I have three crystal clear memories of the shoulder tap. Let me explain. The shoulder tap is when someone acknowledges and encourages you. Points you towards a direction you may have never thought of and catches you completely off guard. "Hey have you ever thought of doing (fill in the blank)" or, " I think you would be good at ..."
Memory #1: The day my high school football coach appointed me as one of the team captains. We had an awesome team with future NFL players on it (I wasn't one of them in case you didn't know) and he actually asked me to represent the team at the start of each game's coin toss. Why did he pick me? What was it that he saw in me that I didn't?
Memory #2: I was a seating host at Black Angus restaurant the summer after I graduated high school. I greeted people, took their names, told them how long they had to wait, listened to them complain about how long they had to wait, and kindly walked them to their seats. One day, the General Manager approached me and said, " You know Tony, I've been watching you and you would make a great manager one day". Why did he point that out? I was just a host...
Memory# 3: The middle school I was an Assistant Principal at for three years was a training ground for the job I have today, the Principal of an elementary school. During my second year on that job, my boss (the Principal) said, "I would feel just fine if I took a job somewhere else and you became this school's Principal, Tony". Why did she make that statement? Was she serious? Could I actually run a school?
In all the of these cases, I believe the individuals who left such a profound impact on me, never intended to do so. They may have been doing, asking, or saying what they meant at the time but, would never know the internal stirring they caused. This stirring eventually became a core belief within me that propelled me into motion.
Has this ever happened to you... The shoulder tap? Maybe something a complete stranger noticed. Have you ever shoulder tapped someone else? Maybe you have and don't even know...
Who would want to run a country? Someone who believes their ideals can ultimately make a difference for the greater good. Who would want to be the head of a school and responsible for all facets of it? Someone who believes their ideals can ultimately make a difference for the greater good. Who would want to be responsible for the high quality education of 24-33 students? You got it... Someone who believes their ideals can ultimately make a difference for the greater good. You see, all of us are in politics... Do you truly believe that you and your ideal can make a difference? Believe it and it will be so!
It's said that it only takes one negative comment to last a lifetime and between ten to twenty positive comments for someones conscious to accept it as the truth. I can remember participating in a youth group activity during high school, where I had to sit in front an entire group of my peers and listen as everyone took turns saying something positive about me. It was so uncomfortable! By the end, I was sweating with embarrassment. Why is it easier to hear and believe the negative stuff? Is it because all of us have the profound belief that we aren't "good enough" as we are?
I believe that self worth and self confidence greatly stem from our formative years of childhood and those experiences can vary from person to person. Experiences that can dictate a lifetime of core beliefs, values, and life outlook. Experiences that may have been founded in lies and uncertainty. Experiences founded in loving nurture and comfort. Heart wrenching experiences, which forced the "fight or flight" instinct much, much to early. My formative years were impacted by divorce, like so many of the children we serve today in education.
One of my closest friends has always been self confident and very independent, since we were both kids. I've learned a great deal from him over the years when it comes to stepping out of my comfort zone and trying new things, without knowing or controlling their outcomes. He's had more of a picturesque american family upbringing as compared to me. You know how it looks... both parents who are highly educated with good jobs, a nice home with plenty of room for frequent social gatherings, and family vacations to Hawaii. I don't say this to be negative, but to give perspective on how each child we work with has different experiences during those important years. He's had his own challenges as we all do... just different ones than me. However, I would argue that his resiliency, confidence, and optimism have something to do with the stable and loving family unit he endured as a child...
During my first year of teaching, I attended a professional development workshop about motivating students. One thing the keynote speaker said, in which I've always remembered, was an analogy that he used. He paralleled going to the casino with a certain amount of poker chips to play with and in the same light, students coming to school with a certain amount of chips. Some students come to us with just a few chips in their hand and by recess, they're gone. The teacher that was tough on them and the sarcastic joke by a student left them chipless for the rest of the day. Others come to school like high rollers, with an abundance of chips. Their chips allow them to endure hardships, grow and learn, and even leave school with more chips than they came with on some days.
Think about your students as this year comes to an end. Who still needs poker chips to finish the year out well? Who may need hundreds if not thousands of dollars in chips? Give it to them, roll the dice, and see what happens...
Once years ago, I was teaching Physical
Education at MHS and one of my students was running around with a net during my jogging unit. I stopped her to ask what she was doing and with a defeated look on her face she replied, "trying to catch a butterfly for my science class Mr. Frascone". Just as I was about to reply with words of encouragement, I noticed a beautiful butterfly sitting on her shoulder. I proceeded to ask, "Have you checked your shoulder?" She slowly looked down with amazement and graciously brought the net to her shoulder. Within seconds the butterfly flew in.
This memory came to mind over the break when I began thinking about my future and the things I want to chase after. It's our nature isn't it? To reflect during this season and to think about wanting something just out of our reach or "chasing butterflies". If we aren't mindful of our focus, we can become exhausted chasing after fleeting and aimless objects.
I believe this memory came to me because deep down inside, my subconscious was telling me to look at my own shoulder. I did and saw my family, I saw this job, I saw all of you, and this beautiful butterfly came into a brilliant focus...
I encourage you to glance at your shoulder. What do you see sitting there? Could it be that butterfly you're chasing after?
I've been asked to be a guest speaker over the years at many events and have been the main MC for countless functions. The majority of the time, I've had some kind of platform to stand on, along with a microphone amplifying my voice. These simple things are vital to being heard. They're vital to getting your desired messages across. Different platforms may be needed depending on the size and type of audience you have and different volumes for the same reason. In my role here as your Principal, I'm often left pondering this question... Have I used the right platform and volume for the messages I'm sending? This question can be literal or figurative. For example, "Back to School Night" is a very tangible event for me to reflect on and look at. However, I also use virtual platforms like email, e-calendars, and websites. Even "The Wildcat Scratch" is a platform I regularly use to get messages across. I've found that these are harder to gauge, especially when it comes to clarity and volume...
Find a moment this week to ponder these questions for yourself. Is the platform I'm using allowing me to to be seen and heard? What messages am I sending? Am I providing the right platform and amplifier for my students?
"Hey buddy, are you Ok?" I said. "Mr. Frascone, I'm never OK" the student replied with tears streaming down his cheeks. This conversation happened during lunch one day after this particular student dropped a corn dog on the floor. We had none left to replace it with and the other options we had, weren't going to replace that corn dog, if you know what I mean. You see in this guys world, things have to be very predictable and in order. Although you may smirk at his response to this situation, for him it was devastating. Those words pierced through me as I saw the distress in this young man's face. To be able to articulate the fact that he truly never feels "OK", floored me and still does to this day.
Case Study Questions:
Speaking up for those who can't speak up for themselves... That's been on my heart as of late. Maybe because I feel like I was one of them. My parents divorced when I was very young and I was a typical "latch key" kid growing up. It was my teachers, coaches, and mentors that looked out for me during those formative years. Some of them simply refused to let me slip through the cracks of the system, by speaking up for me at times when I couldn't speak up for myself. Now that I'm in this position of influence, Tony the man can speak up for Tony the kid whenever he or she crosses my path. Take a look around this week. Who do you see your reflection in? Who needs a voice? Speak up for them when needed, but more importantly, help them find their voice.
Imagine that you are a plane and have been built to do one thing- to fly, however others have decided that you have run your course and left you in a graveyard of other planes. What opportunities could you seize today to fly again? Why do your circumstances keep you confined?
Now relate this to your own life. What are some areas that may have run their course? Have others decided this ending, or have you? My challenge to all of us is to explore our minds and hearts for areas that have been abandoned and seize opportunities to let them "fly" once again. By doing so, we resurrect new found life in those oppertunities no matter how big or small they are.
P.S. To see a real example of an abandoned plane refusing to let it's circumstances hold it down... click below.
All of us have them. Moments that we try to capture and immortalize. Moments like getting your drivers license, buying your first car, birthdays, graduations, and landing your first job. Defining moments even happen at work. All of us have been apart of defining what place we are at in life and what role we play in it. Don't let the day just happen. Fight each and every day to continue creating defining moments. When these moments are achieved, we often clearly envision the direction needed to obtain the next one...
Pictures, music, or even a simple conversation can inspire me. We can inspire each other in the workplace. As I look around at my peers, it inspires me to push myself and by doing so, hopefully I'm inspiring you in return. This cycle of inspiration if kept healthy, can move mountains towards achievement. Think about those needing affirmation and approval. Without it, they are trapped waiting for inspiration... Give it to them without hesitation and free them to be inspired.