Sunday, August 28, 2016 do you embrace it?

This is a post written by two school leaders; Jeff Kubiak, current Head of School at The Gardner School of Arts & Sciences in Vancouver, WA, and Eric Ewald, current lead learner and chief storyteller at Van Allen Elementary School in North Liberty, IA.

  1. lack of success, non-fulfillment, defeat, collapse.

Failure, in EDUCATION....Must not only be an option, but a certainty.

Remember the phrase from Blockbuster Movie “Apollo 13”? titled, “Failure is not an option”?  I just found out it was written in by scriptwriters for the movie, not actually said by anyone from NASA. But wow, let’s use NASA as the example here. If NASA had never NOT failed, what would our space program look like?  How many iterations of rockets, spaceships, spacesuits and MARS rovers would they have NOT gone through?
As educators, the term FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION  does NOT sit well with us.
As you look at today’s world and challenges, the educational institutes,our model companies, and especially some of our most inspiring heroes and athletes, one common trait holds true: Failure is a must. A given. A for sure. An absolute. A 100% guarantee to growth, success and beyond.

Next, let’s just look at a guy named Michael Phelps: 5 Olympic Teams, 28 Olympic Medals, 23 of them GOLD! Not everything was all roses for our fine dolphin-esque friend. Two DUI arrests, a viral photo of him smoking a bong, failed swim sets, bullied at school, diagnosed with ADHD and mental illness AND struggled in school. Now, he has a fiance, a baby boy, a great coaching job and endorsements galore. Seems to me that he learned from every one of those misfortunes we call failures and became without a doubt, the History’s Greatest Olympian Ever!

“And why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.”
  • Thomas Wayne in Batman Begins
It’s okay to fail. It’s going to happen. We’ve got to embrace failing. We have to encourage failing as a part of the process. And then we have to get back up. We have to keep going. We have to relentlessly persevere. If/when we do these!
Failure + Perseverance = Success

Michael Jordan and Nike created one of my all-time favorite commercials that they titled “Failure.”

The commercial begins with Jordan stating, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career.” What if Michael Jordan had given up after his first missed shot? What if he would have quit? We would have been robbed of witnessing one of the greatest clutch athletes of all-time!

Failure is ALL around us. So why are we, as a society, (sometimes) ashamed to fail? It’s okay. We have to make it okay. As educators (and parents) we have to ENCOURAGE OUR KIDS TO FAIL; we have to ENCOURAGE OUR KIDS TO LEARN FROM THEIR FAILURE; and then we have to ENCOURAGE OUR KIDS TO TRY AGAIN, AND AGAIN, AND AGAIN while cheering them on along the way.

As a child that grew-up in the 90’s, I get fixated on anything Michael Jordan fairly easily. Fortunately, for me, with this topic he is all over the place. He was featured in another great Nike commercial, titled “Maybe It’s My Fault.”

We all want to ‘Be LIke Mike.’ But let’s remember this message, from Mike, “I’ve failed over, and over, and over again in my life. And that is why, I succeed.”

Hey! How about this dude named Thomas Edison? You may have heard his name once or twice. Well, Thomas was called “too stupid to learn anything” by his teachers and classmates. He had over 1,000 failed attempts at inventing the light bulb...Can you imagine? Talk about resilience, grit, tenacity and focus. Other non-winner ideas, such as mining methods, cement companies, cabinetry, pianos...the list goes on and on didn’t work either for our friend TE. One of my favorite quotes of his is “I have not failed 10,000 times, I have found 10,000 ways things did not work. Where would we be today without a light bulb, phonograph and motion picture camera?
(Jeff) In my lifetime, I have failed over and over again in school ( yes, there were some D’s), sports (missed the ‘88 Olympic Team by .12), relationships, music playing and arts to name a few.But I have to say, the BEST teachers and coaches I have had lead me to believe in myself, to try again and again, improve, and not give up...ever.

As leaders (we all are, by the way), this is what we MUST do everyday for all of our students, workers, friends, and family. Be there. Show them. Lead them. Encourage them. Cheer them on. Push to greater heights. Mentor. They ALL deserve it...and so do you and I.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Life and New Beginnings

New Life.
Where does it start?
We are born so helpless, fragile and delicate, yet we are brought into this world with expectations galore.
I was fortunate to spend some time with my day old niece this past weekend; Amelia Grace Connolly. Wow! What a joy and bundle of beauty, but such a frail little specimen she is. It was such a pleasure to just look at her, and touch her tiny little fingers. Watch. Stare. Enjoy.

I too have recently began a " new life", having accepted the position as the Head of School for an amazing educational mecca called The Gardner School of Arts & Sciences. Over the last few weeks, I have been separated from my wonderful wife, and two children, as they are back in CA spending time with family and finishing taking care of some odds and ends with our relocation.
This has not been easy on any of us, but as I reflect on Amelia Grace, with her tiny fingers, her little ears and small little puffs of air, I realize that we are both in the same boat, so to speak.

I am new to the Northwest, to this school, and to the community of Vancouver.
Amelia is new to her parents, her sister, her home and her extended family...everything really.

I have high expectations of myself in my new role and want to be a positive role model for all.
Amelia has high expectations for herself from society; preschool, college, marriage, kids, careers.

I am learning hourly, daily, and weekly about how the school has been run, its past, and so many minute details about the operations.
Amelia has been learning by the second, minute, hour and day as well. Breathing, nursing, moving, body control, inputting data and much more.

Image result for fear quotesI am nervous at times, for I want to succeed in the eyes of those around me, the students, and most importantly, myself.
Amelia, I am sure is nervous as well. She most likely wants to be the best little sister in the world. She wants to do everything right in her parents eyes and make a huge and positive impact on the planet and people.

So, what do we do? Who do we turn to?
Well, for Amelia, she has Malena, her big sister, her mother and father, amazing grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Soon, she will have friends, teachers, coaches, tutors and mentors to learn, glean and model from.
I, on the other hand, have my PLN. My @twitter network and #voxer, my friends, family and new supports: Board of Trustees, NWAIS New Head Group and many others.

As Amelia and I navigate our newness, our beginnings, and paths, I hope to learn from my many failures. I hope to teach her to do the same.
We are always learning.
We are always trying.
We are always failing.
But most importantly, we count on those around us for help, love, support and direction.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

From Punitivism to Altruism...when will it happen?

I know "Punitivism" is not a "real" word, but it sounds cool right? From the many definitions around, here is what it really entails from what I see in schools "inflicting or intended as punishment". 

Image result for punishmentWhat's the point? A consequence for the behavior? Punishment? Being disciplined?
I thought we, as educators were here to mold, empower, help, engage, teach, shape, coach, and facilitate the betterment of our students. Aren't we suppose to turn them into lifelong learners and outstanding citizens? Those who can make a positive impact upon the others around them?

It seems to me that "benching", "time outs", "heads down on your desk"  and "NO Recess for you!" has not  gone by the wayside yet and is still the norm in our schools. 
Where is our teachable moment, and our "fair is not equal" Growth Mindset? Yes, I get it! If a kid hurts or intends to physically hurt another child, let's take some real action, but really?" Let's take him out of class, I'll show him!" "This will teach him, I am sending him to the office!", I mean, stay home and play on your device day...nope, it doesn't work.

Image result for silver bullet
I don't have the silver bullet, but I not only love the word "Altruism", I live by the practice. " A selfless concern for the well-being of others". Wow, that sounds super cool! How do I do it?Many times on my campus, I hear grumblings from teachers that "Mr. K, just lets kids skate!" "He does nothing to teach that kid a lesson!" Really? does the 30-60 minutes I just spent with that student, in a 1:1 totally engaged, focused and heart felt conversation not matter? I thought we were supposed to CONNECT with kids, not push them away!Well, let's see, what else do I do?...I listen.I look into his/her eyes. I empathize. I walk with them. I show them. I model. We practice. Again. Again. Apologies. Community Service. Giving Back. Re-start.

Image result for altruismSo, where does that really leave us?
Simple. Lead with your heart. Listen and connect with kids. Get down on your knees, and to his/her level. Be there. Hug if needed (warning: can be addicting). Connect. Connect. Teach and watch. I'm sure you will see the seeds grow. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Updated for All of the Jacob's in our lives

About a year ago, I wrote this post after a reflection from my visit with a student at the school I was a Principal at, Cordelia Hills Elementary, in Fairfield, CA. This is an update from my previous post:
     This past Thursday, June 1st, Jacob Valdez lost his battle with Leukemia. Although he was at home and in the hospital this school year, he was still a part of the Cordelia Coyotes, and a part of who I am.
Wait, who is Jacob Valdez you ask?
Let me tell you who he is. He is EVERY CHILD you have ever taught or encountered at school: strong, sweet, kind, gentle, gifted, special, unique, intelligent, funny, quirky, curious, and most of all? REAL. Yes, we have all had a Jacob in our lives, but last year, and now, he became more real to me than ever.
     You see, many of our friends, family, loved ones, and strangers are afflicted with all types of blood cancers, but did you know that you can help? Being a bone marrow donor can not only save a life, but can help you live a legacy of knowing, that you made a huge, life long difference for someone. Matches are based on ancestry and DNA. Please consider joining a registry and encourage your friends, family, and colleagues to do the same. You could be the cure for one of the 14,000 people who are searching for a marrow donor. Donors (18-44) never pay to donate marrow. You can give someone hope for a better tomorrow, today: CLICK HERE FOR INFO
     Last year, when I made a visit to Oakland Kaiser Hospital to visit Jacob, he seemed like any other 4th Grade student, he was interested in MineCraft, Lego, Chromebooks, iPhones, Star Wars and much more. I walked into his hospital room and was amazed at the Star Wars Lego creations he had built; Millenium Falcon, X-Wing Fighter and others that I couldn't name. He was playing MineCraft, adding to his most amazing and intricate castle that he built.
     After giving me a 3-D tour of the castle, we connected on Google Hangouts with his class of 4th Graders in Mr. Suarez' class. Smiles, laughter, giggles, jokes, conversation and fun ensued for the
Me and My Warriors Man, Jacob Valdez

next 30 or so minutes. The students in class and Jacob were connected, engaged, enlightened and Ohana; (the Hawaiian term for Family, one and bound together) a term that Mr. Suarez uses and lives by with and for his students.
     Yes, they were connected. We were connected and better yet, I have been connected with Be The Match, which has already helped me increase my knowledge, understanding, and education of Leukemia, matches, and marrow transplants.
     As I drove back to school from Oakland, I could not stop thinking about Jacob. How lucky was I to have a Jacob in my life? That short visit brought so much heartfelt joy to me that I can't wait to return. His innocence, faith, smile, patience, and kindness are un-replicable.
I urge you to do this today; Look into being a donor for marrow, cord blood, blood, plasma or money and help someone you know (OR DON'T) today!

Thank you Jacob, you made us all better.

Who is your Jacob? Share

Sunday, April 3, 2016

#wordsDOmatter - The Conversation on Continues to BUILD!

Words: When They Uplift and Inspire

The following is the third installment in a series of blogposts written by two principals on opposite ends of the state of California (you can see the last two here: and  Jeff Kubiak (@principalkubiak) is the principal of Cordelia Hills Elementary School (@cordeliahills) in Fairfield, CA.  Todd Schmidt (@tsschmidty) is the principal of Harbor View Elementary (@harborviewelem) in Corona del Mar, CA.  

Words are powerful.  They can break down walls as well as build them up.  On our campuses, we have been working with our communities to show the impact of how #wordsDOmatter.

Have you seen an example of your students seeing the ability of words to inspire, uplift, or support?
IMG_9606.JPGTS:  Sadly, this year, our community has been rocked by the untimely deaths of two of our parents.  Especially at elementary school, dealing with the death of a parent is incredibly hard.  What amazed me was how the students responded in finding ways to remind their peers that they were special, valued, and being thought of and prayed for in this very challenging time.  Students put together a book where each student contributed a page indicating the reasons they loved their peer. One of my favorites said, “You always put a smile on whoever’s face that comes up to you.  It’s like you drank a vial of awesome juice!”  The book was included with flowers and small gifts into what was called “A Box of Sunshine.”  This child in particular let me know how the words from her peers has a special place near her bed where she can refer to it when her days seem gray and sad.  It reminds her of all the special people who care about her and think she is pretty amazing!

JK: At Cordelia Hills, we have had a few students or family members fall ill, or see untimely deaths. We have also had many students come and go this year. Either by family choice, or because our school is running at capacity and students are overflowed to other schools. With that being said, our students, staff, and community have responded with cards, letters, pictures and positive phone calls. Many times these amazing actions have been student lead. It seems when a student or someone is caught feeling down, or low, “YOU ARE AWESOME”, “I REALLY LIKE YOU” can be seen or heard at just the right time!

How do you encourage your students to focus on using their words to build positive relationships on a daily basis?
IMG_0431.JPGTS:  This is one of the biggest challenges I face as a site leader.  With social media, especially with Instagram and Snapchat, there is more of a risk for issues that range from harsh words and unkind pranks to cyberbullying.  We spend a lot of time focusing on digital citizenship at the beginning of the year and then revisit the topic frequently as issues arise.  Because we are in the first year of implementing the Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS), we try to have activities and lessons that touch on our school acronym that Vikings are BRAVE (Bold, Respectful, Accountable, Empathetic)  Through motivation found in the #principalsinaction PLN, I try to have different books that I read to classes that touch on one of those five traits.  I try to also work in how words of the author as well as the characters can inspire, uplift, and motivate as well as demoralize, frustrate, and anger.  In addition, we try to remind students of the power of words through motivational speakers who touch on the power of words in their lives as well as actively promoting individual events like #PositivePostItDay and #KindnessMatters.  I really want to organize a full week’s worth of different activities that highlight the power of words.

JK: This is my focus at AND away from school 24/7. Either through our Pyramid of Success assemblies, morning announcements, Paw Prides, Positive phone calls home, Positive Office Referrals, or in our new PBIS program, there is nothing more important to me than students recognizing each other in a positive and kind way. Kiddos are already exposed to enough negativity away from school that our staff really tries to spread this message on a daily basis.Digital Citizenship is also another place we emphasize positive words, and kindness. We use Common Sense Media to guide a lot of our lessons, and really put the huge task of responsibility on each student with HIGH EXPECTATIONS. I ask each staff member to model, share, or teach a 5 minute KINDNESS lesson each day, so that students have an ultra positive Mo-Jo to start the day!

Recently, both of us participated in #PositivePostItDay.  How did this day impact your campus?
IMG_0490.JPGIMG_0469.JPGTS: The day was simply amazing!  Having heard about it via Eric Ewald and Tony Sinanis, two rockstar principals I have had the privilege of learning with and from, we wanted it to be a day where teachers, students, and parents (and the principal) were armed with post-its!  Like, Jeff, I didn’t have many expectations for the day.  What happened was simply incredible as our community put positive notes ALL OVER the campus. The smiles were huge as students ran all over campus, leaving notes on teachers’ doors and staff members’ desks, on windows in our multi-purpose room, and even on the rain gutters!  Teachers took the opportunity to let students and colleagues know how great they are!  Parents left notes for their kids as well as their kids’ teachers. I ended the day by putting a #PositivePostIt on every staff member’s mailbox.  Several kids (and teachers) walked out of campus that day plastered in the positive post-its that had been written about them!  It was such a great day and underscored the need for us to make sure these types of events happen throughout the year!

JK: This was a phenomenal day and activity! I first heard about it from Eric Ewald, superb Principal and friend via Twitter, Voxer and #Principalsinaction. I did not have any expectation except to ensure that I was in all 23 classrooms that day! The staff were all given a pad of Post It notes and I asked they they share positive messages to any student, staff, friend, or community member. Myself, I wrote about 230 #PositivePostIt’s during the day, beginning with one on each classroom door.
I was overwhelmed by what took place during the day! Students on the blacktop and lunch room were running up to me and giving me notes, students had Post-it’s all over desks, books, clothing and HAIR! It was truly amazing! The smiles and positive vibes throughout our campus that day was truly moving and heartfelt. It was fun sending and receiving them to my #PLN peeps as well via #Voxer and @Twitter as well! This was honestly one of the best school days I have had as an adult!IMG_8540.JPG

We even send virtual ones to each other...gotta show that power of #wordsDOmatter!

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