I have several big projects I am working on right now, and yesterday for some reason at the end of my emails to my collaborators I started typing “We have a lot to be thankful for.”
Then I got to thinking that I was typing it, but had I stopped to reflect on all I had to be thankful for? Well, here goes my attempt at doing so. My top ten list to be thankful for:
#1. Isn’t it cool that we serve a God that shows grace, continues to put us in the right place at the right time, puts the right people in our lives at the right time, and all the other great things even though, in my case, we fail miserably at serving him?
(The gap here is to emphasize how much more important #1 is than anything else I have to be thankful for!)
#2. An incredible wife and son. They make me better everyday.
#3. Great leaders who I consider coaches, mentors, and great friends. Such as Dr. Tony Bennett, State Superintendent of Public Instruction; Kevin Eikenberry, The Eikenberry Group; Dr. Dale Whittaker, Purdue University; Dr. Jay Akridge, Dean of the College of Agriculture at Purdue University, Dr. Pamela Harrison, my Doctoral Committee Chair at Walden University; and Dr. Hobe Jones, retired Purdue University Professor who got me into teaching.
#4. The greatest Agriculture Science Teaching Staff in the country: Stacey Hartley, Ambra Tennery, and Kristen Scott.
#5. Outstanding students that are all ROCK STARS!
#6. Outstanding teachers to teach with.
#7. Outstanding school to teach in.
#9. Community that cares about our school and education.
#10. The ability to DREAM BIG & HAVE ZERO FEAR OF FAILURE!
There are things I am sure I will think of after I hit “Publish,” but as I always say, “Don’t let perfection get in the way of a great thing.” I am so glad I took time for this reflection & encourage you to do the same.
The word “Passion” comes from the Latin word “pati,” which means to endure, submit, or suffer. This past week I was really able to make the connection between what we usually think of passion being and the Latin word pati. We did a professional development that involved our entire student body providing a list of reasons why students were unengaged. One of the top reasons was some of our teachers having a lack of passion. Interesting that our students realize it, but some those very same teachers don’t see it in themselves. Gives validity to doing 360 degree evaluations.
It really saddened me to hear that said about teachers in our building because I consider myself very passionate. Then when I started thinking about it in light of how I view passion – powerful or compelling emotion and having a strong desire to accomplish something – I thought, wow, passion is really hard work. If we have passion it is really intense. It drives us and sometimes its painful. Sometimes it even eludes us.
Our professional development exercise reminds me, however, that it is important to our students to come to our learning environment prepared and with passion every day. This past week I finished reading the incredible book, Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America’s Schools by Steven Brill. In this book, Brill really drove home the fact that, “Truly effective teaching, could overcome student indifference, parental disengagement, and poverty – and, in fact, was the key to enabling children to rise above those circumstances” (2011, p.1). When I see that in print it really drives home the importance of what I do every day.
Brill (2011) went on to say, “successful teaching is grueling work. It required more talent, more preparation, more daily reevaluation and retooling, more hours in the class day, and just plain more perseverance than many teachers, and most teachers’ union contracts, were willing or able to provide” (p. 2). After seeing the thoughts of our students I would say Brill is spot-on right.
All of this reminded me that my continued passion is important, and all teachers need to self-evaluate and see if they have the passion it takes to do the work of educating our students. Guess what? If not, it’s probably time to find something else to do. It’s not an easy profession, but an important profession that deserves to be done by only the best and most passionate professionals.
Brill, S. (2011). Class warfare: Inside the fight to fix America’s schools. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
Today I had the honor of introducing Corporal Austin Scott for our Veterans Day program at Lebanon High School. Austin was a student of mine and graduated in 2007. Austin was a Marine and served in Afghanistan. During my introduction I read this email that I would like to share with you.
“Hello Mr. Ernest, haven’t talked to you in a while but I wanted to let you know I’m in Afghanistan and that the welding you taught me came in handy for a mission. We only have one certified welder in our company and he was falling behind on getting things done. So I went to him and told him I knew some stuff and jumped on some projects for multiple missions. Now we are all caught up until the next mission comes down. Other than that I am good. I have seen some crazy stuff, but staying safe. Hope all is well with you and thank you for what you taught me. In a way you served the Marine Corps without even enlisting. You are a great man Mr. Ernest. Have a good one.” Austin Scott
How about Austin learning to be a servant leader and using the skills he has wherever they were needed. He spoke today about how you never know where the things you are learning in school will be used. His email reminds me every day how important it is to form the relationships and to make education relevant so that all students, just like Austin did, can apply what they are learning to real life.
Austin, thanks for serving our country and for reminding us how to be a servant leader!
This week and next I will be reflecting on Veteran’s Day. During this reflection I am taken back to a day in 2004 that defined my view of our Veterans and leadership. This defining moment happened at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. The memorial opened to the public on April 29, 2004 and was dedicated one month later on May 29. I was there in July of that year. It is located on 17th Street, between Constitution and Independence Avenues, and is flanked by the Washington Monument to the east and the Lincoln Memorial to the west. The World War II Memorial honors the 16 million who served in the armed forces of the United States, the more that 400,000 who died, and all who supported the war effort at home.
If you have not been to the memorial I have to tell you it is first of all very moving and each state has a pillar dedicated to all those who serve and died. My special moment happened in front of the Indiana pillar. I saw a gentleman standing in front of our pillar wearing his navy attire. I asked him if he served in World War II and he proudly exclaimed yes. I promptly thanked him for his service and keeping America and the rest of the world free.
I then asked him where he served. He said in the Navy and that he was involved in the invasion of Normandy Beach on D-Day. Having been to Normandy beach, I was very interested in hearing his story. He said, “son, I never saw the beach. My job was to blow the hell out of that beach to make it safe for our landing parties.” He went on to tell me that from there position he could not even see the beach. Then his eyes teared up and he went on to explained that he was sure his gunning had hurt or killed innocent people, but it was something that had to be done.
Then the comment that would change my view of Veterans and leadership forever. Barely controlling his emotions he said, “Son I was doing my job from a safe distance while thousands and thousands were dying. My regret is that I did not have the opportunity that day to lose my life for my country and a cause I believed in.” Here was a man who regretted not be able to perform the ultimate act of servant leadership.
We talk a lot about servant leadership, but we can sure learn a great deal from our veterans. Every day they put themselves in harms way with the possibility of having to conduct the ultimate servant leadership activity – dying for our safety and freedom.
Think about this next time you are having trouble being a true servant leader.