Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Stories I Could Write....

After 21 years in public education, I can definitively state that I've heard some of the strangest things and been involved in some unordinary situations.  I reflect back to my time in the teaching credential program.  I thought I could change the world and everybody would be on the same page - all the time - for students!  While I do believe the majority of educators do what is best for students, there are always the select handful who are here for their ego, their career, themselves.

But back to those strange stories.  I've had students ask me to alter attendance for them in order to avoid police investigations.  I've had students say inappropriate sexual things to me - and think nothing of it.  I've had colleagues who were caught engaging in "inappropriate adult behavior" while on campus.  And this was all while I was a classroom teacher - the stakes just increased when I became a vice principal.

Early in my administrative career, a large fight broke out on Valentine's Day. When the other administrator and I arrived on scene, all parties tried to flee - including the females who were just observing.  One of them dropped in the middle of the road and had a miscarriage.  (And yes, her boyfriend kept running and wasn't there for her.)  The social media bullying that takes place made my head spin - and put the fear of God in me in regards to my own children.  So many more crazy stories from that chapter of my career - from students being caught in their vehicle after a dance having sex, to students being caught doing something similar on campus behind the music building.  I think that interview with the male student went something like this:  "What were you and the young lady doing?"   His response, "Well Mr. Fishtrom, I was giving her oral pleasure."   How was I supposed to respond????

In my current position as Director of Instructional Technology, I hear and experience some situations that I cannot even wrap my head around.  As we installed wireless access points in every classroom, a teacher kicked the installation crew out of her classroom because she didn't want it.  (Who owns that room???)  An employee denied misuse on the computer, though the trail she left behind indicated she was doing a lot of "non-work."  One teacher asked how to clear out his chrome browser history, because he was looking at adult websites at home over the weekend.  Just last week an employee asked me how much we monitor and filter end-user's web navigation.   Why did she ask?  Because she is working with a student that has a diaper fetish; she was afraid that her searches about this subject would be flagged by my department.  A diaper fetish.  Wow.

Sitting in leadership team meetings is even more enlightening, as we all share these types of stores.  I really think we should collate our stories and write a book.  Maybe only educators would appreciate it and relate to these events.  I do remember when I was getting my credential, a friend said, "You only have to work 180 days a year and once your curriculum is set, you're home free for life."  Probably the most inaccurate statement ever thrown my way.

Still have no regrets with my career choice.... never have and never will (even though I would love to hit that darn PowerBall Lottery.)  Oh, the stories I could write...

Monday, April 18, 2016

The New Normal

I think I may be getting to reflective lately, but so be it.  Yesterday, the father of one of my dearest friends (Mark) passed away.  He lost his battle with cancer - and it was a quick one.  He was diagnosed 44 days prior to his passing.  Whenever somebody passes, many of us reflect on life and then prepare for the "new normal."

A Randy Travis song states, "It's not what you take when you leave this world behind you, it's what you leave behind when you go."  Well, I can definitively say that Ed left a lot behind - a legacy of giving, service, advice, and pride.  During our junior and senior years in college, Ed often hosted barbecues at his Ukiah home and was a regular presence in our lives.  Being a retired California Highway Patrolman, he impressed upon us the value of education and loving what you do.  He often would say, "Finish your education.  Your education is the one thing in life that can never be taken from you."  I used that statement with many students I've worked with over the years - an example of Ed's legacy.

Ed with his grandchildren
In his career, Ed was a standout CHP officer.  In 1973, Ed saved an entire family (11 people) in the middle of the night as their house was on fire - they were all inside and asleep.  This video recaps the event and Ed is interviewed.  Had it not been for Ed's bravery and selfless actions, the entire family would have been wiped out.  The survivors have gone on to have their own families; and to this day, are still thankful of Ed.

I appreciated a lot of things about Ed - especially his time he always gave.  The emergence of social media has helped many of us keep in contact and I am proud to say I did keep in contact with Ed over the years - and he was always appreciative of friendships, proud of Mark's accomplishments and those of Mark's friends, and always provided good advice.

So now comes the time for the new "normal" - life without Fast Eddie from Ukiah.  He is going to be sorely missed by so many, but his legacy will always live on.  There are people who enter your life - and because they are part of your life, YOU become a better person.  I am a better person for having Ed Stamelos and his family in my life.  I know I am one of thousands of people who can state this with confidence.  Gone but never forgotten.....

Thursday, April 14, 2016

73, Triplets, and the Meaning of Teamwork

I've never been a basketball fan.  Maybe it's because I am not a very good basketball player.  Put on a football game or baseball game and I am glued to the television.  However, the past two NBA seasons has sparked my interest.  It's not because I am being a fair weather fan as the Warriors won their first NBA championship in 40 years or broke the single season record for wins last night.  These are amazing feats.  What has me so drawn to the Warriors success as well as the recent success of the San Francisco Giants is the way they've arrived at their championships.  They have done so through solid recruiting / drafting, player development, and the true concept of TEAMWORK.  No one player is bigger than the team as a whole.

The Warriors management has been very open about the fact that they've modeled their organizational development on that of the San Francisco Giants.  I grew up a Giants fan; the late 1970's and 1980's were dismal times (minus 1987 and 1989.)  The Giants could never put it together, played in a stadium that had some of the strangest weather known to mankind, and went through managers like most people go through socks.  The "recipe" was not working.  And even though they saw some success during the 90's and first decade of the 2000's, they were centered around one player - Barry Bonds.  We sold our souls; we were trading victories for home runs.  We looked the other way when performing enhancing substances were being used because we all got caught up in the hype, the excitement, the records.

Fast forward to 2008. The first year without Bonds and the second year of Bruce Bochy's managing of the team.  I remember speaking with a friend and we both decided that the Giants pitching staff was young and going to be good.  My friend said, "If they get in the playoffs, they will do well - their pitching staff can dominate a short series."  Throw Buster Posey into the mix and other talent - and here we are.  Three World Series championships.  Damn, I was happy with one.  Two was a dream. Three is indescribable.  But if you look at the recent Giants teams, they aren't about one player or one pitcher.  They care about each other and work as a team.  That equals success.  Think about Hunter Pence firing them up in the locker room.  The selfless approach.

A lot can be learned from the success of the Giants and Warriors. The recipe for success can be applied to any organization.  It really reminds me of the period from 2009-2013 when I was a vice principal. We worked under an amazing leader - he was secure in himself, had a shared vision for the school, was consistent, and got people to buy in.  It wasn't even that hard.  His consistency, patience, high expectations, support, and professionalism made everybody around him better.  I've never worked on a team that functioned so well collectively.  There wasn't any internal competition on our administrative team; it was all about cooperation and doing what was best for the students and the school, while staying aligned to goals.

It really is time that many people put their egos and insecurities aside and remember why they do what they do.  As an educator, I am here for the students and helping staff reach each student.  It's not about me - it's about WE.   Congratulations to the Warriors... and for the Giants, well, #evenyear .....

Monday, April 11, 2016

Student Data and Privacy

PBS Newshour has a great piece everybody should take a moment to view and read.  It discusses how Digital Education may be a double-edged sword.  Its argument is how technology has provided educators and companies with the means to personalize and individualize instruction like never before.  But what about the data?  Are third party companies using student data in another way?

One man in the video went as far to provide this analogy:  Imagine a person goes to get a life insurance policy.  Somehow, the life insurance company is able to access the person's records from when they attended public school - and they uncovered what the student purchased at the cafeteria, since that is linked to a database that has information about this person.  The person's life insurance policy may be affected based on the his/her eating habits from the third grade!  Sounds far fetched, but the level of identity theft is staggering.

Even more troubling is the fact that many educators truly don't understand data and student privacy issues.

We are at a point in history where more information is made available to us every minute - it is virtually impossible to consume all of this data and remain sane.  Tools and services, such as Twitter, have provided us the opportunity to filter (subscribe) to the data we want to view - but that, too, is overwhelming.

Is Digital Education a double-edged sword?  We need to be careful, remain alert, and keep our guards up.  Please visit this link to view the videos and article.

Reflections from the East Coast

Washington Monument
I haven't written here for a few weeks.  During Spring Break, my wife and I went to Washington, DC for for 3+ days.  Though she's been to Europe 25+ times, she has never visited our nation's capital.  So, we hit the ground running, landing at Dulles International and heading straight to the National Mall.  First stop: The National Archives.  I felt like Nicholas Cage in the film National Treasure - the scene where he "touches' the Declaration of Independence.  Seeing a 240 year old document, as well as the US Constitution and Bill of Rights is something every American should experience.  Yep, I almost teared up.

Vietnam Wall
We then made sure we hit many of the monuments and memorials - starting with the Washington Monument, then the WW2 Memorial, Vietnam Wall, Lincoln Memorial, and Korean War Memorial.   It is truly hard, to put into words, the emotions that go through your mind when visiting these sites, especially the Vietnam Wall.

Hanging out with Thomas J
The next day, we went to Ford's Theatre, the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, and then had a tour of the US Capitol.  Pretty darn cool stuff.  Great stories.  That evening, we visited the Jefferson Memorial - had it all to ourselves, and then the Marines Memorial (Iwo Jima) within Arlington National Cemetery.

Marines Memorial
Arlington was our first stop Friday morning - we visited President Kennedy's grave (the eternal flame), Arlington House (once the home of General Robert E. Lee), and then experienced the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  
Friday afternoon was spent at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum - so hard to take in, but a place that EVERYBODY should see.  It really makes you stop and think - and makes you realize the evil humans are capable of; I have no idea how any Holocaust survivor could overcome going through that experience.  
Eisenhower Quote - Holocaust Museum

We wrapped up Friday by visiting the relatively new Martin Luther King, Jr Memorial and FDR Memorials.  Pretty cool stuff.  I don't think the MLK Memorial does MLK his justice - he and other Civil Rights leaders deserve more.  The FDR memorial was well done - broken into four sections; one for each of his terms.  Nice tribute to his far better half, Eleanor, who truly defined the role of First Lady of the United States.  
Mount Vernon

Saturday was our last day... we decided to hit Mount Vernon and Manassas Battlefield.  We never made it to Manassas.   It started snowing... and we went to Mount Vernon, the home and slave plantation of General (President) George Washington.  It was amazing.  We even took the "National Treasure" tour, learning that there aren't any underground tunnels (though the movie seemed to make them a piece of folklore.)  Learning about Washington, his family, his impact on our country, and even his moral dilemma over slavery was very powerful.

What a trip. So much to see in our country.  I know that I am a history geek and love history far more than the "Average Joe," but every American should visit these sites and learn the origins of our country - the good, the bad, the ugly.   

MLK Memorial
Arlington House (from Kennedy's Grave)

Lisa & I at Mount Vernon