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I See You

Let’s address the title first! No, I cannot actually see you and the title is not a fan girl reference to seeing what folks did last summer. It is a mantra focused on seeing people for who they really are sans labels, preconceived notions or personal afflictions. Thus 2018 brings to life the blog ,” I See You” where I will mix education policy and practice with a dash of humanity and discuss the awesome folks who I have met along the way. To know me is to know I champion those who are overlooked, misunderstood or just need a little extra. Through this typed journey, I hope you will meet my tribe and see how a dash of humanity and unbridled creativity can help you SEE people for who they are.

Fitting, my first post will allow you to see me for who I really am. Born into a family of somewhat stubborn and kind hearted folks, most educators in some fashion, I was one lucky kid. I had grandparents who would have done anything to ensure I had every opportunity available and that they did. While material things were given, what I remember most were the opportunities to see the world from different angles. For example, I’m 200% positive I got my dash of humanity from PawPaw Max who took me everywhere with him including his Meals on Wheels routes, the Greenville Shriners Hospital and many more. I also had parents who held high expectations for me, never letting me be average. My mom and dad also provided opportunities for me to travel, attend symphonies, take lessons, and be a little unique. In my current job, I now see the power of an opportunity and see what that absence can bring.

My childhood daily life was fairly uneventful and you could usually find me with a basketball or softball in hand every day after school. There was a time in my life where I thought college sports could be a reality but quickly realized I was more than a few steps too slow and wishing on someone else’s dream. There I realized the power of my parents high expectations and was able to use my academic performance to land NC Teaching Fellows. In 2007, I began student teaching at Costner Elementary just a few miles down the road from my beginnings. On the hottest field day ever, I was hired for my first educational job located at the middle school I attended by a lifelong mentor. I traveled back to my beginnings and finished out the school year. I then began my teaching journey which allowed me to have some of my students for 4 years in a row. BLESS THEM! This is where my creativity and persistent nature kicked in as I taught 44 kids who had never passed a state assessment. Through love, seeing them, building relationships and my stellar math skills, 92% of these students passed their assessment. I couldn’t let those students go to 8th grade without me so I traveled down the hall and taught a traditional 8th grade Math schedule. It was during this year that I met a group of students who had a heart of gold and one particular student with Autism that changed my career. I matured, grew, laughed, cried and celebrated with my team teachers and students that year and they hold a large place in my heart. I will leave the details in the story of the student with autism to a later post, but know that my dash of humanity, creativity and high expectations for all students came from this student.

Thanks to the great state of NC I got to participate in Principal Fellows. Remember that lifelong mentor from earlier? I was luckily placed with him to do my Principal Fellows internship at Bessemer City High School. Despite the rumored past of our high school rivalry, BCHS became my home, my family. Have I done everything right? No way! But the best part about BCHS is the focus on building relationships with students to ensure our students have an open door after graduation. During my time there and with the help of the entire

staff, the graduation rate rose 20+%, we graduated 20% more students with disabilities that the state average and math scores rose from dismal to 32%. Every educator has days that are exhausting, tough, and make you question your purpose. I would encourage you to take a look down the hall and find a student whose life was bettered because of you. Find a student that you sparked hope in and see how they are doing. It is in those moments that you will find your purpose for coming to school because, if you do this education thing right, it’s not About you. It’s about the students who need you.

So, this is me in a nutshell. It is my hope to journal my adventures through 2018 and share insight to opportunities I have been given to see people for who they truly are. Be on the lookout for the next blog called Adventures with Aubrey as we travel to NC Council for Exceptional Chirldren Conference to share our story!

The Power of a Moment

You may have heard…. hurricanes have not been nice to NC this season. While we certainly have not been the hardest hit, we have found ourselves with a few more workdays than usual. Today, as Hurricane Michael came through our area, we had an optional teacher workday. It is only after the completion of the day that I have reflected on how lucky I was to have today. You see, in the midst of loosing power and many other modern day niceties, I found myself stopping to savor the moment. Unprompted, most everyone working gathered in a central location and spent time with one another. In the hustle and bustle of the day and the era of constant connectivity, we rarely sit down with one another and enjoy a conversation. I learned a great deal about my staff such as their likes, dislikes, tidbits about their family, and what makes them smile. I encourage any administrator to find time to unplug from technology, calendars and phones to be present with your staff in fellowship. This new Principal sure is thankful for a workday with no power!

The Tale of the Alligator

In making the recent transition to Principal, I found the best quote posted in my office:

“The objective of all dedicated teachers should be to thoroughly analyze all situations, anticipate all problems prior to their occurance, have answers for these problems when called upon… However, when you are up to your waist in alligators, it is difficult to remind yourself that your initial objective was to drain the swamp.”

While I have no idea where it originated, the truth of its words ring true and answered the question: Why do I tribe? As the newest kid on the block, I feel certain that my story of teacher transformed to learner and now lead learner is one of value. My quirky, often gem finds for teachers, tips for working with students of all abilities and seemingly endless stories certainly draw interest. However, the principal chair can often be a lonely place. The thought of fighting proverbial alligators alone was a bit unnerving. So, when surrounded by the arguably the coolest trio of people I have met, I accepted the tribal invitation and look forward to finding folks who can help me fight the alligators. You see, we often know or can find the answers to many problems that come our way, but what we truly look for is validation. By surrounding myself with a consistent, honest, loving, and knowledgeable PLN, I am sharpening the iron I already possess, cultivating the small ideas in the back of my mind, and, most importantly, gaining a new,confident perspective as an Principal!

Thank you, Compelled Tribe, for joining me in the effort to fight the alligators for our teachers, students, and each other!

Power in People

This week I learned about P.O.P. To my Milken Educator Family, they will know this phrase to mean something a little different. However, I would argue that now more than ever I have found Power Of People. I have been inspired, challenged, amazed and blessed to be around individuals that understand me. Through sharing my story with a 2010 New Hampshire MEA winner, we devised a plan to start a conversation centered on our unique life experiences, but rooted in passion. In minutes I knew we were destined to make this change. You see, people who want to make a true change in education look past their selfish desires because they understand the true journey and, the best part, they cheer you on yours. They want to join with you to make real change. In the course of three days, I have been bolder than ever in knowing my purpose in the educational arena. As I leave this new family, my heart and spirit and invigorated because I know the future of education is being thoughtfully dissected, creatively planned, and met with unbridled love for students. To Jillian Brinkley, I am forever thankful for our impromptu conversation that allowed our passions to collide and minds to soar as we created a meaningful plan. To my Milken Family, thank you for renewing and feeding my spirit to know there are Power In People!

It Comes Full Circle

Today’s visit to the North Carolina State School Board has drawn my attention to two ideas: life’s big picture and the circle. As a 9th grade student, I spent time at the NC House and Senate as a page. One day, I vividly recall being asked to take a job on the Department of Public Instruction where I was tasked to organize materials. While it reads as a menial task, my high school heart hoped that one day I would be good enough to work there. Fast forward life about 15 years and, while I still don’t work there, I was honored there today as one of the best educators in the nation.

Sometimes, life gives us hints about the directions we should go. I fought hard to be a doctor and thought that my big picture would be more vivid and exciting colored with the honor that comes with being a doctor. But today, as I walked back in to DPI, I knew that my big picture was colored exactly how it should have been. Sure, there some spots that are dark, smudged and probably not so vibrant, but stepping back and taking in the full picture: it’s perfect.

Look Out Cause Here We Come!

Heard Kesha’s new song? Boy, do those lyrics ring true to my weekend!?! Presenting for the first time in 2018 with Aubrey at SC Council for Exceptional Children. In her presentation, she shares a great deal about growing up in an educational system that didn’t always fully understand her. She says, “In 4th and 5th grade, I was in a class of all boys. They were nice but did not play with me.” She went on to say, “I love Winthrop because I have friends that see me for the best.”

I live to share our story because it rings true in the lives of so many families. I have seen Aubrey being familiar with the dark, wanting nothing more but to blend in and hide away. However, increased confidence from school, home, college, and presenting has helped her find her place and be glorious. She has developed her own voice, ensuring that she advocates for her desires. She can use her device to go and purchase gas. Some folks would have bet their car this would never happen. I am shocked, thankful and blessed to see where she is today and to know how much she has changed me. So, in the words of Kesha, “look out world cause here we come…”.

Finding Nemo and Parents: A Beautiful Connection

In the education world, Parents can be viewed as a blessing, a curse or a little bit of both. Often as educators, we ponder why there is no engagement with the school. We scour the land looking for the magic theme night or family event that will encourage participation, often repeating what has been done over and over with little success. While I in no way have that answer, I have the first step: understanding.

Remember this:

Nemo’s first day at school filled with unparalleled excitement and anxiety. Most focus on Nemo: kid with a smaller than normal fin but thrilled to go to school. But who focuses on Dad? The Dad who had suffered loss and spent years protecting his pride and joy. The Dad who knows Nemo may not be able to swim as fast or keep up with his classmates. The Dad who hopes that his son will experience success in a system where expectations were unclear.

Parents entrust us daily with their best and often misunderstanding one another leads to conflict. Parents and schools are working toward the same goal: for the student to be successful. I encourage all educators to think about Nemo’s dad and understand, connect and establish a relationship focused on what is best for the student.