Party Popper Moments

It’s no secret to those who know me that I enjoy a good party popper. I love the combination of surprise and joy and celebration and the way that an ordinary moment can instantly and literally explode into something truly memorable with just the turn of a tube. I love being on the lookout for moments that have party popper potential, and I love being on the other side of those moments with folks who are covered in confetti, laughing, and distinctly aware that they are worthy of being celebrated. Party popper moments–both ones we create and ones we receive–are what I wish for all of us in 2018.

But even better than party popper moments are Party Popper People, those folks whose entire being creates that same sense of joy and surprise and beauty. Folks who with their words and actions shoot confetti all over the ordinary until everything and everyone around them is more beautiful and memorable because of what they bring and what they leave behind. Party Popper People don’t hesitate to speak words of kindness and encouragement, aren’t afraid to do the courageous (or at least don’t let fear stop them!), and stay with us long after they’ve left the room. My dad was a party popper person. Today as I remember him, I recall the party popper moments he created in my life (and the lives of so many others) with his perpetual smile, his joyful spirit, his thoughtful questions, his steady encouragement, and his cheerful disposition. And because of this, he left us all covered in the confetti of laughter and hope and possibility and the deep belief that life and people are worth celebrating. That is his legacy, and I am grateful.

And so I ask…Who are our Party Popper People and have we let them know the impact they’ve had on us? And are we on the lookout for party popper moments, focusing our energy on what is going right and taking the time to celebrate the greatness in our midst?

Cue the confetti, y’all. I’m certain that party popper moments and people are on the way… 🙂


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Standing in the Gap

Image result for in the gap

Yesterday, things were very sure. The place where we stood in education had a list of things to do (and not to do), lots of folks who had gone before us, and, although we knew it was not enough for every student, it felt like we were pioneering something in the shadows.  It was distinctly uncomfortable and clear and safe.

And now, well, we are in the gap.

We are pushing forward towards the front.  There is the unknown, the excitement (and its companion, fear), of rushing to the edge.  There is the absolute conviction that we cannot go back because where we are heading is far better, representing hope and improved outcomes for the students we serve.  We are on the edge, and we know as leaders it is our courage, our determination, our fortitude, our sheer will that must push us forward.  We cannot and will not go back.  We are standing in the gap.

And in acknowledging our new place in the midst of th­­­­­is work, we expose ourselves.  We are vulnerable.  We do not know all the answers because we have shifted to questions.  We wish in all our reimagining of things that we could paint a perfect picture with certain and sure results, and, well, that is simply not possible.  We are exploring and braving the unknown and yet we know, deeply, that we are heading into a beautiful future.  We see one stair at a time, ascending a staircase that is leading to something far more extraordinary than perhaps we ever dared to imagine before.

Leaders in the gap, will you keep pushing forward?  Will you keep insisting on what is possible?  Will you remain relentless about EVERY student, no matter who proclaims it is impossible or foolish?  Do you have dear friends who will stand with you in the gap, who will celebrate with you every small victory, who will put themselves on the line to achieve breakthrough results for students?  Will you create with us a more beautiful place for students to learn and grow and strive for more?

Oh, how I hope you will.  Today in America our reality is that failure represents brokenness—students who don’t graduate are far more likely to belong to poverty and prison and we are expressly connected to one another, whatever our story.  At some point, we have to look one another in the eye and see that our narrative connects.  And I hope we strive with every word and deed to leave not one single student behind.  We are all about every, and my prayer every single day is that our promise is so much more than words.  Let it be about all the sacrifices that make our life a joyful insistence of the purpose that can be true for EVERY student.

In the gap.  That’s where I’ll be standing, and I’m deeply grateful to stand with you.






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Dear George Couros,


Dear George,

I look at this every morning when I work before sunrise in my study… The word “imagine” next to the last golf ball my dad ever hit.  It’s pretty much all the inspiration I need to start the day.

When you were in our district today and you said your dad died a few years ago, I immediately connected with you. My dad, my hero, died last year.  He was a man who reimagined everything. He was the ultimate “forever learner”–from Harvard to the hospital to our home–he never stopped learning. Learning was his joy, and because of him, it’s my joy, too.

And if I learned anything from you today, it was just that–if we ever stop learning, we might as well be dead. What difference does life make if we are stuck in some distant place, not able to apply history to the present and let it drive the pursuit of a better future?

My dad surely told me a million things over the course of 30+ years. What I remember is a handful of words and a lifetime of lessons he taught with his humility, his kindness, his brilliance, his service.

Our students desperately need forever learners, unafraid and unashamed to love learning deeply and passionately.  Not just the learning of the library, but also the learning of Twitter and Instagram and Flipgrid and so many other things not yet known or networked or imagined.

The students we serve need us to be brave and humble and resilient.  They need us to be present and engaged and willing to put ourselves on the line for their good.  These are the kind of adults who build a beautiful future for the future.

I am quite certain that like today, tomorrow I will fail in many ways.  I will make it a point to fail forward, though, taking the lessons won, reflecting, and moving on to something better and more beautiful for those I serve.

And that’s my hope for you and every student and educator—may you never stop learning, however the lesson may come.  Life is too short to stall out in the status quo.

Keep on keeping on,


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