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…..
Written By: Hans Appel
A month ago, we dove into the deep end of the technology world with the launch of our #AwardWinningCulture Podcast. Over the next year, I’ll be detailing specific ups and downs of this journey; while peppering key takeaways along the way. Our plan is to release 1 or 2 new episodes each month.
After extensive practice and conducting several student-led interviews so far, here’s some big picture early thoughts on fostering Student Voice through Podcasts:
**Students are capable of WAY MORE than we give them credit for. WAY MORE! I’ve been completely blown away by how much better they are at picking up podcasting techniques compaired to the adult educators involved. In fact, several of my student leaders had never even listened to a podcast and were making incredible suggestions and mind blowing ideas DAY ONE. This generation has grown up with social media and technology in such a way that their skills are malleable beyond belief. I look forward to highlighting our kids brilliant thoughts and insights this year.
**We’re not there YET. But, we’re improving EVERYDAY. By keeping centered on a growth mindset, we're all able to focus on incremental improvements with continuous and obsessive passion for getting better. I’m so excited to see where we are in a year from now but would NEVER want to skip over the JOY that we’re all having on the daily grind towards success. We’re coming for IT!
**There’s a learning curve to students getting accustomed to their voice: both literally and figuratively. Allowing practice time for students to listen, evaluate, and alter voice recording is critical. Tone, pitch, rate, etc. all play a role in how they sound. This can only be realized through personal observation of one’s own voice. Additionally, finding their own style and comfort level takes time. If your a regular subscriber to our show, you’ll see an incredible evolution of sense of self for these 12-13 year olds over the next 6-9 months. What a fun way to help foster self discovery!
Written By: Hans Appel
Years ago, a high level administrator asked us: “what’s the point of middle school?” At the time, it felt like an insulting question to a group bound together with the crazy singular purpose of teaching young hormonal minds and hearts. But at the the core of the question was: WHO is Enterprise Middle School? And maybe more importantly: WHY EMS?
What is your school about? What makes your building unique? How do you convey that message to your various stakeholders? What perception do students, staff, and community have about your school?
Branding refers to a name, term, decision, symbol or other feature that distinguishes an organization or product from it’s rivals in the eyes of the customers.
We can all recognize uber popular brands like: Nike, Apple, or the LA Lakers. We’ve grown up on McDonald's, Coca-Cola, and Disney. Through the years, our world has been turned upside down with brand giants like Google, Netflix, and Amazon.
In recent years, there’s been an exponentially stronger push in public education to effectively brand individual schools and/or districts. Perhaps, this branding need is in response to negative public perceptions about education. Or maybe it’s correlated to increased numbers of private, charter, and independent schools. It could be that in some areas, there is increased competition for enrollment. While all of these may be factors, I think it’s most important because branding our school allows others to see the magic that we see everyday...
Branding isn’t just about school choice, it’s a way of creating a community and shared belief system for your school culture.
Written By: Hans Appel
“Leadership is the skill of influencing people to action, with character that inspires confidence and excellence.”
-James C Hunter
Last week, our school was thrilled to bring in leadership expert James C Hunter to speak to our district about the incredible influence educators have on the world. Hunter is a bestselling author, world renowned speaker, and leadership consultant. He works with fortune 500 companies, all the military branches, and countless organizations around the world. His work with servant leadership, character, and creating excellence have become the backbone to the Character Strong program, which EMS implemented last year. After spending the past week in Brazil, he flew into the Tri-Cities to check out our Award Winning Culture.
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.