Sunday, January 1, 2017

My #OneWord2017 - Suffer

For all of my ten plus years of blogging, this is my first #OneWord post. After reading so many inspiring and reflective blogs from educator friends I decided it was time for mine. 

I've already set a pretty large goal for 2017, in which I'm going to run twelve marathons this coming year, one each month. Maybe you're already wondering how my #OneWord and running a marathon every month in 2017 has any relevancy in education at all, let me explain.

I really hesitate to just focus on my work and career, and having actually taken a few steps back from blogging, social media and other 'career' enhancing endeavors that were taking a toll on my family and other passions of mine. I'm fanatical about running, eating well and taking care of my body and that really defines how I live, more than my work in education.

This brings me to my #OneWord choice for 2017........ SUFFER. 

When I run 26.2 miles I suffer. I'm able to see inside my body and find ideas, solutions and capacity I would not have been able to access if it wasn't for the suffer. Suffering for me brings clarity. I've run nine marathons in my life so far and I'm constantly forced to hone in on minute details that are swirling around in my brain. All other noise is pushed out - because I'm running a long way and only that which really matters gets revealed.

 For me it's really a form of mediation, sifting out the clutter to reveal the nuggets of goodness that have risen to the surface for more attention.

I've had the taste of it, and I want to suffer more. I want to find more clarity. I want to bring out what's really most important in my body and mind, so I can analyze it even deeper and reach my full capacity. Hard work and dedication has really been at the core of my life for a long time, and it's time to ramp it up a few notches.

Suffering this year will strengthen my body for sure, but also my work as an educator and author. It's those moments at mile 17, mile 25, those 4am training runs - that it all becomes crystal clear. I'm optimistic my #OneWord and goal for 2017 will have a delightful relationship together as I run throughout the year.

Come run with me if you're looking to suffer a bit and find something you didn't know was inside you, it's going to hurt but benefits are so worth it.

Carlsbad Marathon - January 15th
Iron Horse Trail Marathon - February 11th
Los Angeles Marathon - March 19th
Santa Rosa Marathon - August 27th (At mile ten you run through a winery tasting room!)
Night Sweats Marathon - September - 9th (Night Marathon starting at 8pm, on trails in Marin Headlands!)
Lake Tahoe Marathon - October 15th (Lake Tahoe - amazing!)
November - TBD (Any suggestions?!)

Thursday, September 8, 2016

It's A National Emergency

This is my thirteenth year in public education, I've been a teacher - Assistant Principal - Principal and am now a Director of Innovation, my dad taught 2nd and 3rd grade for thirty-eight years, my oldest child is now in Kindergarten. 

I'm connected with educators all around the country, and many that I talk with feel the same frustration. 

No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, Common Core - in my thirteen years there's been so many new programs from the federal level. Yes, when I started teaching the iPad and Chromebook had not yet been invented. Google Docs hadn't been created yet either. And of course, we have much more educational research at our fingertips in those thirteen years.

It's so great working with smart, caring and passionate educators. As a country are we just spinning around and around though? 


Do the people making these decisions that hold public office know what it's like to work in a public school, day after day? That many of our teachers rely on Donors Choose to fund new and innovative ideas for their class.

A Chromebook is 100x more powerful than a pencil, yet so many of our students, classrooms, schools and districts don't have them or don't have enough. I believe this is a national emergency, spend less money on politics, politicians, aircraft carriers, weapon systems, fancy flights for dignitaries and do what's best for our kids. 

Get all kids connected, get all kids access and provide quality programs and pathways for teachers to support our kids.

I just wonder how many articles I'm going to read everyday in numerous different media outlets about the importance of coding in school. How many jobs we're going to outsource to other countries because our kids in our schools are not being taught how to code, why they should code and making it an actual part of the curriculum.

Just yesterday I was visiting one of our middle schools and EVERY 6th grader is taking a coding rotation. They're learning how to code in Scratch and it was an absolutely amazing sixty minutes that I observed. I truly believe that it's a national emergency that our students learn to code.

They all won't become programmers after high school or college. But they all will learn extremely valuable problem solving skills, communication skills, working in partners/teams, and they'll have the satisfaction of building something and then seeing an outcome based on what they've done.

I wish we could all get in sync. I wish we could all be on the same page. I wish the elected officials making the decisions that impact us, were previous teachers - Principals - district office personnel. Then they would actually know what we're going through. That quite often many educators feel like they're in a hamster wheel. Spinning around and around and around. Working super hard but not really going anywhere. Not being supported, encouraged or guided in a direction of success.

This is a national emergency - we must all come together, it's not about the adults - it's about the kids. We need to stop listening to lobbyist and text book companies who try and package the new shiny curriculum. We need more coding, more recess, more kudos, more technology that's integrated thoughtfully, more relationship building and less profit margins.

We can do this, I really hope we come together as a country to do what's best for kids - they deserve it.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

I Like Computers?

It happened again. Of course I'm use to it, but it's a bigger problem than what's really on the surface.

Yes - I'm a Director of Innovation and Technology. Yes - I use to set up Google Apps domains for Principals when I was still a teacher. Yes - I really love enhancing the curriculum in classes with laptops, tablets, coding and robots.

Spoiler alert - it's not just me. I do like computers in education and my life, but kids really do too!

Very recently I was around some teachers and I could hear their chatter about technology, iPads, their iPhones etc. To be transparent I was really only half listening but then the group addressed me directly. 

One teacher said - "I know, I know - you like computers."

It was accusatory almost, like it's my fault. Like I invented laptops, iPads and the app store. Like I'm the one who started this digital revolution as a way to enhance the curriculum in school.

(Some thoughts racing through my brain)

Don't make me the scapegoat because you don't want to learn, you don't want to transform your classroom into a mecca of digital learning that kids can't wait to participate in on a daily basis, because sometimes the wi-fi is slow, because you only have six Chromebooks, because you're scared to admit that your students know more about computers than you do.

Spoiler alert #2 - those same students probably know more about computers than I do, and that's totally ok! You don't to know everything about computers to integrate them into your classroom. You only need to facilitate the learning, exploration and discovery with kids!

Blaming, finger pointing, complaining and making excuses doesn't help. It doesn't benefit anyone, it's not encouraging, it actually takes away positive energy and only hurts the cause.

So I thought for just a second before I responded.

"I do really like computers, but kids REALLY like them too, it's not just me."


Me - "Don't your students really enjoy using computers, tablets and online programs?"

"Yes they do."

That interaction stayed with me the rest of the evening, and even into the next morning during my run. 

Computers are all around us, like everywhere. I almost can't think of a profession where computers/phones/tablets aren't used. My cousin married a guy who owns a 10,000 acre farm in Iowa. His entire crop is digitized, all the way down to his tractors and where he plants the seeds. Because he uses satellites and past data to know where exactly he should plant so he gets the highest yield.

And he's a farmer in Iowa!

My goal is to make everyone a 'tech person' - it's the language our kids speak, we must speak their language - it's about being relevant! Their language is tech and if we don't speak that language then we're teaching an entire generation of kids in the wrong language. 

Just yesterday I was reading an article from Inc magazine about coding skills and how they are so desperately needed for so many different reasons - read the article here but see some highlights below!

- Coding helps develop logical thinking and problem-solving skills.

- Coding requires working in teams.

- Learning to code opens the door to job opportunities.

- Learning to code gives non-coders confidence with technology.

Educators must embrace computers and technology, the future of our children depends on it.

Spoiler alert #3 - computers aren't just in technology companies! Remember my cousin and his farm! John Deere the tractor company is currently hiring a Senior Software Engineer right now. Tech and computers is not relegated to just technology companies, tractor companies hire people with these skills as well.

Please don't find a scapegoat,  please don't have that mentality, please don't have that attitude. If you're uncomfortable with integrating technology or have questions there are plenty of resources to help you out.

It's not about you, what you like, what you think kids should be doing (it's for sure not learning cursive) or what you think they're ready for. By the way, Kindergarten students can log into Google Apps - they can. I've seen it, I've done it, they can do it. Please don't limit kids based on your perception.

I'll say it again and I may even make a bumper sticker - I. Like. Computers.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Let's Talk About Recess

The conversation of adults taking away recess from students may be a bit controversial with some people. I think it mainly has to do with adults wanting to have control, a lack of creativity on the adults part and kids in our country just simply having the right to recess.

Do we dock a teachers paycheck if they're late to school one day, miss a staff meeting or say something they shouldn't have to a parent?

Of course we don't.

Do we make teachers sit in a three hour training and then...... when everyone gets a break, we tell a few they have to sit outside on the bench because they weren't paying attention, forgot to charge their laptops, were caught talking to their friends and now must sit down during the break.

Of course we don't.

It's my firm belief that recess is a civil right for all kids.

For some reason it's become socially acceptable (in some schools) to take recess away from kids, and parents don't have a problem with this? What do parents say when their child comes home and they tell them that today they didn't get any recess?

My five year old daughter who started Kindergarten last week would be outside of her mind if she didn't run around during the day and was forced to sit on a bench instead. She needs exercise, she needs to stimulate her brain with movement, she cannot sit down for more than 30-45 minutes - it's her right to have recess just like eating lunch, or using the bathroom at school.

What would a parent say if their child got home and they said they didn't eat lunch, because they misbehaved?

What would a parent say if their child was sent outside during math time and didn't receive any instruction?

What would a parent say if their child said they weren't allowed to use the bathroom at school because of something they did?

I've had students misbehave before in the bathroom at school. We don't take away their bathroom privileges, we don't have that right. We may escort them, have them go with a buddy, do a sign-out sheet of some type, etc etc.....but we wouldn't dare tell them they couldn't use the bathroom at school.

If a student isn't being respectful during lunch we don't and can't tell them they don't have the right to eat lunch. We may have them eat at a different table, in the office until they can gather their emotions, or I would sit right next to them during lunch while they ate.

That's called 'building relationships' and 'working through their struggles!' When you take something away with no creative alternative you're saying you have no creativity, you're done thinking about it and not thinking about the child - we owe kids so much more than that.

Recess is no different, all kids have the right to recess each and every day. They need it, their brain needs it, their energy level needs it and all Kids Deserve It as well.

When I was a Principal very early in my tenure I brought up the conversation of recess with my staff. There were just a couple of teachers who felt the 'taking away recess' practice was positive and acceptable. I brought it up with the entire staff at a meeting and a very veteran teacher raised her hand.

"Adam, it's become such a normal thing in schools I haven't thought twice about it for years. Can't we as a staff be more creative than just having a kid sit on the bench during recess, we owe our kids more than that!"

Yes. We. Do.

And we as a staff came up with many options on how to support our students while still allowing them to move around and release their energy before returning to class.

Please fill out this form with ideas that you've implemented at your school instead of taking away a child's recess. Let's work together to be creative and find alternatives, we can do this together and we must stand up against those who think otherwise.

I also understand that all students at school have the right to be safe during recess as well. If we ever had a student who was endangering others during recess, we as a staff worked with them and their family for alternative options. Sometimes at a different time, in a different setting, with additional adult support. We worked with the student and family, we didn't take away.

There are TONS of articles about recess and the huge benefits from having kids run around and take breaks. Here's a great one from EdWeek.

- When a human sits for longer than about 20 minutes, the physiology of the brain and body changes.
The brain essentially just falls asleep when we sit for too long. 

Tim Walker has written extensively about how the many frequent breaks in Finnish schools offer so many positive benefits to kids. We should be giving more recess and more breaks in our schools, not taking them away.

Heinemann publishers has a great book called 'No More Taking Away Recess' that I actually purchased many years ago, check it out if you need some research and new ideas.

I also found an article from the Center for Science in the Public Interest with some horrific statistics. You can read the entire article here, but a few key points are below. 

In a 2016 study of Principals, it was reported that in three-fourths of our schools across the country, kids are punished by loosing recess. I'm starting to think this is a bigger problem than I previously thought.

Here an article on the benefits of recess from Stanford.

Let's talk about recess!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Carpe Diem -

Life is short. I don't take naps. I wake up early. I blog a lot. I run a lot. I kind of can't help it, but I'm always moving around the house.

I truly believe we should seize each and every day, Carpe Diem!

Here's what the last 48 hours looked like for me.

Saturday morning started with publishing three blog posts - here and here and one on MESPA's blog here!

Then @coacheagan picked me up for @edcampsfbay where we hung out and learned together for a few hours.

First session was with two of my amazing author friends who wrote The HyperDoc Handbook - @lhighfill + @kellyihilton


Headed home, packed up the car with my family and drove to Santa Rosa for a marathon I was running in on Sunday.

We had dinner at my Principal friend Jason's house before my marathon on Sunday.

Sunday morning wake-up at 4am with the 26.2 starting at 6am. 

Packet pick-up at De Loach winery on Saturday afternoon!

Post race hardware and yes I wore a customized Kids Deserve It race shirt for the marathon, had LOTS of compliments on the course!

Thanks to my wife and kids for the sign they made, very motivating seeing the on the course!

Sunday we got home around 1pm and I had to clean-up obviously after running a marathon. Shower, eat, rest up a little and then head to my moms house for dinner with the family. My laptop also came with me because we had @KimBearden on our @KidsDeserveIt show at 530pm - watch the show here!

A good friend of mine once told me that 'I'm sucking the marrow out of life!' I absolutely am and hope you do to! 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

My Gear

For the last four to five years I've been running about three marathons a year. Lots of people ask me about my gear, so here you go!

Disclaimer - I don't work for Brooks or get paid by Brooks, but I do wear Brooks from head to toe for my gear!

Brooks Adrenaline have been my shoes for SO many years and I can't recommend them enough. I've been loving the fun colors from Brooks lately and this one below is my new favorite color and have been through a few pairs and wearing them tomorrow for Santa Rosa marathon.

People laugh, but split shorts are my absolute favorite to wear! The Brooks Sherpa is the most comfortable short I've ever worn. There's a nice little pocket in the back to stash some food and they are just the best!

Socks are so important for so many obvious reasons. I've gone back and forth over the years between low cut socks and something up to the ankle. Lately I've been wearing the Radical Lightweight and they are so so so comfy!

Hats are simple and important - I really like the Run-Thru hat, check it out!

And finally my shirt! Many people know that I'm co-founder of Kids Deserve It and I really wanted to wear one of our shirts for a race. The problem is our shirts are a cotton blend and not ideal for 26.2 miles.

So, I took one of my Brooks running shirts, and one of my Kids Deserve It shirts and had my taylor combine the two. Tomorrow at Santa Rosa marathon will be the inaugural of this shirt and I can wait to support Brooks and Kids Deserve It!

That's my gear, happy running and run fun!

My Imaginary Friends

It’s not just about a workout or a calorie burn - it’s a time, for you. Let's go!

So many people I know say they don’t have time, can’t find the time, before they had kids they ran, when they were younger. You've gotta find your groove!

Each morning the patter of my feet, my shoes on the road help to find my beat. Hearing the sounds that only happen super early in the morning - most people don’t hear these sounds.

4:00 am is when my alarm goes off, it’s the time of day I’ve always loved the most. Family is still asleep, kids aren’t running around the house yet - first some coffee and then run.

There is that pivotal moment, of staying in bed or getting up to run. Don’t for a minute think it’s an easy decision each morning, it can be hard, there’s a daily struggle and sometimes I fail. The trick for me has always been to flash forward, picturing and hearing the coffee pot coming to life is the first step of motivation.

Then, once the morning coffee ritual is done, it’s out the door. 4:45am is my optimal time to leave the house, knowing my kids will probably be up by 6:00am, I love to be home when they roll into the kitchen for that morning hug.

"Dad, you're all sweaty."

"How was your run?" says my three year old.

"Great run, great run!"

"Where'd you go?"

They love knowing my route, what did I see, how did I feel - these are the conversations we have in our house.

Those first strides down the road, checking your body for any issues, planning your route, weather check, shoes tied, dog leash isn’t tangled, Garmin on - let’s go!

The road each morning is so peaceful, the sounds, smells, darkness, silence, the solitude.  Now comes that moment of truth, there’s something I must admit.......

I have a secret, my imaginary friends are always with me - to help along!

I’m serious. They’re always there as I run with my headlamp on around the streets of my hometown. If it’s a quick six miles or something a little longer, the motivation to push and exert comes from my friends.

A friend is ahead of us, gotta push the pace to the stop light - let's go.

Check your six, two friends are behind and closing the gap.

Deer Hill Rd in Lafayette is a thoroughfare during the day, but really quiet at dark thirty in the morning.

Sure my dog Bear is with me, but that’s never enough. I need those friends in front and those trying to chase me down. My friends are my coach, in my ear. They're my pusher, my motivator - faster, harder, slow down, catch up. Some people use Nike+, Strava or even an actual coach - I have my imaginary friends.

Lots of 'friends' on Mt. Diablo Blvd, great stretch to run each morning!

Bragging rights have always been another motivator for the early morning sessions. When you're done by 6:15am with a workout. Looking down on Highway 24, people in their cars headed to work - and we've already had the pain, had the sweat, earned our breakfast and feel freakin amazing from the workout. That. Is. What. I. Love.

Lace up those shoes, get out the door, run with your 'friends' and kick off each day with a sweat.