Sunday, December 3, 2017

Could It Be Yours?

Be sure to watch this first before reading.

What an AMAZING story!  While this one got media attention because of the situation I wish in some way every story like this would receive the same spotlight. But that would be overwhelming. Possibly hard to grasp for all those who don't see it going on around them. Plus, I don't think there would be enough air time on TV to handle the sheer volume of similar stories that exist like this today.

As of right now a majority of children coming into Children services/ foster care is because of drug addiction. Many are drug addicted babies.  This is now the NORM. Just this week our adoption agency held a Christmas party for the kids in care through their service. As I surveyed the room of close to 50 families almost all were placements because of drug addiction. I would guess that just out of that group at least 40 of the families had babies or toddlers that were all drug addicted at birth. When we started fostering 4 years ago we were told that you typically don't see a lot of babies coming into care. Now, that is the majority and there are not enough families in place to help.  So, if you have ever felt the nudge to make a difference or be involved in foster care now is the time. These babies need loving homes. It's that simple. This story makes it look easy but this (in my opinion)is a rare case.  It's hard.  It takes all your resources and can be an emotional roller coaster. When you open up your home to these babies some of your personal relationships suffer because of your involvement with foster care while others are strengthened. On the outside your family will seem to be withdrawn and less interactive than before.  Loved ones or close friends will think you've become selfish and don't do the things you used to do. But what they don't see are the sleepless nights of loving on these babies because (for some) they are going through withdrawal.  Their cries are heart piercing. Their tremors are scary to watch. The onslaught of doctors visits and specialists at first is daunting.  You see, when you have healthy kids you go through phases and for the most part healthy babies are predictable thus why you have routine Dr visits. Drug babies are each unique depending of the severity of their addiction and if they were properly treated at birth. Your family is not avoiding traditions or living in isolation(though it may feel like it) your simply putting everything you have into helping and loving these babies.  Stopping  at nothing to see them become healthy and a success. You'll  become part of a new TRIBE with other foster families and learn to lean on each other to get through the day to day. You brace yourself for Parent visits each week. Yes, if the family is still involved you'll have visitations. Birth Mom's work on their case plan to get sober and hopefully find routine life but the drugs don't allow them. Visits start off hopeful.  You the foster parent bringing in their baby to try and bond. Visitation looks like a busy doctors office with multiple small rooms off a large area where birth families meet and interact with their kids in a supervised environment. Here, once again, you are reminded of the drug problem. You are reminded of how good your life is or how your upbringing wasn't really the bad. The smell of hopelessness fills the room. Faces full of despair and arms scared from drug abuse overload your visual senses. The visitation center is always busy. Each room full and like a revolving door. One after another families try to connect. This could go on for a couple of months or a couple of years. During this time you're  also meeting with case workers in your home. One from your agency and one from children's services. They have to do in home visits to check on the progress of the baby and if they are connecting with your family. Then one day you go to visit and Mom is not there.  Her attendance  becomes sporadic at best and then she just quits showing up. The drugs win...again.  At first you can't understand how she could give up.  Then remember conversations about their past and family life and realize you can't believe they made it this far.

Did you notice that? Not once did I mention Dad. For the most part they bailed long ago. Are in prison.  Dead or not even known. It takes two. While we deal mainly with the mothers I tend to get more upset over the absent father and believe a majority of this problem lies on the fact the men are not being men. They treat these women like sex slaves and drugs are the currency.  In the end the babies suffer. It's not what they have done that place them in your home but what has happened to them. A choice not their own.

In the end we need more families to help these babies.  We need a better system to do what's best for these little ones. Foster families need more resources to better equip themselves. It's hard to  work full-time and meet all the requirements, go to all the meetings, be at all the visits, show up to court cases, and get them to the specialists they need to overcome their parent's addiction.

It's all worth it! The day you hear their 1st laugh.  They say their 1st word.  When the Doctor's tell you the blood work came back normal for the 1st time. When they sleep through night and you realize you haven't seen a tremor in days. Sure there will be more too come in the future because we yet know how the drugs will affect them as they develop. But for now all they need is a loving home! Could it be yours?

God doesn't call the qualified. He qualifies the called!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

I'm a Minority

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I'm A Minority

To read that title than look at me one might laugh. One might get upset. 6’5” Caucasian white man calling himself a minority.  Some would stereotype me and call me the man….the reason they can't get ahead. But stay with me….As I sat this past weekend at the EdRising National Conference in Phoenix…...Yes it was Hot…..really Hot….I surveyed the large room of over a thousand students proclaiming they want to be the future of education. It was a very diverse room. One that reflected well our current student population in the U.S. According to EdRising statistics 51% of their 30,000 student members are of diverse ethnic backgrounds. These students competed in numerous activities to showcase their amazing talents and dedication to the profession. What was more amazing is that they basically ran the conference. The future of education is looking good. Hedieh, our student from the ILC, took 5th in the nation in her category.
Super proud of her hardwork and dedication. Not many seniors give up a week in the summer after they graduate. 

Then my attention shifted to the teacher leaders. What were their backgrounds? You guessed it….a majority in the room were white females. The minority of lead teachers  in the room were male. So there….. I’m a minority! Are you?  

I had aspirations of going into the medical field. I then decided to become an environmental scientist. I even worked with the EPA in Florida for an internship. Lined up a job out of college but soon realized I made more money working in distribution. When the EPA offered me half of what I was making working at a warehouse through college. I stayed the course with distribution, was making great money and landed in management in my mid 20s. But something was missing. I discovered teaching. Made the sacrifice to go back to school and teach at a private school which offered me a third of what I was used to making in a warehouse. But now I can honestly say that if I did anything else I would be settling. Teaching…..Education…. that's my calling.

We need to toughen up. Teaching is not a one gender profession. Men are needed on this field. Students are coming to us fatherless and empty.  Young men are looking for their role models.  I'm not saying female teachers can not fit this bill. Many of them do and that is amazing.  But men need to realize that students need us. Not just to teach but to be there. And not just to be a coach. Far too many believe that males only teach so they can coach. Then these teachers only care about their sports and players. I'm not saying you need to be a big teddy bear and hug every student.  But you better believe that offering a simple affectionate gesture to a student in need could go a long way when they've never had a positive male role model in their life. 

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Tough love is in fact the opposite of what you think. It's when we love because it's hard for us. Its showing love to the hard students.  To the ones that society says don't deserve it.  That's tough love!

The pay is terrible…...I don't have the patience for kids….teachers are not respected….I hate bureaucracy….this generation is soft....I can't stand the technology….I’m too smart to teach...teaching is beneath me….please stop with the excuses! I'm tired of it!  The greatest sacrifice anyone can make is to neglect their own comforts for the sake of others.  That means you find a way to squash every reason not to do it and realize that you teach for the kids. You teach to help others discover how to build their legacy. Yes….teaching is at the beginning of all other professions. It's the spark igniter! There is something special about being the one to fan the flames.

Keynote speaker Nate Bowling opened the EdRising conference with a unique perspective.  His passion is advocating for the underdog. His research... studies.... life have lead him to the conclusion that a student's housing situation can set the tone for their future. Again, I'm in the minority. Growing up in a divorced family and living with my mother...who at times worked three jobs before remarrying just so we could live in a small rental trailer or with my grandmother. On free and reduced lunch. I grew up in the foothills of eastern Ky along the Ohio River. Not a very affluent area. If anything it was a quite depressing area in which many of the local steel mills along the river were shutting down. We didn't have much but we made the best of it. I was one of the first in my family to graduate with a Bachelor's degree, the first to graduate with a Master's, and the first to pursue my Doctorate. the minority. While Mr. Bowling’s research is interesting and I'm sure we could all learn from it.  I want make sure we don't allow ideas like this to become a crutch. Yes….we should empathize with those less fortunate and for those that struggle.  As a foster parent I've seen kids born into circumstances beyond their control. Addicted to drugs and exposed to pain far greater than I've ever imagined. But yet when you ask the pediatrician what is the one thing that will change their life the answer is simple. A loving environment! 

So….let's do that. Let's recognize that the playing field for our students is not the same. Their diverse socioeconomic backgrounds will affect them but it should not define them. Let’s love our students for being uniquely different and bringing with them whatever baggage they carry. Let's be encouragers. Let's be mentors for the next generation of influencers. Let's make what the public envisions as a minority….caring teachers…. the true majority. Because if that is what being a minority in education is all about then yes…..I'm a minority!

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017


Driving on my way to school I have a couple of reminders about life every morning and they seem to be very popular in central Ohio…..roundabouts. Just look at this sign….nothing can go wrong here. These things are so much fun that a co-worker of mine has been known to eat his lunch at a picnic table overlooking a roundabout just so he can people watch. Clearly it’s a blast because he invites people to join in on the fun.

Roundabout.jpgSome mornings my daughter gets in on the action as I drive her to school. It’s a constant decision to stay on the main road or duck into the back roads to bypass the roundabouts. But how often is life like trying to maneuver the roundabouts? Take my daughter for example. It’s been a rough year for her. We seemingly unbeknownst to us bought a house that has been plagued with sickness this year. She missed more school this year than ever before. She had tough time adjusting to a new school….a new school district...and just plain dealing with the move as a tween. For the first time this year she was caught cheating. Taking the back road to avoid a consequence. Now let me explain. She is not a bad kid. Actually, I wish I could be more like her at times with a smile and heart of gold. She forgot to get my signature for a practice sheet for one of her classes. Which I am not a fan of signing forms that enforce kids have to do stuff at home. It’s like the reading logs from the elementary school days. While I understand their purpose we all know they are typically forged in that last moment as the kid goes rushing out the door. I personally feel they don’t really make an impact except to serve as a grade holder and unnecessary item of stress. Not really the best accountability tool. So….here my daughter is forgetting to get a signature and not wanting to face punishment she simply (digitally) copies my signature on her iPad and  transposes it onto the due log sheet. The teacher had no idea she even did it. But...guilt set in. My daughter felt bad about what she had done and reported it to her teacher. A lunch detention was served. The first!

That day after school with tears in her eyes she tells me about what happened. I was not upset about the grade or the detention. As I told her I was more upset about her character decision. Not wanting to make a big deal I just couldn’t let it go. Why did she place grades over character? Why not just take the hit and let the consequences be? In her own words she did not want to get a bad grade. First, we never stress the overall importance of grades as much as we stress doing our best and stretching ourselves. Doing the uncommon to get uncommon results because everyone can be average. Why is there this fear? Was it teacher induced stress? Yes...I am guilty of telling students to get good grades well, at least I did. Now, I simply look for their best knowing that students operate at different levels. In the end she simply said that it was self induced. She didn’t like to get bad grades. Then just last night she was crying in the kitchen because she believes she is going to get a bad grade in Math. She thinks she is getting a B. I literally started laughing. That's bad! Reminded about what one of my Doctors stated in our introductory course into my Doctoral Program….translated so she would understand it…. I stated the following as captured by her...

I think she got the point!

What drives us all to think this way? Push some of us to place societal norms over good character?

Maybe it’s the NFL combine syndrome. We place all these exceptional athletes on a super stage and expect every single one of them to be better than the next. We give them all scores based on how fast they can run, how strong they are, and how high they can jump. We turn them into quantifiable numbers so we can grade them. Then on an even bigger stage teams declare a draft and select the best. As a society we then believe that everything we do can be graded in this manner and end up forgetting about character and GRIT. We just want the bEST even if it means we sacrifice in other areas.

I believe it is because we live in an ..EST mindset society. Craig Groeschel does a great job explaining this and I’ll do my best to summarize but it makes complete sense. We tend to have the mentality that we want to be the greatEST in whatever it is we do...the fastEST in any race...the tallEST in the class or on the team...the strongEST in the gym...have all the newEST the smartEST to earn scholarships or have bragging rights with class rankings. The thing is we will never be our bEST if we stay focused on our own EST. To become our bEST we have to help bring out the bEST in others. We must be able to identify the who or what that defines our life. Because until then life will be a lot like being stuck in a roundabout.

Just like those roundabouts. To navigate them safely you have to watch out for others. Sometimes you are yielding to those in the roundabout so they can be on their way. Sometimes you are letting others in so they can get through. Don’t get caught admiring the other lanes. Even though it may be moving faster than yours you know the second you switch lanes it will start moving. Then because you we so worried about what others were doing you get stuck in the center only to go full circle again. Stay in your lane and learn to navigate it to your absolute bEST. Don’t get caught having EST envy. You are in your lane for a reason!

Just a thought....


Let me know what you think and share your thoughts in the comments! Look forward to see what you have to say.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Change: Handling the disruptions of everyday life!

It's funny how we tend to view change as an event. It's as if we draw a line in the sand and think that one event is what changes our life. We think that change is something that happens to us. The reality is that change is a process. It's how we respond to an event in our lives. Think about it, change tends to be reactionary. It's something we do because we have learned from an experience that has caused a shift in our reality. We realize that if we keep going down the same path NOTHING will happen. NOTHING can be scary for some and for others they embrace the STATUS QUO. NOTHING comes without cost or energy use. That makes it easy to fall victim to conformity.  CHANGE has a price. CHANGE makes you take a step into the unknown. CHANGE alters you so that once you go through it you become different because of it.

A big CHANGE in my current life is the addition of a newborn. We now have four kids under the age of 12 in our house and my wife and I must play zone defense. We are outnumbered. For most have 9 months to prepare for a baby we had 24 hours to prepare for Baby Boy. His entrance into this world is a miracle. What he went through was a battle for his life and he made it! Opening up our home to him was a given as we had adopted His 2yr old sister 6 months prior. This was a welcome CHANGE and for us handling it was a battle but one we openly accepted as a family. We had to change our approach to daily life. At times the most consistent part of our life is inconsistency.  

What do we do when CHANGE is needed? How does one go through the process without trying to resist AND detest it? One method I like to use and learned from my coursework was the CREATER MODEL. Yes….I actually learned from my classes. Thank you Morehead State EDD! I firmly believe this can be implemented in both professional and personal aspects of life.

Step 1:CARE- To go through change one must have an attitude of CARE. You develop a sense of concern and recognize a need to shift directions. Be intentional thoughts and feelings as you begin the process. If it's not in you it can't happen through you.

Step 2: RELATE- This is all about building relationships with all those involved. CHANGE does not happen in isolation. It has a ripple effect in both good or bad ways. It can spill over and impact the lives of those around you….your family….your team. Build relationships that matter. Especially with those that the change will impact the most.

Step 3: EXAMINE- Now we are getting down to the nitty gritty of CHANGE. The need has been identified for CHANGE to occur.  You must examine the needs and problems that are causing the CHANGE.  Identify your strengths and weaknesses. Understand that obstacles will arise but they are not meant to stop you.  Embrace them and learn from them.  

Step 4: ACQUIRE- CHANGE means developing new skills. What new skills or knowledge will you need to implement in your life to allow the change to happen? If you stay the same you will remain the same.

Step 5: TRY- maybe you don't like that word. Maybe to you it's either you do or don't. I like to think of Not Yet.  Implement the CHANGE and see what happens. It will take time and you will need to adjust along the way. Be adaptable and TRY it out. Remember there is not one right way and you may need to have multiple avenues to implement your change. It begins with one step!

Step 6:EXTEND- Don't be selfish. Take what you have learned along the way and share.  Seek others that may be in your place and help them out. Your CHANGE should now become an extension of you and part of your story. Life is about IMPACT. There is no better way to make an IMPACT than for others to see how CHANGE has been lived out in your own life. Teach them to TRUST the process.

Step 7: RENEW- Don’t think of this as a finalization process. It never really ends. At anytime you should be constantly questioning the process and it's ok to start fresh. Renew the process when you feel you need to. Renew your hope in yourself.  CHANGE should be a renewing process. It should add value...refresh...and strengthen!

Your turn to share….. What are your thoughts on CHANGE? What CHANGES have impacted your life the most and how did you respond?


For more in for check out:

Fullan, M. (2007). The new meaning of educational change. New York: Teachers College Press.