One Good Change Leads to Another

Image Credit: QuotesNew.com

Many of us share similar struggles, no matter what our path is, even if it is outside of education. We want to change EVERYTHING at once and can feel so small if the changes we wish to make are outside of our reach today.

In the world, we see people who desperately need our help… Hey, sometimes we are the people who need help from others! Having said that, it can sometimes feel insurmountable to give and be everything you need to be to everyone, all the time. We often think:

Where do we begin?

How do we help everyone who needs us? 

Instead of trying to change everything by yourself, all at once, first, focus on one person. Start by making a difference in one person’s life. Being there for one can have a positive domino effect on the lives of everyone that person interacts with. One change can lead to a multitude of changes; One person feeling loved can lead to that person spreading more love to others.

Ironically enough, by spreading love, you will also feel more loved, too.

By starting with one, you can gain the momentum you need to keep going. One good change leads to another, and another, and another; But, you have to start somewhere.

One good change leads to another, and another, and another; But, you have to start somewhere. Click To Tweet

To echo this, Jon Gordon recently quoted Andy Stanley in an Instagram post with these words, “Do for one which you wish could do for everyone.” 

I could not have said it better myself.

Try This: Take time each day to recenter your focus; Start your day off, by affirming that you will make a positive impact in the life of one person, one colleague, or one stranger. Say it out loud, believe it. Then, throughout your day, find opportunities to be that one person for someone else. After you find your one person, reflect on the positive interaction afterward.

But, tough days will happen. When you do have these tough days and wonder the breadth of the difference you are making- Find solace in yourself. Appreciate who you are, what you bring to the table, and reflect on those people and those moments in which you simply started by helping one person. Then, in fact, you will see the influence you are making.

Keep Spreading Hope-

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Begin the School Year with a Fresh Slate Mindset

Each school year seems to go faster than the year before. Over the summer, our brains tend to race as we ponder about the, “I wish I would haves” from the year before.

Maybe you are thinking to yourself:

  • I wish I would have tried ____________ (add in the curriculum idea here).
  • I wish I would have been a better ______________ (add in job title here).
  • I wish I would have taken more risks in the classroom for my students.
  • I wish I would have built more positive relationships with my colleagues.
  • I wish I would have been more generous with my love and time to others.

Soon after, we start to dream big with the marvelous, grandiose, and detailed plans of everything we aspire to do for this upcoming school year. We commit ourselves to it all and believe that this time, nothing will stand in our way to reach our plans.

It can be a vicious cycle of dreams, hope, then guilt if we feel that we fall short at the end of the year.

But, I believe that over the summer during our brainstorming sessions, we can get so blinded with everything we want to do that what we all often miss are discussions of starting the year with a “Fresh Slate” Mindset.

As educators, we have a unique opportunity to start each year with a fresh slate. In most other professions, people do not have this chance. We can and should take our failures and missteps from the year before and turn them into learning opportunities for the future; Rather than dwelling on the past, we have a responsibility each school year to make it better than the year before.

So, as you approach this upcoming year, I challenge you to embody a “Fresh Slate” Mindset, for yourself, students and your colleagues. What I mean by this is for you to give yourself grace for failures made, and most of all give that same grace to others, too.

Remember this: We can be whoever we want to be today. Who we were yesterday does not have to dictate who we will be today or tomorrow.

We are all human, we have all made mistakes, and every person in this world could all use a little more love and acceptance. After all, we are all learning and figuring life out as we go, right?

In the excitement of the new school year and ideas, do not forget to take the time to press the restart button for yourself and others. Start small and always start with love.

We often practice this with students, but forget to apply it to ourselves and other adults.

Sometimes, what we ALL need the most, even more than new programs and innovations, is a chance to start over and do better than what we have ever done before.

Here is to making this school year the best yet,

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Be the Man in the Arena

 

Image Credit- Kara Knollmeyer
Previously published post- 2016

On April 23, 1910, Theodore Roosevelt delivered the “Citizenship In A Republic” speech in Paris, France. The small excerpt from his 35-page speech, which you see above, is widely known as the Man in the Arena. This notable passage was most arguably the finest speech of Roosevelt’s entire Presidency.

It is remarkable that a message stated over 100 years ago can be just as powerful, magical, and moving; When a message can touch generations, there must be a common thread that people can relate to time and time again.

After much introspection, here are my six takeaways from the Man in the Arena:

1. Feel your fears

In many cases, the critic is someone who is just fearful as the man in the arena; Fearful of their inadequacies, fearful that they could be more successful than measure, and fearful that others may know more and be more than them. Feel your fears. OWN your fears. Do not let your fears embody a critic mindset that flattens the spirit and gusto from those around you. Feel your fears and deal with your own insecurities first and foremost.

2. Be Brave

Everyone feels inadequate at some point in time. It takes pure guts and bravery to overcome inadequacy and trying times. We are each capable of becoming the metaphorical “Man in the Arena.” Moreover, any critic can turn into a champion if they have the steady heart to persevere.

3. Discomfort Equals Growth

Putting yourself out there is not easy, and no one said it was. Furthermore, I do not think it is supposed to be easy; It is supposed to be meaningful. Times of discomfort prove that you are growing and learning. Accept it and appreciate the uncomfortable process.

4. Focus on the Man in the Arena

It is not about the critic. the naysayers are usually not the individuals evoking change…The man in the arena is.

Sometimes it can appear that critics are as prevalent as your need to blink. When you are the “Man in the Arena,” you may feel like a spectacle under the watch of analysis. Stay steadfast with your doggedness and zeal. In time, you will see the successes of your efforts.

5. Do Not Judge

If you see an individual struggling- that is not their story. If you see a highly successful person- that is not their only story. Perception is not reality. The beauty of life is that each individual is a unique collection of stories; One snapshot of someone’s life does not tell all. Do not judge a person for their highs or their lows in life, because there is always more unseen and left to understand.

6. Be an Advocate

Nothing is done well without passion. Find something worth fighting for and go after it. By doing so, your zest for life will rise exponentially. When you love what you are doing, you start giving less emphasis to the critics; The doers are too busy to be worried about the critics anyhow. Focus more on the vision, more on the future product, and refrain from sweating the small stuff.

Remember:

If you do not advocate for what you want or what you believe in, people assume and interpret that it is not of value.

Here’s to all the men and women in the arena…

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The Fear of Not Being Enough

Usually, on blogs or social media, we tend to display the highlights of our lives. The best of the best.

And what are we too afraid to put online? Our inadequacies.

Why?

If we write someone on paper, we can toss it in the can and forget its existence. When we write online, it is imprinted forever.

But, in this post, I want to be vulnerable. My hopes are that through this post, I can help others feel that they are not alone.


To give you a little backstory, within the past couple of weeks, I have moved, gotten married, and will be starting a new leadership position.

A lot of change; Good change, exciting change, but still change nonetheless.

Throughout these recent and pivotal changes of my life, where I see all I have ever wanted before me, one question keeps hitting me harder than the rest:


Am I going to be enough? 

  • Will I be a good enough wife?
  • Will I make my husband happy?
  • Will I be able to make the positive impact I dream to make in my new leadership position?
  • Will I be able to give students and staff everything they deserve?

Although my husband and I have dated for years previously to our marriage and in my career I have had a myriad of educational leadership experiences, I cannot help but feel the feelings and ask myself these questions.

Change in all areas in life is incredible. But, it still looks like and feels like vulnerability.

But, I am learning that a part of being human means we have to start allowing ourselves to feel the feelings that come along with it. To be honest, to be raw, to be authentic.

We were born to be imperfect; To have polarizing emotions. Some days I feel confident, other days I do not. No one may ever know or be able to tell if I confident or not, but it still does not mask my inner feelings.

This is a message for you (and me):

Asking yourself,  “Am I good enough?” does not make you any less of a person or educator. It does not mean you cannot handle challenges. You absolutely can.

Being brave enough to ask that question means that you care deeply; You love people and want to help more than you can even describe.

I can feel, even as I write this, that opening myself up to unknown and embracing it, rather than feeling inadequate because of it, is the best thing I could do, not the worst.

Remember: You are enough.

You will continue to make a difference because you are the difference. Click To Tweet

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Understanding the Challenges of Others

Image Credit: abettermedaybyday.com

Each day when we interact with people, we are encountering diverse individuals like us who have a multitude of blessings and struggles they are trying to overcome in their lives.

Despite the exact situation, one thing is clear- Every single person has a story. We know and remember this when trauma arises; But, with the complexities of daily life, having the opportunities to pause and reconsider this fact may feel few and far between.

Discover Others

Nevertheless, one of my favorite discoveries in life is taking the time to DISCOVER other people. Human beings are fascinating- Each person is a book with a novel story that is unmatched by anyone else.

Except, have you ever noticed how often we book our schedules with unnecessary items, but we still constantly feel this urge to be busy? What if we “booked” more time to get to know one another more as human beings and less as students or colleagues?  
I believe that we can build powerful ties that will strengthen us as individuals and teammates if we spend more time being present in each moment.

Inspiration

During the last few days of school, students Kindergarten through 5th grade placed letters in my mailbox. As I was reading through the notes and drying my watering eyes, one card especially hit me like a ton of bricks:

“Dear Ms. Welty, Thank you for understanding the challenges of others and wanting to do something about it.”

This student described me and my demeanor better in one sentence than I ever could have. It is a profound reminder of how closely students look up to us.

Having said that, this student was correct- If we want to build stronger teams, we must understand the challenges others face and DO something about it.

Try This!

It’s the little things over time that become the compilation of the BIG things that matter. Try adding these little actions into your daily routine:

  • Add More Deep Conversations into your Day 

Instead of always asking questions like, “How are you?” or “How is your day?,” Ask more probing questions that show you are sincere and you want to get to know that person better. Remember this: Authentic questions deliver authentic answers.

  • Take the Time to Listen

It sounds obvious, but it is the most vital skill to learn. Sometimes we ask people exceptional questions, but then through our body language, we show we do not care about their response. Do this: Take the time to let others express themselves without thinking about your personal distractions, like tasks you need to complete. We may think we are great at multitasking, but people can usually tell when we are truly listening or not.

  • Follow-up 

Once a colleague or student has shared something going on in their lives, follow-up with them about it and ask about it again. It always is refreshing to be around others that think of you and take the time to check-in.

  • Take Initiative 

In every school, there are staff members, families, and students who are facing severe family illnesses and other crises. Whether you can help with an act of service or simply be the listening ear, take an active approach to be there for others. Many we encounter each day will never ask for our help but need support. When we take the initiative to offer comfort, we show we are a faithful crew.

  • Do Not Let Stress Take your Best

With all of this said, we too encounter our own personal hurdles that we face outside of school as well. Everyone has bad days and we each deal with stressors differently. Yet, be mindful to ensure that over time your stress does not take the best out of you and others.

Sense of Caring

In closing, this quote by Anthony J D’Angelo is everything, “Without a sense of caring, there can be no sense of community.” I have found that nothing is more valuable than time spent loving one another and understanding each other; It is the heart of what we do as educators. When we care about each other like family, we build community.

There are no shortcuts, just love.

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Be Their Diehard Fan

A fan is someone who is enthusiastically devoted to their sports team, musical artist, author, or an entertainer. The best trait about a diehard fan is that no matter what happens, even during the weak points, in the end, that fan always give their team their full support, with the knowledge that it will all eventually fall into place. Some of us call this unwavering faith.

I believe that the best educators and leaders apply these same foundations to their classrooms. Great teachers are not fair-weather fans, and they are DIEHARD fans for their students. Great educators also believe that student behaviors, academic levels, or backgrounds will NEVER stop them from loving or fighting for their students just as hard. After all, when our students show signs of distress is usually the moment they need our cheers in the fan section the most.

While working alongside students and showing that I will never give up on them, students taught me more about life, resilience, strength, and love than I could have ever imagined. I am better because of their strength.


Isn’t it a beautiful thing that while we dedicate ourselves to become their fans, that they become our number one supporters, too?


Whether students have positive or negative behavior stats or have winning or losing records in school- Be their diehard fan. Even our most supported students need us in their fan section more than ever. You will have no greater of a fan than your students if you become their diehard fan FIRST.

A thoughtful card I received from a student.

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How to Strengthen Relationships with Students

Building relationships with our students and colleagues are THE most important work that we do as educators and leaders.  Taking the time and energy to strengthen relationships with kids will help them grow to be better individuals and learners. Moreover, human connection is THE essential piece in LIFE, not just the field of education.

But, my caveat is this: Do not try to “manage” kids, but instead INVEST in them. When you invest in students and their interests, talents, and skill sets, your return on the investment will always be greater and more rewarding. Whether you are a kid or an adult, everyone wants to feel genuinely cared about.  Therefore, you can never go wrong by devoting your spirit to those you serve.

Throughout the years of working with kids, here are some of the most meaningful pieces that I believe are crucial to enhancing the relationships that you create:

  • Be present

  • Greet and welcome every single student

  • Listen and value their different perspectives

  • Get to know more about their family, hobbies, and passions

  • Look at every student interaction with a non-judgemental lens

  • Let students start over with a fresh slate when mistakes happen

  • Never, ever give up on them

  • Show that you want to learn from them, too

  • Bring the strengths of every single student to the forefront

  • Empower students to lead and make a difference

  • Be true to you; It inspires kids to be true to themselves

  • Be fun; Never take yourself too seriously

Image result for rita pierson quotes
Image Credit: TED/PBS

Significant mention: When thinking of strengthening relationships with students, the above quote from the beloved Rita Pierson is the beacon of what we should all strive for. Even if you have already seen the TED Talk 1,000,000 times like me, share it with someone else to ignite the spark within them as well (Or watch it below!)

Whether you are reading this during your last few weeks of school, or next October, or in August of 2049- Relationships will always be paramount. Everything changes in life, but relationships are our constant. The year, the month, the season does not matter. What matters is that we never give up on our students and always find time to strengthen the connections we already have to help them become who they were destined to be.

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Unleashing Your Limitless Potential

Image Credit- Tamara McCleary

What are some of your OUT of this WORLD dreams and aspirations? Which dream is so big and crazy that you even doubt its possibilities?

Name that goal: _______________________.

We are often told to dream big and to reach for the stars, but on the same token we are later advised to be “realistic.” Being logical is important in many instances, but what is actually needed more in this world are people who are OBSESSED with their dreams and passions. People who have dreams that seem unfeasible to the average person. People who can visualize their goal to see the picture of success within their minds. Then, ultimately people who do whatever it takes to make their dreams a reality each and every day.

We need people who are not trying to be realistic. We need people who are trying to change the WORLD for the better; And when you are trying to change the world, you do not do ordinary things. Instead you commit to…


Reach for aspirations that are limitless.

Welcome failure.

Never stop soaking in knowledge.

Continually adjust and adapt.


Do not welcome or invite the crab-in-a-bucket mentality into your thought process. If you have not heard of this theory, let me explain: Sailors notice that while traveling across the blue seas and capturing crabs, that one crab in a bucket can claw his way out of the bucket successfully with determination. But, once the sailors start adding more crabs into the bucket, the other crabs start fighting and clawing relentlessly to ensure that one crab does not escape.

As the Chinese proverb says in the image above, “The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it.”

When we minimize the potential of others, we diminish the leaders and possibilities that “could be.” But, the worst case of all is when we also crush the potential within ourselves. It starts with us. When we shut down our possibilities and start believing that it “can’t be done,” we belittle our true GREATNESS.

Now, remember the goal you named earlier in this post. Unleash that dream and limitless potential within; These dreams are your calling. Be unstoppable and welcome dreams that are illogical, for this is the only way we can change the world.

Then, through your motivation, modeling, encouragement, you can help give that same gift to others which is the greatest gift of all.

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5 Characteristics of People Who Inspire Others

Nothing refreshes the soul more than being around another human being who inspires and lifts you to new dimensions. I yearn for these moments of inspiration and feel fortunate to feel inspired each day.

When I think of people who have inspired me in the past and present, they tend to embody these five traits (along with many others). In no particular order, here are characteristics that inspire others to be all they can be:

1. Servant Heart

The best leaders are the best servants. The most inspiring people are the people who love others with all their heart and all they are. Servant leaders make you feel that they will drop anything at any time to help you and to love you, without any expectations. Servants are fountains and not drains; They aim to lift people UP as a result of their presence.

       2. Brave

All progress begins with someone who is brave. I like to think that we were all called to be bold. But, when we think of someone who is brave, we often imagine a warrior geared in steel, ready to fight for war. But, bravery does not always look like this because bravery is seen even in the smallest circumstances.

Furthermore, being brave does not mean that you are not scared. Bravery often means that inside you are trembling and terrified, but you do the right thing anyways.

It is also important to note that people who are brave are more likely to be risk-takers. Individuals who are courageous understand that once you fail, you do not fail forever.

       3. Vulnerable

Love and vulnerability are the only bridges that can unite us.  When people express an unpopular belief, try something new, ask for help, and admit that they made a mistake, they are vulnerable. Being open and vulnerable allows you to be seen, but that exposure can be enough to scare us away.

Yet, ironically enough, when you are around vulnerable people, you become more naturally vulnerable as a result. Seeing others share often gives you permission to do the same. People who “dare greatly,” as author Brene Brown puts it, can be the catalyst to help themselves and others be all they can be.

       4. Accepting of Others

When we think of the idea of accepting others, there is more to it than we would like to admit. Accepting others is not:

  • Being tolerant
  • Making sure others do things that “make you happy”
  • Directing others to be more like you
  • Having people do things your way

Accepting others for who they are is a life-long skill that we must practice daily to evolve in our practice. Being graced in the presence of someone who is accepting gives others permission to be EVERYTHING they are.

People are more likely to grow and be the best versions of themselves when they are near a team of people who accept them for who they are from the beginning.

       5. Tenacious

Those who are tenacious are persistent and exude determination. When they have opportunities to give up, they do not take them. These individuals do take a moment to breathe and regain their vision, but they always keep their eye turned to the future.

It is important to note that people who are tenacious are not tenacious solely for the purpose to be relentless. Their tenaciousness is focused around values and visions that they hold dear. More often than not, their values are centered around serving the people, community, and the world around them.


What traits do you think that I could I add to the list? Who are people who inspire you to be all you are? 


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Give Your Love, Watch Someone Grow

 Image credit: QuoteFancy

 

My Mom, myself, my brother & my Dad at my Masters Graduation Ceremony for Educational Administration last year

 

Throughout my life, and to this day, my Mom has always been my foundation of what love is. She embodies love. She breathes love. She IS love.

She is that one person in my life that knows and understands me better than anyone else.

She has:

-Always known exactly what to say at just at the right time

-Supported me through every decision I have made

-Loved me unconditionally

-Taught me how to trust my heart and intuition above all else

When I wanted to become an educator years ago, most people tried to talk me out of it due to a multitude of reasons. Some believed that I would be wasting my intelligence and potential with being an educator. But, not my mom. My mom was the only one that advised me to follow my heart and to never feel bad for doing so. She saw my undeniable passion for teaching and knew that nothing could replace that fire in my soul- Not money, perception, or the opinions of others.

My mom and the first class I EVER taught. They loved her as much I do; This picture brings me to tears, every single time

 

Her love has shown me how to love. I see how she loves me, my family, her job, and people as a whole. She would give the shirt off her back and all of the money in her bank account to anyone who needed it. Furthermore, she believes that time is the best thing you can offer someone. Only a few people even know that she spends her lunch breaks helping struggling students to read (for no cost) because she wants to make a difference. She has shown me by her example that we do not have to wait to make a difference, WE ARE THE DIFFERENCE.

This website, this blog, my career, and who I am today would not even exist if it were not for my Mom. She has always believed in me more than I believed in myself. In her eyes, I could do it all. I could conquer any dream, and climb any mountain. Her opinion and belief in me has steered me forward, even when I have not believed in myself.

Each day, my goal is to love students unconditionally like the way my Mom has loved me. Even when I was hard to love, my Mom loved me. Even when I had crazy dreams, my Mom believed in me.

Here is to loving each student, each colleague, each friend, and each person we encounter with the same kind of love that my mom has shown to me.

To my Mom- I owe you the world. I love you. I can only hope and dream to be half the person you are. Thank you.

 

Kara’s Tweetable : “We do not have to wait to make a difference, We are the difference.”

 

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