Thursday, July 31, 2008

Keeping your word

I am a big proponent of making sure that when I say that I will do something, then I will get it done. That is how I maintain my integrity and the teachers in my department, and even others, know that they can come to me and get results.

That being said, it bothers me to no end when I am dependant upon other people, especially a member of my team, doesn't follow through. I hate it when I am made to look like a jacka$$ because I can no longer live up to my word. I can make myself look foolish all on my own, I don't need other people helping me.

If you do not have a lot of time, here is the end of my blog post. Feel free to read the abridged account of what transpired.

Moral of the story: Know when you can make promises and that they will be fulfilled so you can keep your word. To maintain personal integrity, I must realize what I can control and recognize that other people may not be as "into" keeping their word as I am.

And now for the abridged account: What began this tirade is science classroom furniture. Before the end of last year and before the former principal left, I walked around with the construction team, building Foreman, and sales people, sometimes interrupting classes to take measurements and get teachers opinions on furniture options to get my science classrooms into the 20th century. (No, that is NOT a typo). I was told that this furniture and equipment would be here for the next school year.

My request was placed with the other furniture requests for our building and submitted. Our team is very efficient and usually get our requests submitted first, before any of the other buildings. This was no exception. The requests go to the Board of Ed and they get approved...for the other 2 schools in the district. Our request was mysteriously lost. (And we wonder why we think of ourselves as the red-headed stepchild!)

So, we resubmitted and it was going to be piggybacked onto another request. Again, it did not go through. Please keep in mind that we were told that this was already approved, especially since we walked around with the sales reps and they took our order.

So now we arrive at the point where I ask a member of my team, who is overseeing the construction, where we are at in the ordering process. That team member told me that we needed to prioritize the requests because not everything was going to be fulfilled. I said fine. We sat down, discussed what was going to be used by the students and that is what was going to be ordered. Team member said that it was now taken care of and I had nothing to worry about. More incorrect words could not have been spoken.

The next day, I spoke with our building Foreman who asked me about furniture. I thought that I would going to have to apologize for my disbelief. Unfortunately, he was discussing some other furniture and knew nothing of my order. So I went back to the team member who again stated, it's done. I did it yesterday. We looked at what was sent and only 1/10th of what was requested (after prioritizing) was going to get ordered. Team member stated that the other stuff (student seating) was not approved and we would just have to make do.

To make this extremely long story a little shorter, after an upsetting conversation with team member & my new principal, messages to the assistant to the director of buildings and grounds and the director (multiple times) the sales people are coming back on Monday.

Moral of the story: Know when you can make promises and that they will be fulfilled so you can keep your word. To maintain personal integrity, I must realize what I can control and recognize that other people may not be as "into" keeping their word as I am.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Change is neccesary for survival

As a biology teacher, I have discussed the concepts of evolution to high school students for year. I have discussed the scientific evidence for evolution, had very careful conversations with classes when they wanted to discuss religious beliefs and not scientific theory, presented the evolution of evolutionary theories over the past few centuries (my personal favorite is a newer "theory": The Flying Spaghetti Monster) and even discussed how equilibrium could occur within a population and how if it did, that population would be doomed, should there be a change to their environment. The one statement that I repeat over and over is that those species who fail to adapt are doomed for extinction. In other words, Change is necessary for survival!

People rarely look at it from the organism's perspective. What if they like what they do and where they are...and if you have ever talked to a teenager, they will be the first to tell you that you cannot tell them what to do or how to be. To quote Office Space, "Why should I change my name? He's the one who sucks!"

Change occurs to you and you can either adapt and flourish or cling to the olden days and be stuck in the past. So, let's take a look at the change that is happening to me:
  1. Biggest Change: First baby is on the way
  2. New Principal for my school
  3. Friends and colleagues leaving for various new positions
  4. Hiring of new teachers for my school

Many, many others that I cannot go into right now...So let's take a look at what we have to adapt to.

#1. The new baby

I have to say, while I am nervous, scared, and whatever other words that are out there to describe the malestrom (GRE word) of emotions that are occurring, my wife and I are EXTREMELY excited about this! We have been incredibly fortunate (knock on wood) with the pregnancy being easy.

Please note: I say we...I mean my wife; she is incredible. She is adapting to many more changes that I think I could handle at one time. Changes in body, emotions, hormones, sleep patterns etc. and yet she still does everything that she did before. Every day she impresses me over and over again.

I have the distinct pleasure of getting the nursery set up. I painted the ceiling 2 weeks ago and a buddy is coming over to help me finish painting the room. We are ging with a yellow and green classic Winnie the Pooh theme. I am excited to contribute in this process any way that can.

No matter how excited we are, we must examine how much change is going to arrive when the baby is born. We read books, friends and family tell about what to expect, but I think that this will be the biggest test of our ability to adapt.

#2 New Principal

I feel good about this one. I was a part of the focus and interview committee. The committee looked at all of the candidates and I feel that we selected the best one. Best of all, our opinion was listened to. The hard part about this is not referring back to the past.

When I made the transistion to my 2nd teaching position, it was pointed out to me that I would CONSTANTLY refer to my former school. I need to avoid making this mistake again. While history and tradition need to be recognized and upheld, I must not expect things to be the same. I must expect that there will be some differences and learn about my new principal.

#3 Friends and colleagues leaving for various new positions

Since we have a new principal, our old one, no wait...former prinicipal (he hates the old jokes), has moved on to a new opportunity. I know that we wish him the best of luck, but he leaves a vacancy (filled by #2) This seems to be a completely different type of change to adjust to. Of course, as the new school year starts, there are other colleagues of mine who have decided to persue opportunities elsewhere and for various reasons. I wish them all the best and hope to continue learning from them and talking to them. Hopefully, they will find things like twitter and plurk to stay in touch.

This leads to...

#4 Hiring of new teachers for my school

While I do not like to have to fill positions of valued colleagues, one of the favorite parts of my job is meeting new teachers and finding people who would make a valued new addition to our team. I had the opportunity to attend some job fairs in Central Illinois, representing my district. Although I had a fever of about 102, I enjoyed meeting a lot of candidates and many of them were hired by my district. I feel like I did a good job.

Overall, there is going to be a lot of change coming up in my life. I tend to be flexible and pretty well adaptable to new situation. I know that somethings will come easy and others will be more arduous (more GRE words).

I look forward to the challenge of adapting, changing, and evolving. The alternative is not so good. ;)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

This Couldn't Wait until tomorrow -- Blood Donations Needed!

The following is about my cousin, Corey. He will be going in for open heart surgery and blood (type A+ or A-) needs to be donated. If you are in the Chicago area and want to donate in his name, please contact me: so I can let his father know your name and that a donation was made for Corey.

If you donate on a regular basis, thank you! Each donation saves up to three lives. If you have never donated, it is COMPLETELY safe, it is nearly painless, it costs you nothing and you can literally be a Life Saver!

Thank you in advance. The email is below:

Friends & family members:

I once again must apologize for the impersonal nature of this email, but as you can imagine it is impossible to contact everyone individually and we wanted to let everyone know what’s going on. As some of you already know, Corey is scheduled for his fourth open heart surgery on Wednesday, August 6, 2008. His last surgery was slightly more than two years ago, and while there are no guarantees in life and we knew this day was inevitable, it certainly arrived much sooner than we had hoped.

Because of the defect with which he was born, Corey’s aortic valve allows too much blood to flow back into the heart once it has been pumped out, causing the heart to work harder than it should and possibly resulting in an enlarged heart, which can lead to further complications in the future. We are very fortunate that to date his condition has not affected his development in any way or limited his activities. He is very tall for his age and as far as his doctors can tell, it does not appear any damage has been done to his heart. He is very active in sports and just completed two successful (and chaotic) seasons playing both baseball and soccer, making the respective baseball All-Star and soccer traveling teams. He does, however, tire more easily than your typical 7-year-old, and we notice a marked change in his demeanor and attitude when he does not get enough sleep. As you would expect, his doctors want to be proactive and deal with the situation to prevent any lasting damage to his heart.

Unlike his previous three surgeries, this procedure will be much more invasive and involved, as his doctors will be implanting a replacement valve in his heart. It is expected that he will undergo what is known as a Ross Procedure, wherein they remove his heart’s aortic valve, relocate Corey’s pulmonary valve to the aortic side, and insert either a cow or pig valve on his pulmonary side. The theory behind this procedure, which first came into practice only 15 years ago or so, is that it is better to have his aortic valve – which pumps the blood from his heart and is much more active than the pulmonary valve, which acts as a funnel for blood back into his heart – be an “original part” and be comprised of his genetic material so that it grows with him as he grows. The risk is that the pulmonary valve, which is not built to withstand the rigorous activity performed by the aortic valve, will fail and then he will have two replacement valves.

By its very nature, this is a very complex procedure that requires upwards of 15 hours in surgery and a hospital stay of one week, followed by another week of recuperation at home. He is missing the final week of camp, and our hope is that if all goes well, he will be able to start school on time later in August. I joke that after this surgery is performed, his replacement valve means he will no longer be Kosher, only because I can’t bear to think of him lying open on the operating table for that long.

With a Ross Procedure, Corey will be on a regular course of surgeries; because the replacement valve does not grow, as his heart grows the valve will have to be replaced. However, he will NOT have to be on any blood thinners such as Coumadin, which for a child (especially one like him) is extremely difficult as it limits them from any type of physical activity whatsoever. Once he reaches his late teens and his heart stops growing, his doctors can implant a replacement valve that could last him 10-15 years. Who knows, with the rapid advances in medicine, by that time they may even be able to generate a new valve or two from his genetic material.

Corey’s surgeon, Dr. Michel Ilbawi, is one of the leading pediatric cardiac surgeons in the world. We are very fortunate to have him located so close to home, as we have met many families who have come from across the globe to have him operate on their children. Having him in our corner certainly eases our concerns, but as with any surgery nothing is a given. We have the utmost confidence in Dr. Ilbawi and feel he is in the best possible hands.

All we ask from you is this: 1) that you keep him in your thoughts and prayers; and 2) that if possible, please donate blood in his honor to your local blood bank. His doctors have set up a direct donation program through LifeSource, and you can reach their Direct Donations department at 847-299-7386 to get screened and schedule a donation. We are required to have a certain amount of directed donors for his surgery, and Corey’s blood type is A+. Although several other blood types are compatible with his, Dr. Ilbawi only uses A+ or A- for the surgery. As I am an exact match, I will be the first and primary surgical donor, but others are needed as well.

Because he is a minor, LifeSource requires that Cheryl and I consent to any donation given in his name. If you can find it in your heart (pun absolutely intended) to donate, please let me know so that I can provide LifeSource with your name. They will be accepting donations in his name from July 23 through August 2, and you can give blood at any local LifeSource facility.

As I mentioned above, we are required to have a certain amount of directed donors for his surgery; through the love and caring of each and every one of you, we have always greatly exceeded that requirement. Even if your blood type is not a match, you can still donate in Corey’s name. Even if you live outside the Chicago area and do not have access to LifeSource, I ask and encourage you to donate as there is still a shortage of blood donations around the country and the world, and there are many other children like Corey who are not as fortunate to have the support and care that he does.

I apologize for the length of this email; you can have read the entire Wall Street Journal in a shorter amount of time. However, we wanted to let you know what is happening and ask for your assistance. We will let everyone know his progress at the first opportunity, and I promise the emails will be shorter. Each of you is special to us, and we hope all is well with everyone.


Cheryl, Russ, Max & Corey (& Maddie, lest we not forget the driving dog)

Starting a new

About me:
I am a science educator and school administrator. I am currently learning about Web 2.0 tools and creating PLC's. I am also trying to encourage my teachers to being working with our Ning site. You can find me on Twitter, Skype, Plurk and LinkedIn.

My wife and I are expecting our first child in September and we are both very excited. I am sure that pictures will be posted to beat out the paparazzi. :)

This is going to be my first blog: Summer Vacation

I became an administrator during this past school year. I started the year with 1 section of Honors Chemistry and at the semester break I no longer had a class to teach. While I miss the fun and excitement of being in the classroom, I did know that I was not able to give my usual 110% to my kids; that disappointed me.

With the transition to the office, I was signed a 211 day contract. Literally, I was supposed to work 211 days, as opposed to the 180+ days of the teaching contract. If I followed that to the letter of the law, I would have been finished on May 23. The usual interpretation is that 211 day employees would from July 15 - June 15 (on or about).

So, I continued to do the work that needed to be done. For my "month off" from work, I was in at least 80% of my days off. Things that I accomplished in this time: worked with a committee to hire our new school principal, who everyone on the committee was very pleased to get, participated in writing a grant for close to $500k, examined the proposed enrollment of every student in Chemistry and Physics to make sure that pre-requisites were being followed and the that proper credits had been earned, worked on our Advisory program curriculum, supervised summer curriculum projects as well as various and sundry other activities that needed my attention.

Some of the "fun activities" I did get to do: Painted the ceiling in the nursery to be, took my 7 month pregnant wife to Atlanta for a wedding (on our 3rd anniversary, with all of my in-laws, in the middle of the PeachTree Trot (the worlds largest 10k) and Atlanta's Gay pride celebration), learned more about some Professional Learning Communities (Ning, EduBlogger, etc.), took the GRE, applied to a Doctoral Program with Illinois State University (and still waiting to hear about it!) and my ABSOLUTE favorite, reading with my wife in our baby book every night when she gets home.

All in all, although I worked through my vacation and got to enjoy the heat, humidity, and various communities of Atlanta, it wasn't so bad.

I look forward to blogging more and all of the excitement in the school year to come.