Written By: Hans Appel
Where are you guys from?
Eastern Washington, about 3 hours from Seattle.
Oh, wow, welcome to Ohio...what brings you to Columbus?
We’re actually on our way to Akron.
Akron? What’s going on in Akron? Do you have family there?
Well...yeah...sorta. We’re going to an educator conference.
It must be a pretty special conference to travel that far.
Yep, we’re going to meet some cool people.
Awesome Mr. Appel, here are your keys, your all set to go. Your car’s on G-16. Have a great conference!
Over the next 48 hour whirlwind, I immersed myself in the quest to get better. The inaugural Teach Better Conference, offered networking, breakouts, keynotes, and the usual educational opportunities. But from the start, this conference had a different vibe, energy, and electricity than others I’d attended. There was a fun, friendly, fast-paced excitement upon registration that left me eager to get this party started. But Tiffany Ott, Chad Ostrowski, Rae Hughart, and Jeff Gargas exceeded all my expectations...
While going through amazing events, moments, or opportunities I frequently search for a common thread to explain or make sense of my experience. A word, phrase, or hashtag can help me cement AWESOMENESS to my soul. Additionally, I have a deep passion for understanding successful people. And I was surrounded by countless edu-stars who are walking the walk everyday. After attending nearly 15 presentation sessions (Breakouts + Keynotes) and still being SHOCKED we were chosen to present alongside so many outstanding people who I admire and look up to in our profession, I needed a word to capture my #TeachBetter19 weekend.
Some people I spoke to highlighted words like connection, PLN, passion, etc...but none of them did justice to what I was seeing and feeling. Near the end of the weekend, a brief conversation with Josh Stamper [Be sure and check out his Aspire Leadership Development Podcast] helped me clarify a word that was present from the start of this EPIC conference and all the way through, to the very end: Vulnerability.
It was as if Brene Brown herself was perhaps consulting on the vision for the weekend. I heard inspiring emotionally charged stories fueled with vulnerability. People shared raw stories of burnout, childhood trauma, failure, and mental health challenges. Every single presenter I watched--brought it 1000%
From Brad Hubbard’s #MakeItMatter to Kristen Nan’s “The Elephant in the Room” each speaker moved me to DO BETTER and BE BETTER for our students. Even people whose incredible sessions I didn’t make it to were clearly pushing the envelopes of risk taking in such inspiringly highwire without a net type of ways...
As an aspiring inspirer, I found myself pondering several questions:
**Is everyone at their school as vulnerable and brave as they are?
**Why aren’t people at home leading with this type of vulnerability?
**How might I influence my students and staff to take more risks?
**What gives these edu-stars the freedom of mind to bare their HEARTS?
If I’m being real, I found myself wishing I worked with these types of people everyday. Leaders like Jeff Kubiak [One Drop of Kindness] and Michael Earnshaw [Punk Rock Classrooms] make it easy to Teach Like a Pirate [Did anyone else think Dave Burgess was taller than they expected?]. Authors like Dan Tricarico and Adam Welcome encourage me to #RUNLAP toward Self-Care, so I can bring the fire! Parents like Janelle McLaughlin, who have the skills, language, and talent to partner with educational leaders in innovative ways entice me to fight harder for EVERY KID!
In the end, I don’t control my students, co-workers, parents or ANYONE ELSE. I can however, model an award winning culture that’s rich with daring leadership. I think Tara Martin had it all right when she encouraged us to Cannonball In --to the deep end of the pool.
Award Winning Culture inspires and empowers students and staff to take educational risks layered in VULNERABILITY by being willing to step first.
As I returned the keys, early Sunday morning, to the gentleman at Hertz, I realized I now had the KEYS to something extraordinary…
Time to go #TeachBetter!
Thank-you to all my old and new friends and family who made me better this weekend! Let’s DO THIS!!
About the Author
Hans Appel has worked as a counselor in the Richland School District for the past 19 years and at Enterprise Middle School since it opened. He’s passionate about school culture, servant leadership, and kindness. In 2018, EMS was awarded the ASCD Whole Child Award for the State of Washington and the Global “Class Act Award” for creating a culture of excellence through kindness, service, and empathy. Additionally, the were selected as a finalist in the 2019 PBIS Film Festival and took top prize in the Community, Parents, and Staff category.
Award Winning Culture was created by Hans and Jennifer Appel with the sole purpose of creating an educational mindset of Positive INTENTIONALITY and ACTION; with a daily mantra to make our sphere of influence stronger through Character, Excellence, and Community. Part of AWC's mission is to highlight outstanding educators, companies, and resources that support an Award Winning Culture. Both Jennifer and Hans work at Enterprise Middle School aka Wildcat Nation. Wildcat Nation received the 2018 ASCD Whole Child Award in Washington, for its award winning culture and the 2018 Global "Class Act Award" for Kindness.