Written By: Hans Appel
I was fortunate to attend one of the best counselor prep programs in the northwest. Central Washington University (CWU) in Ellensburg Washington is highly distinguished for 3 specific programs: Accounting, Teaching, and Counseling. Indeed, their counseling program is second to none, in my part of the country! Perhaps, the biggest distinction between CWU and other universities’ counseling programs is the experiential practicum that students receive in a real world clinic. While some programs are grounded in role playing, scenarios, and fake setups, CWU required me to complete nearly 2 years of individual and group counseling with actual clients. It was insanely rigourous and inordinately challenging. All 50 minute sessions were videotaped for us, our supervisor, and our student teams to review, annalyze, and critic. We spent hours transcribing words, interpreting non-verbals, and examining feelings or thoughts. If you’ve ever recorded yourself doing anything, you recognize that the camera catches everything. Frequent questions arose during viewing sessions that would make the most confident individual re-examine their future counseling path:
**Why did you cross your legs there?
**How come you leaned forward there?
**What message are you sending to the client with this greeting?
**How might you more accurately capture this person’s story?
**What transference or countertransference was observable in that clip?
As you might imagine every little component was picked over. In fact, I believe the saying ”leave no stone unturned” could have come from CWU’s clinical counseling program. It was a challenging and awesome experience and I loved everything about it! Frankly, we all knew that if we survived this program (and not everyone did) we’d be ready to flourish in the helping profession. Of all the memories, learnings, and take-aways from my time in the program, the one I continue to come back to is something I call The Tissue Lesson.
During one unforgettable review session, my supervisor (Dr. Collins) took a close look at a session I was confused by. During the session, the client and I seemed to be connecting well. We were building rapport and the she was slowly opening up. At one point, she began to cry and started to share some intense feelings. Suddenly, she stopped emoting and put up an invisible wall. It was clear that she no longer felt comfortable to explore her feelings in that moment. On video tape it became clear that she quickly clammed up and returned into her own head before moving the conversation into a different direction. As our team zeroed in on this piece of the tape, we tried to determine what might have gone wrong. Dr. Collins, an expert in human behavior and a passion for teaching future counselors made me replay a 20 second clip probably half a dozen times.
Written By: Hans Appel
A few months ago, I was asked to review Jimmy Casas and Jeffrey Zoul’s OUTSTANDING new book “Stop. Right. Now.” It’s the type of book that entices you to examine educational practices with fresh eyes. Stop. Right. Now. offers readers thirty-nine culture killers coupled with an exceptional how-to guide to avoid common pitfalls. I’d like to add #40 to the list...
In my district, secondary schools start at 7:55a.m. Many students arrive to school around 7:15-7:45a.m...with the bulk of students showing up by car, bus, or bike around 7:30. Other parts of the country operate on different daily bell schedules but the overall timeline of students arriving approximately 20-30 minutes prior to school starting seems to be fairly universal.
There are schools around the country that INTENTIONALLY lock students out of hallways in the morning until the first bell. This leaves most of the students unsupervised, unconnected, and out in the cold weather for nearly 20-30+ minutes. Some school houses do allow students into the building (usually a cafeteria or gym) but do not let them down the hallway or into classrooms until the bell rings.
Written By: Hans Appel
“Empathy is the root of humanity and the foundation that helps our children become good, caring people. But the Empathy Advantage gives them a huge edge at happiness and success”
-Dr. Michele Borba, Author of “Unselfie”
Dr. Tim Elmore, from growing leaders says that the average student today has as much anxiety as the average psychiatric patient of the 1950’s. In an increasingly anxiety ridden society it’s scary to know that Borba’s research indicates that as anxiety goes up empathy goes down. In fact, just since 2012, empathy has dropped 29% in college age students which came on the heels of a 40% drop in empathy among college students between 2000-2010. This frightening inverse relationship between anxiety and empathy makes sense; if students are more stressed, worried, and anxious about their own lives, its harder to focus on what’s going on in other’s lives.
Award Winning Culture welcomes ongoing critical examination of a school’s current educational practices, and intentionally infuses relevant Whole Child strategies into the school’s ecosystem.
It’s no surprise that empathy is a key soft skill that Whole Child focused schools are actively teaching. Thanks to programs like Character Strong, empathy is becoming a point of emphasis in the same vein as core subject areas (Math, Science, ELA, etc.) have always been. By zeroing in on empathy, kindness, and service, Character Strong’s servant leadership model of social emotional learning and character development offers a powerful and necessary #FutureDriven approach to education. Indeed, in an ever changing, unstable world filled with technology, fear, and a me-first mentality, empathy and kindness seem to be a revelatory anecdote to hate.
Our Award Winning Culture (AWC) Podcast students are some of our strongest leaders at Wildcat Nation. These students lead daily efforts in making kindness normal at Enterprise Middle School and help set the standard for positive school culture. Frankly, in 18 years of education, some of my brightest, most talented high character leaders are found in my current AWC podcast group.
Written By: Hans Appel
Does your school culture evoke tears of joy?
A little over a year ago, I arranged for our local KNDU/NBC news station to send someone out to do a story on our school during the Anti-Bullying month of October. I was told that they’d be there no longer than 45 minutes, as they had an important story on the other side of town that same morning. While the manager allowed for ¾ of an hour he fully expected his reporter to be in and out in about 20 minutes.
As the news reporter arrived on campus nearly 30 minutes before school was to start she was struck by our daily Wildcat Nation greeting. At Enterprise Middle School, we start every day with high fives, fist bumps, music and warm hellos as people walk in the main entrances. It’s an intentional move to increase school positivity and school spirit through personal connection.
After taking footage and soaking up our spectacular start to school she was off to do some student interviews. She asked students what it’s like to go to EMS, what Wildcat Nation really means, and how our Character Strong program changed things. What started off as a 45 minute stop in West Richland, turned into over 3 hours! Frankly, we couldn’t get her to leave. She was having an absolute blast! She interviewed dozens of students, teachers, even attended a leadership class.
Award Winning Culture has NOTHING to do with winning actual awards. It’s about creating a mindset of INTENTIONALITY. A daily mantra to make our circle of influence stronger through Character, Excellence, and Community. Throughout the next year, I’ll be highlighting educators, companies, and even students who are dialed in to a winning approach to LEARNING. Here are the 50 educators that have simply INSPIRED me in 2018 because of their intentionality with education. They’ve tweeted, blogged, and written incredible work. They’ve delivered inspiring speeches and created epic podcasts. They’ve produced impactful graphics, ideas, and slogans. But...most importantly, they helped RAISE education to incredible new heights! To kick off this year-long focus on OUTSTANDING...here are MY Award Winning Culture educational disruptors (in no particular order)...
John Norlin: John is simply the MOST dynamic trainer of professional learning I’ve ever been around. His lifelong work with Character Strong has greatly influenced the way I think, behave, and feel about school culture, Whole Child education, and leadership. I feel fortunate to call him a friend. See you next week buddy! (John's Website)
Written By: Hans Appel
As a long time champion of Chicago Sports (BEAR DOWN!!), I’ve been thrilled to follow Sarah Spain’s career rise to the national sports scene (former Chicago Sports Reporter turned ESPN mainstay). I enjoy watching her on shows like “Mike & Mike,” “His & Hers,” “First Take,” “The Sports Reporters,” and “Outside the Lines.” So, naturally when she created a sports related podcast, I quickly jumped on, to be both subscriber and fan. As an early Spain bandwagoner, I appreciate her insight, intelligence, and candour through a Chicago sports lens. Spain was and continues to be a female journalistic trailblazer!
In April of 2016 Spain joined Julie Dicaro to participate in a #MoreThanMean PSA for Women in Sports who face online harassment. What started as a simple click of the mouse, impacted me and millions of others in a deeply profound way. Take a few minutes to search #MoreThanMean on You Tube and watch this graphically uncomfortable yet powerfully important clip. You'll see the impact that JUST READING hurtful derogatory words from Spain and Dicaro's social media feeds, had on these unsuspecting men. **(Warning-This video contains heavy profanity laden examples of sexual harassment and cyberbullying and promises to evoke intense emotional reactions)
Written By: Hans Appel
As a kid, I struggled with asthma while growing up in an environment filled with sage brush, dust and pollen. The Tri-cities was indeed a hotbed of allergies for me. Despite being a competitive athlete, I routinely found myself dealing with some yearly sickness during the winter months. And while I eventually outgrow asthma, it created a lot of personal challenges to overcome.
Without question, my 10th grade year proved to be my toughest in terms of health and wellness. In late December of 1991, I came down with a full blown case of Pneumonia; which in turn, landed me in the hospital. During my time away from high school, our head varsity coach had also been fired. This unexpected shakeup to my beloved sports team, was hard to comprehend. Additionally, I had missed numerous assignments, projects, and tests. Furthermore, this health ordeal coinciding with my 16th birthday as I literally was hospitalized 2 days after recieving my driver’s license (FYI: I was born on Christmas Eve...so for those reading closely, you probably guessed that my Christmas looked a little different than most).
As you can imagine, losing 15 lbs, missing multiple basketball games, and over 2 straight weeks of school might prove to be extremely anxiety provoking.
How would I get caught up? Did I lose my spot on the team? Will I be interrogated about my excessive absences? Do I remember how to drive my car? Will my friends care than I'm gone?
Luckily for me, I had numerous teachers, coaches, and educators who prescribed to an Award Winning Culture. These Character Strong educators visited me in the hospital, brought me cards, assignments, and encouragement. Personal connection can be incredibly healing to the mind, body, and soul. Then, as I recovered at home, folks were lined up to wish me well, check-in on me, call me on the phone, and generally facilitate my transition back to LIFE at school. They even continued this wellness watch as I returned in mid-January by greeting me with smiles, “Welcome Back Hans,” and helping me prioritize and strategize how to tackle the MOUND of school work.
Nearly 27 years removed from this health tribulation, I occasionally find myself wondering what might have happened if I wasn’t intentionally treated with such positivity, dignity, and respect.
During my time as an educator, I’ve witnessed and taken part in all forms of response to student absence. Some comments seem to do real damage:
Written By: Hans Appel
Last Thanksgiving, one of my life-long best friends suffered a cardiac arrest on the way home from a basketball team retreat. Thanks to the quick actions of two CPR-trained, Character-Strong friends of ours, they were able to get the help he needed, in a timely fashion.
Almost a year removed from this scary incident, my long time buddy and fellow Wildcat Nation educator, Ben Brost, has made a full recovery! It feels appropriate to share a moment of thanks and insight learned from his ordeal. Brost is that guy in your life, who would give anyone the shirt off his back. He’s a servant leader in its truest definition and he sees the good in everyone and is truly a friend to many. He’s a guy that has a million best friends and eager to support all of them.
In the months that followed, people stepped up to support Brost and his family in ways that are unimaginable. Friends and family dealt with insurance, lesson plans, child care, pet care, meals, doctors appointments, and coordination of travel arrangements. People gave ridiculous amounts of money, time, and countless energy to support Brost’s family. It's mind-blowing to imagine how many little and big life details someone needs during a health scare. While Brost’s recovery easily qualified as a miracle, our communities strength proved equally as miraculous!
Written By: Hans Appel
Yesterday, I was thrilled to be at a Washington State ASCD sponsored training with Kristin Souers. Kristin is an expert in creating Trauma Invested schools. She’s the co-author of “Fostering Resilient Learners” along withPete Hall. Their second book: “Relationships, Responsibility, and Regulation” will be released this December and their highly anticipated inaugural “Trauma Invested Institute for Fostering Resilient Learners” is available to educators next summer in Seattle, Wa. As a licensed mental health counselor, professor, speaker and consultant on trauma, Kristin’s work pairs perfectly with the Whole Child work of Character Strong.
As is often the case, when I find myself in the presence of greatness, I come away energized, refreshed, and full of introspection. There were pages of notes, insights, and inspiration. But perhaps one unintended takeaway came in the form of a quick conversation with an educator from another district. Like me, she comes from a Character Strong infused school who’s currently working on upping their game in becoming trauma sensitive. During a reflection activity, she mentioned that Souers’ trauma work is similar to John Norlin & Houston Kraft’s Character Strong work in one critical sense: IT’S ALL ABOUT THE ADULTS. She said to me: "this work is more for US than it is for our kids." The underlying message being that if we take the time to work on ourselves, we have the opportunity to greatly impact our students. Her reflection fit with something I’ve heard John and Houston say a zillion times:
Written By: Hans Appel
No examination of creating an "AWARD WINNING CULTURE" is complete without a deep dive into the world of Kindness.
We’ve all seen acts of grand gestures from famous, wealthy people on tv and in the movies. Oprah’s over the top antics of “You get a Car and you get a car” made for great television and reinforced her as a positive leader in the world. People like Ellen have taken this mantle and made it a daily part of her show, with “be Kind to one another.” Orly Wahba created a youtube sensation with the Kindness Boomerang and Leon Logothetis’ “Kindness Diaries” on Netflix offers a wonderful perspective on the capacity for kindness by everyday folks. And while these mega stars and movies like “Pay it Forward” inspire us, we often overlook the impact that we can have in our daily lives.
About 10 years ago, my wife Jen, (who works, as a teacher, at EMS with me) was approached by a former student. The student was all grown up and was beginning her career as an elementary teacher. After the initial hellos and catch up, this girl began to detail a college essay that she had written about Jen. She explained that Jen was one of the chief reasons that she was inspired to become a teacher and how much she meant to this girl. Now to be honest, this girl was quiet, got good grades, and was absolutely self-motivated. Teachers might recognize this self-sufficient type student as the one who barely needs your help in class. As Jen started to think back about how she may have influenced this girl, the girl started to tell Jen a story about one day.
Apparently, one day in 6th grade, the girl had shown up to school wearing new shoes that her parents had picked out for her. They were bright and different than her usual accessories and being a middle schooler, she found herself quite nervous about what others might think. In fact, she was so freaked out by the prospect of wearing them to school, she got into an argument with her mom, before coming to school that morning. As she walked into Jen's classroom, she was greeted by Jen in the hallway, like any other day. Jen made a brief connection and commented on how “cool” her shoes were. The entire interaction took literally LESS THAN 10 SECONDS. As we now know, this 10 seconds meant the world to this girl. She proudly paraded her shoes all over the school for the next few months with my wife being completely unaware of the impact she’d made with her. And while this set off a 3-year relationship, as she attended middle school, it was this 10 second moment of kindness that made the most impact on her. As you can imagine, there were tears, laughs, and hugs as this story was shared. If a 10 second interaction can inspire someone to pursue a life of serving others; perhaps, I didn’t fully understand this “Kindness thing” very well, at all.
A few years ago, a friend at work mentioned how me unlocking her door always “made” her day. What? Made her day? I just take 30 seconds to open all the office doors near mine. No big deal! I had been doing it for years and never thought anything of it. To be honest, I started to blow off this postive feedback from her when she explained that she always has a bunch of things in her arms that she’s carrying. Not having to scramble to dig through her purse, to locate her keys, helped her to start her day in a positive less frantic way. This surprising interaction about this small simple gesture got me thinking…..
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.