Phifty – The Birthday Post

I have traditionally written a birthday post. I started this blog on my 44th birthday, thus the name. I have been consistently inconsistent in my writing over the last six years and, reading through my posts, the blog has gone through many iterations. There were periods when I wrote for the joy and tried to appeal to an audience and times that I wrote out of anger at the system and tried to appeal to an audience. The latest iteration is me writing as a reflection on my practice as an educator. I write to get ‘it’ out there whatever ‘it’ is but for me getting ‘it’ out there makes it real. No matter how few strangers or friends read it, I have put it out there irretrievably. That can be cathartic at times but it also forces me to own my reflection and work on my foibles. As I wrote in my last post, it’s hard sometimes.

Apparently my last post may have ruffled some feathers. Some things that I said were hard for me to get out of my mind. That’s what my blog is for: to cause me to reflect and use that reflection to make myself a better professional. If a casual reader reads my post and the content causes them to reflect, that is a bonus. Sometimes what we do is hard and hearing that we aren’t perfect is even harder. I’ve said before that I don’t believe there is any learning without reflection. Truthfully, that is not just my belief, that is a truism. You may know something but you haven’t learned it if you haven’t reflected on why it is important, how it fits into the schema of your life, how you can use it in the future, and on and on.

Honest, true reflection is painful and necessary. It makes us better. It makes our schools better and isn’t that truly what we want for our kids.

So today I’m fifty. That’s a big number! And as I reflect over the last two weeks I realize that I am better at 50 but still have many imperfections. I’m a work in progress and so are you. None of us are finished. I did fail to say in my last post that I’m guilty of some of those same things that damage our culture. But that’s why I wrote it. I reflect; I learn; I work on changing. I’m working. It’s  painful. It’s hard.

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NPC17-Reflection

The National Principals Conference in Philly came at the perfect time for me. I recently completed my certification as a superintendent and had been trying to find a central office job. Unsuccesfully. I felt like I wasn’t good enough as I was passed over for two positions and not even considered for several others. Maybe I wasn’t as good as I thought I was.

At the last minute I decided to attend NPC 17. Mainly because it was close to home and also because I felt like I needed a break from the office. I was beyond surprised by how inspirational the three days were. Over the passed few years I had focused on technology conferences – PETE and C and ISTE. Turns out what I needed was a kick in the pants from my tribe. Most everyone in every room was a principal. WE all had some semblance of what was going on in each others’ lives. Many connections were instantaneous. No one had to warm up to other people because we were all in the same boat.

In my professional life I have moved around a good bit. First between teaching jobs and then pushing up the administrative ladder. I always felt as though I had made the decision to move on because I had given all that I had. NPC17 in many ways proved my thoughts to be incorrect. Upon reflection it seems that I was leaving those positions because I was scared. Not fearful necessarily but scared to push the envelope a little bit more. There are great leaders out there doing amazing things. I wasn’t and still am not being truly amazing for my people.

When I was reflecting on my admin career while in Philly I remembered all the great ideas that I had when I started as an assistant principal. I made some pretty amazing connections with parents, students and staff. Even when I became a principal I was full of passion. I wanted to do this right and impact my community. Recently I have allowed myself to be content. To be lazy. To stop pushing the envelope.

That ends this year. People are probably going to think I went around the bend. It’s going to be tough to make a pretty big change after being the same guy for eight years but it must be done. I need to bring the passion back for myself but more importantly I owe it to my students, my teachers and my community.

Thank you to everyone who attended NPC 17. I was inspired greatly by so many that I won’t even try to list.