Thursday, November 28, 2013

Very Thankful for Family

Today is Thanksgiving, and well, I didn't turn my alarm off last night, so I'm up early with a quiet house.. might as well write a post I've been trying to frame all month! :)

November is a month dedicated to a lot of things. There is the obvious Thanksgiving connection with plenty of your friends posting a daily thankful post on Facebook. For me, I'm most thankful for my wife and 4 kids. They're amazing, and throw me through a wide range of emotions and levels of exhaustion each and every day that make me a better husband, father, and teacher with each minute I spend with them. I love it!

November is also the "awareness" month for diabetes, epilepsy, and healthy skin to name 3 of 14 that I was able to track down. Out of those 14 there is one that stands closest to my heart, Adoption Awareness Month.

As I mentioned before, my wife and I have four beautiful children together, half of which came to us through adoption. I'm pretty sure you would be able to recognize which two they are, as they don't necessarily have the same skin tone as my wife or I, but then really none of my kids share the same skin tone. In fact, when you do look at us, we are a unique hodge-podge of personalities, hair colors/type, and attitudes. We are quite the head turners when we go out. I call us a parade of crazy as we thunder through stores! :)

People are always stopping us to say how beautiful our family is. And they are.. My family. There is no doubt in my mind that the four kids that I tuck in every night are mine. I'm equally their father, and I love them of each so very much. My heart couldn't be any more full with gratitude for the fact that I have each of them. Each a miracle.

Creating a family is difficult in so many ways. There are many factors that are out of your control in just having a child to start with: getting pregnant, finding an adoption match, or working through the foster care system are all things that require outside forces (whatever you would like to call them) that you simply have to wait and hope for. And then, when Baby arrives the parenting journey doesn't just get easier. All of the worry and hope you had leading up to the baby being born continues each day as you work hard to parent your child to becoming a competent, strong member of our society. It's overwhelming at times. But the magic of life that my kids bring to me each day is just phenomenal!

Since going through our adoption, I feel like my wife and I have become the go-to advocates for our friends and family. We love talking with parents that are interested in following our path, and we've been thrilled to watch others create/add to their family using our attorney/agency. So as to not make this an extremely long post (my kids are waking up now wanting some breakfast), I'm going to highlight a few of the key learning points you should know about adoption:

1) My kids weren't "given up" for adoption. Asking adoptive parents why the kids were "given up" isn't the best approach. An adoption plan was made, and in the end, that plan is for my wife, my kids, and I to know. Ultimately, you have to squash that curiosity until the family is at a place that they are comfortable in sharing such information with you. And, sorry, but that might be... never.. :)

2) Yes, they're mine. The one question I'm asked the most is "Are they yours?" Now, I understand that my crew and I look unusual. I can see all of the questions that cross people's minds as we walk by, and because we are that "odd," filters are thrown out the window and we get "are they yours?" My fun response is, "Shh, no! I found these two a couple aisles over, but don't tell!" That one doesn't go over that well.. go figure! :) So, I would advise to instead say, "you have a beautiful family." Yup.. that's it. Because if the kids aren't all mine, that's the point I would say, "oh no, I'm just watching these two." See.. much better. Assuming that we are a family, actually makes things less awkward.

3) Introducing your friend's kids with the descriptor, "and these are their adopted kids" isn't necessary. It kinda gives the feeling of a sideshow. "Look! These kids are different!" My kids are simply my kids. I wouldn't think to introduce your kids with, "and this one was born vaginally, while the other two here are C-section babies.. neat, huh?!" A little weird, right? So, let the adoption talk be handled by the parents. It makes things a little smoother.

4) If you see a family that appears to have children that are adopted, walking up and saying, "they're adopted, right?" as though you just solved some mystery to win a prize is actually quite annoying. Whether they are or not, is simply not important. The fact that they are a family is all that matters. Even if you have adopted, and you are just trying to make a connection the blunt approach can be awkward. Again, I have gone with, "your family is beautiful, it reminds me of my family." See? Opening the door to show that "hey what you have going on here, is similar to me." Better, right?.. yes! :)

Ok.. my kids are starving, so I'm going to leave you with those 4 tidbits. I'd love to hear more suggestions or even field any questions that you may have. Please leave a comment below, and share the post if you'd like. Thanks for reading this, and HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Seriously, what's my motivation?!

You may not have known this, but I spent my four years of college life studying for a degree in business. Out of college, I worked in customer service, sales, and management before realizing my calling as an educator. With the loving support of my wife, I made the career shift and here I am now. The hardest part of it all? Wasn't working with the kids, lesson planning, or having to go back to school to get a masters. No.. in the end all of that was fine. The hardest part for me has been transitioning into a very different way of approaching work.

I spent my childhood watching my dad bust his butt in corporate America, and work his way up to executive positions. He was professional, trustworthy, and driven. Those qualities led to his success. I saw that, and lived by that out of college becoming an assistant manager of an Enterprise Rent-A-Car office just after a 1 year with the company. I work hard, I have a great attitude, and I strive to be the best. Promotions and raises followed in each of the positions I held before going back to become a teacher. So the challenge has been finding the driving, motivating force each year to become an even better teacher.

I get the idealistic concept of getting better for "the children." Sure. But isn't that why I got into the profession in the first place? Of course I work for the students each year. I give everything I have to motivate and inspire my students to be dedicated learners. I exhaust myself to the point that I'm not my best in my own home sometimes. And with each year I give my all, I have to find/create ways to motivate myself into the next year. And for a driven person a new motivation will be found, but for those teachers that aren't... well don't we see so many grumpy teachers doing the same thing EACH and EVERY year?

Now, please understand that I'm not tying this all to $$. I don't necessarily think that providing incentives in the form of money always leads to the most positive things. I mean just take a look at how corrupt corporate America can be when incentives are solely $$ based. We don't need that kind of drama in our schools.. we have plenty already! But I do think that there are creative ways to encourage/motivate teachers to continue to bring new ideas and energy year to year. For example, give those teachers that are leading the way opportunities to lead professional development. Give them a voice, and an opportunity to feel their value in front of teaching peers. Or what if positive performance evaluations could lead to supplemented teacher education. I know that I'd love to be working toward having an ED Leadership Degree paid for, instead of having to fork over $5K to $8k for a promotion into an Admin position. Yeah, us teachers have to pay more $ for the opportunity to move into an Assistant Principal or Principal position.

At this point, I'm thankful to have a drive to success that was handed down to me by my parents. I strive to be the best, and when I thought I had reached that I started to get negative about the profession.  It was hard to work to be even better when I felt I was already at a level beyond a lot of teachers around me. Then I found out, I wasn't even close. I reached out with technology and found a base of teachers and administrators that have further inspired me. This inspiration has led to new changes in my classroom that I know continue to set me apart from my peers. And, these connections continue to help motivate me to step further down the path to Education Leadership. I see so many changes/challenges coming to education, and I want to meet those head on!

So, for me, I'll always find a way to become better because that is simply my nature. I want to be the best, because I want my students to be the best. And when I felt exhausted, I reached out to find others like me to help build me up to keep going. But how do we inspire those teachers that don't have that drive? The ones that are not changing and growing as professionals? The ones that aren't looking for their motivation?

I'd love to hear some suggestions, so please comment below. Tell me what you'd like to see school districts/communities do to further encourage/motivate teachers to strive to be better. Or tell me, how you find inspiration to be better year to year.