“What is YOUR why” Dr. Eric Thomas

Back in July, I was at an IPLI (Indiana Principal Leadership Institute) 2-day workshop when one of the other principals in my regional cohort mentioned Dr. Eric Thomas and “What is your why?” When I returned home from that great experience, the question “what is your why?” was still ringing in my head. I sent an email to our staff and challenged them to reflect on their “why.” I sent this video from Dr. Eric Thomas to them all. I changed the screen saver on my computer to “What is your why?” The signature line on my email is the same thing. Dr. Eric Thomas inspired me to remember, every single day, why I do what I do.

Fast forward to today, the day before Thanksgiving. I am sitting in my office thinking about all I have to be thankful for, and “why” I love doing what I get to do every day.  Below is a message I sent to our staff this past Friday.

The first semester is rapidly drawing to a close. We are about to enter that silly season of standardized testing, so again I ask you to reflect on “What is your why?” None of us “got into” education to dole out standardized tests, but it is the nature of the beast at this point in time.

So, what is it that causes you to get up in the mornings and come to school? What is it that drives you to do what you do? The answers may vary from person to person. Maybe part of it is you were inspired by a teacher and you want to be that inspiration for others.

As we get busy in the holidays, testing, life, etc don’t forget about your “why”. Don’t forget about what drives you. I tell people all the time I am blessed to work where I do, with the people I get to work with, serving the students and community I get to serve. I get to play school every day, I work on weekends at home. How can life be any better than that?

When life, state testing, demanding students/parents, the daily grind, etc. begin to get you down this year, remember your “why.” Remember “why” you do what you do.

Until next time………. “what is your why?”


Challenge Accepted

This post is long overdue. But, better late then never I guess.

Way back in August at the start of the school year, I issued a challenge to our students. I showed all the students grades 6-12 this video of Michael. After I showed the video, I asked the students if they knew why I had shown it to them. I had a variety of different answers, but mainly just blank stares. I explained to the students that last year when I would be in the cafeteria at lunchtime I noticed we had many Michaels.  Not necessarily that they were Autistic, although we do have Autistic students as well the students do a great job of including them. I told them that most of our Michaels were students that were just a little different, socially. That because of that difference, they usually sat alone at lunch.

This is where the challenge comes in. I challenged the students to make sure that no student sat alone at lunchtime. That every student had someone to sit with. I explained that sometimes students that suffer from a social anxiety may not seek out a group of other students to sit with. That it is safer for them to sit alone than to be rejected. What happened next blew my mind and warms my heart, still now 11 weeks into the school year.

Every day we have a few students that “try” to sit alone in the cafeteria at lunch. Every day we have students getting up from their tables, carrying their lunch over, and sitting with that person that is alone. Sometimes it is just one student going over, sometimes it is multiple students going. Point is, we do not have students sitting alone at lunch most days anymore. There are the occasional days when it happens, but most of the time it does not. I challenged the students to not allow students to sit alone at lunch, and they accepted.

When I thank the students for moving over with the student sitting alone, I always get the same responses. “No problem Mr. Stoner.” “It is ok, he is kind of cool.” “He/she is my friend now.” Warms my heart and makes me a very proud principal. It is not just our middle school students either. The high school students do it too. Male, female, it does not matter. They have decided that no one sits alone at lunch. I told my assistant, if I do nothing else right the rest of the year, at least the challenge was the right thing to do for a few students that would ordinarily sit alone.

Until next time………………………..Challenge the students–they will rise to the occasion!