Highlights of 2005: Part 2

April 7, 2005

Up in the Air

Literally. I’m on a plane (my 9th commuter flight in a week and a half) heading to Winnipeg. I’m starting to see a bit of light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve lost track of how many days I’ve been out, but I’m very clear on what I’ve got left: 13 presentations in 13 cities in 3 countries, five out of the next six weeks on the road.

So OK, I’m tired. Grateful for all this incredible work, all these remarkable opportunities. It’s beautiful up here at however many feet high these little jets go and I actually have an empty seat next to me— a rare and precious treat. But I am starting to feel the effects of being gone more than half of the past eight months, of not being home for more than 8 or 9 consecutive days since New Year’s. And there are days I feel like I’m holding on by a thread.

Yes, I’m quite exited about all of my upcoming engagements. And I’m looking forward to having a three-week break in mid-May, more than I can describe.

Books, Books, Books!

High School’s Not Forever is in production. For all intents and purposes, our work on it is done. (I am, for some reason, having a hard time deciding on what to write for my bio. It’s easy writing for teachers. I can’t imagine what a bunch of kids would want to know about me…)

Here’s a very cool thing: I’m talking to a publisher for a new (3rd) edition of 21st Century Discipline. This will mean a significant revision— more like a complete overhaul! So assuming this goes through, I guess I’ll be writing again this summer. I won’t be home as much as I’ll probably need to be, but the thought of laying out on my deck, watching the birds, this laptop on my lap… how cool is that? Even if it’s only for a few weeks, I’m so looking forward to spending some time like that. Stay tuned for details as soon as we nail them down.

New Website!

I only have a welcome page for a dedicated Web site for the new book, High School’s Not Forever, at highschoolsnotforever.com. (Yes, we can see how much it looks like highschoolSNOTforever. Hey, if that helps people remember the URL, so much the better.)

Eric and I are now wrestling with the design, but the basic architecture is there.

What we need is content!! We have some perfectly lovely stories and tips and facts and quotes that we had to cut out of the manuscript when we found out it was twice as long as it needed to be, and that’s a start. I’ve just printed up a bunch of invites for teachers and will share them at my workshops in Winnipeg and, next week, in the five workshops I’m doing around New England. Anybody reading this want to write?

April 16, 2005

High School Book Galley Pages online

We got some sample galley pages this week and BOY do they look good!! If you want to check out what the book will look like on the inside, you can click here to download the PDF.

Off my Chest: The State of the Profession

I just got a postcard from a friend. He’s a high school principal, and a brilliant educator. He writes, “Education backsliding fast. Time to get out before the ship sinks.”

This really struck a nerve, in part because it came at the end of a long week, after six full-day presentations over the last eight days. Now I met some incredible, positive, dedicated and committed educators this time out. But an otherwise terrific trip ended on a sour note, and yesterday… yipes! I ended up with a number of people who had been sent to my seminar as a “disciplinary action” (always a danger when doing presentations that focus on dealing effectively with difficult students) and boy, did they have the attitudes, agendas, and closed minds to go with it.

Every now and then I get a number of people who are, perhaps understandably, bitter and negative. Their energy reminds me of a trapped and wounded animal. They’re defensive and feel hurt, angry, and disenfranchised. Getting something out of the presentation—much less enjoying it—becomes an impossible concession to the administrator or supervisor who demanded that they attend (or, like yesterday, threatened them with insubordination if they did not). Not exactly an ideal way to prepare someone for a potential learning experience. It doesn’t actually feel personal, but boy, it can make the day seem awfully long.

I am increasingly nervous about the number of people I meet who are leaving the profession for lack of support, continual decreases in discretion, increased pressure to improve or fix things beyond their control, or simply, as one person told me, because “I did not go into teaching to prepare kids to take tests.”

My heart hurts for them, partly because I’ve been down that road myself and remember all too well the needless obstacles that made a challenging job nearly impossible to do, or do well.

I’m also nervous because what they learn in my seminars, if indeed they learn anything, is probably 180° from what their administrators sent them there to get. And that doing what actually works with kids—in terms of improving behavior, commitment, learning and performance (even though I make sure to discuss ways to “cover their backsides”) is very likely to draw fire and create even more stress in their lives.

I know the feeling of wanting to jump off a sinking ship. When I left the classroom, I was fairly sure I was done with education, and I’ve sworn off numerous times since. But I keep coming back because, in part, this is simply who I am. Or maybe I’m just not ready to give up on the wealth of proven possibilities we actually have for reaching kids, the hundreds of strategies we can use that work, especially in a healthy and supportive environment.

And, as I also experienced in this past week, I know that there are at least a few healthy, positive, and supportive schools and districts doing some amazing things, and I guess as long as there are a few of them left, or as long as at least a few people show up because they are indeed committed to making positive changes and just want a few more ideas, I’ll hang around.

It’s late in the season. I haven’t been home for more than 2 weeks (and that long only once) since the end of September. I’m tired. There are days when I feel, physically, like I’m barely holding together. And I never seem to be able to stay caught up on much of anything anymore. So I’m a little sensitive to the negativity out there right now, and very grateful for the creativity and persistence of the educators I meet who are somehow managing in these crazy times.

May 5, 2005

Quick Update

I’m writing from the restaurant in the Thunderbird Hotel in Bloomington, Minnesota, one trip away from the official end of the semester. Just finished a lovely day with a group of about 150 counselors, social workers, youth intervention specialists, teachers, foster parents, alternative school and corrections people, and others who work with at-risk kids. I’ve got about 3 hours before my flight home, a few minutes before the airport shuttle will ferry me over to the airport.

I’ve finished with BER for the school year which means quite a bit less travel for the next few months, a chance to catch my breath, sort of. The last run was a good one and I’m grateful for the work I did with this terrific group of people.

I’ve now turned my attention to a few other projects, including revising my handout book (which I do every year for my BER workshops, and which becomes the source of all my workshop handouts for the year), working on the High School’s Not Forever Web site and starting on a 3rd edition of 21st Century Discipline.

Yes, this is exciting news. I’m anticipating a contract from a new publisher and as soon as we nail down details, I’ll fill you in. They look like great people and I’m excited about the prospect of working with them.

High School’s Not Forever is still in the design phase and we haven’t seen anything beyond what I already have posted on this site. So stay tuned…

I’ve got one trip left this crazy semester: I head out for London next Wednesday. Very excited about working with this new organization (The Centre for Child Mental Health) and looking forward to seeing a few friends I haven’t seen in a few years. (Though you think Cream could’ve held off one more week before their big reunion concert. Darn!) I’ll let you know how it goes.

May 11, 2005

In the Air again…

Greetings from 35,000 feet! I’m on my way to London for a conference focusing on the relationship between kids’ behavior (or, “behaviour”) and achievement.

As much as I whine about traveling sometimes, I’m actually quite excited about this trip. I guess being home for a few days was enough to re-energize me. It’s been ages since I’ve been in London and the thought of seeing a few friends I haven’t seen in a couple of years, walking around town, and just being in a big, foreign city again has me really psyched.

In the meantime, I’ve got the iPod shuffling through Tull, the Stones, Roxy Music, the Smiths, Cream, and the like, definitely getting me in the mood. Too cool…

But first…

I think I’ve nailed down a design for the new Web site—the one that goes along with the new, soon-to-be-released book, High School’s Not Forever. If you want to get an idea of what the site will look like, click here.

May 15, 2005

3:30 a.m., London

London EyeJet lag, anyone? I’m not only wide awake but really hungry! (It’s 8:30 pm at home right now.) It takes days for me to get on local time and probably just as I start adjusting, it’ll be time for me to head home—about 36 hours from now.

I did all the things they say to do—staying up all day when I got here, walking around in the sunlight, avoiding caffeine and alcohol, going to bed after it gets dark. And still…

The day I got here, I decided to take advantage of the gorgeous weather to do some sightseeing. I grabbed a couple of maps at the front desk and had a blast navigating the buses and the Tubes (subway) to get around town. (Nothing like a good mass transit system, especially in a city this size!) I still ended up walking for miles, which I hoped would wear me out so I’d sleep later that night.

I wanted to check out the London Eye, this enormous, slow-moving ferris wheel right on the banks of the Thames. The views were incredible (or “brilliant,” as they say here!) but I think I was even more fascinated by the engineering of this thing. Truly remarkable.

I walked past the Parliament and Big Ben (no tours until summer, I was told) and spent a couple hours just hanging out in Westminster Abbey, which was one of the first places I visited on my first trip here, nearly 30 years ago! (That was also the last time I actually spent any time in London.)

Big BenI slept so late on Friday, once I finally fell asleep, that I never did get out to do any sightseeing! But I had a lovely evening meeting a friend for dinner and a play. (We saw A Patch of Blue in a tiny theater in the back of a pub! Terrific performances, with the British actors really nailing the American accents! Quite impressive.)

The conference yesterday was fantastic, and a great way to end the semester and school year. What a lovely group of people! Of course many of the problems and concerns in schools we see in the States also exist here, and clearly the same solutions will apply as well. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing the other speakers; the participants certainly got a terrific blend of information.

London is incredibly expensive and our dollar is definitely not doing well right now. It’s more than $25 a day to get online here so I’m not gonna bother uploading these updates until I get home.

So, OK. It’s now just after 4 a.m. I’m supposed to meet another friend sometime later today and I sure hope he’s flexible cause at this point, I do not feel like setting an alarm and there’s no telling when I’ll be asleep (or awake) again.

May 26, 2005

High School Web Site is up. Sort of.

I am pleased to announce the launching of the Web site for our new book, High School’s Not Forever. There’s not much content yet, but all the structural and design elements (templates, library items, CSS) and the home page frameset are all in place. Click here to check out the site!

The deck is open…

This is my favorite day of the year! It’s summertime (almost) and time to move my workspace out to the deck. Although there are certain things I can only do efficiently at my desk in the office downstairs, I love spending mornings working outside. (It gets too warm after about 2:00 on most days.)

This is where I do much of my writing and research or reading, and where, lately, I’ve been working on my Web sites, watching the birds at the feeders right in front of me, enjoying the incredible view and the high desert air. I know I’m still a bit giddy from being home for more than two weeks, but it really doesn’t get much better than this.

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