For Your Students, Make Every Day Opening Day

ImageOpening Day. It’s like a baptism, when the sins of yesteryear are washed away. The disaster of last October 2, when the Cleveland Indians were eliminated from the playoffs by the Tampa Bay Rays in a game that was not nearly as close as the 4-0 score would indicate, is long since forgotten.

Opening Day. Hope is in the air. Anything is possible. The World Series is there for any team to take, for any team who finds some good pitching and some timely hitting and a little bit of luck. On Opening Day, even the Cubs are contenders.

Opening Day. We forget about all of those pains from the past. We forget about Jose Mesa in game 7 of the 97 Series. We forget about Steve Bartman. We forget about Bill Buckner. Opening Day is the ultimate Do Over. We all start fresh. We are all 0-0 with 162 to play.

As we get ready for the crack of the bat and the roar of the crowd, let us educators remember that for our students, EVERY day should be Opening Day.

Every day should be a chance for kids to start fresh.

Every day should be a chance for kids to turn the corner;

to take a new path;

to grow;

to change;

to continue developing into the creative, intelligent, caring, compassionate adults they all are capable of becoming.

Opening Day is about mercy and forgiveness.

Opening Day is about second chances.

Opening Day is about realizing that the role of the educator is not to condemn for past failures, but to help up, to brush off, and to set forth on the straight path.

Kids are kids. They make mistakes. They make bad choices. They cause others pain. They strike out, sometime a lot. But they are still kids, still capable of rebirth and growth, still deserving of another opportunity to come to the plate. And if we continue to coach them, they will hit it out of the park.

How awesome would it be if EVERY day were Opening Day for our students? If every day, every student, everywhere, was given the opportunity to start fresh?

Educators have the power to make that happen. Make the choice to do so. When given the choice between mercy and justice, choose mercy. Even for Jose Mesa.

Will You Ride the Train?

Dr. Clark's Chronicles

ImageA few summers ago my wife Amie and I took our boys to Washington, DC for our family vacation. Everyone should get to DC. It’s such a great city, and the sense of history and patriotism you feel there is indescribable.

Our hotel was outside the city, and we rode the Metro into town each day for our activities. That summer was one of the hottest on record—near or over 100 degrees every day we were there.

One particular day we spent walking all over the city seeing all sorts of sights. By late afternoon we were hot, tired, hungry, and ready to ride the Metro back to the hotel for a dip in the pool and some dinner.

We walked into the Metro station and bought our fare cards, then had to ride an escalator down to the loading platform. My youngest son, Matthew, was first on the escalator…

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Great Teachers Know When to Cut the Grass

Dr. Clark's Chronicles

ImageI was cutting my grass this morning, grumbling to myself about how this rainy summer has caused me to mow the lawn at least twice a week since April. And then I thought about last year, when the drought gave me about a six-week reprieve from mowing.

Some summers you mow a lot, and others you hardly mow at all. Isn’t that exactly what good teaching is all about?

In other words, good teaching is contextual. The best teachers know that no formula, no recipe, no set order of things is going to work for all kids all the time. If the grass needs cut, you cut it. If it needs watered, you water. If it needs aerated or grub controlled or any of those other things, that’s what you do.

Those of you who have followed me on Twitter for a while have seen me tweet many times a…

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Where Twitter Has Taken Me (Literally)

Dr. Clark's Chronicles

ImageMany of you get annoyed by Twitter users like me. You get tired of us talking about how Twitter builds a huge, brilliant, world-wide professional learning network (PLN) that provides inspiration, ideas and conversation about education.

You get tired of us talking about how Twitter allows our school communities to have a behind-the-scenes look at some of the goings-on of our districts.

You get tired of us talking about how Twitter provides opportunities to brag about the awesome accomplishments of our students, staff and communities. Twitter has undoubtedly taken me very far in my professional career. 

But do you know what I was thinking this morning?  Twitter has taken me places literally too.

Understand my PLN includes people who are world travelers, people who speak at conferences and school districts around the globe. George Couros, Joe Mazza, Jimmy Casas, Todd Whittaker, Dave Burgess…these and so many more Twitter users are…

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School Leadership: It’s More Than Snow Days

ImageIt’s not just snow days.

School leadership, I mean.

Though the vast majority of a school leader’s calls and emails and tweets come on days like today, days where you try to gather as much information as you possibly can and make a decision that is in the best interest of student and staff safety. Days where you are up at 4:30 a.m., texting your colleagues, calling your maintenance staff and city road crews and police departments. Days where your car is the only one in the parking lot and you answer the door for parents who—for whatever reason—didn’t get the message that we are closed. Days where the value the community places on your ability to lead the schools is based on your reading a weather forecast and making a decision that may just as well have been a coin flip.

And you are grateful for the people who email you on days like today, and tell you that they don’t envy your job and can empathize with how tough it must be to be a school leader on a day like this. And you get irritated by those who email and tell you what a fool you are.

But you want the truth? Snow days are among the easiest problems we deal with.

School leadership is much more than snow days.

School leadership is this past week, when we worked with a family whose daughter is fighting an eating disorder.

School leadership is this past week, when we worked with a family battling alcoholism.

School leadership is this past week, when we worked with a family who can’t afford to pay their school fees because the father was laid off from his job.

School leadership is this past month, when we worked with a family who mother went to prison and the children had no place to stay.

School leadership is when staff members lose parents and spouses and children to disease and accident and suicide.

School leadership is when daily decisions made for the betterment of the community are attacked by fringe residents with personal agendas.

School leadership is encouraging staff to work with the kids who nobody wants to work with, the disadvantaged and disruptive and challenging, because school leaders know the only future for these kids are the skills we give them in the 13 years they are with us.

School leadership is service to others. Period.

And making decisions about snow days? Comparatively, that’s easy.