Written By: Hans Appel
November is a traditional time for sharing gratitude and thanks in our family. As we shift into the holiday season , Thanksgiving usually offers a time for reflection on the year with family and friends. But this year, I felt like an unwilling passenger heading down a construction zone detour with no onramp back to my preferred highway.
If I’m being real, I’ve battled back issues, moments of anxiety, and bouts of low grade depression. I’ve been emotionally impacted by George Floyd and countless other black and brown injustices and been angered by political indifference. I felt robbed of vacation plans, speaking engagements, and the opportunity to impact students’ lives on a daily basis. I was stripped away of my freedom, mobility, and what it means to be an educator. My year has managed to pass through each stage of the COVID grief cycle.
Yet, I’ve spent more time writing, thinking, and reflecting on this soul-searching year than probably any year of my life. Because of this unexpected effort toward mindfulness, I restructured 2020 in my own mind as the year of: GRATITUDE.
Years from now, I’ll recall 2020 for the COVID global pandemic but I intentionally choose to REMEMBER the many opportunities to discover and develop my JOY.
After signing a 3 book deal, I managed to release, Award Winning Culture, last spring to inspire a school-wide framework to elevate educators' culture and climate. The feedback has been incredible as my idealistic vision seeps into communities around the globe. Jen recently submitted the sequel to this book; geared toward teachers in the classroom, and we’re thrilled to anticipate its release early spring.
Speaking of Jen, she created a picture book series about our dog, Maya + friends based on the big ideas from my book. I’m extremely proud of her effort to use her incredible talent, creativity, and passion to make the world better! By mixing heartfelt stories and partnering with award winning illustrator Herb Leonard, she’s infused social emotional and character education lessons for children of all ages to vicariously learn through a cast of fury friends. Award Winning Dog debuted in July; while, I’m Who was just released.
Forced social distancing meant frequent family dog walks which gave way to a crazy idea for us to start our own podcast: The Award Winning Culture Podcast. Having spent several years behind the scenes supporting our students with their Wildcat Nation podcast, it’s been fun to pull back the curtain and cannonball in, to share our regular conversations on all things school culture. As Jen and I debate, riff, and reveal our thoughts on education, we’ve had a blast putting this project together.
The Teach Better Team has become a large part of our world in 2020. From being hand selected for the Speakers Network, to joining the Podcast Network we’ve been fortunate to surround ourselves with high energy game-changing people who challenge us to become our best selves. The Teach Better Team imagines a world where:
“every educator is connected, supported, and inspired to be BETTER every day; so that all learners can discover and develop their passions to positively impact our communities.”
Isn’t this the world we all desire? The Teach Better family has been committed to providing dynamic professional development, educational content, and hope throughout the world. We’re grateful to be a part of something bigger than ourselves!
Beyond all of the momentum that our award winning culture work has been experiencing, Jen and I find ourselves in awe of our students, staff, and parents who have transformed their own skills, thinking, and actions to thrive in our new normal. It might be easy to look back at 2020 with wistful regret for the missed opportunities but I choose to see our educational pivot with hopeful optimism. Thanks to our global circumstances big ideas like equity, inclusion, and supporting the whole child--are now front and center.
This year has been a much needed reminder to s l o w d o w n and take stock of what’s truly important:
-Am I living out my why on a daily basis?
-How will I demonstrate love to friends and family?
-Forget the To-Do list---What’s on my To-BE list?
-Which people in my life truly bring out the best in me?
-How do I hope to be remembered?
-Do I really want to eat that or am I just bored, hurried, or lonely?
-What’s my legacy?
-Who’s opinion do I really care about?
-Am I the person my dog thinks I am?
-What lesson am I supposed to learn in 2020?
I’m grateful for the opportunity to create, connect, and re-calibrate myself. My bio now says, author, speaker, podcaster but my heart says: BETTER HUMAN BEING.
What is your heart grateful for, this THANKS--GIVING?
About The Author
Hans Appel is an educator, speaker, and writer deeply committed to inspiring the whole child. He’s the author of, Award Winning Culture: Building School-Wide Intentionality and Action Through Character, Excellence, and Community. Additionally, he’s the Director of Culture for the Teach Better Team, Co-host of the Award Winning Culture podcast, and the Co-Creator of 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.