Categories
ajoBlog

On Cats & Values

Unable to calculate the path of a solar eclipse using mental math?

Idiot.

It doesn’t recognize it’s living on a globe-shaped object.

Imbecile.

Can’t open doors, windows, or anything else with its missing thumbs.

Average at best.

But. Able to provide companionship, lower blood pressures, and purr and purr until you feel better?

Exceptional.

Cats. What they lack in some areas is countered by their specific gifts to humans.

Maybe people are that way, too?

Not everyone needs to know the physics of orbital objects. But what they bring to the table adds value nonetheless. Embrace the value. Ignore the other stuff.

Categories
ajoBlog

Journeys.

Andreas started his educational journey in Torekov, Sweden, a fishing village of 800 inhabitants, where he attended Kindergarten through 6th grade at Sandlyckeskolan.

Much like a one-room schoolhouse, each grade level had only one class, and he had the same teacher for grades one through third, and another (in her first year of teaching) for grades four through six in a looping model.

It was here that Andreas’ love of learning took hold, albeit with some shaky performance, especially regarding mathematics. He excelled at foreign language instruction (English), and place-based instruction – often based in the woods or along the oceanfront.

One of his fondest memories from this time was constructing a scale model burned-out canoe when studying geography and the history of the stone-age era. The Vikings, naturally, represented another core memory.

Middle School at Strandängsskolan in Båstad, Sweden, grades 7-9 saw Andreas grow in his leadership skills, and he joined the student council, among other activities. In addition to English, he studied French as a second foreign language, along with the core curriculum.

He helped design and arrange a simulation for the 9th-grade class focused on war refugees and their experiences – an activity delivered completely in English and run by students, for students. He traveled on several class trips, including a week spent on a sailboat with his classmates and another week spent in and around Copenhagen, Denmark.

In middle school, Andreas fell off the math bandwagon, too… now we call that a failure to scaffold by the teacher, but at the time, it felt like being left behind. Only later would he find out math is for everyone and almost anything can be solved with a spreadsheet!

All students in grades 7-9 participated in week-long internships as well, and Andreas spent a week each in grades 7, 8, and 9 working at an electrical component factory, a bank, and as a groundskeeper at a golf course, respectively. He also joined the Swedish Youth National Guard (Hemvärnet), and enjoyed many a night out in the woods or at survival camps – both summer and winter editions!

In Swedish middle schools, in preparation for high school, kids choose a track for the next step in their education. Students can pick from either an academic track or vocational track, and Andreas enrolled in the social studies track with a focus on history.

He attended the first year of Swedish High School at Rönnegymnasiet in Ängelholm, Sweden. A highlight here was creating his first website in 1995, coded in straight HTML around a class project on permafrost, where a project component was an unchaperoned trip to Lund to interview a university professor.

During the summer of 1996, after eight weeks in Penang, Malaysia, Andreas moved with his family (mom and sister) to Stow, OH, and he enrolled at Stow High School. Quite the culture shock, with a student population of over 2,000 students, Andreas managed to settle in, and after the first year as a Junior, teachers quickly figured out he wasn’t exchanging, just foreign. ;-)

While in high school, Andreas enlisted in the Ohio Army National Guard, and spent the summers in basic training in Fort Knox, KY, eventually serving six years as a 19D Cavalry Scout (1997-2003) stationed with the 1/107th Armored Cavalry Regiment in Stow, OH.

After graduating high school, he enrolled at Kent State University, first as a chemistry major (mistake!), and very quickly changed to study international relations under the expert tutelage of Dr. Mark Rubin.

After a short deployment post 9/11 with the National Guard, he graduated in 2002, and worked in the private sector (IT and QA) for a while until hearing the call for more learning and a career track switch.

In 2006, Andreas was admitted to the graduate program at Kent State for the Master’s in Teaching cohort, focused on the social studies 7-12 licensure track. Dr. Janice Hutchison had a profound impact on Andreas’ understanding and appreciation for the art of teaching and educating others and set him on a trajectory toward a wonderful and beautiful life as an educator and administrator.

He found employment as a teacher, first teaching 6-8 at Fairless Middle School, and later at Nordonia High School, teaching U.S. History and Economics.

Post-Master’s, Andreas continued to seek coursework and professional development opportunities wherever they presented themselves, and he racked up 30+ graduate credit hours through various programs, often involving week-long residential workshops during the summer, or weekend trips to Washington, D.C. for workshops in teaching economics, often with his teaching partners at the time, Steve Testa and Nate Loman.

After receiving tenure and being reduced in force at the same Board meeting after three levy failures at Nordonia, Andreas rebounded and worked for two years at the Educational Service Center of Lorain County, providing technical expertise and leading workshops for hundreds of teachers across Northeast Ohio. Later, he joined Kenston Schools as a Director of Technology Intergration, and finally ended up in Streetsboro as the Director of Technology, then took on Transportation, and more and more, until being named Director of Operations.

In 2018 he was admitted to the Ph.D. program in Educational Leadership under the watchful eyes of Dr. Rosie Gornik, and later Dr. Mandy Cenker and Associate Dean Dr. Steve Mitchell. He hopes to finish up with a qualitative exploration of transitional leadership and the support mechanisms that exist (or not) when we promote from within, especially within non-instructional departments in public schools like school transportation, food service, maintenance, and central office positions.

Andreas has led hundreds of workshops for teachers and adults on a variety of topics from technology to leadership to process improvement and has given conference presentations at local, state, and national levels. He continues to build systems, design experiences for others, and lead forward progress. Andreas holds an Ohio Teaching License for 7-12 Integrated Social Studies and an Ohio Professional Superintendent’s License.

He’s come quite a long way from that little blond boy with the orange Fjällräven backpack (he still has it!) on the doorsteps of his first school. No longer blond, but with lots of salt in his pepper, his passion for education burns ever brighter, and if you’re ever in the same location, he’s hard to miss.

Categories
ajoBlog

L.E.A.D.

People love acronyms, right?

Here’s one that popped into my head when I was still slumbering on a Sunday morning and didn’t want to open my eyes. I captured it quickly and have let the idea ruminate a bit. So here goes…

L.E.A.D.

L – Learn everything you can about what it is you do. Listen to your people, let them tell you how it works, where the problems are, and what their solutions would be.

E – Engage your team. Let them take the reins, give them support, and make sure they have the resources needed to get it done.

A – Adapt your thinking, skills, and methods to whatever lies ahead of you. Need a softer tone? Work a little later? Now’s the time to adjust and overcome.

D – Decide what works, where to go, what to do…and do just that. If it doesn’t work, make another decision. Start over at the top – learn, get your team, tune in, and get ready to dominate.

Are you ready to L.E.A.D.?

See the picture above? Both horses and camels do well in the sand. But the dromedary does it best. If you’re not constantly looking for the best tools for your team, you’re missing out on a more comfortable journey.

Categories
ajoBlog

80%

I taught Oskar how to mow the lawn this summer. Again. I had tried last year, and we couldn’t get it right. My emotions got in the way, and the need for straight lines muddled the fact that it probably didn’t matter much.

He’s doing great this year, and I’ve learned to relax about the criss-cross patterns I so desperately crave. He’s doing just fine and learning the ins and outs of mowing, flower bed navigation, and what to do when he runs out of fuel.

As a bonus, I have time to weed and trim trees and bushes, and we spend an hour together outside. He checks in with me, and I check in with him. Halfway through, we stop for drinks in the shade of the garage.

He’s at 80% of what I would do. So I let it go.

Over the last few years at work, I’ve learned to let go, too. I’ve started to let go of departments that I’ve either built back up from the ground or managed for a while, and now, with people I’ve developed in the driving seats, I let them do their thing. If they’re at 80% or more…

This idea isn’t mine, but I like it, and it works. Jocko, former Navy Seal and successful waker-upper at 4:30 AM shared this idea in one of his books I crushed a few years ago.

If your team can perform at 80% of what you would do, let them go, and let them perform. They’ll do it their way, with their vision, drive, and flair. Of course, if they’re sliding down to 60%-70%, it’s time to step in to adjust, redirect, lend a hand, or take over. But if not, let them get after it their way.

Last year, Oskar was all over the place. Mowing just wasn’t his flavor. This year, he’s motivated, careful, asks questions, and gets it (mostly) right in the yard.

That’s probably a lot like your team, too. When they’re ready, they’re ready. So let them drive. Or push the mower. Or whatever you do. After all, you have other things to take care of…

Categories
ajoBlog

Back to school.

School’s back in session. Our first day was a success; no student got on the wrong bus to get home. Safe and sound, even with a major road flooded.

Looked easy. Felt good.

It’s what people don’t see that made it happen.

Weeks and weeks of planning, testing, data mapping, uploads, rosters, checking, calling, meeting, crying, frustration, launching…

It takes a village to raise a child. It takes a small army to run a school district.

An army of dedicated team players who all understand their piece of the puzzle and give it their best, even when the storm clouds are gathering.

Nothing about going back to school is easy.

The dedicated professionals behind every successful opening day are often forgotten. Even to themselves, it’s often hard to realize that what looks and feels like “just another summer of work” is often so far removed from other experiences in the regular world that we take it for granted, and move on with our day.

Technology teams, food service programs, transportation professionals, custodial and maintenance workers, project leads, and supervisors work hard to make that day worth it.

I am fortunate to lead many of the teams on campus that make it happen, and I often reflect on the “dance” that makes it all work.

Here’s to you, dedicated public school professional – a toast in your honor! Well done!

May the school year be successful and full of learning opportunities for you and your teammates and colleagues.

On day two of school this year, at 4 AM, we lost all power and closed school. Downed trees were everywhere, several telephone poles snapped in half, and five confirmed tornadoes had touched down within miles of the district. A new day. A new challenge.

Now what?

We drive on. Like every year. We know what we’re doing because we’ve spent years perfecting our trade.

Categories
ajoBlog

I don’t check out.

I don’t check out of hotels when I travel. It’s pointless.

If they want their money, or I need a receipt, the matter can be settled later. Card’s already on file either way.

Why?

I already checked in. They know I’m there.

And they have an expectation of me leaving.

Taking the extra step of handing back keycards, printing receipts, and engaging in small talk that leads to nowhere and isn’t worth anyone’s time.

Checkout is automated. It’s 11 AM. I’m gone. I met your expectation. Stay’s over. Done. I’m moving on.

Categories
ajoBlog

When the moment is right…

Sometimes it takes a while to get going.

On projects, chores, dissertations, etc.

And sometimes, the moment is just right, and with a spurt of energy, you create, complete, and chart out the next steps over a few hours and a few cups of coffee.

All before the kids awoke from their summer slumber.

The hard part, of course, is to keep going.

One step at a time, a few more research articles and chapters, and making sure you’ve read to exhaustion.

This note is more for myself than anything. Maybe it will help you in some way as you work on your list. Best of luck, and keep going!

Categories
ajoBlog

No one has a perfect week.

No one has a perfect week. Or a perfect day, for that matter.

What matters is the long haul.

The “keep going even though it’s a bit difficult.”

The drive to get it done.

An example:

Last weekend I competed at the national level in pistol shooting. It was a Friday-Sunday match, with 6-7 stages each day, and my squad was slated for AM, PM, and AM… not ideal. And what made it worse, the weather called for rain.

It rained all day Friday. And we started on the longer “field” stages with 14-16 targets, multiple steel engagements, and shots out to 25 yards.

It’s a competition, all timed, and the pressure’s on. I had a rough time getting started with good hits and missed quite a few of the longer shots due to moving too fast, being nervous, and wanting to perform.

Needless to say, Friday’s performance was rough. And my shooting partner got DQ’d after three stages for a safety violation. Bummer.

I spent the rest of that afternoon and that night getting my head right. I prepared for the next day of shooting. I imagined it couldn’t get any worse, right?

Correct.

Saturday saw seven medium stages (my favorite), and I performed at my career best. I had stage placements at 48th, 73rd, and 98th out of 500 shooters. So I was pleased as punch!

Lots of great shooters were there. Professional shooting teams from the Army, Marine Corps, and Secret Service. Sig Sauer’s whole team and Team Beretta were all there. They are all professionals.

For some of those stages, I beat even the best. Luck, perhaps? Or just pulling out all the stops and performing at 100%?

It’s hard to tell. But I’m better than average.

Overall, I finished up in 245th place of 500. Sure, you say, what a mediocre placement… I think of it as being in the top 250 nationwide! And that’s with a few bad stages…

Doing anything over time is never perfect all the time. You’ll have some ups and downs. You’ll have just as many bad stages in the match of your life as you’ll have good ones. And every once in a while, you’ll beat the odds and kick it into high gear!

This is the second time I have competed in a sport at the national level. At 44, I’m not quite sure what’s happening yet, but it’s certainly something to write down for the storybooks. The other sport is orienteering. Both are individual performance sports.

It’s just you, your gear, and your skills. Alone. On the range or in the woods. You’ll be alright if you make it out of the woods in one piece and point the gun in the right direction. ;-)

The next time you have a bad day at work, a tough time at home, or something doesn’t go your way the first time, dust yourself off and try it again. Keep going. Line up your compass in a new direction, and take another shot at it. You’ll hit the right mark sooner or later…

Here’s to next week and your next project.

Categories
ajoBlog

So far…

“Did you have a nice summer?”

That’s the question I get when staff comes back in August.

“Sure,” I say.

It’s mid-June.

So far I’ve set up a district-wide phone system (new vendor, new handsets, new extension schema, etc.), presented at a conference, and we’ve ripped up all the asphalt around one of our school buildings.

So, yeah, so far…it’s been productive.


This coming weekend I’m competing in a 3-day national pistol match.

Next up is the dissertation proposal.

Wait. I should have said “vacation.” Or are those things the same? We’re about to find out.

Summer is just a way to keep track of time when it’s a bit warmer. The summer-equals-weeks-off-from-work is over… There’s always more to do. More projects, more challenges.

More stuff to get excited about.

I hate being bored.

So far, it’s been a nice summer.

Categories
ajoBlog

Breathing Room.

Breathing Room. A short story of summertime.

In the bustling town of Meadowbrook, nestled in the heart of a vibrant school district, the arrival of summer marked a special time for many.

As the final bell rang, signaling the end of another academic year, the hallways emptied and the classrooms fell silent.

Students rejoiced, looking forward to the well-deserved break from instruction and education. However, for a dedicated group of individuals, the summer months were anything but a vacation.

They were the unsung heroes, the custodians and maintenance workers who breathed life into the school facilities and grounds during this annual respite.

As the last school buses disappeared into the distance, the facilities team led by Mr. Williams, the head custodian, sprung into action. They knew that the summer months provided a precious opportunity to carry out essential maintenance tasks that were difficult to accomplish during the bustling school year.

The transformation of the learning environment began.

Their first mission was to assess the condition of every classroom, hallway, and common area. With meticulous attention to detail, they inspected each nook and cranny, taking note of any repairs, damages, or general wear and tear.

The team developed a comprehensive plan to tackle each issue systematically, ensuring that the school would be in pristine condition come fall.

With paintbrushes and rollers in hand, they embarked on a painting spree, breathing new life into faded walls and chipped surfaces. Colors were carefully selected to create an atmosphere conducive to learning, and the once dull corridors transformed into vibrant, inviting spaces.

The team took great pride in their work, knowing that the aesthetics of the environment played a vital role in the overall educational experience.

Simultaneously, outside, the grounds crew led by Mrs. Rodriguez, the landscape supervisor, worked tirelessly to rejuvenate the outdoor spaces. They meticulously manicured the lawns, ensuring each blade of grass was perfectly trimmed.

Flower beds were weeded, replanted, and burst into bloom with vibrant colors. The playground equipment received a thorough inspection, and any necessary repairs were swiftly addressed to guarantee the safety of the students.

But it wasn’t just about making things look good.

The facilities team went beyond mere aesthetics. They delved into the intricate systems that kept the school running smoothly. They checked the HVAC systems, conducting preventive maintenance to guarantee optimal temperature control for the students’ return.

The electrical and plumbing systems were carefully examined, identifying and addressing any issues to prevent potential disruptions during the upcoming academic year.

Throughout the summer, the days were long and arduous for the custodial and maintenance staff. Their dedication was unwavering as they painted, repaired, reshaped, restored, and reconditioned the spaces in which learning took place.

Despite the physical demands of their work, they knew the impact it would have on the students and staff who would return to a clean, safe, and inspiring environment.

As the days grew shorter and summer neared its end, the facilities team stood back, admiring their collective efforts. The school, once tired and worn from a year’s worth of activity, now gleamed with renewed vitality.

Each room was a testament to their hard work and dedication, a space where young minds would be inspired, nurtured, and challenged.

Finally, the day arrived when the school doors swung open once again, and the staff and students returned. Smiles and expressions of awe filled their faces as they stepped into an environment that surpassed their expectations.

The custodial and maintenance staff, tired but content, observed from the sidelines, knowing they had played an indispensable role in creating a vibrant and conducive learning atmosphere.

As the school year progressed, the custodial and maintenance staff quietly went about their duties, ensuring the ongoing upkeep of the facilities.

But they carried with them the knowledge that the summer months were their breathing room, their chance to shape the physical environment.