One Educator’s Legacy

We can learn so much from others!  A great educational leader, Dr. Rick Dufour, recently passed from cancer.  He had a huge impact on my outlook as an educational leader! Dr. Dufour, one of the primary trailblazers of the Professional Learning Community movement, battled stage four lung cancer although he was not a smoker.

Through Dr. Dufour’s journey through treatment, he learned a great deal about how the medical field conducts its business treating patients.  While visiting The Mayo Clinic, he came across their mission statement/guiding principles.  I am aware of these as I remember reading their mission statement while at the Mayo Clinic with my daughter Abbie.  They are:

• The needs of the patient comes first.
• We will meet those needs through unsurpassed collaboration.
• No one is big enough to work independently of others.
• The combined wisdom of one’s peers is greater than any individual.
• We will use a teamwork approach, share our insights, and take a continuous interest in     each other’s growth.

Reflecting on this, Richard wondered what would teaching and learning be like if we took these same guiding principles and replaced the word patient with the word student?  They would read:

• The needs of the STUDENT comes first.
• We will meet those needs through unsurpassed collaboration.
• No one is big enough to work independently of others.
• The combined wisdom of one’s peers is greater than any individual.
• We will use a teamwork approach, share our insights, and take a continuous interest in each other’s growth.

As I reflect on the rewritten principles, it is evident that they should guide our work.  Our duty is to provide high levels of learning for all students through unsurpassed collaboration.  Our goal is to learn strategies from each other that grow our expertise because when we do this, we know student achievement grows exponentially!

Richard Dufour left an amazing legacy for us all through his work and through his experiences.  He will be missed, but his message will live on in the hearts and minds of educators and therefore students for generations!


Attack this day…

with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind!  My favorite coach, Jim Harbaugh, brought the phrase with him to Ann Arbor upon his return.  It reminds me of many things as I walk in my leadership role:

  1.  The only thing we are promised is right here, right now.  Approaching each day with enthusiasm and a focus on working with each other to create exceptional learning for all students creates a powerful culture that will provide incredible results for our kids.
  2. We are given a choice daily.  We can go through the motions and waste the time we are given or we can focus on getting better which includes trying new things, learning from mistakes, and asking ourselves “is this really the most effective way to facilitate learning for all students or is it just the way we have always done it?”  If it is the best way, great!  Get better at doing it.  If it is not, abandon it and try something different!
  3. The most important part of our journey in life and in our work is the journey!  When you look back at accomplishments and successes, it is the daily grind of improving your craft and working with others to collectively get better that is remembered.  I think back to my days as an athlete and a coach.  The days I remember aren’t championships won but rather the day to day practice of honing my skills, working to improve, and most importantly the daily grind and improvement shared with my teammates!  I often told the players I coached that what you want to say down the road is “Boy we worked hard collectively, got better each day, and had a whole bunch of fun enjoying the journey together!”  I want my life and career to be the same way!

We have the most amazing teachers and students anywhere!  My daily journey reminds me of this as I travel from building to building.  So I ask .., why would we not want to approach our daily grind with an enthusiasm to make each day the best day ever?  After all, it is the only day that we are promised on this Earth.  Let’s work hard collectively, get better, and have a whole bunch of fun enjoying our journey in our wonderful community!!

Refuse to be an Energy Vampire!

Recently, I had the privilege of reading You Win the Locker Room First:  The 7 C’s to Build a Winning Team in Business, Sports, and Life by John Gordon and Mike Smith.  In this great book about leadership and culture, the authors speak about Energy Vampires representing those people in your life that are filled with negativity and have a habit of sucking the energy out of the culture.

To point a finger at the people we have experienced as energy vampires in our world of work or life in general is easy to do.  Energy Vampires tend to approach most everything in a negative manner no matter what the topic.  They consistently complain about decisions that have been made, little inconveniences, or other people.  We know what this can do to a culture and productivity if allowed.

So how do we rid our culture of this type of behavior?  The first thing we must do is start with ourselves.  Reflecting on our own negativity towards others and the world in general is essential!  Instead, focus on how you can make the difference by being proactive, positive, and a model of the glass being half full.  You may not have power over others but you do have the power to change your culture by modeling what you would like to see in the environment.  By the way, if you reflect and discover that you are an energy vampire, stop!

Secondly, define with your team why you exist and what you hold to be important in your daily journey.  Then, commit to holding each other accountable!  No one wants to be an energy vampire.  They do want to know they are valued!  So how do we value each other and create a culture that thrives? Through defining our beliefs and how we will go about our business.

Each new year brings an opportunity to reflect, to grow, and to define our beliefs.  I encourage you to join me in continuing to eliminate negative energy in your daily walk!  There is nothing better than a collective team of people working interdependently to accomplish a common purpose in a culture that feeds off of positive energy.  It is amazing what happens when this takes place!  I do believe it is primarily what separates the good from the great!


One Amazing Bulldog!

I recently spent some time with Mr. Bob Smith, an admired Grandville Bulldog who has provided me with a great deal of history about our wonderful community.  Bob presented me with an article about a man who most of us have never heard of but probably should have as he is truly one of the most amazing Bulldogs ever!

Mr. Stephen Bosworth was a 1957 graduate of Grandville High School.  He was the Salutatorian that year. A 1961 graduate of Dartmouth, Steve went on to have a foreign service career that included serving as an ambassador under three presidents and a special envoy under a fourth (President Obama).  Steve tried to defuse nuclear tensions in recent years and helped persuade Ferdinand Marcos to give up power in the 1980s, personally walking the Philippine leader to an awaiting aircraft.  Many presidents and secretaries of state turned to Mr. Bosworth for advice because he was wise, direct, and completely unflappable.

Besides being an incredible ambassador, Steve was Dean of Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.  He was admired by so many because as Lawrence Bacow, President of Tufts stated, “Steve had a commanding presence, he was the type of person you wanted on your side in a crisis.  Yet, he grew up in modest means and never forgot where he came from. Steve was kind to everybody,and he had a common touch. He commanded a room.”

For more information regarding this amazing person from our town, please do a web search Stephen Bosworth and you will find many articles and pictures.  A Grandville Bulldog of the past but never forgotten!

Education is Changing

“If you don’t like change, you will like irrelevance less!”  This Eric Shinseki quote summarizes the current reality of traditional education as we know it.  For a long, long time, the educational system we have lived in has been slow to change.

Why?  Many claim that it is simply the only model we have ever known.  Since the age of three, most of us have been participating in on the job training.  What our teachers modeled and how we learned became the way we were wired when it became time to teach the children in front of us.

So, how do educators in this day of rapid change adapt and reinvent ourselves from being a vessel of knowledge pouring out information to our students to a master facilitator of learning experiences?   How do we help our students find the way they learn best and assist them in developing those skills that will help them thrive in an ever-changing world(ironically, the same skills we find we must have to change our teaching paradigm)?

To me, it simply begins with growing one’s expertise.  How can I grow my ability to engage students, adapt to their specific learning styles, be okay with more than one way to demonstrate what he/she knows and is able to do, and let go of the power of me as the teacher and instead embrace facilitation and being the lead learner (who by the way makes mistakes too!)?

There are many examples around us.  I see this excellence in pockets throughout our schools.  Probably the largest example is our RoboDawgs program at our South Campus. Collaboration, perseverance, adaptability, creativity, responsibility, learning from failure,  finding different ways to accomplish the same goal, engagement, communication, team work, and asking “what if?”  These are many of the skills (often called soft skills) that will pave the way for future student success.

I know in education WE CAN DO THIS TOGETHER!  Let’s take what is great about what we currently provide for our students, step out of the box of traditional education, and embrace a future that provides all of our students with the vital skills for a vastly changing world.  It is time to collectively grow our expertise, keep what has worked, and change the approaches that do not reach high levels of learning for all students!


Tell Your Story!

Our journey through life including our experiences, our challenges, our successes, and our failures help shape who we are.  How we learn from these experiences and apply them to our outlook and approach towards life impact our daily living and how others see us.

I recently met a leader in a different capacity from our community.  After telling him a little about me he picked up on one small tidbit that I had mentioned and asked me to tell him more.  He said “I am sure that relationship and experience helped define a major part of who you are.”  Boy was he right!

I began to tell him the story of my daughter Abbie, a wonderful young lady in her early 20’s.  Abbie began having over 100 seizures per day when she was 2 1/2 years old.  Trips to the Mayo Clinic, Detroit Children’s Hospital, and the Cleveland Clinic brought a great deal of questions but very few answers regarding what Abbie was experiencing or why.  To make a long journey shorter, eventually Abbie was diagnosed with a Mitochondrial Disease in which their is no known cure.

Abbie is severely multiply impaired now.  She does not walk on her own, she does not talk, but her eyes do all of her communicating.  As a father, I always thought about the things I would teach my children.  Truth is, I have learned so much more from Abbie and her courageous journey than I could have ever taught her.  Some things I learned:

  1.  Be present.  You are only guaranteed the here and now.  Live like it and focus on even the simplest of things because they truly are a gift.
  2. Don’t sweat the small stuff.  Little things can irritate you if you let them but they are not what is really important.  What is important are the loved ones and people you are around each day.  They need your best.  They don’t need the mediocrity you supply by sweating the small stuff!
  3. All people matter!  Not just the ones that look like you, act like you, or fit the “normal” mold.  Appreciate the uniqueness that has been created in each individual and you will learn more than you ever imagined!                                                            I encourage you to reflect on the different experiences and role models you’ve had in your life.  Then, TELL YOUR STORY!  We can all learn from one another and more importantly appreciate the facets that make up the uniqueness of the people around us!

Thank You School Board Members!

As citizen leaders, individual School Board Members face complex and demanding challenges. They are alternately described as having the most important volunteer jobs in the country and facing the toughest challenge in elected American government. Yet School Board Members are just ordinary citizens with extraordinary dedication to our nation’s public schools. All Michigan citizens should recognize the vital contributions of these men and women and the crucial role they play in the education of our children!

Today, the Grandville School Board continues to do the most important work of our community – that of educating our youth. Their job is to establish a vision for the education program, design a structure to achieve that vision, ensure schools are accountable to the community and strongly advocate for continuous improvement in student learning. The job of a School Board Member is tough, the hours long and the thanks few and far between. We often forget about the personal sacrifices School Board Members make. Board Members contribute hundreds and hundreds of hours each year leading our district.

Grandville School Board members are deeply involved in community activities and spend many hours at extracurricular events. They continually advocate for the children of our community, and in the past year School Board members made countless passionate pleas to legislators, speaking out against budget cuts and pushing for smart reforms.

The month of January marks the annual observance of School Board Recognition Month. I ask you to join me in appreciating whom I consider the best Board of Education a community could have working for student opportunity and success for all! Grandville has a lot to be proud of and our School Board is certainly a beacon of pride!