The Secret Behind My Smile

Humble honey

If you’ve been with me for long, you know that I typically blog about books I’ve read and how I implement them in my role as an educator. However, this one is a bit different. I have a secret to share with you.

Smiles do not always equal happiness.

On a typical day, you can find me surrounded by kids, books, technology, and loving every minute. Most who know me personally would describe me as a very enthusiastic, energetic, fun-loving person. It’s rare to see me without a smile. I give those out freely and often.

The other side of that sometimes obnoxious positivity is a very real and constant struggle with depression and anxiety. A struggle that very few know about (until now, I guess). I’ve always been “on edge” and a bit of a “worry wart,” even as a child. I worry about ridiculous things that statistically would never happen. I don’t relax much; I find that I just can’t. After I was finally able to carry a child to term – our daughter, Bailey – I was diagnosed with postpartum depression. With the exception of short period of time, I have been on antidepressants since then.

She will be 10 years old next month.

There are times that I wonder if I could stop taking the meds. If I stopped, could I tell that the meds were even doing anything? Then, there are times like this weekend. Times that I’m not sure I would make it out if I stopped taking the medication. I’m still clawing my way out from this weekend.

I’ve heard it referred to as a spiraling depression. Something hits me wrong, then something else, and something else, and then it just kind of gets out of control. Before I know it, there’s some form of unintended self-destructive behavior. I’ve lashed out at those who don’t deserve it; I find fault with things I normally would enjoy; I sleep… a lot. I am much more short-tempered. I don’t feel like myself and don’t want to do things I enjoy (even things I enjoyed last week). Things that I’ve worked so hard to accomplish suddenly don’t result in satisfaction. Minor setbacks feel more like epic failures.

It’s like an implosion, collapsing in on myself.

The secret behind the smile is sometimes you won’t find that happiness is what put the smile there. The smile is just a facade, a protectant. It keeps people from asking what’s wrong. How can you answer that when you aren’t even sure? There is no “one thing” that’s wrong and no one can “fix” it. What’s wrong just leads to tears. Tears can be perceived as weakness.

I am not weak; I’m engaged in a battle every day.

The end of a school year can be tough on everyone, learners and educators alike. The bittersweet accomplishment of completing another year. Evidence of the passing of time. High-stakes assessments looming. For those like me, it can be a trigger. It can start a spiral. Instead of asking “what’s wrong,” just be supportive. When you see a smile, just smile back.

Give grace.

The number of people in the United States alone that battle depression and/or anxiety is staggering. So I don’t share this post for pity. I share it because there are others who are struggling right now; there has to be based on the statistics alone. Others who are smiling to keep from answering “what’s wrong”. They are smiling on the outside, but they may be spiraling on the inside. Be kind to others. We never know what the secret behind their smile is.

What Exactly Do Great Educators Do Differently?

April 1, 2019

I woke up ready to find out the answer to this question…exactly what great educators do differently?! I anxiously packed for a trip to Houston, Texas where I’d find out the answer! I was anxious because, although I’d been on a plane before, I had never navigated an airport alone and would be going the furthest west I’d ever been.

Maybe you just learned something new about me. I’m not exactly a world traveler (yet). I was pretty worried about this trip. I checked off a lot of “firsts” while finding out what great educators do differently… first solo airport navigation (including security, where I learned that multiple Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc books stacked at the bottom of my carry-on looks suspicious enough to merit a bag search), first flight alone, first time renting a car, first time being in Texas (I’d only visited TX long enough to stop at the welcome center when I was a teenager visiting friends in Louisiana), first time driving in the city, first time driving through a toll (yes, seriously), first time attending a conference alone, etc, etc. You get the point. For someone with generalized anxiety disorder (ahem, me), this was a HUGE undertaking.

I made it to the Texas airport, and as I was approaching the line to get my rental car, I hear my name. Nervously I looked around and (insert squeal of delight) THE Pirate Captain is coming down the escalator! I’ve never been so happy to see a friendly face in my life! That might be a slight exaggeration, but not by much.

That evening I had the privilege of meeting & chatting with several of the speakers for the Houston 2019 What Great Educators Do Differently conference – David Geurin, Jimmy Casas, Amy Fast, Katie Martin, Jeff Zoul and I got to reconnect with my dear friend, Derek McCoy and my awesome publisher, Dave Burgess! Heading to bed early, I was ready for the upcoming fast-paced day of learning!

April 2, 2019

As always, Dave lit the room on fire with his Teach Like A Pirate keynote. It reminded me that this month is ONE YEAR since I experienced his keynote for the first time. I wrote a blog about it here. (Spoiler: It changed my life; literally a Life-Changing Lesson, or LCL as it’s referenced in the book.) I saw it again in June 2018 in Florence, SC, so I was pumped to take it all in again. This was the perfect way to start the day. From Dave’s keynote, I got that great educators create experiences, not just mere lessons; for “lessons are easily forgotten, but experiences live forever!”

Following up on this idea was Jeff Zoul‘s session on classroom management. It is unrealistic to expect every student to be engaged every second of the day. It had been a long time since I’d engaged in a best practices session on classroom management, so I was excited to hear what Jeff had to say. I was affirmed in this session because many of the management strategies I already use, Jeff shared. What I learned about great educators in Jeff’s session is summed up in this tweet. Don’t copy someone else’s management techniques… they have to be YOU!

Perhaps one of the sessions I was most excited about was Jimmy Casas’s session. I’ve got to be honest, I didn’t care what the author of Culturize (and more) presented on… it could have been oompa-loompas, fairies, or proper techniques to watch paint dry… I just couldn’t wait to hear from him! (Culturize left me in pieces – read more about that in my #DBC50Summer blog post.) He did NOT disappoint. His session on addressing underperformance was a clear reflection of his passion and purpose in developing a strong culture in schools. I learned from Jimmy that great educators don’t shy away from the difficult conversations. Great educators have the conversations and offer help, not just in that moment, but checking in & following up with those who are struggling.

As if the day couldn’t get any better, it was time for our lunch keynote from Rick Wormeli. Yep… THE Rick Wormeli, one of the first National Board Certified Teachers, international speaker extraordinaire, and the man who made me realize that traditional grading practices are asinine during his #HiveSummit interview with Michael Matera (author of Explore Like A Pirate) this summer. Lunch was delicious, I met Aaron Hogan (author of Shattering the Perfect Teacher Myth & a new book coming soon – so excited), AND Rick owned the keynote and taught me that great educators “never sacrifice sound pedagogy because someone above [them] isn’t there yet.”

It was time for the final session and I wanted to see David Geurin, Derek McCoy, Amy Fast, AND Katie Martin speak! I would have LOVED to clone myself in that moment. I split my time between Katie Martin and Derek McCoy. Katie’s story about her own child’s struggle in school reminded me that great educators know their learners. Great educators focus on the strengths of their learners and grow them from where they are. Derek got me when he said, “we can’t spend any more time building schools based on what adults need!” From him, I learned that great educators are focused on the students.

By the end of the day, I had chatted and learned from these phenomenal educators and several of the participants!

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(Left to Right and Top to Bottom) David Geurin, Dave Burgess, Jimmy Casas, Amy Fast, Aaron Hogan, Jeff Zoul, Katie Martin, Rick Wormeli, Derek McCoy

April 3, 2019

As I confidently (because hey, I survived so many “firsts”) packed up my suitcase, careful to separate the books this time to get through security faster, I reflected on my time at the What Great Educators Do Differently conference. I wondered, if I were to sum up what I learned in one or two sentences, what would I say?

I spent the majority of my flight home considering that, and came to this…

Great educators are willing to take risks in the best interest of their students. They are willingly to relentlessly learn and grow, seeking the very best way to teach every learner.

And I realized in a VERY humbling moment… I did just that. I took a huge risk, investing time, money, and a tremendous amount of anxiety to attend a conference to better myself and my practices for every learner I have, both adult and middle school learners. Flying halfway across the country to attend a conference alone, meeting and reconnecting with several educators I admire and respect, was something many around me could not understand. (Trust me, they asked why I was doing this multiple times.) I am so grateful for the opportunity to attend #WGEDD and I highly recommend going to one if you have the chance. I will definitely seek it out again!

**I believe this qualifies as my #DBC50Summer implementation of Ditch that Textbook by Matt Miller and serves as a piece of my implementation of Lead Like A Pirate by Shelley Burgess and Beth Houf. I had no idea about this conference during the writing of those blogs, but it certainly fits the implementations of letting go of fear and being relentless, don’t you think?

#DBCBookBlogs: They Call Me “Mr. De”

Cassie Bernall, Steve Curnow, Corey DePooter, Kelly Fleming, Matt Kechter, Daniel Mauser, Daniel Rohrbough, Rachel Scott, Isaiah Shoels, John Tomlin, Lauren Townsend, Kyle Velasquez, Coach Dave Sanders

The names of those murdered by two students at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999. Frank DeAngelis was the principal at Columbine that day and he remained principal for the following 15 years. This may go on record as the shortest #DBCBookBlog to date as I feel that anything I would say would diminish the power of this book. This book left me speechless. I cried. I mourned the loss of those lives. I felt the Rebel Pride of Columbine as I read about the recovery, the hope, and love of the community through Frank’s eyes. This is a must-read book.

TheyCallMeMrDe

There are certain events that have occurred in which I remember exactly where I was and how I felt. The mass tragedy at Columbine was one of those times. I was in middle school and as news didn’t spread quite as quickly as it does today, I found out about the shooting on the evening news. There wasn’t a lot of information available, but I remember feeling stunned that this could happen. The community of Columbine seemed so much like my own community – supportive, vibrant, and loving.

To say that anything “good” came from that day must feel like a slap in the face to those who experienced the horror. With that in mind, I will just say that I am thankful for the efforts of Frank and so many others to protect students across the country from these senseless tragedies. At my school, we now have locks on our doors that lock from the inside, a full-time School Resource Officer (SRO), video surveillance across our entire campus, a front-door buzzer, panic buttons, badges for volunteers and visitors, and more. We practice two lockdowns per year in conjunction with our Sheriff’s Department. However, with all of these safety protocols in place, these tragedies continue to occur.

While I feel as though I’m powerless to prevent this from happening to anyone else, I can be certain to be more involved in the lives of my own children. By my children, I mean both my biological daughters and the thousands of students whom I consider to be my children. I struggle to believe that children are born evil. I’m not sure what changed the two gunmen from silly little boys to murderous young men, but I can be sure to be proactive as a parent and an educator. No one knows what tomorrow holds. We can only spread kindness, hope, and love, just like Frank DeAngelis.

One of the things that stood out to me the most from reading this book is the effort Frank put in to include the names of every single person who was instrumental in the recovery and resiliency of the community. He honors the students who lost their lives by sharing their stories and being involved in countless charities and organizations. He speaks across the world and reaches out to those who have been affected by similar tragedies. Lean on others when you need support. Like Frank, it’s important to seek treatment by a professional and show your emotions. Grieve together. Share positive memories with one another. Check up on each other. If you are a spiritual person, dive into your faith like never before. These are some of the keys to Columbine’s hope, recovery, and resiliency.

Thank you, Frank DeAngelis, for sharing your story. Thank you for being raw, honest, and vulnerable. Thank you for allowing us to see you. I imagine writing this story was part of your own recovery and I appreciate your heart. Because of you, the lives of the Beloved Thirteen will continue to be remembered. Never Forgotten.

∞∞∞

No matter what your profession, no matter your political affiliation, your spiritual beliefs, every person should read this book. It’s important that the truth is shared and that these lives are remembered. Read a free preview, then order your hardcover copy here.