- Lebanon Community School Corporation
- Thoughts for the Week
High 5: September 18Posted by Dr. Jon Milleman on 9/18/2020
I am thankful for… Lebanon Education Foundation (LEF). In the face of the pandemic, the LEF held our only fundraiser of the year this week - the annual golf outing. We had fewer teams than in the past, but the enthusiasm and energy from our volunteers is inspiring. LEF passed the $1 million mark in scholarships awarded to our seniors this year. That is impressive by anyone’s standards. They also provide funding for classroom teachers and programs that allow us to provide creative and meaningful activities for our students.
I am reading... An article [7 things the ancient Stoics can teach you about becoming a strong, happy, and morally sound professional ] by Ryan Holiday (author of the Obstacle is the Way and Lives of the Stoics.
Stoicism fascinates me. It is not surprising that leaders like Marus Aurelius, Frederick the Great, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Adm Smith, Theodore Roosevelt, and General James Mattis were and are students of the Stoicism and the four virtues of Stoicism: Courage, Temperence, Justice, and Wisdom.
Song I have on repeat this week… “The Flower” (feat. Victoria Canal) - Michael Franti and Spearhead
Quote I am thinking about… “The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately” - Seneca
Best use of my time… Attending fall athletic senior recognitions. We are doing things differently but I am grateful we have an opportunity to thank our seniors and their parents for their years of dedication and support.
High 5: September 11Posted by Dr. Jon Milleman on 9/11/2020
Song I have on repeat... “This Time” - by Gone West
A musical reminder that we need to follow our heart now because “next time there might not be a this time.”
I am thinking about... How the world of education lost an icon. Sir Ken Robinson recently passed away. I was blessed to hear him speak in person. What a thrill. His 2006 Ted Talk as well as follow up Talks such as this famous 2010 Talk was heard by millions. He had a unique way of exposing the “standardized test culture” for what it is: a misplaced policy based on flawed assumptions about what defines quality - While at the same time reminding us that we must be accountable to our students, our families, our communities and our profession. Enjoy some of his best quotes HERE. We lost a giant.
Cheat meal of the week... Pecan pie filled Amish Fry Pie from Wilson’s Farm Market, Arcadia Indiana. I have to add at least another mile to my next day's run after indulging. But, you know what? I don’t care.
Best thing I heard this week... After visiting Perry-Worth Elementary I was walking to my car. A few steps in front of me was a young lady (maybe 2nd grade?) walking out with her mom.
Mom: "How was your day?"
Young Lady: "You were right mom, I had an awesome day - I didn’t want to leave!"
Biggest regret this week... Not stopping the young lady in the story above and asking her who her teacher was so I could A.) celebrate with her and her mom and B.) thank the teacher! (See song I have on repeat) - Dang it! Next time, there may not be a this time!
High 5: September 4Posted by Dr. Jon Milleman on 9/4/2020
I’m reading… Truman by David McCullough. I will be reading this for a while, it’s like 800 pages. A great reminder of how leadership can look and act during difficult times.
I’m watching… The miniseries Grant on the History Channel. I found myself grateful for his vision and leadership - Sorry for him as his legacy was tarnished by widely circulated falsehoods - Inspired by his resolve - And discouraged knowing that we had an opportunity following the Civil War to take a step that would have significantly stemmed the tide of systemic racism that we still face - and due to politics we didn’t take that step.
I am working on… A more disciplined approach to mindfulness.
I hope each of you can enjoy some time to yourself and with family and friends this Labor Day Weekend!
Rule #25: Say please and thank you.Posted by Dr. Jon Milleman on 3/6/2020
As a child, when I would say that I wanted something (no matter how small), my parents would respond with “what do you say?” I would say “please.” If I was given the item, and if only a few brief seconds would pass in silence, my parents would once again respond with “what do you say?” I would say “thank you.”
Somehow, after that ritual, all seemed right.
As a parent myself, I required Noah to go through the same ritual.
It is a good ritual. It elevates common manners, proper etiquette, and a respect for the person giving you something. We are better off for the gift. We should ask politely for the gift and we should acknowledge the person or people giving it to us.
But Rule #25 goes deeper than the common understanding of please and thank you.
Please implies that the person needs help. It is a person’s understanding that he cannot do it alone. He needs the team. He needs others.
In order for an organization to be healthy and to function at the highest levels, the designated leader of a group (by title or position), as well as the membership, has to be vulnerable enough to ask for help and clarification. An organization is only as healthy as its most vulnerable leader. All members of an organization have to be able to ask tough questions, and be prepared for any answer, no matter how uncomfortable that may be.
Thank you in Rule #25 is about gratitude.
Research is clear that people practicing daily gratitude are healthier, happier, and more productive.
Daily gratitude journals work.
Yes, good manners is important. Saying thank you to the delivery person, the person holding the door for us, or for the person that passes us the salt at dinner is important. It creates a culture of positivity.
Taking time to say thank you and being grateful for what we are given is a life altering habit.
Taking time to say thank you and being grateful for others’ in the workplace and in organizations is a game changer.
To that end, I want to express how grateful our family is for LCSC welcoming us to Lebanon. We continue to be impressed with the incredible sense of history, family, and community here.
Thank you for allowing me to unpack these 25 Rules in this space. I hope you have learned a little more about me--my thoughts, my expectations, and the influences in my life that shape my daily decisions.
The most important influence of my daily decisions as a superintendent is, of course, the students. I truly believe, if we apply these 25 rules, we will meet my two overarching goals together:
- Add value;
- Leave every situation (student) better than we found it (him/her).
I’m not sure we can ask more than that of ourselves.
Now that we have completed the unpacking of the 25 Rules and Observations of Life, we will be launching a new series. Each week, I will be highlighting a couple of noteworthy accomplishments of our students, faculty, staff, and community. #SparkPRIDE will be a brief, weekly video highlighting stories of the LCSC community exemplifying Persistence, Respectfulness, Initiative, Dependability, or Efficiency.
We will get inspiration from you. When you Tweet or Instagram with the #thisislcsc tag, we will be able to have more and more exciting things to share.
I can’t wait to celebrate the great things happening in LCSC.
Thank you again for a great week.
Rule #24: You always take your own weather with you.Posted by Dr. Jon Milleman on 2/28/2020
I used to have a sign in my classroom that said, "As you move through life you will find that people take their own weather with them – choose to carry sunshine.”
There is a difference between carrying sunshine and blowing sunshine.
When we choose to carry sunny weather with us (and it is a choice - See Rule #4) we are choosing our own attitude and our own path. We control each moment. We know we have that choice. Making that choice every day is hard. The truth is, our health (our mental and physical health) depends on our ability to feed ourselves a steady diet of sunshine rather than rain clouds.
Does this mean that some days we have to “fake it until we make it?” Yes.
Does this mean we have to be insincere about the way we feel about issues? No. We can be direct, driven, and serious while still projecting “good weather.” We must confront issues. But we also owe it to ourselves, just as we owe it to those around us, to do so with grace and humility.
6 Powerful Ways to Protect Yourself from Negative Energy
It’s never easy to be around negativism. But beyond that, it can be quite toxic and detrimental, fostering a mindset of cynicism, fatalism, and even defeatism.
If you are surrounded by negative energy that’s coming from a coworker, partner, friend, or family member, you must how to protect yourself without engaging.
Here are six powerful strategies you can use to protect yourself against
- Focus on solutions, not problems. Negative people tend to spend more time on problems than on solutions. What that usually sounds like is a lot of complaining, finding fault, and dissatisfaction. To stay positive, focus on creating solutions that work. If you meet resistance, look at strengths you can build on or simple steps to get the momentum started.
- Don’t feed the drama. Negative people need drama in their lives as much as they need oxygen. To take their breath away, stay positive and upbeat and refuse the bait, no matter how tempting. Work to keep things on time, calm, flexible, and even keeled. When you do, you give them nothing to work with.
- Watch your boundaries. It’s a sad fact of life that you’re better off with some people out of your life. But you can’t accomplish the things you want to do in life if you are surrounded by negative energy–one of the most toxic and contagious forces on earth. Create and keep your boundaries from anyone who wants to break you down, even if they’re a family member or someone who thinks of themselves as a friend.
- Stop trying to fix everyone and everything. If you find yourself doing for others things that they could and should be doing for themselves, you’re not helping but enabling. Sometimes we can unintentionally produce negative energy by carrying people when they know how to walk, or we try to fix people when they weren’t broken to begin with. Learn when to stay clear.
- Respond, but don’t react. A response flows from mental clarity and emotional strength and is chosen to produce a desired outcome; while a reaction is an uncontrollable reflex that flows from fear-based survival impulses. Stay clear of unthinking reactions and learn to respond thoughtfully in the face of negative energy.
- Take care of yourself. You can’t care for others if you can’t care for yourself. It is not selfish or vain to love yourself, take care of yourself, or to make your happiness a priority. Learning and practicing self-care will help keep you grounded and strong when you’re faced with negative energy.
Don’t underestimate the harm that negative energy can cause–learn how to protect yourself and be smart about it.
My challenge this week is to focus on one of Lolly Daskal’s six strategies. Find one that resonates with you. Write it down and put it in a location you will see it throughout the week often. At the end of the day, reflect on situations when you were successful with the strategy. You will find yourself beginning to anticipate situations. You will become more comfortable, more focused, and in control.
We can do this. We can overcome negativity by not allowing it to enter our space in the first place.
Author and speaker Jon Gordon says it well:
Two Keys to Success
- Don’t let praise go to your head;
- Don’t let critics in your head.
Every. Moment. Matters.
So do you.
Thank you for another week of carrying sunshine for our students!
Have a wonderful weekend.
Rule #23: Sit silently for at least ten minutes every day--no phone, no Facebook, no Twitter, no email--silence.Posted by Dr. Jon Milleman on 2/21/2020
“Here’s a give you may not have expected. It’s a gift for you to give yourself. Sometime in your day today, try to turn off all the noises you can around you, and give yourself some 'quiet time.'” - Mister Rogers
We live in a noisy world.
We like to blame technology--the speed at which technology influences our interactions with others and for continuing to contribute to our noise and our distractions.
Technology’s advancements and how we are now constantly connected through technology can become all-consuming.
But I will submit that we have always had distractions and noise that fill our day, even before inventions like the Internet. Mankind has always wrestled with our daily responsibilities, with outside influences, with deadlines, with negativity from others, and with choices.
As Mr. Rogers reminds us, we can give a gift to ourselves: the gift of silence.
Research is clear: sitting in silence and focusing on breathing as part of a routine is healthy. It is healthy for our minds and our bodies.
We problem solve better.
It helps our heart and blood pressure.
It can help boost our immune systems.
It helps stimulate new brain cells in the hippocampus, linked to increasing learning and memory.
Silence brings us in touch with the most important things in our lives.
The hardest part is starting.
To be honest, starting a routine of spending time in silence is hard. At least for me, it is uncomfortable. I am more comfortable in my “noisy place.” After all, that is where I spend most of my time. From morning until bedtime, I am answering questions in person, receiving or sending text messages, updating social media posts, checking email, responding to email, preparing for a meeting, checking voicemail, returning calls, making calls, in a meeting, or processing paperwork.
Everyone’s “noise” is different, but no less stressful, and no less consuming of thoughts than anyone else's. And remember, thoughts become become words, words become actions, actions become habits, habits shape our character, and our character becomes our destiny.
So, owning our thoughts is pretty important. Silence helps us own our own thoughts.
But we are comfortable in our “noisy places.” If we sit silently, we have to deal with our own thoughts. And that can be intimidating. Silence can actually be intimidating.
Like anything worth doing, it takes practice.
So, my challenge this week is to practice. You may not be able to sit in silence for an entire ten minute stretch to start. That’s OK. Start with a minute. Set a timer to help you if needed. Just take a minute or two before bedtime. Go to a place in your home that is different that you normally go before bedtime, turn everything off--and sit. Calendar a few days over the next week. Then, as you become comfortable, work it into your routine. You will be at the ten minutes soon.
We all give ourselves to everyone around us every day. Give ten minutes to yourself to you. You will have more to give to others tomorrow.
Thank you for another week of serving our families.
Have a great weekend!
Rule #22: It’s true that you can’t judge a book by its cover, but you can learn a lot about someone by the way she/he shakes your hand.Posted by Dr. Jon Milleman on 2/14/2020
The old cliche that “actions speak louder than words” is true. We watch the way people act, carry themselves, how they appear—and they are watching us, too.
One of my favorite movies of all time is Finding Forester. It is a story of a famous author (William Forester) who, for a variety of circumstances, withdrew from society in a sense. He was a grumpy, angry, lonely man. Through another variety of circumstances, he became attached to a young African American student, Jamal Wallace. Jamal, like the author, had his reasons to be skeptical of society and skeptical of his own abilities. But, Jamal was immensely talented as a writer—and in the end Forester came out of the shadows to help both Jamal the world see Jamal’s talent. Forester's and Wallace’s relationship alone is a representation of Rule #22. First impressions were not good. But the relationship was incredibly life changing for both of them.
But one scene from Finding Forester specifically embodies Rule #22. A young “hot shot” representative of a publishing company drove to Forester’s apartment, where Jamal was playing basketball on a nearby court outside. The representative was driving a brand new BMW. He proceeded to make a spectacle of his routine of locking the car and calling out Jamal for looking at it—being very suspicious that this kid shooting baskets was going to vandalize his car. Jamal, having some new found confidence, struck up a conversation with the owner. The young representative attempted to “school” Jamal, saying things like “this is a BMW…” to imply that he doesn’t understand how great the car is (and therefore how important the driver is). Watch the scene.
Jamal, with a bit of a sideways smile, proceeds to give the driver a history lesson of the Bavarian Motor Works (BMW). He tells him the origin of the company, how they get into a car company, and what makes the car very special. This kid that the representative thought was a vandal, or possibly a thief, was actually a bright, well-read, young man. He made an assumption. He misread Jamal’s book cover.
We do this all of the time. At least I do.
I think, after years of interviewing candidates for jobs and interacting with people of all ages, races, nationalities, and social stations, that I am pretty good at withholding assumptions. But I find myself misreading people all of the time. It is frustrating. I feel like I’m being unfair—and I do not like being unfair to people.
This is where the second part of Rule #22 comes in. In order to know more about the person—to learn about them—we need to “shake their hand.” We don’t have to literally run around and shake the hand of everyone we encounter. But we do need to give people a little time, a little grace, to show their true selves. The clothes they wear, their hairstyle, the way they seem distant, their confidence or even arrogance, or their shyness—all of that may mean something about the true person or possibly nothing about the true person.
The only way we will know for sure is to shake their hands. You see, the way “they shake your hand” in Rule #22 is more about us than them. In order for the handshake to take place, someone needs to initiate it. If we want the world to be a better place, if we want we want better relationships, if we want the world to be connected in new and exciting ways and we want to connect to it—we need to initiate the “hand shake.” We need to reach out, either through actually engaging with the person, or through observing the person through a variety of lenses. We need to give people some grace—Why do they act shy? Is it really not shyness but circumstances of the day? The only way to find out is to observe people with an unfiltered lens.
Now, if you do actually shake her or his hand, you will learn even more. The way someone shakes our hand does reveal a lot. Is there eye contact? How firm is it (both too strong and too weak can tell us something)? How do they go in for the handshake (with confidence or timidly)? How do they pull away? We can learn a lot, but we are learning about what people are going through as much as who they truly are. We can learn about those circumstances, and we can find out how to connect and help (Rule #1 – Greatness is a product of serving others).
Rule #22 is really describing the heart of the new buzz in education - Social Emotional Learning and Culturally Responsive Teaching. It is about getting outside of ourselves and into the circumstances that shape those around us, so we can live in a more connected, productive, and positive place.
My challenge this week is (like the Pickles cartoon shows) to clean our own window glass first. Read Rule #22 as an opportunity to examine our own “book covers.” What do people think of us? Why do they think that? What would we think of ourselves if we were them?
Do you think some people are misreading you? Why?
Are we misreading them? Why?
If we all took a little more time to find out just one new thing about the people around us—new and old—think of the impact. As Rule #18 says, everything is connected. Think of the power of positive change if all of us had just one Finding Forester moment.
Thank you for a week of Finding Forester and “handshake” moments this week. And thank you for all that are to come.
Have a wonderful weekend.
Rule #21: Mistakes happen, but your eraser shouldn’t run out before your pencil. Fail, but fail forward.Posted by Dr. Jon Milleman on 2/7/2020
Yesterday, LCSC conducted our first eLearning Day. I cannot thank all of the faculty, staff, and administration for the hard work that I know took place in preparation for this day. Many of us had to move outside of our comfort zone in preparing and executing lessons for our students.
Like anything that we try for the first time, there were a few challenges and stumbles. For example, as Murphy’s Law would have it, a recent Canvas update caused an unforeseen issue that blocked some students’ access to content. But, with the help of our staff manning the live Help Desk, real time comments back to parents on social media from Central Office and teachers, and ongoing communication with families, we overcame the roadblock.
I am sure there were other issues, like websites that didn’t load properly or a few extra words of instruction teachers wished (after the fact) they included in the student directions.
The fact is, we took initiative. And mistakes of initiative are always better than mistakes of indifference or even avoidance.
Our district office monitored comments and feedback throughout the day.
Many parents shared that their students were able to access content successfully. One parent remarked how amazed she was at the level of work her elementary student was able to create and do.
I have reviewed several of the lessons teachers prepared for students. What I saw was quality, relevant, and well-designed instruction. The work students completed during the eLearning day will be part of a seamless continuation of the standards and curriculum currently being learned in their classes.
Was the day perfect? No.
Was the day successful? Absolutely! It was impressive!
The next eLearning Day will be better. We will learn from our mistakes. We may use our eraser, but we won’t use much of it. We will work to refine an already quality product.
My challenge this week is to use our eLearning Day experience as a model for our students. Talk to them about their experiences. Embrace both the positive and not so positive experiences. Our students will be our most important critic. They are the “consumers” of the eLearning Day.
Share with them that we are working to get better. Model for them the process of trying something new, knowing that it will not be perfect, and making adjustments to make the situation better.
Please know that I am one proud superintendent for the efforts of the entire LCSC community.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!
I hope you have a wonderful weekend.
Rule #20: Don’t write a check with your mouth that your body can’t cash.Posted by Dr. Jon Milleman on 1/31/2020
There is a scene in the movie Top Gun when Captain Tom “Stinger” Jordan says to “Maverick,” played by Tom Cruise, “Your ego is writing checks with your mouth that your body can’t cash!”
Maverick was always pushing the boundaries. He thought he could do it all--himself.
At the end of the film, Maverick did get the job done. And he had to push the boundaries to do it. But he also learned a couple valuable life lessons as well:
- He cannot do it alone; he needed a “wingman” to support him;
- A little humility and allowing others to help doesn’t make one weak; it makes everyone stronger and better.
These are good lessons for all of us.
We can do a lot. In fact, we can sometimes sell ourselves short and fail to realize just how much talent, support, energy, and expertise we possess and how powerful those characteristics and traits are when we give them to others, with no expectation of return. When we fail to realize the values we possess, we fail to give--and no one wins.
We can also fall into a trap of trying to do it all.
Saying “no” to request of our time and talent is hard for many of us. We want to help--everyone, all of the time. We bounce from responsibility to responsibility and from task to task in a constant state of movement. In the end, we do a disservice to others because we are exhausted, mentally and physically.
In education, we are in the “people business.” We are helpers. We are givers. We hate to say no. We don’t want to let people down, especially our students. We may also have a little ego in us that tells us, “You can do it all! You don’t need any help."
But we need to ask ourselves, “Are we giving the best of ourselves to others, or are we giving what’s left of ourselves to others?”
Remember Rule #6? - If everything is a priority, nothing is a priority. It is true.
We have to prioritize. We have to take time at some point of everyday to quietly reflect on all of the demands on our time. What requires our thoughts, our energy, our time, our focus, our attention? Then, prioritize the list (either in your mind or on paper). We have to give ourselves permission to prioritize without guilt. In the end, everything on the list will get our attention, but we only have so much attention to give. If we are going to be true to the first two steps of “Worth It/Not Worth It,” both requiring us to add value, we have to actually have something of value to give.
My challenge this week is to remember the two lessons that Maverick learned:
- Which of the demands on our time require a “wingman?” Go to that person and ask for help. Maybe they are looking for a “wingman” too, and by sharing each other’s load, it’s lighter for both of you (you may even discover that both of you were working on the same thing).
- Show a little humility. Understand that you cannot do it all. Work with the person asking for your energy to come up with a timeline that can work within your priorities. If it doesn’t fit into his/her timeline, help them find a “wingman.” But don’t own every issue and every problem. Be humble enough to realize that there are smart and capable people around us that can do it--and do it well.
You will see both lessons in action this weekend in the Super Bowl. One player will likely make a great play--but pay attention to the replay. I can almost guarantee the play was made possible by a “wingman.”
Following these lessons will assure us that the checks we write with our mouths (or our egos) don’t “bounce.” Because when they do, they usually bounce right back to us!
Thank you for another week of giving to our families and students.
Stay strong. Stay humble.
Have a great weekend.
Rule #19: If we always knew the question “Why?” there would be no reason for faith, trust, or hope.Posted by Dr. Jon Milleman on 1/24/2020
Rule #19: If we always knew the question “Why?” there would be no reason for faith, trust, or hope.
The origin of Rule #19 came about through a personal loss.
After the sudden passing of our two-year-old son Alex in 1997, we experienced all of the normal layers of grief. For quite a while, I was unable to get past the question - “Why?”
A best-selling book by Rabbi Harold S. Kushner entitled When Bad Things Happen to Good People helped to draw me out of that phase. Kushner not-so-subtly reminded me that, as people of faith, we acknowledge that we are not entitled to all of the answers (such as “Why?) while we are living - that the answers will be revealed to us later. Chasing the “why” will not change the circumstances and will result in wasted opportunities to serve others. That revelation has stayed with me since reading that book chapter over 20 years ago.
Our circumstance was not unique. Almost everyone can point to situations that have caused us to question “why?”
Eliminating the “why” is just as important in our daily lives within our organizations, personal lives, personal choices, personal growth, and personal and professional leadership development.
A wonderful little book called “QBQ! The Question Behind The Question - What to really ask yourself to Eliminate Blame, Complaining, and Procrastination by John G. Miller is on my list of must-reads if you want to make the move to achieve maximum productivity. Basketball coach Brad Stevens agrees. This was a book that he used to unite his final four teams while at Butler University. In fact, there was a large QBQ! sign posted in the Bulldogs’ locker room to remind them.
In the book, Miller challenges us to eliminate the question “Why?”
- “Why don’t others work harder?"
- “Why is this happening to me."
- "Why do they make it so difficult for me to do my job?”
He challenges us eliminate the question “When?”
- “When will they take care of the problem?"
- "When will the customer call me back?"
- "When will we get the information we need to make a decision?"
He challenge us to eliminate the question “Who?”
- “Who made the mistake?"
- “Who missed the deadline?"
- “Who dropped the ball?"
Instead, Miller says, we need to replace “Why”, “When”, and “Who” with “What” and “How.”
- “How can I do my job better today?"
- “What can I do to improve the situation?"
- “How can I support others?"
- “What solution can I provide?"
- “How can I more creatively reach the customer?” (Yes, in education we have customers)
- “What can I do to find the information to make a decision?"
The answers to “what” and “how” are in the questions. We need to allow ourselves to trust that our faith in ourselves and in others will lead us to those answers - and that should give us hope.
My challenge this week is to find one situation where we are stuck on asking “why?” and replace it with “how?” or “what?”
Write it down. Write the “why” question - the one you want to throw away. Then write a new question using “how” or "what.”
Then, answer the question. We may not want to admit it in some cases, but the answers will likely be obvious. Like all meaningful journeys, it has to start with us. Asking “how?” and “what?” are the first steps in adding value to ourselves and others. Not only is it “worth it” - it is essential to meaningful and lasting change in our personal and professional lives.
You might need an accountability partner for this challenge. Think about sharing your questions and answers with someone you trust. I think you, and we, will see amazing results.
Thank you for another week serving and adding value to our LCSC community.
Have a great weekend.