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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Personal Relationships & Reflections

I will soon be taking over the position of Director of Technology in the Lower Yukon School District.  One of my greatest challenges in this position will be managing employees and interacting with the community. As I lay here in bed at 1:13 am I ponder role models and management strategies that could help me be the best I can be. I decided to get out the oldest leadership manual in print to help me clarify my thoughts. 

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment." Matt 5:21

I have been thinking lately about my anger toward certain individuals. Is this anger healthy? The author of the passage above says we should love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. What sets me apart from everyone else? What makes me "the boss." I believe it is because I take responsibility for my own actions and those of my employees.  I want to challenge myself to challenge them. I want to be a man of integrity and character.

How can I hold myself above reproach? I believe it is by finding a higher standard than your typical business and leadership benchmarks. This higher standard represents the Truth. I often forget exactly what it is that I stand for. Re-centering myself from time to time will most certainly be required as a transition into this leadership role I have been given. I consider this the first of many re-centering efforts.

Hiring new employees and organizing schedules and workflows recently has made me very aware of the power of trust in our everyday life. Am I trustworthy?  Am I loyal? Am I honest?  Am I articulate? 
Simply put am I making promises for things that I can deliver? I want my "yes" to mean "yes" and my "no" to mean "no." I want to be a man who says what he means and means what he says. I am not yet this man. 

I have a lot to work on in my personal life and a lot to learn in my professional one. Throughout it all I have to remember that there are greater goals and opportunities at stake than a simple promotion or "atta boy." I want people to come first in my life... not just in a rhetorical sense but in a very real and very meaningful sense. My expectations for myself and for them reflect a standard that none of us can ever meet, only aspire to and reach toward. 

"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand and it gives light to all who are in the house." Matt 5:14

My community and my employment is my house and I want to know where and how my light is shining. I hope my friends, family, and colleagues will be the mirrors that I need to see my light. I want to be judged and struck, iron upon iron, to become better. Not for my sake, but for our sake. This will be reflection in the Truest sense of the word.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Last Week of School Antics

This time of year is always one in which we find ourselves stressed out and aching to cut loose. I have not had the time to hunt birds yet this year but I have dusted off the guns. 

Checking in computers and sorting through paperwork is tough this time of year. To make matters worse, it seems like there is never enough time to ask all the questions and get all the help you need before summer break. The next theing you know, everyone is gone for vacation and you are alone in the office. It is not without it's benefits  though. Time spent with good friends is so much more fun without the distractions of the normal routine. Teachers out on break are able to stay out late and have fun. There is no more tutoring, prom, graduation, or any of the other dozen or so items on their final week's agenda. 

We took advantage of the lull in responsibilities to make s'mores and shoot stuff around a bonfire this past weekend. Time to bond with new colleagues and old is always time well spent. 

What can I say, we like to have fun in Mountain Village. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Perception Isn't Everything, It's the Only Thing.

I was talking to a friend about metaphorical conversations, logical rhetoric, and absolute Truth today and thought I should share something witty  metaphorical, or just clever. I wonder often what the value of buzz words, edu-speak, and jargon in my professional life. I love to read books like Metaphors We Live By and Eats, Shoots & Leaves to better understand the language I use daily. In my opinion it's not what you say so much that matters as how you say it. The less you write, the clearer the message. The less you talk, the stronger the speech.

One of my favorite quotes is from Earl Long, the infamous governor of Louisiana: 
"Don't write anything you can phone. Don't phone anything you can talk. Don't talk anything you can whisper. Don't whisper anything you can smile. Don't smile anything you can nod. Don't not anything you can't wink."

In this digital age everything we say can be written down or recorded. We post things to Facebook, LinkedIn, and write on blogs such as this one. It makes me appreciate the value of my words even more. It makes me both more aware of the language I use and wary of how I use it. The permanence of writing has never been more astounding. The simplicity with which we share our voices has never been more alarming. Holding myself accountable for everything I write say and do has never been a higher priority.

As an up-and-coming professional and someone who would like to be a public servant or in larger leadership roles one day, I reflect often on how I express myself. I think it behooves us all to understand leadership better, especially in terms of identifying the styles we are more adept at. We each have our own talents and gifts. Warren Bennis summarizes leadership styles very well and I highly recommend you learn where your strengths and weaknesses are. I think I would summarize my leadership style in a metaphor: Under-promise. Over-deliver.

The fact is simple, however, that perception is all that really matters. Saying the right thing, at the right time... to the right person or at the right place... is how society moves and people work together. Using the appropriate vernacular, tone, and tempo means everything to your audience. Influence over their decisions or the altering of their behavior depends on your communication skills. So I guess, then, that perception isn't everything... it's the only thing.

Okay, I think that was witty enough. What do you think?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

All Work and No Play Makes Sam a Dull Boy

With the new position comes a great deal of decisions, responsibilities, and tasks before the new contract year. Those long days in the office going from meeting to meeting combined with long nights catching up on end of year projects leave little time for fun. To make matters worse I have a habit of working for other organizations in my off time. Last week I was in Fairbanks this weekend Bethel.

In between these two trips I found a few hours to release some stress down at the gravel pit shooting with friends. We had a great time but not a whole lot of targets. My colleague and friend decided to get rid of his overstocked pantry items and provide canned targets for us. Specifically pinto beans. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

New Job ~ Same BushSam

The last few weeks have been a little bit on edge for me. I have been struggling with where I will live and what I will do for about a month. I finally made a decision to stay in the Lower Yukon School District. With this decision I have accepted a great deal of new responsibilities.

It is with great pleasure that I now announce my acceptance of a contract as the Director of Technology in LYSD. I am both excited and worried, hopeful, fearful, and generally numb. I am encouraged by the kind words and faith that my colleagues have shared with me. I look forward to being a part of a team moving in a positive direction. I want to be a cog in the machine of change.

I will not gloat and I will not boast in this humbling achievement, however. Instead I would like to share a short and certainly not complete list of the people I feel have lifted me to this position. My pride and my success is simply a reflection of their greatness and their kindness towards me. Without the mentors, friends, supportive staff, and community around me I would be nothing. Without my Father in heaven I am nothing.

The first people I must think are my parents. My father is the most influential technologist I have ever known. My mother is the most inspiring teacher I know. It is only fitting that I am now the head of a technology department in an educational institution. They have always supported me, usually when I did not deserve it, and they support me now, even from afar. I also thank my sisters for always challenging me to think differently and be unique. I thank my grandmother and extended family for teaching me what it is to be a man and a role model.

No one person deserves more thanks in this specific context and for this specific position that my friend and teacher, JGJ. He has taught me more than he knows and guided me through many a crisis, technology or otherwise. By offering me a position in the lower Yukon School District as the Educational Technology Coordinator he has opened this door to me now and, more importantly, encouraged me to enter. I will never be the Director he was, but I hope to do his legacy justice and improve that which he leaves behind.

This list is certainly not comprehensive but I thought it appropriate to mention the people who have pushed me at pivotal moments along my career path. Working backwards from JGJ, I thank The Chariot Group for providing me an opportunity to take center stage and share my knowledge with others. The name and recognition afforded me while working throughout Alaska as a consultant is no small part of what I am today. For this opportunity I am deeply indebted to the owners of the company, RT and DT.

I doubt I would've ever been hired as a consultant in Anchorage without my skills in technology and experience as a classroom teacher. The Southwest Region School District encouraged me to expand my horizons through the use of technology in my classroom. I recall my first conversations about DHCP and wireless networking with CE, and I hope he knows at this very moment how instrumental he was in my life. I thank him and LP for their guidance and constant support over those few years.

It's been a short and wild ride but I look forward to what is next. Thank you for reading... and thank you for any encouragement and help you've offered along the way.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Do You Love Your Job?

Well, I did it, I signed a contract to return to the Lower Yukon School District... I was thinking about my options for a long time. I must admit, though, I left out a key factor in the equation: the student of LYSD. My decision was honestly made, or 80% sure, that is. I was leaning heavily toward leaving to find a life on the road system. It would have meant driving, restaurants, and a social life.

Then I took a trip with 7 students to the Future Educators of Alaska Annual Gathering this past month. They changed everything. I was so proud of them I could barely hide my urges to high-five them every few minutes. I won't go into too much detail, but needless to say these young ladies are truly special.

They challenged me to rethink why I became a teacher and where I'm going professionally. I asked myself what really matters in my life, and specifically in my career. The choice I had made was a selfish one. It was about me, my living arrangements, my personal time, and the adults I work with. I hadn't considered the impact I could have on the students and teachers in my district. So... I'm back... and loving my job as much as ever!

I ran across this blog a while ago and though I would share: 14 Telling Signs You Love Your Job.

1. You don’t talk about other people; you talk about the cool things other people are doing.
I do this all the time!! I am always bragging about the gifted educators and amazing staff we have in LYSD. I will not mention names, frankly because you wouldn't read it it would be so long, but trust that if you call me I'll tell you about a few...
2. You think, “I hope I get to…” instead of, “I hope I don’t have to…”
This summarizes 2013-2014 for me. I hope.
3. You see your internal and external customers not as people to satisfy but simply as people.
I consider most of the professionals I work with friends, some better than others, but I genuinely care about them all. I do aim to please.
4. You enjoy your time at work.
Jamming out in my little office from 7:45 to 6:00 or so everyday is a blast. The company is pretty good and I always feel so productive. 
5. You would recommend working at your company to your best friend…
recommend to my friends, too, but I take it to the next level: I have been evangelizing to my mother and sister, both of which are teachers! 
6. You enjoy attending meetings.
Okay, I don't know about this one... ( - MINUS 1 point)
7. You don’t think about surviving. You think about winning.
This one depends on the time of year. I think we all are in survival mode when the water is off more than it's on in Mountain Village during late winter. ( - MINUS 1 point, but not all the time!)
8. You see your manager as a person you work with, not for.
I am trusted. I am part of a team. 
9. You don’t want to let your coworkers down.
10. You hardly ever look at the clock.
This one is hilarious because every day ends with me saying to my coworker, "Oh my gosh, it's already 5:00!"
11. You view success in terms of fulfillment and gratification – not just promotions and money.
I worry about this one and I am trying to keep it in check. I think I'm okay for the time being. 
12. You leave work with items on your to-do list you’re excited about tackling tomorrow.
If you look at my phone I have Google Docs full of "talking points", half a dozen voice memos, and several notes on my Stickies app. It is not uncommon that I send emails at midnight or set alarms and reminders for myself whilst exiting a dream of the next workday. Sad? Maybe. Fun? Definitely! 
13. You help without thinking.
Ask me for a ride to the airport and find out.
14. You don’t think about retirement… because retirement sounds boring…
Okay, this one is a tough one! I can't wait to retire, but that's because I want to start a second career running a SCUBA shop in Cozumel! ( - MINUS 1 point)
How many of the above statements apply to you and your job?
I got 11/14, how about you?
If you said:
0-3: You may want to find a new job. Life is too short.
4-6: You don't hate your job... but you don't love it either. What can you do differently?
7-10: You really enjoy your job and the people you work with
11-14: You are deeply, madly in love with your job! (and your friends are jealous!)