Saturday, March 28, 2015

Time To Go?

"Our lives improve only when we take chances - 
and the first and most difficult risk we can take is
to be honest with ourselves." - Walter Anderson

It had to be ten years ago when I was just finishing my Masters Degree at Spring Arbor University. My goal was to give myself options...that's always what I wanted, the power of choice.  I had a real passion and love of teaching, but I also believed I had a higher calling.  

I finished my Masters and planned on teaching for the foreseeable future.  But as time passed I found myself thinking, "What if..."

Spring is an interesting time of year.  Most educational professionals have one eye on the now and one eye on the future.  Some are actively seeking new positions, some are tossing and turning at night unsure of what to do next and some have resigned themselves to riding things out...just staying put.

Six years ago I decided to take the leap.  But to be frank, it wasn't a huge "Leap of Faith."  It wasn't even going to require my family to move.  I snuck my resume in minutes before the deadline and then days later I was interviewing.  I'm not sure what I did right, but the position was offered to me.  It was very exciting, a little nerve-wracking, but very exciting.

Looking back I know why I chose to pursue a change, it came down to these things:

First, I believed I was ready.  I believed I could make a greater impact.  

Second, my personal philosophy was far different than the philosophy I was working under. 

Third, I needed a jolt...I felt my current spot was restricting me.

Fourth, I felt as though I was in a win-win situation.  It's easy to take a Leap, when you believe their isn't a bad choice.

Finally, I had the blessing of my family.  They encouraged me and supported me every single step of the way.

I sit here today and share because many of us struggle with thoughts of, what next?  Only you can truly answer the question, Are you happy in your current spot/role?  If the answer is no, you've got some soul searching to do. If the answer is yes, your decision comes down to belief, confidence, opportunity and external factors.  

Sometimes we over think decisions.  Here's how I decided years ago.

The date was June 23rd, 2010.  I had finished my 9th year teaching about three weeks earlier.  I sent postcards to my new families and summer had begun!  Then I stumbled across a short article in the newspaper that talked about a Principal vacancy at Warner Elementary.  I sat on the couch and day dreamed.  I thought about the what ifs, the challenges, the responsibility and my family.  I closed the newspaper and went out for a run.  The next day, my wife asked if I noticed the article in the paper about the open position at Warner.  I nodded and she asked if I was thinking about it.  I just shrugged. Two more days passed and I had done nothing.  Then late on Thursday after a full day of Geo caching and golfing with my boys, I sat down on our porch.  I watched the dogs jump around and the kids playing.  I then asked myself why I was dragging my feet.  The little voice in my head said, what would you tell your students to do?  What would you encourage your wife to do?  What advice would you give your own boys?

It was then that I realized I would tell them all, GO FOR IT!  Take a risk.  

"If you want something you've never had,
you must be willing to do something
you've never done." - Thomas Jefferson

Ultimately it came down to something so simple - 

Articles Worth Reading:

Positive Post-It Day @TonySinanis

13 Years Ago @jon_wennstrom

Surviving Tuesday @ServantPrincipl

HackPD @kristenswanson

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Worst It'll Ever Be

Do you remember the "Good Ol' Days?"  I remember.  I vividly recall moving into an apartment with my wife, Amy.  We had a cozy two bedroom apartment with one of the rooms dedicated to being our home office.  In the office was a Compaq computer that had dial-up Internet.  On one Saturday afternoon I decided to participate in an online Football draft.  The draft began at 2pm and I was expecting a two-hour draft.  The geek in me has always loved participating in Fantasy Sports! Just minutes before the draft was set to begin the phone rang.  It was an important call for my wife. For several minutes I paced back and forth...I couldn't get on the Internet because she was on the phone! Do you remember those days?  The days when dial-up monopolized the phone lines for hours on end.  
Those were the Good Ol' Days...right?

Last week I connected with several PLN members at MACUL in Detroit, Michigan.  This is always one of my favorite conferences.  One quote during a bit of downtime stood out:

"This is the worst technology will be in our students lifetime."

Think about that.  It's 2015 and I choose to believe technology and innovation will only improve.  I truly don't see us going backwards.

I predict -

  • In the future wifi will be everywhere.
  • Someday we won't have to pay for data.
  • We will look back and be astonished that some schools blocked YouTube.
  • Digital Citizenship will be a phrase rarely mentioned...we will simply say, Citizenship.
  • Technology will be used as more than a tool. Technology will transform learning.
  • It will be educational malpractice for teachers to not be willing to learn and try new things.
  • Many educators will blog and model writing to their students and community.
I think back to my days in the 5th grade classroom.  For years all we had were two desktop computers.  One was for the teacher and one was for all the students to share.  Funny thing was, the kids loved getting even as few as 10 minutes on the computer.  Then we got a Smart Board...the youthful exuberance was visible on their faces.  Simply put, technology has the potential to excite, engage and transform learning.  But looking back to 2001...I'm confident that was the worst technology was in their lifetime.  It has only moved forward.  Not convinced that technology can change the World?  Just check this out and tell me technology can't change lives.

This post was inspired by my trip to MACUL.  If you have never had the opportunity to attend MACUL I encourage you to put it on your list.

These are my three takeaways:

First, I always enjoy becoming an active learner!  This year was no different.  I went to a session on Augmented Reality with @WeverWorld after her session I spoke with @GustafsonBrad about the next steps.  I can't wait to create business cards and opening up the new possibilities of learning.

Second, I networked with many educational people.  It's very powerful to connect and learn on Twitter...but then you go to a major conference and you have the opportunity to connect face to face. These connections truly expand a person's network.

Finally, the positive energy was contagious!  Nationwide the chatter has been focused on Standardized Testing, funding and endless debates about CCSS.  From the opening keynote delivered by @gcouros I felt empowered and fired up to - Be The Change!

I'm excited about the future and I'm excited to see what our kids will do with the World at their fingertips.


Monday, March 23rd:  Poster Contest Due Date
Monday, March 23rd:  Technology Meeting 3pm-4pm
Monday, March 23rd:  String Team 3:45pm
Monday, March 23rd:  Girl/Boy Quest 4pm
Tuesday, March 24th:  Admin Meeting 9am
Tuesday, March 24th:  Spring Musical 7pm
Wednesday, March 25th:  K-2 Assembly 8:45am
Wednesday, March 25th:  String Team 3:45pm
Wednesday, March 25th:  4pm MiCI room meeting at Bean
Thursday, March 26th:  Family Reading Night at Warner
Thursday, March 26th:  9:40am Football players reading with KDG classrooms
Thursday, March 26th:  1:15pm Crisis Management meeting
Thursday, March 26th:  Girl/Boy Quest 4pm
Friday, March 27th:  Admin Meeting 9:30am
Friday, March 27th:  Reading Month Assembly in the PM

Articles Worth Reading:

Work is love made visible @Jennifer_Hogan

Y2K @jon_wennstrom

Everybody has a Story @danpbutler

Drawing the line between success and mastery @kristenswanson

Remind introduces chat feature @AngelaMaiers

Collaborating with Colleagues who don't support your creativity @AngelaWatson

Innovation has no age barrier @gcouros

Teaching vs Rocket Science @Jeff_Zoul

8 Things Emotionally Stable People Don't Do @marcandangel

Videos Worth Watching:

Tell me 3D printers are just toys... (3 min)

No Fear in Love (5 min)

WOW! One person can make a difference! (5 min) @TheEllenShow

Ariana Grande with @jimmyfallon  (2 min)

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Fire Within

"Getting ahead in a difficult profession 
requires avid faith in yourself.
That is why some people with mediocre talent, 
but with great inner drive, 
go much farther than people with vastly superior talent."
- Sophia Loren

What ignites the fire from within?

One of the most exciting times in my life occurred when I left for college.  I vividly remember heading down to Indiana, moving into my dorm room and heading up to the golf course to meet my coach.  

After a few days of getting acclimated to college life we had tryouts.  I wasn't nervous about making the team, I had a scholarship.  It wasn't about simply making the team.  My goal was a top spot.  I expected myself to come in and immediately contribute as a Freshman.

The day began with Coach creating the pairings.  I played with my high school rivals, Shaun and Brian.  Everything began as I would have expected, I shot a tidy 35 on the front nine and was in prime position. Then things went a hurry.  I spiraled to a 45 coming in and shot 80.  This left me angry and in roughly 13th position out of twenty-three players.  For the first time in my life I was faced with a deep team and an uphill battle.  

Growing up in small town USA, the number of quality players was always thin.  But now it was a new ballgame.  We were college athletes and nothing was guaranteed.  
For several weeks I dedicated myself to cracking into the traveling team.  I spent hour after hour practicing and trying to improve.  In hindsight, my game was fine...unfortunately I was in a bad mental spot.  My poor start led to pressing and a pursuit of perfection.  I wasn't myself and I clearly lacked inner belief.  

Sometimes I think to myself and wonder what ignites my drive to improve?  

Would I work harder with twenty-two others constantly trying to take my spot?  


Would I be better if I knew my spot was secure?  

For many people safety creates a sense of complacency, a sense of "good enough."  For me, there has always been an inner fire to be the very best I could be.

Here's how the story ends...  After weeks of hard work I finally got myself into the mix. With an upcoming road match our coach chose me to play, in large part, because of my familiarity with the course. I went out and shot a solid 76.  Coach shook my hand and told me he knew I had it in me. From that day forward I never let go of my starting position.  I was driven to be my best. I vowed to not get outworked by anyone.  

Looking back I think about what pushed me more.  Was it my inner fear that someone might take my spot?  Or was it my inner drive that never allowed myself to be outworked?

What I can tell you is this, when I had twenty-some guys trying to take my spot I NEVER worked harder.  I bordered on obsessed to win my spot.  When I knew my starting position was not in doubt my confidence was higher...but I'm not sure I worked harder.  

Does this have anything to do with education?

What ignites your fire?  Do you have an inner drive that pushes you?

A big part of my drive has always centered on making education better than I had it.  Over the years society has evolved and learned...I want to take this knowledge and provide a better experience for kids.  

When I was student-teaching I constantly beat myself up, I was a tough critic (and still am) and expected that every one of my lessons was going to hit the mark.  I poured hours into planning and preparation. My inner drive to be my best would not let me rest.

Sometimes my motivation comes from outside. Here are some people that push me to be better - 

@GustafsonBrad leading his school with 3D printing and sphero coding.
@TechNinjaTodd feeding community members with no strings attached.  
@TonySinanis inspiring his students to start a cafeteria DJ show.
@Joe_Mazza using high & low tech to connect with families around the country.
@casas_jimmy motivating teacher leaders at Bettendorf to believe that anything is possible.
@TedHiff having some of the coolest after school plays/musicals that I've ever seen!
@TimLauer posting amazing pictures of his school & community!
@JasonMMarkey creating an amazing culture with his strong ability to build community.
@DaisyDyerDuerr turning a school, community and State around with her leadership.
@KleinErin balancing home, school, speaking and classroom re-design...amazing!
@MicheleCorbat having the courage to start a District Twitter chat to change the culture.

Every day I'm motivated to get better.  Sometimes the burning drive comes from reading a book, other times it may be listening to a podcast and still other times it could be connecting on social media.  No matter how, I'm constantly trying to be the best I know how. 

I ask you...what drives you?  Is your burning desire the same as it has always been?


Monday, March 16th:  Author Visit Leslie Helakoski (beginning at 9am)
Monday, March 16th:  Happy BDay to Becky Holton
Monday, March 16th:  String Team 3:45pm
Monday, March 16th:  Boy/Girl Quest 4pm
Monday, March 16th:  Warner Pride...dress in Western/Warner gear
Tuesday, March 17th:  Grades 4 and 5 have guest speaker Anthony Ianni in the Library at 1:45pm
Tuesday, March 17th:  Library closed from 1:30 - 3pm (guest speaker)
Tuesday, March 17th:  Boy Quest...special day 4pm
Tuesday, March 17th:  St. Patrick's Day
Wednesday, March 18th:  Grades 3-5 assembly at 8:45am
Wednesday, March 18th:  String Team 3:45
Thursday, March 18th:  CP Federal Credit Union 2pm
Friday, March 19th:  RED Out...wear RED for Reading month

Articles Worth Reading:

Embrace the Change @MrPowersCMS

Sure of Me @jonharper70bd

Videos Worth Watching:

What's Your Goal - Cammy (1 min)

Blind Devotion...motivates me to be a better man! (8 min)

Central High...this is real! (14 min)

Mean Tweets...Obama Edition (2 min)

Saturday, March 7, 2015

How Prepared Are They?

Who creates and mandates curriculum?  Who developed the CCSS?  Who developed NCLB? 

There is probably several answers for those questions...but I will simplify everything and say the answer is ADULTS.

I often wonder if the adults are part of the problem.  Are we simply living in an educational system that mirrors what WE experienced?

In the 80's & 90's some things we learned -

Math Facts
How to write essays
Historical Events
Spelling Words
Geographical Locations

In 2015 some things we now teach -

Math Facts
How to write essays
Historical Events

A small percentage of schools and classrooms have accepted that the World is changing.

In 2012 Meghan Casserly wrote an article that received quite a bit of attention.  It is - 10 Jobs that didn't exist 10 years ago.  This should have been a wake-up call to ALL of us.  Whether we like change or despise it, the World is CHANGING!  In 2025 it is extremely likely that the top careers are not yet created/developed.

My personal belief is that we must find a balance between the old and the new.  Some of the essential skills for the future will be...

Check out that info graphic.  It is extremely telling.  What do our kids need to be prepared?  In 2025, the number of Americans over 60 years of age will increase by 70%.  Bottom Line - People are Living Longer.  You can deduce, jobs in Health Care and Assisted Living will likely increase.

The second one that grabs my attention is, Our Globally Connected World.  The walls have fallen and information is at our fingertips.  Our kids need to be able to adapt and process information much faster then we ever had to.

Are our kids prepared?  

I believe some are on the front foot when it comes to being ready.  In September, I met an amazing young man... @joshuasheart

He has made it his mission to end World Hunger!  Check this out! (1 min)

Twenty years ago the likely hood of a 13 year old changing the World was unlikely.  The World has shrunk for our kids.  

As adults, are we unleashing the potential in our kids?  


Are we stifling it by making education the same as we experienced?

My challenge is this, we must find the balance between educational basics and preparing our kids for a new World that even we can't predict.  

Next Friday is Digital Learning Day.  Digital Learning is one way we can engage our students in new learning experiences.  

Check out what others around the country are doing for Digital Learning Day - 

3rd Graders in Wisconsin will Skype with others and talk about ways to end Cyberbullying!
5th graders in Minnesota will be developing digital commercials.
5th graders in Michigan will be blogging online and embedding a video book review into their blogs.
4th graders in Pennsylvania are creating an Augmented Reality Project about their school.
Students in Baltimore are planning to use the app VoiceThread to explore poems.
Students in Virginia are planning to create Photostories about the books they are reading.
2nd graders in North Carolina will GHO with other States and discuss their Global Book Club.
Kindergarten students in Alabama are planning to create their own storybook with an iPad app.

Here's the full site to explore #DLDay Digital Learning Day Activities

These learning opportunities are exciting!  I hope you will step out of your comfort zone and think of the possibilities that Digital Learning Day can provide.  

Bottom line, as educators we have a responsibility to open the door for our students.  Ultimately they decide whether or not to walk in.  Will you open the door of possibilities?


Sunday, March 8th:  Happy BDay to Jen Reed
Monday, March 9th:  Happy BDay to Micki Archer
Monday, March 9th:  3:45pm String Team
Monday, March 9th:  Boy/Girl Quest 4pm
Tuesday, March 10th:  Grades 4/5 to Bean for Writer's Workshop
Tuesday, March 10th:  Admin Meeting 9am
Tuesday, March 10th:  Bible Release
Tuesday, March 10th:  PTO Meeting 7pm
Wednesday, March 11th:  Grades K/1 at Warner for Writer's Workshop
Wednesday, March 11th:  Grades K-2 assembly 8:45am
Wednesday, March 11th:  3:45 String Team
Thursday, March 12th:  Grades 2/3 to Parma for Writer's Workshop
Thursday, March 12th:  Boy/Girl Quest 4pm
Friday, March 13th:  Book Character Dress-Up Day
Friday, March 13th:  Happy Bday to Lisa Prichard
Friday, March 13th:  3rd, 4th and 5th grade teachers meet with Dave Hood in Library (7:50am)
Friday, March 13th:  3:45pm String Team
Saturday, March 14th:  9am-12pm Western Interest Fair at the High School

Articles Worth Reading:

The Mask @twhitford

Getting To Boston @Jeff_Zoul

Balcony People @Aaron_Becker32

EDUin30 @gcouros

Videos Worth Watching:

MIRACULOUS! (16 min)  

Dreams and Roadblocks (7 min)

Shake it Off... @TheEllenShow (2 min)

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Ready to Ramp Up Reading!

"Books I found,
had the power to make time stand still,
retreat or fly into the future."
- Jim Bishop

Have you ever gotten lost in a book?  

I have.

Right now I'm in the midst of reading, The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart.  I haven't finished, but I've definitely connected with the main character.  I won't give away details, but I will give you one exchange that still has me reflecting...

Mark (twelve year old main character) and his dog Beau are riding in an old truck with a stranger named Wesley. Wesley has discovered Mark & Beau have run away and Mark has cancer.  He doesn't reveal this, but you can clearly tell Wesley knows.  Check out this brief conversation:

"Life's a tricky thing, idn't it, son?" Wesley's voice was pained.  "Figuring it all out, I mean.  For all of us.  We're all in this thing together.  But sometimes there's just no knowing which way to go."

I didn't say anything to Wesley. Sometimes even the right answers sound wrong if you don't like the question.  That's the truth.

This is a powerful.  And subsequently still has me thinking.

Before I began, The Honest Truth, I read other terrific books to my boys.  A few of our recent favorites have been - I Kill The Mockingbird by Paul Acampora, Paperboy by Vince Vawter, and Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff.  In each one of these stories it was very easy to connect with characters.  To me this is what helps the reader get lost in a story...the connections.

When I taught 5th grade I read a few stories to my students each year.  The stories that my students related to best always seemed to be, Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson RawlsManiac Magee by Jerry Spinelli and The Kid in the Red Jacket by Barbara Park.  These stories were realistic, easy to picture and tugged on our emotions.  

I still remember the days that we would be in class reading and the chapter would end.  

I'll never forget when the collective group demanded that we kept on reading.  They were hooked and just didn't want to stop.  If you've ever had this happen you know what I'm talking about.

As a teacher and dad, I love it when I see kids lost in a story.  

Tomorrow begins one of the greatest months in our educational calendar, March!  Most people's first thoughts when it comes to March is, Reading Month.  Personally, I enjoy reading year round, but if we can ramp up reading excitement during March, I consider that a good thing.

Our students love Reading Month!  They love the activities and celebrations.  But you know another reason they love's because they see their teachers loving to read.  

With great power comes great responsibility...

No matter how busy we feel, it's of utmost importance that we show off our passion for reading.  

Let's help ignite the reading flame in all of our students.


Monday, March 2nd:  Conference Week Begins
Monday, March 2nd:  Book Fair Begins
Monday, March 2nd:  3:45pm String Team
Tuesday, March 3rd:  PTO Conference Dinner Night for Staff
Tuesday, March 3rd:  9:30am Spring Testing Meeting at Admin
Wednesday, March 4th:  Grades 3-5 Assembly at 8:45am
Wednesday, March 4th:  3:45pm String Team
Wednesday, March 4th:  PTO Conference Dinner Night for Staff
Wednesday, March 4th:  6:30pm iCreate celebration at the Michigan Theatre
Thursday, March 5th:  7:45am Doughnuts with Dad
Thursday, March 5th:  9am grades 2/3 in cafeteria for Miss Capital City read aloud
Thursday, March 5th:  9:30 grades K/1 in cafeteria for Miss Capital City read aloud
Thursday, March 5th:  10am grades 4/5 in cafeteria for Miss Capital City read aloud
Thursday, March 5th:  2pm CP Federal Credit Union
Thursday, March 5th: 4pm Boys/Girl Quest begins
Friday, March 6th:  Camo/Camp dress up day
Friday, March 6th:  5:30-8:30pm Elementary Carnival Night

Articles Worth Reading:

Videos Worth Watching:

Absolutely Inspiring! (8 min)

Touching Them of the greatest acts of sportsmanship! (6 min)

What color do you see? (2 min)

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Bigger Picture Teaching

"Humility leads to strength and not to weakness.
It is the highest form of self-respect
to admit mistakes and to make amends for them."
- John J. McCloy

Sometimes you don't know, what you don't know.  

Years ago when I was teaching 5th grade I had a young lady in my class.  Her name was Cassidy. Cassidy was a sweet girl, she got along with pretty much everybody, but learning didn't come easy. She had to work for everything she got.  In today's classroom she would likely be a student that received additional support from tutors or RTI Specialists.  Unfortunately for Cassidy, those layers of support were not available years ago.  Instead, I was fortunate to have limited parent support during the week that would help Cassidy and others.

As I reflect on Cassidy and others I think I failed them.  I remember looking at Cassidy's work in Math.  We were working on Order of Operations.  I remember looking at her paper and analyzing her answers.  In almost every wrong answer I noticed a problem.  Cassidy was making errors in multiplication.  More specifically she knew how to solve the problems, but the errors were small...yet in Math, small errors are still errors.  

The error I made was that the curriculum just kept going.  I carved a bit of time to practice with Cassidy each day, but the 3-5 minutes practicing didn't truly cut it.  Cassidy needed me to put the brakes on the curriculum and help her with foundational support.  We all have students similar to Cassidy.  What I'm getting at is this, as a teacher I should've been looking Big Picture for Cassidy. Instead I focused on the now and the not so distant future.  My mistake was not building her for long term success.  

I get it, sometimes as a teacher we focus on the immediate...the now...the standard or the skill. Sometimes we lose focus of the base.  Without building a strong foundation our students will struggle over time.  This was my mistake.  I knew what flaw Cassidy had and I tried to remedy it on the fly. In hindsight I should have differentiated my teaching and built her up from the foundation.  

Looking back and reflecting on the past is something I do often.  I fully realize my intentions were good.  I tried as hard then as I do now.  But what has happened over time is that I've gained valuable insight and perspective.  I see the big picture and I see that students need strong foundational skills to be successful.  I'm grateful for our RTI Specialists, Literacy Coaches and Support Staff.  These are the invaluable layers that allow us to work on Foundational Learning.  I encourage you all to focus on the long term gains instead of the short term band-aid.  Keep one eye on the Big Picture!

This Week's Big Question:  Is it acceptable to admit mistakes in education? 


Monday, February 23rd:  6:30 Community Forum on Balanced Calendar
Monday, February 23rd:  February Luncheon
Monday, February 23rd:  3:45 String Team
Tuesday, February 24th:  9am Admin Meeting
Tuesday, February 24th:  5:30 Board Meeting
Wednesday, February 25th:  8:45am K-2 Assembly
Wednesday, February 25th:  12:15-3pm Standard Based Report Card Meeting
Thursday, February 26th:  CD Federal Credit Union 2pm
Friday, February 27th:  8am Staff Meeting in Mrs. Sopers classroom

*  Reading Month Photo's are this week!
*  Next Week is Conference week, I designated Tuesday & Wednesday as dinner nights.
*  Next week is also Book Fair Week!
*  Next week we also have Donuts with Dad.

Articles Worth Reading:

Dear Governor Cuomo @TonySinanis

Each of Us Holds Value @TechNinjaTodd

Videos Worth Watching:

Selfie Proposal (1 min)

Dog walks other Dog? (1 min)

On the Road with Steve Hartman (3 min)

Man Re-Unites with Family (3 min)

Adorable girl on Ellen (7 min)

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Change by Addition

I still remember the murmurs.  The huddled discussions in the hallway and the closed door meetings. I bet you can visualize the scene in your head.  Adults whispering to one another in hushed tones.  

And what was the topic?

The child that we all feel fear for.  The child that for little to no reason explodes.  The child that withdraws and is noticeably depressed.  The child that shows ZERO remorse.  The child that has an emotional impairment.

During my time as a classroom teacher and now, principal, my most challenging issues have easily been students with an emotional impairment.  I can vividly remember each and every case.  I can still remember the meetings that lasted month after month after month with hardly any action...until...

the blowup!

A few years ago I dealt with my first Emotionally Impaired student.  I saw what the blow-ups did to the student's peers.  I saw what the outbursts did to teachers.  I felt the anxiety day in and day out.  I didn't want to restrain, I tried my best to talk the student through it.  But all I could do, all any of us could do was try our best.  

And there in lies the rub.  When you are in the midst of difficult situations most people try their best. But, is your best talk or action?

My first experience with mental illness scared me.  

*  When I was called into the classroom after the student threw scissors.  

*  When I received word that students had evacuated the classroom and the student was throwing desks.

*  When the student had to be carried to the office by multiple adults.

But, when I went into the storage area in the gym and saw the student's eyes, I was scared for him.  I saw the darkness in his eyes.  I didn't see the same boy I typically saw.  He couldn't control it, the mental illness controlled him.  That day he hit me with a baseball bat more than 50 times.  At no point was I scared for myself...I was always scared for my students and staff.  

Until that happened, change was very slow.  My experiences have taught me that change occurs when something EXTREME happens.  As adults we close doors, we talk, we complete rating scales, we observe the student and we talk some more.  If the talk doesn't turn into action then I call it a waste.

So I ask, are we reactive or proactive?

We weren't and still are not equipped to handle volatile mental disorders. Eventually the student began to receive help.  But not until the outbursts were witnessed by hundreds. We are doing our kids a disservice by not providing timely intervention.

Let's take a look at the trends, statistics and research

*  1 out of 5 children are diagnosed with a mental health problem
*  The onset of mental illness often occurs between the ages of 7-11 years of age
*  21% of low-income children between 6-17 years of age have mental health problems
*  70% of youth in a juvenile justice system have a diagnosed mental health disorder
*  80% of children in need of mental health services do not receive them

Let's take a peek at our Nations Suicide Rate:  In 1986 the Suicide Rate was at an alarming 12.5%. At this point the need for support to all people increased.  As a nation we saw an increased surge of psychiatrists and psychologists.  This did have a positive impact, and by the year 2000 the Suicide Rate dropped to 10.0%.  Things were trending in a positive way.  Yet, from 2001 to 2013 we have taken a major step back. As of 2013 the Suicide Rate was at 12.6%...higher than the "alarming" 12.5% of 1986.

Let me ask you, what group would you imagine has the highest rate of Suicide?  I was surprised to discover...white males made up 70% of all suicides in 2013.  

Research states only 20% of children with mental health disorders are identified and receive mental health service/support.

The bottom line is Mental Illness and Emotional Impairments are real issues in our society.  The articles and research clearly support that this is not an issue that can be ignored or wished away.  The longer children go undiagnosed, or worse, untreated, the more likely that they will end up hurting themselves or others.

Let me clearly state that I do not believe we should test everyone.  I'm not a proponent of screening the masses and shoving pills in children.  That's not what this is about. When it comes to medication I believe that is between a doctor and the parents.  What I do believe in is adding supports to our youth.  

I bet there are some schools and districts that have strong supports in place to assist students with mental health disorders and the child's family.  But I venture to guess the majority of schools in our nation are simply not equipped to fully support mental health disorders and emotional impairments. Two years ago I was asked this question by a second year education major, "What certification/minor would you believe is in highest demand?"  Without blinking I told her, "If you have an EI certification and you are good at what you can pick where you want to work."  This advice doesn't prove that I own a crystal ball...this advice was simply me seeing an alarming trend.  Mental Health is on the rise and programs to support these students are nearly impossible to access.  It truly feels as though EI programs for schools are "Gate Keepers".  Ultimately they decide who gets in and who doesn't.  Let's be honest, it's a numbers game.  

Why Such Challenges?

Over the last five years I see a few specific hurdles to assisting students with mental health disorders. 

The first hurdle is parents.  As a parent myself I understand.  I've sat in doctor's offices and discussed medication.  I've gone to psychologists and discussed the pros and cons.  I DO understand.  But what I don't understand is the thought process that doing nothing will fix the problem.  Unfortunately that is what I most often see and hear.  Parents feel their child will grow out of it or they need more academic support.  I say this, "Hogwash!" Schools that I know don't make decisions on one event. Schools that I know bring a TEAM to the table and try multiple supports.  Yet parent push back is nearly inevitable.

The second hurdle is programs.  This is a big one.  Many schools do not have Emotional Impairment classrooms.  If you are faced with a lack of programming I would hope that you would seek assistance from outside agencies.  Other options are partnerships with other districts or hiring specialists/consultants to help with both the child and parents.  But with all that being said, you still may be facing a shortage of spots or programs.  This is where I think many schools are.  My suggestion:  Create the program!  Yes, I said it, create the program that helps our MOST AT-RISK kids.  

The third hurdle is money.  I understand that programs have costs attached to them.  I can't simply wave a wand and pay for the programs.  But what I can say is that if we do not put something in place this growing epidemic will continue to increase.

I often wonder why is it so difficult to help our kids?  I think I can speak for most of us and say, "We're all on the same team."  But we aren't working together in an efficient manner when it comes to our Emotionally Impaired kids.  Mental Health Disorders are not going fact they are on the rise.  

This post is a true reflection of many schools in America.  We all have encountered the student that is showing clear signs of a mental illness.  How will we work together to help our Most At-Risk students?

If you find yourself struggling to support Mental Illness or Emotional Impairment I encourage you to share this post and the following articles.  This is a CALL TO ACTION for key stakeholders to put the necessary programs in place and support our students with mental illnesses.

Many Teens Struggle with Untreated Mental Illness

Children's Mental Health

The Emotional Well-Being of Our Nation's Youth


Monday, February 16th:  President's Day No School
Tuesday, February 17th:  TEAM meeting 9am
Tuesday, February 17th:  3pm grades K-3 Girl Scout Interest meeting
Wednesday, February 18th:  Grades 3-5 Assembly in the gym at 8:45am
Wednesday, February 18th:  PLC time meet with 3rd grade
Wednesday, February 18th:  String Team
Thursday, February 19th:  CP Federal Credit Union 2pm
Friday, February 20th:  Birthday Luncheon

Articles Worth Reading:

What If... @DaisyDyerDuerr

Is Leadership Style Born...Or Made? @DJrSchug

Voxer 101 @Joe_Mazza

School Improvement VS We Suck Less @curriculumblog

Piling On? @jonharper70bd

It Started With a Teacher @GustafsonBrad

When Characters Won't Wait @AmeDyckman

Get Organized...Digitally @8Amber8

Are We Failing Extroverts? @edrethink

20 Habits Happy Couples Have (but never talk about) @marcandangel

Videos Worth Watching:

Longshot (11 min)

She said what? (1 min)

American Kids try Breakfast foods... (3 min)

SpaceJam? (1 min)

Hashtag - Why I'm Single (2 min)