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Some Good AdvicePosted by David Jeck on 3/26/2021 7:00:00 AM
Shared with my staff today (weekly newsletter):
I have a great memory when it comes to advice given to me, especially from people for whom I have great respect. Here are a few notable examples:
Dr. Bill Thomas, my first Virginia superintendent, in reference to the last few week of school: “Try to keep the circus under the tent”
Dr. David Melton, my second Virginia superintendent: “Don’t pick fights with people who buy their ink by the barrel.”
My mother: “If you can’t say anything nice about someone, don’t say anything at all.”
Dr. AL Butler, great friend, colleague, and mentor (regarding the high school principalship): “If someone every approaches you after a ball game with a bag of money from ticket sales or concessions, don’t touch it.”
Dr. Major Warner: “If you consistently invest in people, it is okay to make a withdrawal every once in a while.”
Wendy Moss: "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about."
I am typically reluctant to give advice unless asked for it, but I want to give some to you: After school today, forget about Fauquier County Public Schools for a few days. Stop worrying. Flip the switch in your mind that controls thoughts/worries/frustrations regarding your job. You have earned the right to disconnect and unwind. Take comfort in the FACT that you have, over the last several months, survived and thrived during the most difficult time in the history of public education…and that is no exaggeration. You are all heroes and, in spite of the fact that some people will never understand what you have endured, you have earned great respect from all corners of our community. Truly, we are all in awe of you and are forever indebted to you.
How could I do such a thing?Posted by David Jeck on 3/11/2021 7:00:00 AM
I learned recently that I cancelled all things Dr. Seuss and, specifically, Green Eggs and Ham. For a moment I was quite upset with myself, especially considering that GEAH was one of the first books I remember reading. I was ultimately corrected: I had not cancelled GEAH the book, I had cancelled GEAH the food. At that point, I was twice as upset with myself. How could I do such a thing?
I am joking of course but, in all seriousness, I did stop for a moment and wonder to myself if, maybe, I had made these decisions and then forgotten that I had. The people who were emailing me and sending Tweets were so certain that I had…maybe they were right?
Social media, for me anyway, is the ultimate good/bad scenario. It can be a tremendous tool for the sharing of information, spreading positivity, recognizing accomplishments, etc. But, of course, it can also be used as a tool to tear down, share false information, bully, rage, etc. It feels like the train left the station a long time ago in terms of the misuse of social media. We’ve all seen some really awful things occur as a result of irresponsible use…but we’ve also seen social media used for plenty of good.
Pretty solid rule of thumb when using social media: don’t write or share anything that you wouldn’t say or share in person, face-to-face. A second good guidepost: verify, verify, verify. The amount of misinformation flowing from SM is staggering and disturbing…and often impossible to reign in.”
Instant SmilePosted by David Jeck on 2/20/2021 1:00:00 AM
My wife and I are avid Wheel of Fortune watchers. We were watching recently and wondered aloud if anyone has ever won the million dollar prize. It turns out that three contestant have! Michelle Lowenstein won in 2008, Autumn Erhard won in 2013, and Sarah Manchester won in 2014.
Stop for a moment. Watch the first winner. Its 100% joy! It will put a smile on your face.
Let's all spread a little joy around!
My Friend ToddPosted by David Jeck on 2/11/2021 4:00:00 AM
I have this great friend...a friend of over 35 years who has been a gigantic influence in my life. Every time I talk to him, I learn something new. I was fortunate enough to have him as a guest on my most recent podcast and, again, I learned and I grew.
Todd Komarnicki is, well, kind of famous, but you would never, ever know it. He is so humble and so comfortable in his own skin. We met in 1986 at Wheaton College as members of the baseball team. We became fast friends and I still look up to Todd in so many ways.
During the recent interview on my podcast, I asked him what advice he might give to students aspiring to become writers. Here is what he said:
"writing is work. its eight to ten hours every day, just writing. but here's the thing. i never want to write. i never wake up and think, I can't wait to write today! it's hard work. but the payoff and satisfaction that can come from having written...that is worth the all the effort. and in the end, it is vital to remember, that writing isn't about desire, it is about discipline. and discipline just means to be a disciple. to follow. to follow your calling. so if you feel it burning inside of you that you need to write, but don't want to. that's okay. just follow the calling, and the blank page will get filled up with beauty word...by word."
Such a valuable lesson for our kids. Hard work is hard, but the rewards of our efforts include feelings of satisfaction and accomplishment. We live in a society that wants immediate success and reward, but life doesn't work that, and finding that "thing" that we are willing to dedicate our blood, sweat, and tears to is very tricky and very elusive.
It Beats the AlternativePosted by David Jeck on 1/24/2021 2:00:00 AM
I included this quote in our most recent newsletter because, well, it makes so much sense. It was written by former NFL head coach Tony Dungy, a man who has endured great hardship and personal loss. This is a tough time, perhaps the toughest we've dealt with as related to K-12 public education. More than ever, I think, we need to pick each other up, encourage one another, and reflect a spirit of positivity. In the words of coach Dungy:
“What you believe and what you expect have a tendency to come true. This is why it is important to be careful how you speak to yourself, conduct yourself, and develop yourself. The landscape of your future is in large part determined by what you think it will be and how you see yourself in it. Those who have positive expectations experience positive results more often than those who have negative expectations. So it is vital to make sure that your perceptions are positive.”
We are going to come through this and we are going to be even better as a result of facing these challenges head-on and with a spirit of positivity and hope.
VaccinesPosted by David Jeck on 1/14/2021 12:00:00 PM
Fingers crossed, but perhaps with the sooner-than-expected rollout of the COVID vaccine things may get back to “normal” sooner than expected. Our staff's flexibility and responsiveness regarding the vaccine administration has made a HUGE difference and FCPS1 is leading the way! Maybe this is the light at the end of a very long tunnel? Maybe yes and maybe no but, in either case, the vaccines will make our students and staff safer and will hopefully instill confidence. We desperately needed a “shot in the arm” (pun intended…sorry) and, speaking only for myself, I am greatly encouraged.
I can’t say enough about our local VDH folks. Daniel Ferrell and April Achter have been amazing! They have been instrumental in terms of keeping us informed and in regard to expediting the vaccination process. Many well deserved “thank yous” to them and the other professionals at VDH.
To the FCPS staff: I don’t know about you, but I am looking forward to the day when we can all look back on these awful times and congratulate ourselves for a job well done! I appreciate you all so very much, and I have deep respect for each of you. Individual differences are normal and healthy, so our occasional disagreements and frustration are to be expected. We need to remind ourselves daily that we are all trying to accomplish the same thing: helping students and families. This is why we do what we do. How we accomplish this is often the debate, but we need to take comfort in the fact that we have a passionate, child-centered school division that is rising to perhaps the greatest educational challenge in our history. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Here is to a great 2021!
The Zero DilemmaPosted by David Jeck on 1/5/2021 1:10:00 AM
I can remember, quite vividly, the first time I was challenged regarding my attitude toward the "awarding" of zeroes to student who failed to submit assignments. Rick DuFour was the man who challenged my thinking and ultimately caused me to change my attitude. Two of his illustrations remain burned into my memory:
1) If you choose not to file your taxes, does the Federal Government simply assign you a zero and hope that you file the following year? No, of course not. They REQUIRE you, under penalty of law, to file. We, as educators, should establish frameworks wherein students MUST complete assignments, period. The non-submission of assignments should be unacceptable.
2) If a particular student's grades were based on five assignments only, all weighted equally, what would this student's grade be?
Assignment one: zero
Assignment two: 70
Assignment three: 80
Assignment four: 90
Assignment five: 100
Final Grade: 68 (D)
Zeroes are devastating to a student’s grade and, perhaps as importantly, do not reflect what a student has actually learned. This is a controversial issue for many, but it is worth considering.
Our "Why?"Posted by David Jeck on 11/17/2020
This is it! This is our why: to give every student a genuine opportunity for success, which, for high school seniors, begins the day they walk across the stage. This is why we do what we do! Credit goes to the teachers and the students, first and foremost. THEY made this happen. Our overall graduation rate is 95.5%, but the real story is told within the sub groups:
• 96.7 percent among students with disabilities, up from 91.4 percent in 2019.
• 96.3 percent among Black students, up from 89.6 percent.
• 93.5 percent among Hispanic students, up from 88.2 percent.
• 91.6 percent among economically-disadvantaged students, up from 86.5 percent.
How did this happen? Because of COVID? Nope! The Pandemic actually made things more difficult. Graduation standards were lowered? Nope! They were actually raised for this graduation class. The answer is not simple, but it is also staring us right in the face.
Students and teachers work exceptionally hard. Parents and the greater community support our kids. Our School Board remains focused on outcomes. Our school administrators hire good teacher and keep raising the bar and...wait for it: we focused like a laser beam on providing equity for all students over the past five years ago. Coincidence? No way. These kinds of results do not occur in a vacuum. They happen, to a significant extent, as a result of a very intentional goal of meeting the needs of all kids (aka. providing equity).
Gloating? You bet I am! I am gloating for these kids. There have been naysayers over the past two years who were, perhaps, misinformed regarding what it is we are trying to accomplish via our focus on equity. A evening talk show host from one of the "big five" national networks even made our efforts the centerpiece of one of his coast-to-coast broadcasts (and not in a positive way). Us, little Fauquier County, Virginia. The results, however, now speak loudly for themselves.
GREAT, GREAT, GREAT job class of 2020! You deserve to have your story told coast-to-coast as a reminder of what happens when you look every kid in the eye and figure out what their needs are!
Life is good!Posted by David Jeck on 11/13/2020 2:05:00 AM
My sons have an amazing ability to keep the day-to-day grind in proper perspective, as evidenced by this thought provoking quote posted by my son David (Instagram):
”Some poor, phoneless fool is probably sitting next to a waterfall somewhere totally unaware of how angry and scared he’s supposed to be.”
Makes you wonder what life would be like if we, even occasionally, disconnected and took time to appreciate the beauty and innocence that surrounds us.
Life is, indeed, very good!
What to thinkPosted by David Jeck on 10/21/2020
It is not our job to teach kids what to think. That is the responsibility of the parent. Our job should be to teach kids how to think. More specifically: How to evaluate, interpret, synthesize, draw conclusions, deduce, think critically, etc. That is our responsibility. One could make the case that sharing chunks of information with kids and then asking them to regurgitate what they've heard IS teaching them how to think. I'd offer that, in some cases, it's not "teaching" at all. It's sharing info and asking students to remember it for the next test. We've got to continue to work to change this paradigm.
I've been reading the headlines offered by various news sources and there is no question in my mind that each endeavors to make me think a certain way, to accept their version of reality without actually digging deep enough to get to the impartial truth. Not a problem for me as I am a grown, educated man who is able to engage in abstract thought and to think objectively...but I worry about how we are preparing our students.
My wife and I are NOT the poster children for great parenting. We've made plenty of mistakes, but our kids have turned out pretty well. They are good people and we are so proud of the young men they've become. We raised our kids to, ultimately, think for themselves. To recognize that individual differences are normal and healthy. To respect the views of others even if we don't agree with them. To project kindness and generosity, and to care for one another.
A bit of as ramble today, but this subject is constantly on my mind, especially during campaign seasons. This subject also reminds me of a scene from one of my favorite movies: "The Paper Chase," specifically, Professor Kingsfield's description of the Socratic Method of instruction:
“At times you may feel that you have found the correct answer. I assure you that this is a total delusion on your part; you will never find the correct absolute and final answer. In my classroom there is always another question; another question that follows your answer.
We do brain surgery here. You teach yourselves the law but I train your mind. You come in here with a skull full of mush and you leave thinking like a lawyer.”
They are not all going to Harvard Law School, but they will all end up in a place where they must think for themselves.
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