clearer view of the past, while shaping my view of the future.

Nobody has helped me come to this realization more than my good friend, Bill Ferriter. When I first started blogging several years ago I was very fortunate to have Bill come to the district that I was working in at the time. We got to hang out that night and I'll never forget some of the things he said to me that night. One of the most helpful things he said to me that night, and has repeated to me on several occasions since then is, "everything is a blog post".

When he told me that, I took it to heart. You can see it right here on this site. A couple of years ago, I had 50+ blog post. Then the following year I dropped to 21 blog post. The last two years I have written a combined 11 blog post for this website.

So what changed? I think I can point it to a couple of things.

  • I took a job as Director of Technology. It's not that the job took up more of my time and I didn't have time to blog but I became more self-conscience of the potential to say something wrong and offending somebody. I say self-conscience because I've never actually been called out on anything I've written or tweeted about. Maybe fearful of saying something wrong is a better way of saying it. However, in the end, I've probably done my district a disservice by not blogging more the past couple of years. There is such potential in the power of being an open, reflective, transparent leader. 
  • I started writing for somebody other than myself. I said in my last post that it's more important to know who you aren't than it is to know who you are. Well, I'm not a "tip of the week" kind of writer. I've tried that and if you look back at the year when I wrote 50+ blog post, you will find a decent chunk of "how to" post. 

All of that being said, the most important thing I've learned about blogging is this:

  • Blogging is for me. I know that sounds selfish but I need to blog for me. I need to be reflective so that I can grow and move forward. I need to wrestle with my ideas so I can find my footing around the issues I face. It's why I loved the post I recently read by George Couros. Check out how he started this blog post:
  • How awesome is that beginning?! It captures exactly why blogging is just as much, if not more, for the writer than the reader. Of course, I think we already knew this. I think back to how much I learned about math when I started teaching it because I had to reflect on my math background and teaching it forced me to wrestle with mathematical concepts. 
So I am going to write when I need to reflect on my learning and my leading. I am going to blog when I need to wrestle with an idea and flesh it out so I can find out how I truly feel about it. Even when I wrote my last post; I wrote it, went to bed with it scheduled to publish the next morning, reread it when I got up, took it down because I didn't really think it matched my ideas on the topic, rewrote it, and republished it.

Am I still worried about somebody taking something I post on here the wrong way. Sure, perhaps a little bit, but I'll filter my thoughts as I write. The idea of writing for myself but acknowledging the fact that I have an audience, forces me to think more critically about what I'm writing. It puts the appropriate level of constraints on me to force me to be a more creative writer and sharer of ideas. John Spencer recently put together this brilliant video on the power of creative constraint

For the first time in a long time, I feel very excited about my ability to keep up with my blog this year. My reviewed vision and passion for reflective and transparent leadership will help shape me as a blogger. 

If I have an audience and my blog helps me form a relationship with folks currently outside my circle of learners, great!  I'm sure these ramblings can help somebody. If my audience is just one person, me, then that's ok too because I know my writing helps me out, if nothing else. 

If you have a moment, I'd love to hear from you. If you're a blogger, tell me why you blog and drop a link to your blog in the comment section. 


Two Questions You Have To Be Able To Answer

@MrBrettClark 4 Comments

I have two questions to ask you that I think you need to be able to answer if you're going to unlock the leader inside of you and, ultimately, the leaders inside of others. 

*spoiler alert* - You might be tempted to think that the first question is the most important question, but it's not.

First question: Do you know who you are?

We have to know who we are if we are going to lead. I don't care if it's leading a district, a classroom, an athletic team, an academic team, or a fantasy team.

You have to know what makes you tick. In the book, "Talk Like TED" by Carmine Gallo, he says you have to answer the question, "What makes your heart sing?" I don't think you can effectively lead if what you're doing isn't your passion.

I don't know about you, but the hardest task for me to get done are those task that don't directly tie into what I'm passionate about. However, when it comes to something I'm passionate about, I can just get lost in it. 

Who doesn't want to follow somebody who can just get lost in what they are leading? There are things that I'm not passionate about, like grant writing, but I've worked with people who just love that challenge and I can't help but get sucked into their enthusiasm. I don't get why they're so excited by it, but I admire their passion. 

Here is my advice, don't take on a job, role, or position that you're not passionate about. In the end, no matter the money, you won't be happy and you certainly won't be effective. 

Ok, now for the more important question. As important as it is for you know who you are, this is more important. 

Second question: Do you know who you are not

More important than knowing who you are, is knowing who you are not. Too many of us end up spinning on our wheels and burn ourselves out by trying to be something or somebody we aren't. This is more than just knowing your weaknesses. You can't really be happy with you, are until you are ok with you are not. 

Here is what I know about myself. I am a middle school teacher. It's who I am. It's part of my gifting. I am also an administrator. It just fits me. I'm not saying I'm perfect in these roles and I certainly have room to grow. 

I once took a job as a high school teacher. Not because I wanted to teach high school, but because I wanted to live in that area. It almost crushed me and made me want to leave education all together. The problem is, I'm not a high school teacher. I remember being in college and applying for student teaching. I sat in a room being interviewed for the program and one of my professors asked me what middle school I might want to teach at next semester. I told her I wasn't going to go to a middle school, but that I was strictly going to be a high school teacher. She said, "I can't let you into student teaching then, because your are a middle school teacher if I've ever met one." Man, was she ever right about that, and I'm forever grateful for it. My last staff meeting as a high school teacher my principal was announcing that I had transferred to a middle school. My principal gave me a nice card and said to our staff of close to 100 teachers, "I think we all agree that Brett was meant to teach middle school." In other words, I was a really bad fit for high school. She was right. 

I feel the same way about my job now that I did about teaching middle school. This is who I am and it's where I belong. I couldn't imagine doing anything else right now. Maybe one day I'll be a principal, or even work my way up to a Superintendent. I honestly don't know. There are days when I think I'd really like to try my hands at those things. All I know right now is that I've never been happier or more excited about the work I get to be a part of every 

I admire people who recognize their place in the world and know where they belong and where they are better off leaving alone. I think of some of my very talented teacher friends, who would make great principals and district admins. Sometimes I know they get asked why they don't leave the classroom for an admin job. I know many of them know that even though they have the talent for the job, it's not their passion and it's not who they are. 

Just because you have the skill set to do a certain job, it doesn't mean you should be doing that job. 

In my lowest point of teaching, when I was looking at the possibility of leaving, I looked into what I could do with a degree in math. Let me tell you, there are some lucrative positions out there for a person with a degree in math. In the end, none of those options were the right fit, because that's not who I am. 

I use these answers to shape what I lead, where I lead, how I lead, and who I lead. I try to look to for people to learn from who are both who I am, and who I am not. I learn different things from those people. I grow under those people and I work on strengthening my strengths and minimizing my faults. 

I also make sure I have people working with me who aren't me. Sure, I could have a team full of Brett Clark clones. Maybe that would be easier and maybe we'd have less conflict. However, we'd also cover less ground, help less people and be less creative (because conflict is the birthplace of creativity). 

Does this make sense? Do you know who you are and who you are not? We should strive to be part of team that is working toward a common goal, is full of people who are in positions that match their passions, and a team where each others' strengths are the other team members' weaknesses.


A New Logo and Website Design

@MrBrettClark 0 Comments

I want to say a big thank you to Matt Miller for the logo for Education Dreamer!

I'd love your feedback, good and bad, on the new design. Plus, when you get a chance, tweet out some love to Matt Miller (@dropstepdunk).  If you need logo work, he's a great option!

You can send love to the other Matt Miller (@jmattmiller) too. Like I said, he's pretty awesome too. 


3 Things I'm Looking Forward to in 2016

@MrBrettClark 1 Comments

Happy Anniversary! 

As I sat down last night to write this post, I was thinking back over the past 3 years of my life. When I wake in the morning, and by the time this post goes live, it will be my anniversary of the my first day as the Director of Technology for Greater Clark County Schools. It's been an amazing 3 years, full of ups, downs, triumphs, and learning experiences.

Here are just a few things I've been blessed to be a part of:

  • I work under leadership that makes me feel empowered to pursue all possibilities.
  • We rolled out 8,000 Chromebooks to grades 3-12
  • Added 3 amazing eLearning Coaches to the district to help drive the conversation of learning environments. Because if we don't have those conversations, bullet point number 1 is pointless.
  • I believe we've had 18+ states and Canada represented at our conferences.
  • I've watched as those conferences went from being almost all outside presenters to now the high majority of sessions are lead by our own teachers, admins, and students.
  • More importantly, I've been in classrooms and watched teachers and students get engrossed in learning. I've seen them take virtual field trips, discover their passions, and learn how to maneuver in more connected and open environment. It hasn't been easy, and it hasn't always been pretty, but our learners have been up for the task.
  • Most importantly, my own kids love to go to school every day.

3 Things I'm Looking Forward to in 2016

1:1 Refresh

It's hard to believe that I've worked here for 3 years already. It's even harder to believe that we are already going to be refreshing our 8,000 devices. We've been evaluating the impact of the 1:1 on our learning environment, looking at devices, planning professional learning opportunities, and learning from our mistakes. 

It's nice to look back over all that you've accomplished, learn from your shortcomings, and plan for the future. I look forward to sharing with you what we learn from our reflection process, and where we want to go from here. 

Learning Spaces

I love looking at how classrooms are designed and how the design of the learning space sets the tone for the classroom. This past summer I was able to visit the Affton School District, where I got to see their collaboration room. Check out the Room 15 website and get inspired! 

I worked with our Building Trades teacher at Jeffersonville High School and his students helped me build 8 mobile T-Walls to send out to our secondary schools. They are going out to schools very soon and I will be blogging more about this as well. 

The Unknown

It seems like every year I go into the year thinking I know how things are going to turn out. Then, every year I find out that for all of my planning and preparation, life happens, and things rarely go as planned. So, in 2016, I'm looking forward to the unknown. Who knows what I'll learn this year, or what experiences I'll have. I can't wait to have my mind blown by a project that a student and teacher complete. It's going to be exciting when a school comes up with something that is seemingly impossible and then pulls it off! My own wife and kids are going to continue to amaze me every week.  I'm sure I'll even shock myself at what I'll accomplish in 2016. 

So here we are...already a week into 2016...already 3 years into a job that 5 years ago I never would have even dreamed about. Here's to 2016, may it wreck all of our plans, and exceed all of our expectations. 

I'd love to hear from you and what you are looking forward to in 2016!