Creating a School Culture to Support Individual and Organizational Growth #TCEA19

If look forward to learning with and from all the amazing educators that will be journeying to San Antonio for #tcea 19.  I will be sharing a session on Monday at 9:15 on the steps we have implemented to foster individual and organizational growth, some of the intended outcomes, some of the unintended but exciting outcomes, some of the challenges, and a little bit of the odd/strange that is always a part of the profession and calling which we have immersed ourselves in. This is meant to be interactive and provide opportunities for you to connect with each other and me so that we can all share in the learning.

I hope you will join me for 50 minutes that will be engaging and enjoyable, and I look forward to 4 great days in Texas.





Reflection on Big Message, Big Money: Kaepernick, Nike and Protest

Last night I saw the new Nike advertisement featuring Colin Kaepernick and this morning I read Joon Lee’s post Big Message, Big Money. As an avid sports fan, a parent, an educator, an employee of a mission based institution, and someone who places Congressman John Lewis on a pedestal as a moral and courageous hero, I watched the advertisement and read this article with many lenses and some surprisingly conflicting perspectives.

While it is not my intent to take a side on this topic, I did come away from watching the advertisement and reading the article with a few strong reactions:

(From the article) No platform reflects the ideals of America at any point in history like advertising. It echoes the country’s ambitions

YIKES!!! This is a powerful and scary statement. As a parent and teacher, I am hyper aware of the power that media and advertising have in shaping the images of what our kids should aspire to look like, how they should act, and what constitutes a fulfilled and fulfilling life. With this in mind, I am both thrilled and terrified by the idea of a massive company with immense power like Nike taking on the role of social action. I love the idea of a company with a conscience and the idea of a civic responsibility, but I am concerned by a potentially non-transparent selection process of what social action is deemed worth of endorsement. This makes me think of Charles Barkley’s comments about being a basketball player not a role model. Simply because he was successful basketball player and in the public eye, was it fair for us to ask that he be a better person? Similarly, this makes me think of the incredible TEDtalk “The moral bias behind your search results” in which Andreas Ekstrom shares “that behind every algorithm is a set of personal beliefs that no code can ever completely eradicate.”

(From the ad) Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything

Congressman Lewis said, “we must accept one central truth and responsibility as participants in a democracy: Freedom is not a state; it is an act. It is not some enchanted garden perched high on a distant plateau where we can finally sit down and rest. Freedom is the continuous action we all must take, and each generation must do its part to create an even more fair, more just society.” I feel blessed to live in a country and community where I am free to engage in this noble task personally and assigned to the task professionally of fostering discussion and action about social justice. In addition to social justice, this message equally resonates with people’s faith.   In a time that seems dichotomously hyper concerned against mention of faith, religion and values and rampant with salacious speech and accusation via news and social media, the assertion of a core belief is refreshing. While I appreciate the idea for all of the reasons above, I cannot separate the message from the messenger. A professional athlete’s categorization of “sacrificing everything” certainly is incongruent with the struggles John Lewis experienced in the civil rights movement and the hardships the people have faced/do face in the name of sustaining beliefs.

(From the ad) So, don’t ask if your dreams are crazy. Ask if they’re crazy enough.

Here I am blessedly un-conflicted. I love the idea of being challenged to dream “dreamier” dreams. I thoroughly endorse the learning opportunity which FAILure (First Attempt In Learning) presents, and I love the idea of untethering fear of failure from our pursuits and dreams. I believe it is incumbent on teachers to create a FAIL friendly environment where students can aspire for the fantastic and fantastical. This quote makes me think of JFK and his speech about moon thinking. “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.” I love this and this fantastic video (What is Moonshot Thinking?) that expands on the idea.




A spring of hope, appreciation, and contentment.

I just returned from our school’s annual retreat with our 8th grade class. This is an exciting and important event for the students, as well as the school, as it serves as both a real and symbolic mile marker as our students begin to write their final chapter of their Davis Academy journeys. For many of the students, they have shared many firsts: the first day in kindergarten, the losing of their first tooth, their first siddurs, and first overnight trips together as a community, and now they are able to look into the not so distant future and see a world of newness and opportunity ahead.   While there is undoubtedly a piece of Carpe Diem (seize the day) to the message we are hoping to impart, the objective goes far beyond that. Our goal on this retreat and throughout their 8th grade journey is for them to embrace and exhibit our core value of righteousness.

And thus, I found myself sitting on a dusty basketball pavilion floor engaged in a conversation with a group of eighth graders. The topic? What does righteousness and justice mean to them? How is social action a part of their lives? And, how do they not only hope to, but how do they plan to change the world? There were amazing stories told of activism inspired by family members who fought against cancer, hours spent working with and welcoming refugee families, time spent volunteering and getting to know homeless families at local shelters, hours of volunteering and fundraising to address hunger, and service projects aiming at improving the lives of impoverished children. The stories that were shared in my group, and replicated in other groups across the pavilion, spoke to the students fundamental beliefs that it was their duty to make a contribution to those in their community with the hope of making a positive impact. The fact that this realization was so rooted in the minds and hearts of our middle school students speaks volumes to the character of these children, the parenting and examples they have experienced at home, and the community in which they learn and grow every day.

As we approach the new year, in a year that saw us commemorate 50 years since the loss of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. the students offered me a spring of hope, appreciation, and contentment that his noble work continues on.

Living Our Values

I am beyond a doubt one of the fortunate ones. I work in a place where I am surrounded by caring and passionate individuals, where I am supported and encouraged to continue my love of learning, and where the core values of the organization are in synchronicity with my own core values. This is not a new sentiment for me, as I undoubtedly and unashamedly “drank the Kool-aid” of where I am fortunate enough to work and grow every day.

4 years ago, during Davis Academy’s 22nd year, our school community took part in a reflective process of assessing the values of the school. We engaged many different groups of stakeholders including students, parents, grandparents teachers, and community leaders. We wanted the values that we selected to represent our school to be both a snapshot of who we are and who we aspire to be. The end result of a great process led us to our 5 core values: Wisdom, Spirit, Respect, Community and Righteousness.

The 4 years following this process have shown incredible advancements in the school. We have celebrated growth in our program and school curriculum; the opening of our new state-of-the-art theatre, dining halls, chapel and learning spaces; and the continued successes of our students and alumni. The core values were at the heart of all of these successes, though their presence was in many ways akin to a fish’s appreciation for water. This is not to say that there were not opportunities or lessons where we were intentional about naming them, rather the pervasiveness of their impact was not given a proportional representation in our intentional talk.

And now, I get to start year 18 with all the energy and passion expressed in my first paragraph above, but with the added bonus of a school theme of “Living Our Values.” The first act of our 2018-19 school year was for our teachers to return to school with supplies and well wishes which were donated to teachers in another school in town without the same resources. As it is our goal for our students to aspire to make the world a little bit kinder and a little bit better, it was nice for us to model this behavior right from the start.   Rabbi Lapidus and I shared this similar message with our middle school students on the first day of school . It is our goal that these values “Wisdom, Spirit, Respect, Community and Righteousness” are both descriptive of who you are and a directive of who and how you should be. We ended our first gathering with this warm hearted video about the power of kids to “Make the Difference.”

I look forward to the incredible year ahead, which will be intentional with the discussion of, the learning about, and the living of our values.

November #blogamonth Post

On a reflective and holistic level I am thankful for many of the gifts in my life. This month’s post however asked for the daily delight.

The first response that came to my mind was relationships. In my 17th year at Davis, I have had the great privilege to create meaningful and lasting relationships with the students I have taught, the parents I have partnered with and the colleagues I have worked together with.   Indeed relationships are the backbone and the power source of all the work we do. One of my favorite teachers, George Couros, said, “I became a teacher to change the trajectory to all kids I interact with. If we want to impact their minds, we must first connect with the heart of our students.” This speaks directly to relationships and is equally true for the parents and teachers we partner with. This answer definitely rang true for me, but it seemed to be a bit a deeper than the whimsy implied by a daily delight.

I next considered the high fives in the halls from students, the wonder in the questions I hear from our youngest and most curious learners, and the smiles I see as our students explore all aspects of their academic, creative and spiritual development. In the end, the whimsy of daily delight led me back to whimsy, laughter and humor itself. For me, humor is a daily delight and requirement. Whether it is my weekly emails with education cartoons, silly faces made in classroom windows, jokes shared with our new 6th grade Good Moring Football club, or laughing with colleagues about the comedy rich world of education and children, humor is the unquestionable daily delight for me.


Connectedness is a powerful and important part of who I am and how I do what I do. Moreover, it permeates all facets of my life.

As a father and husband, my primary connectedness, I am interwoven with the hopes, achievements, losses, and dreams of my family. It is my greatest pride to watch my children grow, and my greatest challenge to let them grow. While I, like most parents, would love to shield them from pain, disappointment, and failure, I am aware that this is part of the learning and growing process.   I feel truly blessed to have them growing at a school with caring teachers who appreciate them for who they are as individuals, and who have high expectations for who they can be. I am connected to the teachers in the noble partnership to support them as they work to get the most out of my kids both in accentuating strengths and improving in opportunities for growth.

As an educator, I am connected to a love of learning and a passion for individual, collective, organizational growth. I delight in the fantastic students, parents and colleagues who broaden and sometimes challenge my thinking. I treasure the books, blogs, podcast, and twitter resources that share both amazing ideas and personal reflections toward this growth. I look forward with great anticipation to each edcamp, conference, retreat, check-in…etc. that allows me the time to process and discuss the growth process and growth mindset with liked minded individuals. Lastly, I love being able to leverage all these connections to assist other connections in accessing resources, advice, or support for their own learning.

A number of years ago, I wrote a blog in which I said “it is not enough to be connected if you are not connecting.” I still believe this, as this is my connection to my purpose.

Life, Learning, and Laughter Enthusiast

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