Don’t Resist the Day

So a very good friend and former colleague of ours is fighting a late stage, aggressive form of cancer……..and I’ve been feeling very sad. Speaking to him on the phone over the last couple of weeks has been heart-wrenching at times as you can imagine, as we talk about love and regret and hope and how random life can be. But this morning, when we chatted at length about living life to the fullest and not resisting the day, my sadness began to turn to inspiration. He has inspired me through his unwavering positive attitude, his courage, and his urgent message about perspective. He passionately implored me to live my life to the fullest because one day, way before you think it’s time, you might wake up and have a hard time swallowing……and the things that you think are important, and worth your time and energy, become trivial beyond belief. He finished our conversation by saying that the time between the first day of the rest of your life, and your last day, is shorter than you think…..and I’m taking that to heart.

With all that said, what can we take away from this message as educators, as our beautiful students get set to begin another school year? For me, it’ a wake up call and a call to action……a purposeful shift in mindset and a renewed commitment to the purpose that we all have as a collective faculty, and the responsibility that we have to be the best versions of ourselves for our kids. I would suggest that regardless of how long you’ve been teaching……be it two years or twenty two……that you still haven’t arrived at a place where you have no more room to grow. We are in the incredible and enviable position of being able to inspire and affect dozens of young people’s lives in profound and immeasurable ways every single day…..think about that! I wonder if we truly understand how crucial it is for us to come to school every morning with the clear intention of changing a student’s life for the better, simply by being who we are as mentors….and as role models.

As we begin the year, I want you to ask yourselves how you’re going to spend each day……how will you approach each lesson……each interaction with your kids…….how will you cultivate your relationships with each other, and will you live each day of the year with a sense of purpose and urgency. This is the only sixth grade year for our students……the only eight grade year……the only year as a senior……are you ready to make this the best school year of their lives? Are you ready to be the best version of yourself not only for them but for you…..because one day, sooner than you think, you might wake up and have a hard time swallowing, and the opportunity to live your life and vocation to the fullest will be gone……

I want to thank you all for an amazing start to the year, and I want to wish you all a wonderful and inspired 2013-14. We’ve arrived together at an enviable place this year, as our hard work and our educational purpose has brought our fairy tale to life for our kids……don’t resist the day everyone, and make this year a strung together collection of inspired individual days……the students start on Wednesday, and I just know that this year will be one that they remember! Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our student and good to each other.

Quote of the Week……..
Life is not lost by dying; life is lost minute by minute, day by dragging day, in all the thousand small uncaring ways.  – Stephen Vincent Benét

Attachment –
Oh, Gather Me the Rose (William Ernest Henley) Oh, Gather Me the Rose

Upworthy Video (live life to the fullest)…….

TED Talk – Cloudy with a Chance of Joy

Moving the Goalposts


That’s just about how it feels sometimes, especially at the beginning of the school year. Just when you think you have it all figured out (unless you are a new teacher or administrator), someone moves the goal posts. It could be your board, your administration, your department head. Even you! Speaking of things moving, anyone besides me notice that the ‘back to school sales’ have now crept into late July!? But I digress.

In the education world this is a phenomenon (moving goal posts, not shopping dates) that will only get stronger as our schools race to meet the demands of changing markets. We are expected to get more tech savvy, more individualized in our approach, less institutionalized and more dynamic to meet the needs of, well, let’s be honest, EVERYONE.

But what about its impact on the people chasing those goal posts? How can we work, nay, succeed in such an environment? In fact, what are those indicators of success anyway? Students getting into good colleges? A pat on the back from the Principal? Good IB or SAT scores? A bonus check from the board? I am still trying to figure this out.

What I do know is that great learning communities aren’t worried about the moving goalposts. They know they will never catch them and doing so will burn their people out. What they are focused on is what they do really well, what students need to be centered, well rounded people who will make the world a better place. Everything else is just, well, moving.

Check out this link for more on this topic. And hang in there. You’ve had a great summer and you’re doing important work.

First Impressions

So far, this opportunity of living and working overseas is nothing short of dreamlike. As I navigate my new environment and my first days here, I am struck with the following impressions:
· Living Conditions – The accommodations provided for staff here are amazing. My new
apartment is a big step-up from my college housing of the past four years! The number one
reason why the move overseas and settling-in has been so smooth is because the school has completely taken care of my housing arrangements. From furnishings, to décor, to appliances and electronics, the only thing I had to do was put food in my fridge!
· Help – The main difference between living here and back home is the help. Having household help in Manila is very customary. A colleague referred me to his ‘helper’ who I interviewed yesterday, and after a successful chat, I hired her on the spot! Let’s face it; we all know teachers never have enough hours in the day so having a fantastic home which is already taken care of is a tremendous benefit!
· Interesting People — I am surrounded by like-minded people who are engaging, warm, friendly, and here because they are passionate about teaching and they’re willing to go anywhere this profession takes them.
· Beautiful Campus — The facilities at ISM are first-rate and beyond compare of any of the public schools I have ever attended or seen in the U.S. The other benefit of working in this environment is that all of these amazing resources are not just for students; teachers also have access to the facilities. I can now look forward to introducing some new and fun hobbies into my routine, such as rock-wall climbing, tennis and swimming!
· Orientation – The first week of the new faculty orientation is both professional and personal and designed to make everyone feel at home in their new working environment. Transportation, meals, multi-faceted presentations including tips and insight into Filipino culture and understanding the school’s values and culture are all intended to help new staff settle in and become part of the community.
· Cared for – That’s how I feel because everything has been thought of and provided for the
incoming staff. Not only have the transition information and formal presentations been
incredibly helpful, but the personal interaction with school staff has been equally helpful.
Returning teachers are friendly and go out of their way to introduce themselves in the hallways or make time in their schedule to meet you and just answer any questions that you might have.
· Great opportunity – I realize that the opportunity for professional development at this school is outstanding and I plan to take full advantage of the various resources they offer. Everything from guest speakers, workshops, certification programs and conferences are all available to the staff here. These tools are designed to enhance the teaching/professional skills of all ISM faculty and staff which ultimately enhance each member’s ability to contribute positively to the school community.

Teaching in the Age of the Superstar Teacher

While the United States was learning about Major League Baseball player suspensions , I was in Hong Kong reading of other high paid superstars.

But before I continue, please let me explain from whence I came.

In February, 1990, freshly graduated from teacher’s college, I drove my diesel-powered Volkswagen Rabbit to a job fair in Copley Plaza. I distinctively recall the smell of my new leather resume holder, the texture of my Rick Springfield tie and the overall feeling of awkwardness over the entire affair. I more than likely was wearing Polo cologne. I was young, dumb and full of hope that I would get a job as close as possible to my hometown. I entered the job fair with zero intentions of leaving Massachusetts.

This was during the dark ages before the Internet.  Due to the glut of Boston area universities, Massachusetts was able to pay extremely low wages to aspiring teachers. The highest yearly salary I could find at the time was US$18,000.  One friend signed a contract to teach at a private school for $US 12,000.  Within twenty minutes, I realized that if I were to move out of my childhood bedroom, I would need to find work outside of the Commonwealth.

Fortunately, I was able to secure job offers in California, Georgia, Hawaii and Montgomery County, Maryland. I decided on Maryland for the pay was $27,000 and still, relatively close to home.

Leaving the Boston area was a tremendous sacrifice. I missed out seeing my nephews and nieces grow up. Missed watching my parents enter their golden years . Leaving home was out of necessity and I struggled mightily to get by on a teacher’s salary. This habit of constantly searching for higher paying teacher salaries has led me to Bethesda, Maryland, Singapore, Japan and now Hong Kong. I have had many supplemental side jobs. At various times throughout my career, I was a security guard, a bouncer, a docent and a chess tutor. I tell anyone that will listen that I moved overseas so that I can live the American Dream.

Which brings me back to the Major League ball players, specifically Alex Rodriquez. No one forced the Texas Rangers owner to offer Rodriguez a contract of over $US 100 million dollars. He was worthy of his contract solely because the owner could justify paying him that much money.  I do not begrudge any man for making as much money as possible as long as he is not hurting anybody. ARod had found a market for his remarkable talents that was highly entertaining for the American masses. His contract was and is out beyond my imagination, however.

That said, perhaps, the days when teachers receive astronomical sums are upon us. I read from the WSJ that there is a man in Korea that earns 4 million dollars a year as a tutor. Who am I to begrudge this salary? Does he deserve it? Does anyone deserve that much money for anything? That is not my concern. He earns the money because he has found a market that will offer to pay him. That is the free market at work.

Due to digital technology,  we are at a time when outlier teachers command million dollar salaries.  Perhaps we are at a time where great teachers can command much, much more money and afford to live closer to home. I imagine I will spend the rest of my days on doing what I can to help make that so.

Until then, do not be surprised if I am writing from South Korea next.

Arriving in a New City

Upon arriving, there was no time to waste. My bags were fetched, and in moments we were loaded into a car that would take me to my new apartment. I looked out the window with wide eyes as I speculated on the wonders that this new city held — from street corners, to street walkers, to bustling kiosks and jeepneys making their way through crowded streets, I took it all in. Soon I would get to know this city more intimately, but now was not the time for window gazing – there were more important items of business that needed to be addressed – and yes in the car ride! I was first handed an envelope, filled with a settling-in allowance to get me through the initial weeks before my first paycheck. I was also given a broadband USB stick for my computer, so that I could have internet access as soon as I walked into my apartment. Several other necessities were taken care of right there in the car ride – I was handed the keys to my new apartment (more on that later), tourist pamphlets and maps of the city, schedules for the upcoming weeks of staff orientation leading up to the first day of school, and answers to the multitude of questions that were
uncontrollably popping into my head.
The most common question, a remnant from my childhood, “Are we there yet?” was running through my excited mind. I was so anxious to see where my new home was, and what it would be like! Before no time, I was pulling into a luxury apartment complex — my new home! Walking through a palm tree lined entrance way and taking the elevator up to my floor, I entered a beautiful 3BR unit where I was greeted by my two roommates, also newly hired interns, who were waiting for me with open arms and a warm welcome.
Excited for the year that the three of us would be sharing together and the anticipation of what the upcoming orientation was going to be like, I couldn’t help but marvel at the fact that it was only two days ago that I was on the other side of the world, and yet here I was staring at two perfect strangers in a foreign land and already feeling so much at home.