Friday, May 26, 2017

Change and Tolerance, is it really possible?

Wow! I’ve just spent one of (if not THE) the most memorable, educational, emotional and reflective weeks of my life on a field trip with the 7th and 8th Grade students from my school, and we aren’t even finished. We have traveled from Portland, Oregon to Birmingham, Montgomery, and Selma Alabama to tie up the Civil/Human/Women/Equal Rights unit that the kiddos had learned about in a long thematic unit earlier this year.

Believe me, with the stops we made, and the people we have listened to, this will be forever imbedded in my mind, heart and memory. Places such as, and not an all inclusive list are; The Dexter Ave. King Memorial Baptist Church, Southern Poverty Law Center (where our whole group took a vow of fighting any intolerance and hatred!), Dexter Parsonage Museum, Rosa Parks Museum, Freedom Rides Museum, 16th Street Baptist Church, Kelly Ingram Park, Gaston Hotel, Edmund Pettis Bridge, Judge Johnson’s Courtroom in the Federal District Courts of Alabama and so many more.
    How can this Great country of ours, based upon “All Men Created Equal” have let this happen? And, more importantly how is it still happening to; African Americans, Muslims, Jews, Gay/Lesbian/Bi/Trans, Disabled, Children and Women...the victim list is endless now. I never imagined what I would have seen, felt, experienced and learned until I came face to face with it. Violence. Hatred. Disgust. Heroes. Courage. Shame. Risks. Death. Bigotry. Anger. 

I have completely deepened my knowledge about the many amazing heroes I have come across this week; Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks, Fred Shuttlesworth, Ralph Abernathy, Denise McNair, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, Addie Mae Collins, John Lewis, A.G. Gaston, Hosea Williams, Viola Liuzzo, too many brave and courageous heroes to name. 

    Just turn on the television, tap on the news on your device, or listen to the radio and you’ll hear or see it. It is everywhere, not just in the USA, but all over the world. My concern is with us, yes USA us. We have a President that excludes, we have active KKK groups, we have Neo Nazi groups, Anti Gay, Anti this, that and the other. What the heck people? Our friends at the Southern Poverty Law Center have identified 917 HATE GROUPS (click here) in the USA, as of today! What? Are you kidding me?

      Didn’t we listen to the great Dr. King when he said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character”?
      Well, I don’t think we did my friends. I get it, believe me I do. Parents have values that their parents and grandparents had. Kids adopt those values, follow their lead and keep the path going. But I say, we break the pattern and don’t do what’s easy. Let’s be kind. Gentle. Compassionate. Empathic. Loving. Peaceful. Embracing of differences. If we all did this, had our children do this, and kept the practice going, we might even be able to change.
But, it has to start with us. Now. Not tomorrow. Our kids deserve it. Our Heroes deserve it. 
Words matter. Actions count. Gestures are meaningful.
No more jokes of color, race, gender, ability, language. Stop it Now. Break the chain and build a new one. Think of all the work that has been done in the short past of ours.
Do it. Now. For them. For us.

These people gave their lives to a cause, to freedom, to equality, and weren’t we supposed to support them? Help them? Keep the momentum going? What happened? Why is there still so much hatred, anger, bias and lack of understanding and compassion?
Our forefathers deserve it. Martin Luther King Jr., deserves it. Heck, we all do don’t we?
Join me my friends.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

My #ONEWORD2017 Revisited...A Reflection

I believe in reflection on a very regular basis. For some people, it may be weekly, or once in awhile, but for me, it HAS to be daily, and even sometimes more frequently. I felt compelled to check in with myself and look back on my January 3, 2017 post, titled #ADVOCATE. As the end of the school year comes ever so close, I ask myself "Have I been true to myself and #ADVOCATED for all"?
I know I certainly try on a daily basis to be an #ADVOCATE for all, and as I re-read my post, I listed Students, Family-Friends, and Strangers as my targeted group to #ADVOCATE for. Am I hitting my targets?

Without a doubt, this is my win-win category. I am faithfully #kidsfirst Every. Single. Day. No matter if I am at school, home, out and about in the world, or on vacation, this is my mantra: to ensure that ALL KIDS have what they need to be successful. Now, while I can’t guarantee food, shelter, clothing, health, or love, I can certainly do whatever is possible to #ADVOCATE and help that they are safe, healthy, happy, and thriving. I remember altercations at school, where I was there for them. Times when teachers may have been unfair, or too harsh, I was in their corner. Listening to an angry, irate dad yelling in the grocery store, and kindly saying “cool down my friend, it’s all good”. If we honestly think that we are helping to raise, inspire, lead, and mentor the next generation of awesomeness, then we all need to be there for ALL KIDS, because, as @awelcome and @TechNinjaTodd preach #kidsdeserveit.

Family and Friends
This is an area I take pride in. Friends, are family, and family is gold. It doesn’t matter if you are oceans away, or have been physically “absent” from my life for a while, I will knock down fences to #ADVOCATE for family and friends. Money? Advice? A listening ear? It doesn’t matter what the need is, I will be there, or make sure I can assist and support in some way. Without family and friends, life can be hollow, empty, and an unfilled cup. It is from this group that I get my strength, love, support, laughs, energy, confidence and advice from. I find it ultimately important to give back more than I take too.

Have you read the news lately? Driven by a homeless shelter? Taken a look around you in an airport, train station, parking lot, or stadium? These people we call strangers are living with troubles, skeletons, issues, needs, and other things that we cannot even conceive to be true.
Have you heard of Rachel Joy Scott? If not, please click here and read about her. She wanted to make the world better for everyone and it was her idea to make kindness a “Chain Reaction”. Pass it on, give it to someone else and make his/her life better. Rachel challenged everyone
to find how far kindness can go. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know the person or not...Just. Be. Kind. Strangers need love too, my friends.

My reflection
So where has this reflection check up really gotten me? Well, for one thing, it helps me know where I have failed, fallen short, and not been an #ADVOCATE. Who have I not stood up for, shown a big heart, and been like Rachel Scott? Is it my staff? My colleagues? Yes, yes, and many other areas,YES too! I am not perfect, and I fail everyday. There have been teachers this year that I have not been as supportive to as I could have. Perhaps I didn't count to 3 when responding to a parent too. Did a child or student that maybe rubbed me the wrong way and I raised my voice, or didn’t listen. Was I impatient? Did I have a headache? Was I tired? Who knows, but I do believe I am human, I will mess up and yes, I fail forward every day. I look back daily. I think. I ponder, and I wonder how my day could have been more positive. How could I been a better #ADVOCATE and supported that person better? My thoughts flood me as I reflect. I lean on my #PLN and look to #Twitter to learn from my #eduheroes. What would @georgcouros have done? How would @Aaronhogan have dealt with this? I can call any of my #principalsinaction friends and vent, talk and ask...what do I do? My support crew is endless, thank goodness!

But the lesson is this. Reflect. Reflect often. Reflect in a way that you will make growth. Apologize, start over. I have learned a lot this year, from many amazing people I know personally, and others I may have only heard from on #voxer, or #twitter, or by reading their books. But this is how we do it my friends. I will continue to #ADVOCATE as best I can, but with that comes reflection, failure and moving forward to a better place.