Wednesday, August 5, 2015

No First Day!

Today was the first day of school in Gilbert.  For me, it was the first day in 61 years that I didn't have a first day of school.  It goes all the way back to when I started kindergarten at 15th St. School in Douglas with Mrs. Bond.   Every year thereafter, I have had a first day of school!  But this year I don't.   I know that I have had several people tell me that they had to leave town when this happened to them when they retired, but it truly was okay with me! 

My daughter, Kerri, teaches fourth grade so I took donut holes and juice to her classroom this morning for the kids to get off to a sweet start for the new year.  The kids were great.  They asked me questions about Kerri when she was in school.  The best questions was did I ever have to fire a principal!!   

Yesterday when I went to get propane for the barbeque, I ran into a former student from when I was a teacher.  We hugged and caught up with her life.  She told me that she will be 43 next month.  We had a great visit.  Today when I went to get the juice at Fry's, I ran into a former student from Gilbert El who was there with his wife and little son.  Again, we had a great visit.  I shared some things with his wife about him and we had some great laughs.   I think that helped me!!

Yesterday I posted on Facebook wishing all of my Gilbert friends a great school year.  Today, I posted for my Douglas friends.   There is not a level playing field in Arizona and it is bad enough at the best of places.  Here is what I posted today:

For the past five years, I had the privilege of working with an incredible group of educators, support staff, parents, and kiddos in Douglas where I grew up. Tomorrow is the first day of school in Douglas. In the words of Rascal Flatts, "My Wish".....I hope the days come easy and the moments pass slow,
And each road leads you where you wanna go,
And if you're faced with a choice, and you have to choose,
I hope you choose the one that means the most to you.
And if one door opens to another door closed,
I hope you keep on walkin' till you find the window,
If it's cold outside, show the world the warmth of your smile.
But more than anything, more than anything
My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to,
Your dreams stay big, your worries stay small,
You never need to carry more than you can hold,
And while you're out there getting where you're getting to,
I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too,
Yeah, this, is my wish.
I have had such a great month just relaxing and getting situated again.  It has been wonderful.  I have had an incredible career and I would not trade it for anything!!!!!!  What a gift I have been given!!!!!!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

History Repeats Itself

Many years ago I read John Jakes' book, "North and South."  It was excellent.  Because I have traveled so much over the past few years, I listen to books in the car.  I recently started listening to this book.   Wow!   It has been so long since I read it, I didn't remember much.

The story is about two families, one from Pennsylvania (north) and one from South Carolina (south) who are friends.   The two main characters meet at West Point.   It takes place in the 1840's and 50's.   Although it is fiction, Mr. Jakes does an excellent job of the historical facts that were occurring in our country during that time.   It all surrounded the issue of slavery and prejudice and all of the issues leading up to the Civil War.    

All I can say is that we, as a country, have not learned much in the 150 plus years since this happened.   Although what is happening in our country right now is not the same, many of the issues are.   They get back to prejudice and not accepting of people because of the color of their skin.   I know I realized that when I read it before, but for some reason it really has made an impression on me.   Maybe it is because of the media in our country and things being brought out into the open.   I don't know.   It just makes me sad that we are still fighting equality battles for people because of the color of their skin or because of where they come from.   

There is a saying that history repeats itself and I would have to agree.    We have not learned!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

An Amazing Conference and a Very Touching Moment!

I just attended the facilitators' training for the Family Leadership Institute that was done by my "shero"--Consuelo Castillo Kickbusch.   I have been involved in many programs over my 44 years in education, but I believe that FLI is the single best program that I have ever been a part of.   This program empowers parents to become leaders in their homes and in their communities.   

I have been to many, many conferences through the years, but I have never attended one that included parents as total equals or even that had many parents at the conference.   There were many parents attending this training, many of whom are first generation Americans and many who work as migrant workers in the fields of California and Washington.  There were also many educators from superintendents, to principals, to teachers, to attendance clerks.  Consuelo did the majority of the work for the four days that we were there.  And she is powerful.  It is hard to explain, but it is more than just an educational experience, it is also a spiritual experience.  As she often says, one has to get naked with their souls in order to move on.  And she talks about forgiveness.   I can't even begin to capture in words what this  experience was like.   And I am not going to try, but I am going to share something personal that happened to me that I will always cherish.

I got to Las Vegas Sunday afternoon and we had our opening session Sunday night.  Two administrators and two parents from Douglas also were there.   The first night, I was very uncomfortable because it brought back all of the awful negative issues that I dealt with because of trying to stand up for the parents in Douglas and involve and empower them.  I went through a lot from a few people who are so narrow minded that they can't see what a community needs in order to progress.   And they did everything to try to stop this program, but they weren't successful.    During these sad times I had a lot of support, but I did not have anyone step up to stop the insanity.   

When I left Douglas and moved back to Gilbert, I was able to put the pettiness and bullying behind me and I knew I would never have to deal with anything like this ever again.    The month of July has been such an enjoyable and relaxing month for me being away from the ugliness of a few.  

But Sunday night for some reason brought it back.  And the absolute hardest thing for me because of my passion for children, families and our schools, was that I wasn't able to continue to make changes for the betterment of that community.   I seriously thought about leaving the next day because of the feelings I was having.   I told Consuelo about it in the morning, but told her I was absolutely going to stay.

At one of the breaks, one of the Douglas parents was talking to me and she started to cry.  She told me that she was so sorry that she and the others didn't step up and try to stop the mean spirited people.  She said that she was apologizing to me for many, many people in the community.  She said that she has so many regrets now that I am gone. 

Later in the morning, we did an exercise and it turned into a true teachable moment for Consuelo.  We got into quite an emotional discussion from parents who don't feel that they are welcomed at their children's schools.   The parents were sharing it very emotionally and the educators were listening.  Consuelo has a magic way of turning something like this into an incredible opportunity.  There were many tears and much discussion about how this can be changed.  I truly believe that the educators in the room heard what the parents were saying and one of the things they were saying is that they don't feel as though they are listened to by the educators.

Several people went to the front of the room and shared and Consuelo brought parents and educators from the same district up to talk in front of everyone.  As I said, it was very emotional and very profound.

Then one of the parents from Douglas raised her hand and  said that she was listening to all of these parents saying that they aren't listened to, but that Douglas had an administrator who always listened and empowered them and they let her go.  She was crying as she talked about how I treated parents and gave them a voice that they had never had before, but no one stood up for me. She also said something that I will never forget and that was that she was raised in a single family home and when her father left, she felt abandoned.  And she said that is how she felt when I left.   I can hardly write this without getting teary. Consuelo had me come up and stand by the parent.  She asked if she could share what I told her about wanting to leave and I said absolutely.  So she did and she told everyone about the absolute ugliness that went on because I believed in FLI and I had to fight nasty people.   She gave some examples about what some did to try to destroy FLI.   Then she said that I still did my best to make sure it continued despite these few ugly people.    All of a sudden, everyone in the room stood up and started clapping.  It was unbelievable and I can't even begin to put in writing what it meant to me.

Many of the participants came up to hug me when we had a break, which we did right after this as it was so emotional.   

I know in my heart that I always did the best I could and always had the children as my first priority for the five years I was in Douglas.  It saddens me how a few people can do so much damage.  I tend to be an optimist and I think that will change in the future.   I think FLI is alive and well in Douglas and I think the parents will make sure that it continues.  And I believe with my entire being that it will make all of the difference for Douglas--not just the schools, but the entire community!   And there are so many great parents, educators, etc. in Douglas and I care very deeply for them and can only hope for the best for them.   And of course, the children of Douglas deserve the very best on a playing field that is not level in Arizona!

I am proud of this incredible program and I thank Consuelo for her passion and vision.  She is truly a servant leader and I admire her so much!   She is absolutely one of the most amazing leaders we have in this country today!