Monday, July 24, 2017

Life Lesson: Failing and Learning


"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

Theodore Roosevelt

Has this ever happened to you?  So, you are driving in your car and have your GPS set for the destination and you miss a turn.  The GPS says, "recalculating", but you decide, "forget it, I missed the turn I can't get there.  I am going home".   You return to your home safe in the knowledge that you never would have gotten there anyway. Or, you begin to think, this GPS is broken, it doesn't work. You begin to rationalize that you really didn't want to go there.  It wouldn't have been fun or informative, or lifesaving.  Nope home is safe.

No....this isn't how it happens?   the GPS says, "recalculating", and then gives you an alternate route to get back on track?  You make it to your destination? Mission accomplished?  You have fun?  You learn something new?  You receive just what the doctor ordered?

 But wait a minute...... YOU FAILED at following directions?  Therefore, YOU FAILED, right?   Wrong!  You haven't failed, you have just learned how not to do something. You persevered, you didn't give up, you learned!  You've succeeded in achieving your goal (and you probably know what landmarks to look for now when you drive to this place again)!  CONGRATULATIONS!!  You haven't failed, you have grown!  Life will not judge you on how many times you have succeeded vs. the number of times you have failed. Ask Thomas Edison, who invented the incandescent light bulb, on his 1,000th try!   As a matter of fact, you may be the only person who knows how many time you failed, tried again, failed, tried again and finally succeeded.   You will, however, be judged by your growth. Everyone has successes and failures in their personal and professional life.  I have found that as long as you learn from your mistakes and grow, mistakes will be forgotten.

 Recently while reading an on-line article in the Harvard Business Journal,  entitled, "Why You Need to Fail", by Peter Bergman, the author relays a story about working out in the gym.  At the end of the workout his trainer calls him over and mimics his lackadaisical lifting style and chastises him for the lack of effort.  His technique is perfect, his reps are right, the amount of weight was wrong!  What the trainer said to him was, "A muscle only grows if you work it until it fails".  Thus, failure is an opportunity for growth. It's anatomically proven! Therefore, we must change our mindset to include failure as a logical part of growth and ultimately success.  Carol Dweck calls this a growth mindset.

Consider the following chart:
Image result for carol dweck growth mindset

According to Dweck, we must cultivate a Growth Mindset over a Fixed Mindset. There isn't anything you can't learn. You may not learn it the first time or the second time, but you will learn it.  In today's day and age, you merely need to turn on a computer and you can learn to do anything.  There is a lot of merit to that old saying our parents tell us, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again".  I, myself, learned to change the damper door assembly in my refrigerator by watching a YouTube video.  I changed out an air conditioner motor by reading a blog.   It wasn't easy, took me way too long, and I made mistakes along the way.....but I did it!

So, as parents, we can help our children by helping them understand that failure is a part of life and it is only bad if we do not learn from it and grow!!  In my years as a high school principal, I have had countless conversations with  students, teachers and parents on who's fault it was that the student failed a test.  My reply is the same, "quit trying to fix the blame, fix the problem".

A teacher may say, "He doesn't put the time and effort into studying".  But the bigger issue may be that the student doesn't know how to study.  We may take it for granted that everyone knows how to study.  The reality is there are content specific study strategies.  We want to be mindful.  If kids are to independently demonstrate their knowledge and ability in a particular area, they must know how to independently study!!

A parent may say, "That teacher doesn't teach the material".  I am confident that the what is being taught is right.  The state is pretty prescriptive when it comes to what needs to be taught.  It may be how it is being taught for that particular child that is wrong.  Conversations that focus on how the child learns best and how both the home and school can support this is very important.  Sometimes, it is the gift of time that is necessary.  Some students need more time, repetition, or manipulation of skill or content.  With dialogue time can be carved out for this.  Failure can become growth

I have also heard, "She is bad at math, I am bad at math.  It runs in the family".  Bad connotes failure and as I stated above, it also means and opportunity for growth. I tell the following story to the kids when the opportunity presents itself.  When I was in 9th grade, I was told that the only way I would pass math was to come in for help 7 days a week.  Now, even at 14 years old, I knew that was impossible.  I ended up dropping math that year.  I took it the following year with another math teacher, John Reefe.  Mr. Reefe saw that I could do it and instilled in me that attitude.  I went on to pass the class, pass the regents with a very high score and go on to the next level of math.  I did it!   We must instill a "you can do anything you put your mind to" attitude in our kids.  If we believe in them (educators and parents), then they will believe in themselves.

A student may say, "That teacher doesn't like me.  That's why I am doing bad in the class".  I ask, "Do you do your homework?  Do you try your hardest? Do you have a "can do attitude?"  Many times children think that the teachers like the kids who get it right and don't like the ones that get it wrong.  That is because failing has been ingrained in these kids as a bad thing.  Remember failing is just figuring out a way not to do something and is a natural part of growth!  I tell the kids, "give your teacher something to like.  Show them that you will never quit".  I then guarantee that their perception of the teacher will change, not because the teacher has changed, but because his/her attitude has changed.

It is time to recognize failure as a natural part of life.  When it is coupled with persistence, perseverance, and resilience, it becomes a personal and professional positive.  

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Importance Reading


Image result for i am a readerI am a "reader". I am proud to say that!!  I was not always this way, but I am now!  I loved reading when I was young.  The Hardy Boys and Encyclopedia Brown were my favorites.  Through high school, then undergraduate work, to graduate work, it seemed to me that reading was something that I had to do. It seemed like work and  like most young people, I procrastinated and became the best "skimmer" in the world. I was intimidated by books over 300 pages! Boy do I regret that now!  All of the great literature that I missed out on.  All of the things  I could have known earlier...if only.  





What changed me?  Being married to an English teacher who reads (and writes) for a living.  I had the best role model in the world; my wife!  I started by reading (or rather re-reading) much of the great literature I missed in high school.  They were the books that she was reading with her students.  Then, I began to read things that interested me.  I am a history teacher by training, so I began to read a lot of non-fiction.  Leaders like Lincoln, the Roosevelts, Eisnehower, etc.  When I became a principal, I realized that there was much to learn in my own job from these same great leaders.  I was hooked.  Reading now, is like muscle memory.  I have to read before I go to bed.  I look forward to it and will, on occasion, go to be early just to read a little more.

So, what is the morale to the story?  Readers are not born, they are made...rather,  inspired.  I have heard parents say (me included), that their children aren't readers.  They don't like to read.  Children are readers and can be readers, they just need to be inspired to read.  There needs to be a connection between their life and what they read.  The kids must find utility before they can find joy.  Here are some things that may help your child become a reader.

1. Model what reading looks like. Turn off the t.v., turn on a reading light and read.  There is a poem called, When You Thought I Wasn't Looking by Mary Rita Schilke Korazan that talks about a child watching the actions of his/her parents and learning from those actions.  I believe reading is one of those actions that our children should see us doing and will learn from us through emulation.

2.  Listen to books on CD or on your smartphone  in the car.  This I learned through countless road trips for hockey during the winter.  My son and I would listen to a story and talk about it.  It hit me one day that he really enjoyed the story when he said, "what have I missed?" as he plopped down in the front seat of the car.

3.  Find a blogger.  There are so many bloggers out there that write about things that your kids are interested in.  Many of them also have podcasts that go along with their blog.  Many of the blogs I read are professional, educational, leadership inspired blogs.  There are so many topics, it's unbelievable.

4.  Let your child create their own blog.  Let them take something that they are passionate about and research and write about it.  

5.  Let your child get the Kindle App for their smartphone.  There are many free classics on the Kindle as well as low cost books.  The kids are attached to their phones, so why not have them read on their phone?

Image result for if it's on the internet, it must be true
The world of knowledge is at the fingertips of our children.  They can learn anything, fix anything, create anything that they can imagine.  All of this information must enter the brain and be processed. We must teach kids to be critical consumers of information.  They live in an information age and must have the skills and knowledge to sift through millions of hits on a Google search to find not only what they are looking for, but be able to analyze the validity and credibility of the information.  





Thursday, July 13, 2017



Happy Summer Everyone!!

Well, we have made the move from the senior high school down to DMS. For the duration of the capital project, you will hear me refer to the senior high school as Marcellus Senior High School @ Driver.  I feel it is very important to keep the history and integrity of Mr. Driver at the forefront.  

This move has been huge!  What a tremendous undertaking!  We are currently working on room assignments and making sure that the right materials and supplies get into the right rooms.  It is certainly a heavy lift for our maintenance and custodial workers.  They, not only have to perform their summer maintenance and cleaning routines, they also have to figure out this huge "puzzle" called moving.

You will notice a new look on the Senior High School web page.  Last year I added a link to the morning announcements.  This year I have added a scrolling message board with very important topics on it.  I am trying to limit the scroll to 10-12 slides, as I feel that if there are too many, people may not get through them all!

We are planning a preparing for the Fall.  In September, we will welcome the graduating class of 2021 to the Senior High School as well as welcoming back our current upperclassmen.  The class of 2018, our seniors will take the lead!
As we work throughout the summer, I will update this blog with pictures and short stories about the progress of the move.  Please enjoy your summer.  Remember, if you ever want to know how many days of summer vacation are left, just look at the senior high school home page for the School Starts countdown timer.

Until Next Time!

Mr. D