I Never Got A Technical After That

Ironically if you look up my bad in the dictionary there’s a picture of me waving.

Todd Whitaker

I considered myself a grown adult. Or as Cedric the Entertainer said in Kings of Comedy, “I’m a grown-ass man.” At 42 years old there was no way I was going to be on social media the way I knew many of my friends were. I was way too mature for that. I read books, attended conferences and had even presented at a few.

But join Facebook? No chance!

Open a Twitter account? Never!

But then something happened that has forever changed my life.

Almost three years to the day that I am writing this, I attended the NAESP Conference in Baltimore, Maryland. It was amazing! I had never seen anything like it! I heard speakers upon speakers with the same enthusiasm and zest for teaching that I had. I was in a state of nirvana. And while they were each incredible, there was one in particular, that while I’m certain he didn’t know it, would alter my life forever.

If you’ve never heard Todd Whitaker speak in person, you need to. Most likely you have come across one of his books and have enjoyed them as much as I have. But there is something about hearing him speak in person that is a whole different experience. Yes, he knows a lot about education and what it takes to be a great educator and a great leader. And those were the reasons I joined thousands of other people to hear him speak that day. Yet, it wasn’t his wisdom that blew me away that day. It was his humor. The man is funny! He has a way of making you laugh and learn at the same time. And I did plenty of both for the hour he spoke. I hung on every word that came out of his mouth as if were the gospel.

But then he said something that I could not believe. It went against everything I had believed up until that point. He told us that if we weren’t on Twitter then we needed to open an account as soon as possible. I was sitting towards the back of the auditorium but I am certain those were the words that came out of his mouth. I was incredulous, but it was freakin’ Todd Whitaker.

So, there was only one thing to do.

It only took me about a minute to understand what Todd was talking about. To this day, I look back and wonder how my professional career would be different if I hadn’t attended that conference. If I hadn’t heeded Todd Whitaker’s advice. Lucky for me I will never know.

Oh, and by the way, the photo below is a screenshot that shows my first two followers on Twitter, courtesy of Tworiginal Todd is not just some talking head that writes books, speaks and front of large audiences and then disappears. Oh no, he interacts with his followers. I swear he must have a team of tweeters that enable help him meaningfully respond to the thousands of people that contact him yearly, if not monthly.

Fast forward two and half years from that prophetic day when my journey as a connected educator began. I was getting ready to launch a radio show titled My Bad. I was going to ask amazing educators to come on my show and share a big mistake that they had made during their career. In the time since Todd had convinced me to join Twitter, I had had the good fortune of connecting with amazing educators from all over the world that have not only become part of my PLN, but they had become my good friends.

So, I was confident that I would be able to secure guests to come on the show and open up to me. But when the producers from Bam Radio told me that they had contacted Todd and he was willing to come on the show. To be my first guest! I was floored and excited beyond belief. The person that inspired me to become connected was going to the same person that would help me launch my very first radio show.

I had read his books, listened to his keynote address and had quoted him countless times in the past. I was a bit nervous before the interview. My nerves disappeared once I heard Todd’s voice on the other end of the line. He immediately made me feel at ease and it was if we had known each other for years. I simply added this to the long list of things that Todd has taught me.

If I had to pick one lesson that I have learned from Todd that I carry with me wherever I go, it would be to treat people well every single day and every single time. He stresses the fact that all you have to do is treat someone poorly once and you have damaged your relationship with that person. Todd mentions that you can treat someone well 29 times out of 30 but that is not good enough. It’s not because people don’t remember the 29 times you treated them well. They do. But what sticks with them, and anyone else who witnessed the event, is the one time out of 30 that they were treated poorly.

So, you can imagine how powerful it was for me to hear Todd share, on the very first episode of My Bad, about a time when he lost his temper. He talked about how the first year that he coached basketball he would yell at his team. Todd then went on to discuss one game in particular in which he yelled at the referee and received a technical. And what he did next;

After the game I walked into their locker room. And I’m not kidding. I thought they were gonna to have to change their underwear. What’s he doing walking in the locker room. And I said I was wrong to treat you like that. I should have never talked to you like that.(…) I’m embarrassed I did it in front of my team. And I will not do it again with you in the future. And I never got a technical after that.

Todd Whitaker

For Todd to share this with me, with everyone, was so powerful. To admit to losing his temper, and essentially, providing a concrete example of his own personal one time out of thirty was exactly what I was looking for. Hopefully everyone that either heard the episode or reads this piece will feel a little less guilty about making the same mistake themselves.

Todd did go on to discuss how to recover from making such a mistake. He couldn’t emphasize enough how important it is to work to repair a relationship once you realize you have damaged it. More than anything though, he stressed the fact that once we make these mistakes, we must learn from them. We must learn from them so that we do not repeat them in the future. Otherwise our apologies ring hollow.

Kicking off my show My Bad with Todd Whitaker was more than I could have ever hoped for. Because while Todd is one of the most sought after speakers in education and someone whose calendar I’m certain is quite full, he never once gave the impression that he was in a hurry or was too busy. Even after the interview had finished, he was more than willing to expand on answers he had given.

Truth be told, because Todd is such a busy person and someone who travels all the time, he had planned on conducting the interview over the phone while driving. This seemed perfectly reasonable to me. I am certain he had the Skye app on his phone and this arrangement would have been fine. But we did not want to take any chances with the sound quality and so we asked if it would be possible for him to conduct the interview differently.

But he was more than willing to accommodate this request. It required him rearranging his schedule and it required him to stop and find a location from which to conduct the interview. And I will be forever grateful to him for making this gesture of kindness.

Yes, Todd Whitaker has written over forty books. Yes, Todd Whitaker is one of the most sought after speakers in the country. And yes, Todd Whitaker always commands a large audience. But on that day in which I conducted my very first My Bad interview, Todd was real. Todd was transparent. And Todd was kind. That is what I will remember most.

Thank you Todd.

In case I’ve peeked your interest and you’d like to give the episode a listen, I’ve included the link below

Todd Whitaker Episode

* This is the first in a series of 10 pieces I’ll be publishing weekly in which I highlight a former My Bad guest. I hope you enjoy them. And if you do, please pass them on.

Grins & Giggles

When I saw her walk in I quickly scanned the room for some age-appropriate toys that I hoped might have a shot at entertaining her for the hour or so she would have to wait. I didn’t see anything that even remotely resembled something that a three year old would want to play with. I was just guessing that she was three. Maybe a little older or a little younger.

I’ve sat in meetings before in which children were unable to sit still or keep quiet for longer than a minute. It is very distracting and it can be difficult to stay focused. I don’t blame the children or their parents. It have a hard time myself.

Once we all had our seats at the table, it just so happened that she was she seated directly to my left. As we began to introduce ourselves, her mother took out a notebook, turned to a clean page and handed her daughter a pen. She had come prepared. I had not. To be quite honest, I am usually the person in meetings that has the hardest time focusing and keeping still. I fidget. I doodle. I lean forward. I lean backward. And, I too, make sure I have a notebook, a clean page and something to write with. I guess I’m a lot like a three year old.

The meeting began. I couldn’t help but notice that this little girl knew how to hold a pen. Something that is not common for someone her age.

Oooh! This was going to be fun!

She made a mark in her notebook. I made a mark in mine. And so it went. For the next hour. There were times when I varied my marks. Which basically means, I would draw a scribbly dooble and she would try to do the same.

At one point during the meeting I had to leave the room to assist with some other business. When I returned, I noticed that she had crayons. That’s when we began to have some real fun. She would hand me one and I would make a mark. She would hand me another. And I would make another mark, slightly different than the one before.

And her giggle.

Adorable beyond words. Each time she did, her eyes would light up and everyone in the room would turn to her and smile. I promise, I was paying attention to what the adults were saying. A little bit.

Usually I am happy when meetings are over, simply for the fact that I have a hard time keeping still. Not this time. Well, I guess I didn’t keep still. But I was fully engaged. That is, with the beautiful spirit that was seated next to me. She waved good bye when she left. I don’t know when I will see her again or if she’ll even remember me.

As I look back on that magical hour I try to think what it taught me. To be more specific, I try to think about mistakes I may have made going on or coming out. And at first, nothing came to mind. But then it hit me.

Too often in life we think we can plan beautiful moments. We go to great lengths in hopes that these moments will bring us the joy and happiness that we so desperately crave. And then something unexpected happens. Our trips don’t go as planned. Someone gets sick or what seemed like such a great idea ends up bombing.

But what I learned last week was that, if we just sit back and allow ourselves to be open. Beautiful moments come to us. For me, it came in the form of a giggling-scribbling three-year old princess. I will never stop trying to plan for or make beautiful moments. But from now on I will try to leave a little more room for the unexpected.

As I travel on this journey called Life, I continue to learn from the mistakes I make along the way. That’s okay. I’m doing the best I can. And that’s good enough for me.

 

The sooner we start sharing our imperfections with the people we serve and the people we love, the sooner they will stop expecting to be perfect.

 

Click the link below to listen to some absolutely horrible mistakes made by absolutely wonderful people.

MY BAD

7 am

ghojonesWhy on Earth would anyone do a Google Hangout with students at 7 am? Well, before you begin jumping on my case about the fact that students need more sleep and that their optimal thinking times are later in the morning, let me explain.  First, know that the class I did the Google Hangout with was in a different time zone than me. Second, I was the one in the 7 am time zone. Not them. It was 9 am where they were.

The class I had the honor of speaking with, not to, was none other than Mrs. Jones’ 5th grade Merton Elementary students. Thank you Principal Jay Posick for allowing me the opportunity to interact with such an amazing group of youngsters. We had a blast!

I got to share with them the motivation behind my My Bad radio program. While it is a story that I have told many times, it is one that I always enjoy telling. And it is one that I hope I have the opportunity to tell many more times.

After Mrs. Jones’ class politely listened to me tell my story and talk about the power of sharing mistakes, something quite wonderful took place. One by one. Her students came to the front of the room, introduced themselves and shared a mistake of their own. What was most powerful was the fact that the mistakes that were shared were ones that many others in the room had made too.

As the sharing continued it became obvious to me that not only was this an amazing group of kids, but they were/are led by an amazing teacher. Creating an environment in which children feel safe sharing their mistakes with their peers is not easy. Bravo Heidi Jones!

I would have loved to have spent more time with her class. Maybe someday I will. But, they had to move on with their day and I had an 8 am conference session to attend. We said our goodbyes and then Heidi had her kids do something I had never seen before. Each kid came to the front of the room, and one by one, they each gave me a high-five or a fist bump. That made my day! Heck it made my week!

As I am on a flight now heading back to the east coast I can’t help but think about how important it is that we work to create a culture in which it is okay to share mistakes. I was able to witness firsthand just how powerful this can be. It is important for students and it is important for adults to know that they are not alone. To know that they it is okay to make mistakes. And to know that we all bounce back.

That was the most fun I have had at 7 am in a long time.

Thank you Mrs. Jones’ class.

 

The sooner we start sharing our imperfections with the people we serve and the people we love, the sooner they will stop expecting to be perfect.

 

Click the link below to listen to mistakes made by an amazing group of people.

MY BAD

I Worry Less

worry-less-jpg

I do this every time. I wake up three hours before school, but somehow spend the last fifteen minutes scrambling like a madman. Most days I am rushing to get dressed or make some semblance of a healthy lunch. But on this day I was already dressed and my lunch was all set.

But where were my car keys!!!

I am such an idiot! I don’t think a day goes by in which I don’t misplace something.

5 minutes before I need to walk out the door.

I looked in my closet. Maybe I dropped them when I was changing clothes from the previous day.

No such luck! Why don’t I just leave them in the same place every day? Then I would never have this problem again! I am so stupid!

4 minutes until I have to go!

I decided to make another sweep through my bedroom. It is not uncommon for me to lie down as soon as I get home. Just to unwind from the day’s events.

Nada! Starting today I am going to become more organized. This can’t keep happening.

3 minutes and counting!

One last sweep through the entire house with new eyes. Maneuvering around toddler toys and my tween’s clothes is enough to make me almost lose it. And that’s when I see my winter jacket in my daughter’s bedroom. I hadn’t put it there. I was certain. She must have decided to wear it when she was cold. She is at the age where she loves to wear my t-shirts, sweatshirts and now my jackets, around the house. I reached in the pocket and felt my keys. It was almost as if they were mocking me.

With a minute to spare, I bolt out of the house and into my car. Just barely making it to work on time.

Later that evening, when I had a moment to reflect. I realized something very important. It hit me that way too often we get down on ourselves, or we hang our heads, for things that are either out of our control or not our fault.

Just that morning I was beating myself up over missing keys. First, let’s get some perspective. I couldn’t find the keys to my car. It wasn’t as if I had committed a major crime. And second, when all was said and done, there was nothing I could have done about it. My daughter simply borrowed my jacket and had left it in her room. Kinda cute really.

But the important thing is, how often to do this to ourselves? I mean, if it is mistakes we are looking for, then they shouldn’t be hard to find. We all make them. It’s a part of life. Let’s start giving ourselves some slack. Just a little bit of grace.

And then I begin to think. If I was quick to jump all over myself for misplacing car keys, what must our students and our children be putting themselves through each and everyday? More importantly, what can we do to stop them from doing this?

I probably sound like a broken record. But what we need to do is start sharing our mistakes with the people we serve and the people we love so that they stop feeling as if they have to be perfect. This is something that I am very passionate about.

We’re human.

We’re going to make mistakes.

End of story.

 

It’s time to stop beating ourselves up over our mistakes. We forget that this is our first time playing this game called Life. And if it’s not, well then what are we worried about anyway?

For almost a year now I have had the incredible honor of speaking with many amazing educators and leaders. They have come on my show and shared mistakes that heretofore very few knew that they had made. So, I am certain that, like me, listeners have learned much from hearing these epic mistakes. 

And that is good.

But it is not enough.

What I want is for listeners to be inspired by my guests’ courage. And then. When they are ready and when the moment present itself. I want them to start sharing their mistakes. It will take some time getting used to because it is not easy. But in the end we will be better off. We will start holding our heads a bit higher because we will realize that we are not alone.

I started this journey almost one year ago. My very first guest was Todd Whitaker. Someone who I hold in the highest regard. He came on My Bad and shared a big mistake If Todd can do it then so can the rest of us. To date I have released 30 episodes and there are at least 10 more waiting patiently on deck.

Being given the opportunity to host this show has been one of the greatest honors of my life. It has forced me to reflect in ways I never had before. I have learned much from my reflections and I have learned much from the reflections of others. But work is far from done.

In fact, I believe I am just warming up. Over the next year I am looking to share what I have learned with students, educators, parents … basically anyone who wants to listen. I have seen firsthand how my life has changed for the better and hopefully I can do the same for others.

I worry less.

And I live more.

The world appears quite different when you no longer fear making mistakes.

If you don’t believe me, just check out an episode or two of My Bad and see for yourself. I promise you within one or two you will feel better. And if you do, please share that feeling with others. Better yet, share a mistake.

MY BAD

Again!

again

I think if I had heard that word one more time I would have lost it!

President Trump closed his inauguration speech with a barrage of agains like I have never heard before.

Do I think that there are many things about this country that could improve?

Of course!

But that is not the message that I got from President Trump’s speech. The message that I heard, was that we’re not good enough. I am still trying to pick the a,g,a,i and n‘s out of my ears. Because if they remain in there too long they are likely to get stuck. And we can’t allow that to happen. I won’t allow that to happen.

The first episode of My Bad was released on April 7th, 2016. My goal, my hope, my mission was to

inspire people to share their mistakes with the people they love and the people they serve so that they would stop feeling as if they have to be perfect.

Learning from each guests’ mistakes is simply an added bonus.

Knowing that each guest was willing to come on My Bad and share their mistake, no matter how big and no matter how embarrassing. That was and still is the takeaway that I am hoping for.

Furthermore, my hope is that this mindset will trickle down to our staff, to our students and to our children. Every day I witness (at home, at work, on social media) people feeling as if they’re not good enough. We’re beating ourselves up over mistakes. Even worse, children are beating themselves up over making mistakes.

Our self-esteem is at an all time low. The social and emotional needs of our students is at an all time high.

So what do we do?

We remind ourselves that we are good. We remind our staff that they are good. And we remind our students that they are good.

We pick the remaining a,g,a,i and n‘s out of our ears. We share our mistakes and we celebrate our accomplishments. And we give ourselves and each other a little grace.

One last thing. When you have a half hour to spare. I know, I know. Like any of us do. But if you do. Pick any three My Bad episodes. Listen to them and appreciate just how vulnerable and honest my guests were willing to be. I promise you, you will feel better about yourself because you will be reminded you are not alone.

It might be just the thing you need to stop the agains from ringing in your ears.

My Bad

Why Did He Leave The Room?

whydidheleavetheroom-png

He just got up and left the room!

Who does that?!

In the middle of writing a sentence.

Who does he think he is?

Henry David Thoreau in need of an inspirational stroll.

Let me rewind a bit. My son is in kindergarten and last week he and his classmates brought home Writing Journals. Every Thursday night they will be given a writing prompt for homework. This could be fun. Although, I knew just because I love to write doesn’t mean my five year-old, who just learned how to hold a pencil, will share my passion.

We were playing with his matchbox garage when I asked him if he was ready to write in his journal. He was said he was and he went downstairs to get his brand new Writing Journal. When he came back up I was waiting with baited breath. I tried to contain my excitement.

The writing prompt was glued to the top of the page. It was so cute. His assignment was to illustrate something he likes to do in the snow and then write a sentence describing his illustration. Derek chose to draw a picture of a snowman. He seemed to be enjoying himself and I was beginning to think that this would be an enjoyable weekly ritual. His little snowman was adorable but, as you can imagine, I was more excited about what he was going to write.

When he finished coloring he just stopped. I had to remind him that he had to write a sentence. He was fine with that. I think he simply wasn’t accustomed to writing sentences. He dictated it to me first. It was something like “I like to make a snowman.”

He went back and looked at the reminders that his teacher had glued inside his journal. So he knew that the i had to be uppercase or capital. I can’t remember which term they use nowadays. And then? Well, then he had to go downstairs. He said he’d be right back. It was at this that I was worried that maybe this was going to be too much for him. Or that he just decided to give up.

A minute or two later he returned. With his backpack. He had remembered that that day he had completed a worksheet that actually had the word like on it.

What a clever kid!

Here I was thinking that he may have been giving up and he was simply warming up. He used this sheet as a reference to spell a few words and I helped him with the rest. I didn’t spell them for him. But I did help him sound the words out so that were phonetically correct.

I was so proud of my little buddy. He not only wrote his first sentence, he showed me that he had already learned an important lesson. One that I think we too often forget.

We don’t need to know it all!

We spend too much of our time trying to cram too much stuff into our heads. We don’t leave space for thoughts and ideas to move around. And yet we are constantly trying to fill our heads with more. Then we wonder why when it comes time to solve a problem or create something unique, we are unable.

It is because the stuff we have in our heads has no room to move. To breathe. To grow.

It’s time to stop this madness!

We must pick a few things and try to learn as much about them as we possible can. Things that we are passionate about. Things that keep us up at night. In a good way.

You have a question about how to implement Makerspaces. Contact Laura Fleming.

You’re not sure how to create an engaging lesson. Direct message Dave Burgess.

A leadership issue has you stumped. Tweet Todd Whitaker.

You can’t figure out how to motivate young black males. Connect with Baruti Kafele.

This list could go on and on. But you get the point. You don’t need to know everything about everything. Give yourself a break. Allow yourself some space. And simply pick one or two things where you can kick ass.

And while we’re at it, let’s remind our kids and our students of this too. We owe it to them. Honor rolls and Principal’s lists are crazy. Who nowadays is actually good at everything?

Lin Manuel Miranda and…

Short list of one.

My son taught me a wonderful lesson last week. Let’s just hope I remember it the next time I think I need to know it all. I won’t and I never will. And that’s okay. Because as The Beatles sang:

 

I get by with a little help from my friends.

The Beatles

Because I Love You

waffles

This happens every time!

She cooks and then she leaves the kitchen and the surrounding area a mess.

Then I have to be the bad guy and remind her to clean it up.

I do like that she loves to cook and to be honest she is quite good at it.

Well yesterday she made us waffles and they were delicious. And since she did the cooking, I probably should have offered to clean up. But she is eleven and I am trying to teach her to take more responsibility for her actions. Like cleaning up after herself. Just so you don’t get the wrong impression, she is not a rebellious tween who her mother and I are worried about. In fact, she is a straight A student who is kind to everyone and is the best big sister a five year old brother could ever ask for.

But back to the waffle debacle. The sink was a mess, the counter was dirty and the table where we ate still had plates of leftover waffles and syrup. I’ve learned that sometimes I have to choose when and where I pick my battles. Just earlier in the week she and I had gotten into it about this same type of thing.

So, after waiting a bit I finally decided it was time to remind her that I expected her to clean up the mess that she had made cooking breakfast for us. She said she had a headache and needed to take a shower. Promising to clean it all up once she got out. Fair enough I thought. The waffles weren’t going to go bad and it when it got done wasn’t really the point. It just needed to get done.

It was while my daughter was in the shower that I realized something. Yes, by making her clean up after herself I was teaching her responsibility. And the past ten times we had had this discussion I held firm to my demands. But this time? This time seemed different. I realized I had the perfect opportunity to model something much more important than responsibility.

I was not sure if the lesson would be lost. Tweens’ brains don’t always pick up what we’re puttin’ down. But then again, neither does mine. I knew it was worth a try. So while my daughter was taking a shower trying to get rid of her headache, I worked as quickly as possible to clean up everything. I rinsed the dishes, loaded the dishwasher, cleaned the counter, cleared the breakfast table and stored the leftover waffles in the fridge.

I finished just in time. When she walked through the kitchen to go upstairs I don’t think she even noticed what I had done. Hmmm, maybe my idea wasn’t so good after all. But then when she came back down she did. And she said, “Daddy, I was going to clean everything up. Why did you do it?”

 

Because I love you.