Sunday, August 29, 2010

What is your Dream?

What is your Dream? I would like you to take a few minutes (as little or as much time you need) to identify your dream before you continue reading. Once you have decided on your dream, I want you to write you name and you dream on a piece of paper (ex. Abdul-Rahmaan's Dream). Pause here and complete the task..

O.K., you have identified your Dream. Great! What I really want to know though, are you actively chasing your Dream? Or, is it some far off fantasy that you don't ever plan to accomplish unless you hit the lottery? I believe if you have a Dream that you are not chasing, you don't have a dream.

Dreams require attention, time, dedication, planning, communication and a constant pursuit as if your life depends on it. Everyday, time should be dedicated to your Dream. I know, I know, you have work, family, friends, you are taking that class so you can get a promotion at work, soccer practice for the kids, quality time with your spouse...I get it.

However, there are 168 hours in a week. Even if you only dedicated one hour a day to your Dreams, that would still leave you 161 hours to do the stuff you do in place of chasing your Dreams. So, how much time are you going to dedicate to your Dream? Write that down on your piece of paper.

Keep that paper out and answer the following: If you were going to begin chasing your Dream, what are some Loose Steps that you think you would take to get there?

When an individual identifies loose steps, it give them a road map to where they are going. The great thing about loose steps, it doesn't necessarily tell you exactly how to get there and if you need to change them, no worries. It's kind of like when your GPS gets you lost and you know you are close but there is need for some recalibration. Changing the path to your Dream is O.K..

Lastly, who is going to help you along the way? Write this down too. Who are the people that will provide you with support and guidance as you pursue your dream? What is really cool is when you meet all the people you don't even know now because you are chasing your Dream.

Now you have the map to your Dream on that piece of paper. Sign it. Now you have a contract with yourself to chase it. There is no excuse not to chase it. Be a Dream Chaser.

If you need some support along the way, Join our group on Facebook Dream Chasers-Never Stop Dreaming and follow us on Twitter @NVRSTOPDRMING.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Drive: A Lost Quality

Have you ever experienced a work week that made you feel like you had to be Houdini to get out of the never ending obstacles? Have you ever been so frustrated with work that you wanted to simply walk away from the job and everything that reminded you of it? Well, I recently had one of those difficult weeks. Let me share with you some of the events that I faced during that dreadful week and point out a few key lessons I learned about drive.

The Situation

At the end of last school year, my district decided to close down a two schools to consolidate resources, to relocate the 5th grade from 6 campuses to a new mega 5th grade campus, and to change an elementary campus to a middle school & a middle school to an elementary campus. This is typical school district behavior, especially during a down economy. I had the responsibility to coordinate the inventorying, packing, and shipping of all of the math material for these schools. While preparing for this task, several district administrators made the decision to send all material to one warehouse location for future redistribution to the consolidated campuses. No harm no foul, right?

The Results

Imagine an old, cramped, metal framed warehouse the size of a full length basketball court filled with moving boxes and crates from one corner to the next. It looked like someone was trying to build a cardboard model of the Rocky Mountains. If all I had to deal with was the sheer volume of boxes it would have tough, but I also had to deal with the fact that everything was mixed up. There was no way of telling what came from what or what subject was where. Another way to describe the scene was like a hurricane disaster zone. You could only image what thoughts were going through my head at that time. After pouting, panting, and pacing, I realize nothing changed. So I literal had to work hard to have the right attitude.

The Lesson Learned

There were several things about this experience that stood out, but I narrowed it down to the following points.

· Drive is something we can take for granted in the moment. I had to ask for it. After all, we live in an instant gratification world, and it is easy to lose sight of the concept.

· Implementing Drive impacts your energy level. It is like a locomotive starting from rest; once it gains momentum it is hard to stop it.

· Drive changes your reality. If you are anything like me, your reality is impacted by how you perceive you are able to handle it. So, if you can handle a tough situation with ease, your perception of that situation changes.

The next time you find yourself in a tough situation at work, and you better believe it is coming, don’t waste time like me dealing with frustration. Immediately focus on drive and watch your energy build. Most importantly notice how your view of reality changes to when you employ drive.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Man Style: Tips for Buying Your Next Suit

Suits come in a variety of styles, fabrics, fits, and patterns. When choosing a suit, it is important to go with a style that looks good on your body type, a fabric that breathes, moves, and matches your lifestyle, a fit that flatters your body, and patterns that don't age the suit. With proper care and maintenance, a really good suit can last for years.

Invest in the proper style...
Maybe I shouldn't have written "proper style," but a man should be aware of the two basic styles - the single-breasted suit and the double-breasted suit. The single-breasted suit, which you can find with 4 buttons, 3 buttons, or 2 buttons, is the more flexible of the two styles. It can be dressed up to have a more formal look or dressed down to look more casual. The double-breasted suit, on the other hand, is a formal look. However, it can be dressed down with a mock turtle neck.

The way to choose your style depends on your personality as well as your body type. If you are a larger man or have a gut, a 2 button suit is a flattering choice. Not that you can't wear a 3 button suit, but what you are looking for is coverage (over the stomach), room (ability to reach without bulging in the back), and drape (how the suit falls on the stomach and overall fit). If you are a medium-sized guy or smaller, the 4 or 3 or 2 button suit will work. Each option works well with your size. The one you choose is a matter of personal style. As for the double-breasted suit, I say don't bother. It really isn't a style that every man can pull off well.

Your pant selection again is a matter of your personal style and your body type. If you are a bigger dude or a bigger dude, go with the pleated pant. They provide the extra room you need in the front and are a lot more comfortable. If you are average, athletic, or a little on the thin side, the plain or flat-front pant works very well with your body type. Of course, there is nothing stopping you from wearing a pleated pant if that is your preference. I personally think the pleated pant is more classic.

Lastly, you can go with a cuff or without one. Go without one if you are 5.9" or shorter. It elongates the leg. If you are taller, your choice again is a matter of your personal style. That said, an average or shorter man can still look great in a cuff.

Invest in 100% wool suits with a lining to the knee...
Don't let the word wool scare you. It can be worn in all climates. The fabric breathes well, looks amazing, and feels good on the skin. Most importantly, wool doesn't get that shine look after a few dry cleanings. It is the only fabric I recommend for a traditional suit.

Avoid busy patterns and colors...
Dramatic patterns and bold colors are an easy way to date your suit. They will also limit the number of times you can wear the suit. So go with solids, thin stripes or subtle window panes. Also, stick to black, grey, and navy blue - which are timeless and never go out of style.

Invest in a tailor...
A majority of men simply can't afford to get a custom made suit. But, all men can get a suit tailored to fit them properly. Some stores like my favorite, Men's Wearhouse, have a tailor on-site. The reason you want to get the suit tailored is because most of the times a suit off the rack wears you. It can be too long in the arms, too big in the shoulders, or too wide in the body. And, more than likely, the pants are going to be too big in the waist, too long in the length, and can be too baggy in the crotch area. A good tailor will fix all of it - making the suit look like it was made for you.

Care and maintenance...
Unless your suits have stains, don't dry clean them more that 4 to 5 times a year. Repeatedly dry cleaning a suit eats away at the fabric. In addition, don't just let them lay on the back of a chair or pile up somewhere. When you take off your suit, hang it up - either using a pant hanger or clips with a regular cedar hanger. If you don't have any cedar hangers, use a wooden hanger and put cedar blocks in the corner of your closet. Why cedar? Cedar keeps the moths out.

If there is anything you would like to add, please leave a comment.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Become Brand You: Teacher's Edition

Be Real
Don't try to be someone or something you are not. Embrace and celebrate who you are and what you bring to the school, to the students, and to the community at-large.

Be Prepared
Know your subject area and what methodologies and technology tools and platforms are your wheelhouse. If lecturing isn't your thing, don't do it. Build your practice around what brings out your best. Also, keep your portfolio up to date and take full advantage of the Web 2.0 and Social Media tools that are available.

Be Viral
From publishing a blog to video taping a mini lesson for Youtube, developing a consistent and recognizable web presence demonstrates to other educators and future employers your areas of expertise. In addition, it is an excellent way to build a dynamic PLN.

Be Interesting
Don't be afraid to be who you are. Be wacky. Be strong. Be exuberant. Be challenging. Be empowering. Bring everything you are to the forefront. Don't try to package yourself like a product. We all are puzzles in which different pieces of our personalities make up who we are. Let who you show the world be a true reflection of everything you are.

Be a Resource
Share your expertise with fellow teachers, parents, administrators, and the community. Volunteer at youth programs. Tutor at communal or religious institutions. Publish a news letter. Utilize the web. Take every opportunity to share what you know and learn with others.

Be Committed to Personal and Professional Growth and Development
Take a class. Go to a conference. Earn a degree. Get in shape. Join a Ning or a group in an area of interest to you. Seek out opportunities to make your best self even better.

Be Fresh
Go on vacation or trying something fun and new. Why not finally learn how to salsa dance? Go ahead and take that cooking class you always wanted to take. Write that book you've been thinking about. Create a list of the things that invigorate your spirit and make it happen. The idea is to stay renewed and in the presence of mind to be who were meant to be.

Be Career-minded
Are you where you want to be in your career? Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Think about where you want to go and start making the necessary plans to get there. It may mean going back to school, changing grade levels, changing positions, or moving to another school. The answer is inside of you. If you need some help, there are excellent career coaches out there, and I suggest that you conduct a few informational interviews with people who are doing what you are interested in doing.

Be Inspiring
Begin each day like it is the first day of school. Don't harbor feelings of ill will towards your students, your administration or your students parents. As Gandhi said "Be the change you want to see in the world." So challenge your students. Encourage your students. Empower your students. Be their tour guide to the possibilities. You never know whose life you're gonna impact. So make every word, every smile, every breath count.

Be Grateful
Be thankful for your life, for your gifts, and that you are a part of the noblest professions in the world. No one ever becomes anything without the assistance of a teacher. Remember that when you're feeling down and unappreciated. Know deep down that your job isn't a job but a calling and a mission to inspire your students to live their best lives. And when people ask you what you do, with pride and with gratitude, you tell them that you are a teacher!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

More Thoughts on Education Reform

In Will's previous post, Random Twitter Inspired Rant, he talks about education reform:
Ed reform isn't going to happen from abandoning grades or eliminating standardized testing. It isn't going to happen through a massive exodus to charters or blaming teachers and teacher's unions for every problem. Neither is blowing up the system or running away from accountability. And what will definitely not reform, rather transform, public education is the parade of non-educators selling quick, unproven fixes.
What I love about Will, @peoplegogy, is that we disagree, but we respect each other enough to continue the conversation. Many quit the conversation after a disagreement but I believe debates help us refine our perspectives and beliefs on important issues. We don't all need to agree on every issue. We just have to continue to be passionate about education transformation and believe that transformation is needed. I disagree with some items Will mentions above but do believe there are no quick fixes.

This is where it gets personal...

I've worked in several at risk schools and come from one myself. I grew up in a neighborhood where we couldn't open the windows at night because there were shootings. We were taught not to open the doors to strangers because addicts, alcoholics, and the homeless knocked on the doors daily. We lived across from the projects and didn't live in the projects because we lived nearly rent free in the house my grandfather built. The majority of my friends were pregnant by middle school and in high school many had 2 to 3 children. My high school consisted of over 2000 students. Many of my friends were in gangs. Most still drop out of school and never attend college. This has occurred for generations since before the 1970s. I know this because of research I did for my Masters.

Why are we the exception?

I believe Will can tell you his stories as well. We both made it through the system and have our Master's degrees. Will is getting his PhD and I greatly respect him and what he has accomplished with low-income students. However, we are the exception and not the norm. I'm not sure how Will was able to be the exception. I can tell you it was my father who drove me. My father didn't accept less than A's and often less than 100s. He was very tough on me and I'm so appreciative of this because I wouldn't have survived nor would have my sisters. All 5 of us have degrees and have broken the poverty cycle that has existed in our Mexican American family for generations. I also had many mentors in my life including some that knew what it was to grow up as a Mexican American. I needed to see people with similar experiences achieve greatness. Being mentored by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce inspired me to reach for greatness and not settle for less.

We need mentors...

Working with at risk students, low-income students, homeless children, and students at alternative schools I can tell you that they are not as lucky to have parents who push them like my father pushed me. They don't have mentors who tell them, "Hey, I know what it's like. You can achieve the impossible because I did." They don't have mentors who push them and say that's not good enough try harder. The teachers are overburdened at these schools. I've heard many call the kids, "Stupid!" or tell them they won't amount to anything.

I used to do creative writing programs and literacy programs at these various schools so I was able to observe a lot. The students wrote about their experiences and it was overwhelming to read. Their parents were alcoholics, drug addicts, in jail, or worked too many jobs to be at home. Many were from single parents and often had to take care of their siblings. Others had to take of care of their parents.

There are too many schools where this is the situation with many students. Students don't have parents like mine. There are too many schools where they lack mentors for these students. There are too many schools where they lack passionate educators who can't see pass the student as a behavioral problem. And yes, the students can be challenging to work with. It takes a lot of patience when they do things like throw desks in the classroom or steal your stuff. It isn't easy.

Why I am against standardized tests...

Yet, teachers work at these schools and they have to deal with beyond these issues ridiculous bureaucracy. They have to struggle with trying to get their students to pass standardized tests when many of their students don't even want to come to school. When they focus on standardized tests they can't focus on the real issues which are the students and motivating them and pushing them and finding their passions.

This is why I believe we need extreme transformation when it comes to standardized tests. We need our educators to focus on the students and not on test outcomes. Test outcomes will never matter to students who have to deal with the pressures of joining a gang, promiscuity, parents who are alcoholics, or having to be adults when they are 12 years-old or younger.

I'd like to thank Will for allowing me to post this response on his blog! I welcome you to our conversation and to post your views and experiences.

Shelly Sanchez Terrell is the author of the Teacher Reboot Camp blog and tweets @shellterrell.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Nothing can be Taboo!

I am really grateful to be able to post on this blog and talk to a wide variety of individuals here in the U.S. and across the globe. After a conversation on Twitter with Will, the wonderful @peoplegogy, I thought it was time for me to speak up about some of the thoughts that arise when we are dancing around topics we are afraid to broach.

First of all, I must say that as a white woman teaching in California, I understand that I often look different than my students. In California we have a beautifully diverse group of students with many different backgrounds, languages, cultural influences and parental influences. I cannot use that line that many teachers use: "I am color blind. I don't see color." This is simply not true! We all see color, we see the similarities and differences of both the kids and adults we work with every day. I see them, and I embrace them, ask questions, want to learn more, become curious about the unique constellations of qualities that make them who they are.  Through many years in working with kids and families, I had to come to terms with the fact that I grew up in a somewhat ignorant, racist home and that I would have to always stay on alert for erroneous thoughts that might creep into my head. I am human. I am fascinated by people and strive to know them for who they are and not who I think they are!

It's time for us to stop generalizing about what kids need. YES! I agree with Will that we do need more educators that kids can look at and identify with! We need more teachers of color, as well as more male teachers.  Kids size us up, and make assumptions about us, based on our skin color and what they believe about us based on that. I have had kids stop dead in their tracks when looking at the wedding picture on my keychain. My husband, whose family came to England from Jamaica in the 1960's throws people for a loop when he speaks with his beautiful British accent. I have had kids utter racist remarks in Spanish, which sparked a discussion ( yes, I held my cool!) in which I asked him to think about what he had said. He came to me the next day with a huge apology; I did not want an apology, but for him to understand the depth of his comments. He was a 5th grader I had come to know through an after school homework club. He was not my everyday student but I was compelled to use this experience as a teachable moment for him and his group of buddies who had witnessed the incident.

My point here, and I do have one, is that it's time for ALL of us to stand up, join hands and fight for all kids. We cannot assume we know what they need but must rely on our friends who may know more than us! I have, at times, been afraid to talk about issues of race, color, culture and equity because I feel almost like I need to apologize for being white. I am done with that! I cannot make up for the injustice that still happens every day. I can, however, confront the small-minded folks of any ethnic background who want to put kids in boxes and limit their futures. We can help by finding our common ground, by engaging in dialogue not just with people who look like us and talk like us, but by being brave enough to cross that river of taboos. If we are going to help all kids, we must stand united and fight for them.

I will end with a couple questions.  How do you handle barriers that arise in conversations people are afraid to have? How do you embrace and learn from people of all backgrounds and cultures?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Random Twitter Inspired Rant

Ed reform isn't going to happen from abandoning grades or eliminating standardized testing. It isn't going to happen through a massive exodus to charters or blaming teachers and teacher's unions for every problem. Neither is blowing up the system or running away from accountability. And what will definitely not reform, rather transform, public education is the parade of non-educators selling quick, unproven fixes.

If we are serious about providing a quality education to every student, we first have to define what that quality education consists of. We have to define the mission and vision of public education. Just saying we want students to know technology or become authentic persons or score a certain of proficiency on a standardized test isn't gonna cut it. It is too broad and doesn't layout a plan for the purpose of K-12 education.

We also need pragmatic leaders, workers, more doers. There are far too many crunchy granola folks or business model, politically motivated outsiders in the game. In fact, if you haven't worked with young people, either in an after-school program, a nonprofit organization, the criminal justice system, or in K-12 education, you need to sit down and shut up. You are causing more rancor than solutions. And if you are an organization who believes that quality teachers is at the heart of miraculously improving public education, like Teach for America, then you need to be in another line or work, because of NO teacher can overcome poverty, abuse, apathy, and indifference without the resources and support from the government, the state, the district, the school, and the community. This ain't an either or thing. This is an all-hands on deck thing.

Further, we need more males and teachers of color in the classroom. Honestly, in urban areas, there are too many non-people of color in the classroom. I know that is not politically correct to say, but those students need to see faces they recognize and faces that can give them the truth in a way that is both palatable and meaningful. Not only have I seen it, I have lived it. Teachers of color are able to be mentors in ways non-teachers of color can't. For, when students see them, they see someone whose had their experiences and know the world they live in. And that makes a difference when trying to get a kid in the projects to believe in the possibilities.

I will close this rant by saying enough is enough. Let's stop fighting and talking over each other and get to the business of transforming public education. If we can't agree on how, can we at least agree to stop digging the hole any deeper? There are generations of individuals and families at stake.