Standing On the Shoulders of Giants

I included an Acknowledgements page early in my dissertation to thank all the people who have supported me in one way or another throughout my doctoral studies.  Since most of the people I thank will never read the thing, I thought I would reproduce that page here in order to thank them all in a more public venue:

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So thanks to all at once, and to each one…
Macbeth, V.viii.75

I owe a debt of gratitude to a great many people for a great many reasons:

To my parents, who instilled in me from an early age the persistence and perspective that has guided me in all my personal, professional, and academic pursuits.

To the men and women of Wilmington University’s Ed.D. Cohorts 21 and 22, with whom I have shared laughter, frustration, grief, and joy over the last three years.

To my colleagues at Lawrence Township Public Schools, whose passion, professionalism, collegiality, and commitment to kids make going to work a joy.

To the faculty and staff of the Wilmington University Ed.D. program, especially program adviser Dr. Lynne Svenning, internship field adviser Dr. Sande Caton, and program administrative assistant Ms. Ann Gibason, all of whom have helped bring me back down to Earth when stress levels ran high.

To my dissertation committee chair Dr. Michael Czarkowski and committee members Dr. Pamela Curtiss, Dr. Tony Marchio, and Dr. Linda Frazer, for the unique expertise and guidance each brought to this study.

Finally, to the faculty and staff of Wellbrook School District, who gave so freely of their time to a complete stranger and without whom this study would not have been possible.

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Of course, no expression of gratitude would be complete without the Dedication page that precedes the Acknowledgements:

This dissertation is dedicated to my wife, Stephanie, and my children, Dylan and Kiera, whose unconditional love and support have been instrumental in completing this journey.  We did this.  I love you all, forever and always.

Achievement Unlocked!

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing.  Over 200 pages and 30 PowerPoint slides later, today I successfully defended my doctoral dissertation, Sustaining distributed leadership: Lessons learned from a case study of Delaware middle schools.

I am both elated and exhausted.  If anyone needs me, I’ll be asleep for the next six months or so.

Periscope down…

October #Edcamp: Teacher LeaderCamp @WilmU

I’m thrilled to announce a very special Edcamp event for educators in the vicinity of the state of Delaware: Teacher LeaderCamp @WilmU.

While most Edcamps cover a vast array of edu-themes, the overarching focus of Teacher LeaderCamp is teacher leadership.  Our host and sponsor, Wilmington University, indicated an interest in holding this event in order to foster teacher leadership in Delaware, and since teacher leadership constituted a huge part of my dissertation research, of course I was interested in helping organize the event.

Teacher LeaderCamp will be held on Saturday, October 25th from 9am-3pm.  The event will be held at two sites simultaneously in order to maximize the number of Delaware-area educators we can bring into the conversation: the campuses of Wilmington University at Dover and Wilson Graduate Center in New Castle.

As is the case with all Edcamps, the specific schedule of events will be set on the morning of the event, by the participants.  If there’s a topic you want to discuss, pick a time, pick a room, and put it on the master board – that’s all there is to it!

Of course, registration is FREE, but we do need you to register in advance – click here to reserve your free tickets for Dover; click here to reserve tickets for the Wilson Graduate Center in New Castle.  After you get your tickets, don’t forget to Like us on Facebook for updates and info as we get closer to the event.

Wilmington University has generously offered us all the essentials for an Edcamp: meeting space, bandwidth, and plenty of food – all that’s missing is you!  Hope to see you and your colleagues on October 25th.

Latest Greatest Hits

Happy Labor Day, and Happy New (School) Year’s Eve for many of you!

I’m actually writing this post in early August in anticipation of being pretty overwhelmed and without much time for blogging in early September, between starting my new job and heading down the final stretch of my dissertation journey.  Since I haven’t posted a rerun updated my “Damian’s Favorites” post category in awhile, I thought I’d link some of the items I’ve recently added:

Resume, Cover Letter… Blog?: My thoughts on how an online presence is at least useful, if not essential, in getting yourself a job in education these days, as well as my own story and some outlining of how and why I do what I do.

300 Miles: The more I learn, read, and hear about the importance of goal-setting, the better I realize it’s not just buzzy edu-jargon but (if done well) an essential tool in making progress.  This is one such example.

Don’t Break the Chain: More on meeting goals, but focusing on the journey there and how one comedian set himself up for success.  Simple and silly as it may sound, it has helped me enormously in my efforts to complete my doctoral dissertation.

What Will They Remember? #FergusonThoughts inspired by the death of Michael Brown and your students’ responses.  They will remember how you made them feel.

Whether you start tomorrow or you’ve been back for weeks already, my best wishes to you and your students for a fantastic 2014-2015!

What Will They Remember? #Ferguson

Just some memories and questions that were inspired by Rafranz Davis’ post, “When Real Life Happens, the Lesson Plans Change”.

I was in seventh grade in November 1989.  I don’t remember many specifics about what I learned in school that year, nor do I remember what we were studying – or supposed to be studying – in Social Studies that fall.  I do, however, have a very distinct memory of my Social Studies teacher asking our class, “Do you guys even get what is happening right now?  This is history!”  This, of course, was the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the subsequent events that would ultimately lead to the end of Communism in Eastern Europe and the dissolution of the Soviet Union.  I can’t pretend to know what her specific thoughts as a teacher were at the time, but I do remember us deviating frequently from our regularly scheduled curriculum that year to discuss in depth not only what was happening, but why it was important and what it could mean for us, as Americans, moving forward.

I was in my second year of teaching in September 2001.  I don’t remember many specifics about what my co-teacher and I were teaching that fall.  I do, however, have a very distinct memory of speaking with him in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, when we decided that, as Rafranz says, the lesson plan had to change.  We did our best to discuss current events with our students, helping them to separate fact from speculation as well as anyone could in those days, and we also helped them to learn some background knowledge that we hoped would combat the rapidly emerging Islamophobia (or anything-that-vaguely-resembled-Islam-to-Americans-ophobia), at least in our little corner of the country.  But beyond that, we let the kids talk.  We didn’t have answers to everything; hell, we barely had answers to anything.  But our students knew our classroom was a safe place to ask questions, speak freely (and respectfully), and otherwise do our best to messily hash out the history that was unfolding before us.  Among many, many other topics, we talked extensively about what these events could mean for us, as Americans, moving forward.

In the post linked above, Rafranz says:

Rich discussions are not necessarily born from pre-planned questions. Rich discussions happen when we let go of our personal constraints and just talk. We ask more questions that we don’t have the answers to. We reflect together and maybe we ask more questions. This is how we grow. This is how change happens.

I can’t pretend to know you or your students or the circumstances in which you all work, study, and live.  But I ask you this: what will your students remember when they are bursting with the need to share their fears, their questions, and their stories that resemble those brought to the national consciousness recently by the shooting death of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, MO?  What will they remember when they want to share this all with their peers and you, who may be one of the few adults – if not the only adult – in their lives to whom they feel they can open up?  What will they remember about that time they wanted to talk about racism and how it has directly impacted their lives and the lives of their loved ones?  What will they remember about that time they wanted to talk about their experiences with law enforcement, even if (especially if) their experiences do not resemble your own?

Will they remember how deftly you returned them to the appropriate place in the pacing guide?  Will they remember the novel chapter or the algebra problem that was much more important in the moment?  Or will they remember the time(s) that everyone got to talk – not as teacher, to students but as human beings, with one another – about institutional racism, or fear of police, or media censorship, and how, even if the teacher didn’t have all the answers, maybe real communication got people to understand each other’s perspectives a little better.  Maybe you’ll learn something from your students.  Maybe your students will learn something from you.  Maybe your students will learn something from each other.  And maybe you will all take a piece of that with you, beyond the classroom and beyond the school year, and maybe that will mean something important to everyone, as Americans, moving forward.