Tomorrow is my 50th birthday. This means I have lived half a century and, most likely, have lived longer than I will live in the future. This doesn’t scare me or make me sad, but it does make me incredibly impatient. I have decided that I no longer have time to wait, to bring people along slowly and kindly, to hope that the next people who are in charge will make the right decisions. Although I have seen many great things happen for children in my career, I have more often seen stagnation and back-pedaling and excuses and meandering and blocking. So, I need to change my approach because time is running out for me to see all the things changed that need to be different.
Here are my promises for my post-50 life:
- I will speak the truth. Even when it is not popular. Even when it hurts the feeling of others.
- Although I understand we need to honor the past work of others; I am no longer going to take time to pacify others with speeches that honor the flawed history of our work. Yes, you worked really hard and had good intentions; we all did. I am going to make a blanket statement today that I honor all the work that has been done in the past and let’s move on from there. We need to stop grieving our past practices and hard work; we cannot continue to honor past practices simply because it is hard for folks to let go.
- I am going to push myself, and others, a lot more. “What is going to happen tomorrow as a result of this work?” “I know this is going to be difficult, but we are going to do it anyway because it is what our students need to be successful.” “What specifically will each of be doing to move this forward in the next month?’
- I am going to be even more particular about how I spend my time. I will not be afraid to get up and walk out of a meeting if it isn’t going anywhere.
- My focus will be on solutions. I think I have admired our problems sufficiently in my first 50 years. I am keenly aware of the issues we have with poverty, and parents that don’t care, and teachers who aren’t well trained, and paper work that is cumbersome and meaningless, and politicians who don’t support us, and horrible instructional practices, and on and on. I don’t want to talk about our problems unless we take the time to focus and implement real solutions.
- I am going to invite more people into the process. I have sat at the table with a lot of the same folks for a lot of years and there is a critical need to purposefully solicit new folks to the work.
- I am going to spend more time with school leaders walking through classrooms. We have to be realistic about what is happening if we want things to get better; mentoring of leaders is the most critical piece of the puzzle, in my opinion, and the best way to mentor leaders is to walk side-by-side observing instruction.
- I will take more time to tell the awesome people I know that they are awesome.
- I am going to work to provide services to districts that are desperately needed; particularly services to students who have the most challenging behaviors.
- I am going to spend more time talking to students. If you really want to know what will work for kids, ask them.
- I am going to get more proficient with technology. I need to spend less time on the road and more time engaged in meaningful work and technology can make that happen.
- I will be a better advocate on social media.
- I will spend more time with people who challenge me, who make me think in a totally new way.
- I will spend more time with people who say yes and less time with people who say no.
- I will choose to be around people who are positive. I no longer have time to listen to people complain and moan when they have no interest in a solution.
- I will embrace risks and failures. Nothing will change if we tread lightly, afraid to fail. We need to take big risks to make big gains and that means there will be some big failures.
- I will find time to exercise. My ideas, my motivation, my health, my humor, my ingenuity, and my stamina depend on this.
- I will wake up every day with optimistic anticipation. I choose the way I feel and I don’t have the time or energy to have a negative perspective.
- I will have the hard conversations and I will not shy away from conflict. If we are to move forward, we have to by okay with conflict.
- I will laugh more in the future than I have in the past; be more irreverent, and probably use a little more profanity:)
(December 28, 2013)