Mr. Dixon's Morning Musings

You're an Eagle...what you do matters!

August 6th, 2017

Thought for the Week: "I attribute my success to this: I never gave or took any excuse." ~ Florence Nightingale

Monday Musings -- What a great quote! How much better, more successful...happier in victory and temporary defeat...we'd all be if each of us really lived this out. Powerful, inspiring words in concept...really difficult to apply, but certainly a wildly important goal we should each set for ourselves this year. A few thoughts...

This will require honesty. We'll have to be courageously honest with ourselves first and with others. I suspect the self part will be the most difficult. Much like the coke and water bottle, often times our reactions to situations are more about what's inside us than what's going on around us. Let's all commit to being more honest with ourselves, our kids, and each other.

This will require grace. How often do we see conflict result not so much from what is said, but by how it's said? Let's make an effort to be honest, but do so with an understanding that we too are fallible and in-process ourselves. And let's be proactive in this pursuit. Sometimes, we get ourselves in a mess not because of what we say or how we say it, but when we choose to say it. Having honest conversations said with grace before a situation has reached critical mass, be it with a student, a colleague, or a parent, may be the biggest key to success.

Lastly, this will require persistence. To truly refuse to accept excuses, from ourselves and others is a high standard...a wall that will doubtless be assailed again and again. It'll be a process. There will be days when we do a better job than others...days we win and days we lose. Let's apply this principle then too. What did I do to make this successful or not? What can I do differently next time?

Thursday was the best opening of school I can recall in 20 years in teaching. I believe we talked about some things that really matter! I saw enthusiasm on many of your faces and a steady heart and mind ready to get back at it. On Saturday, we found ourselves at the Calera Chik-Fil-A, and say a dozen or more kids (five of whom were working on their summer reading projects!). You could see it in their faces!

Let's be ready for the start of a great year on Tuesday! Let's welcome our kids back with excitement, with challenging and engaging work, with high expectations, and with an unwillingness to compromise but a framework for support.

I am thankful to serve as your principal.


August 13th, 2017

Thought for the Week: "Definiteness of purpose is the starting point of all achievement." ~ W. Clement Stone

Morning Musings -- There's no tired quite like First Week Teacher Tired! Thank you all for a great first week. I hope you're enjoying some much deserved relaxation this weekend. I met a buddy this morning for breakfast...Tin Top in Columbiana (if you haven't made the trip for their breakfast, you need to!). It brought to mind two important thoughts.

First, relationships sure are important. While the calling you've answered as a teacher demands a great deal of time and energy, let's all commit to take care of ourselves. Faith, family, exercise, rest, laughter, and good friendships are important elements of our lives that help us better teachers. Let's make sure we pay due diligence to these parts of our lives this year.

During my chat with my buddy, Aaron, this morning, I found myself really excited to tell him about the school year thus far. Despite a huge jump in population, our kids seem to be happy, engaged in their classes, and excited about the year ahead. So does the staff! What a great start! Let's be mindful of nurturing those positive relationships with each other and with our kids this year. Kids work harder, learn more from, and remember teachers they believe care for them...that's a fact. Let's be clear and consistent with our expectations for them; let's set the bar high and support them to grow and adapt to meet those goals. But let's always do so with kindness and care.

Thank you for a great first week. A special thanks for your support as we get Flight 60 up and running. Our kids have done really well with it. So well, I'd like to accelerate our timeline a bit. Please continue with the slides and discussion during LEAD through Wednesday of this week per the schedule you were given. We'll do grade level meetings on Thursday (10th and 12th / 9th and 11th) on Thursday. I'll cover the remaining slides and hit a few other keys with them. Friday will be our first full day of Flight 60!

It will still be a work in progress, but I've already seen positives from several new clubs being suggested to students coming forward with really interesting questions and suggestions. We'll continue to need your energy, enthusiasm, and commitment to our vision. I am thankful I get to serve as your principal.

One last point -- Don't forget our WIG(s)

1. Make a positive parent contact for every student in your LEAD group during the first month of school.

2. Engage a different student every day in an informal way.

3. In every class, every day, all students will be engaged in learning either verbally or in writing.


August 20th, 2017

Thought for the Week: "Vision is the art of seeing things that are not yet visible." ~ Jonathan Swift

Morning Musings: Friday, during 6th period, one of our student athletes asked me how I thought Flight 60 went. My response was a question as well. I asked him how he thought the football team did on the first day of practice this fall. His words…”It was ugly.” All I could say was, “yep.”

With anything new, comes challenges. I dare say this is in brand in an experience our kids (or us in the context of school) have never tried! And it had some expected and unexpected results.


  1. Yes, it was a little chaotic and there was some confusion.
    1. Despite our telling them and sending a wealth of information to them, our kids all made a straight shot to the lunchroom.
      1. I’m not sure if it was panic that they wouldn’t get to eat or just a level of discomfort with having choice at school, or failure to make plans to land elsewhere.
      2. Both OMHS and HHS had this issue at first.
      3. This will take coaching on our part.
    2. This created a crowd.
      1. Despite the crowd, our lunch staff still got the kids through in pretty quick fashion.
    3. Because it was crowded, they all left...and created a crowd in a different spot.
      1. If you went in the lunchroom the last 25 minutes of Flight 60 yesterday, it was probably only 25% full.
      2. If someone can help me understand why our kids do this, I’ll buy you a coke. Every morning, they pack the hallway prior to the first bell.
      3. They ended up piled up in the hallway.
      4. Maybe it’s conditioning; maybe it’s a herd mentality, or maybe it’s just kids are used to having every moment of their school life directed.
    4. We had some kids leave their trash on the table.
      1. I only saw one table that was really bad.
      2. We’ve identified who they are. They’ll be eating lunch with Ms. Howze this week.
      3. I also saw some of our older kids helping pick up near the end, without being prompted or asked or anything!
  2. Despite all this, I had a bunch of kids tell me they liked it yesterday. Good kids. Kids we may have worried about. We had several kids make up tests and quizzes, a number use the time for study or homework. I even had several tell me the really enjoyed the time to read in the library...which if you were in there, you may be scratching your head!
  3. This is a brand new experience
    1. With anything new, comes a level of discomfort.
    2. When we proposed this last year, you’ll remember the question was are you willing to support this effort through its implementation.
    3. Teaching our kids to manage this time, to make good use of it, is a valuable part of having them leave us “prepared.”
    4. Showing them we believe in their ability to adapt, to make choices, to navigate and persevere is an invaluable part of having them leave us “prepared.”
    5. Conversations are key. I had zero negative conversations with kids yesterday during lunch. I had a million conversations clarifying, correcting, and guiding, but zero argumentative conversations. I believe our kids are excited about the possibilities...they’re just trying to figure it out.
  4. They will figure it out.
    1. Pretty quickly the ones who want to do right will figure it out.
    2. Pretty quickly the ones who don’t want to do right will identify themselves clearly and we’ll separate them.
  5. They need your help to figure it out.

Take Aways

  1. We need more seats.
    1. Wayne began assembling them Friday afternoon.
    2. It should get us close to 600 seats.
  2. I need to be clearer about going to their lockers during Flight 60. Preach preparedness.
    1. Isn’t this one of the things we so often bemoan?
    2. Explain the what and the why.
  3. We can schedule more club meetings. If you'd like to add more club meetings to your schedule, please let me know. Since you know your membership better than I do, please give me a suggestion of which day and which half of Flight 60.​
  4. We need to be clearer about communicating with teachers about coming to their rooms before Flight 60. Please be explicit about teaching communication to them.
    1. You’re going to have invite, recruit, and reassure them that it’s okay to come when/if you’re available.
      1. This provides us with so many of those wonderful, powerful “teachable moments” that so often don’t exist within our curriculum.
      2. It gives us a chance to help, support, and guide them (when so often adult guidance is the thing they need most).
      3. These moments are some of the best memories we’ll ever make with our kids.
    2. Most kids will develop a pattern that works best for them and you.
    3. We can do this by emphasizing the Weekly Planning Sheets in the office!
      1. Make this the focal point of Monday’s Lead time.
      2. We’ll do the video I sent later.
      3. Do a post mortem with the kids and walk them through the planner.
      4. Particularly, let’s emphasize how empty the lunchroom was the second half of lunch. If they need a place to sit and chill, this is it!
  5. If you’re on supervision, you need to be in the area assigned and moving. We need you roaming your section to help, guide, and prevent poor choices.
  6. Be patient and positive.
    1. This program offers our kids a lot of positives.
    2. They have to believe we believe to get them to the reality of it.

Thought for the Week: "There is always, always, always something to be thankful for." ~ Anonymous


Morning Musings: I don't know about you, but I let myself get too busy with things. Some of those things are important; some are not so important. I know this: I need to do a better job of not being so busy that I forget to be thankful. This morning, like so many Saturday mornings, I had a list of things I needed to do...mow the lawn, trim shrubs, etc. However, Will's bike had a different plan. His back tire was flat, which led to a trip to Wal-Mart, which finally took me by Skier's Marine where I finally replaced the solenoid switch for my boat. Instead of mowing the grass and having the kids play around me, I taught my seven year old how to change a bike tire, had his "help" fixing our boat, and spent several hours with him on Lay Lake. My grass still needs cutting; my shrubs still need trimming, but I am so thankful I made use of this day the way I did. I'll mow the grass tomorrow...maybe. I'm thankful I got to just be Will's dad today. For the record, Emily was at a birthday party or I'd had her "help" too.

But it got me thinking...I'm thankful for so many things. Here's my off the cuff list.

1. I'm thankful for a beautiful wife and healthy children.

2. I'm thankful for the comfort I find in knowing this life isn't all it's about.

3. I'm thankful I have a job that serves a purpose now and serves the future.

4. I'm thankful I get to work with kids, and regularly get reminded it's okay to be silly sometimes.

5. I'm thankful I get to work with a great group of people, who care about the children in their care, who understand that the curriculum is important only because it teaches our kids to think, to be prepared for their future, to create the person they can be.

6. I'm thankful for our kids, for their youth, their enthusiasm, for their energy and willingness to work.

7. I'm thankful we work for a system with leaders who strive to support us, who challenge us to grow, and who always point the system's successes to you.

8. I'm thankful for athletics...all of them. I'm thankful for the lessons kids learn in them in victory and defeat.

9. I'm thankful for our coaches, who know while winning is the goal, it's really not the point.

10. I'm thankful for our band and cheerleaders. I'm thankful for their positive attitudes and influence. I'm thankful for the coaches, sponsors, and directors who work so hard to challenge them.

11. I'm thankful for our support folks, custodians, bus drivers, CNP team...for our bus drivers, instructional aides, and various boosters. I'm thankful for their work which so often goes on quietly behind the scenes.

And lastly, I am always, always thankful I get to serve as your principal.


Don't forget our Wildly Important Goals!

1. Contact a parent for every student in your LEAD group with a positive communication (or just to introduce yourself).

2. Engage a different student every day (informally).

3. Every day, all students will be engaged in learning either written or orally.


Thought for the Week: "The price of excellence is discipline. The cost of mediocrity is disappointment." - William W. Ward

Morning Musings: Folks, we've had a great start to the school year...and this year brought several unique challenges. We experienced a massive jump in enrollment (a 13.9% increase if you're curious). Our staff size has outgrown our building, so we have a few teachers floating, and we had several late openings that needed to be filled.

The upside to each of this is that our new students seem like a great group of kids, kids who like school, are investing themselves in our community, and want to do well. Our floating teachers have adapted like champs and are making the best of it. Host teachers have been gracious and accommodating. ​Our new hires have been wonderful! Like I said, it's been a great start!

The challenge now is to continue and to build on it. I've been thinking a lot about the 6th habit lately...synergize. We all know what it is, but in many ways, I've always thought it was the most difficult of the 7 habits. Alone, I can begin with the end in mind; I can put first things first, seek first to understand, etc., but synergy only comes with the cooperation of others. My spidey-sense tells me we're sitting on top of a huge potential for synergy this year.

I'm currently working on getting our instructional rounds up and running. Not too late to join if you are interested...just let me know. We have weekly PLC meetings to allow you the time and opportunity to collaborate with your peers. We have time embedded in the day for you to run clubs, start clubs, meet with students and pull their energy, creativity, and enthusiasm into the mix. The trick is to take advantage of these opportunities. A few thoughts....

First, let's make sure we're preaching, recruiting, and requiring intervention during Flight 60. Make sure your kids know when extra help is available, whether from you or from another teacher. If a student has a D or an F, you should be requiring them to come back to you. On Thursday and Friday, we saw how powerful the desire to keep Flight 60 is...let's use that same pull to get kids to complete assignments, study, and do their best. If you have a kid with a D or an F, assign them to come back to you at the appropriate time. Add it to the spreadsheet. Give them a written reminder. If they don't come, they'll serve lunch detention and then come to you. We're ordering some triplicate forms you can use to issue "intervention slips" for our kids. The first draw for moving to Flight 60 is the academic opportunity it affords. Let's maximize it.

Secondly, think about clubs...think about stuff you love. I promise there are kids who are interested in it too. Kids who are plugged in are more successful. We know this. Teachers who are involved with kids in a variety of ways, who get to see kids give their best are happy teachers. If you love knitting, have an interest meeting...I bet there are kids who would too. If you love geocaching, have an interest meeting...I bet there are kids who do too. It's a way to share your passion and a way to help kids discover theirs. We bemoan how tied to phones kids are now days...while I don't knit, I suspect it's got a medatative vibe to it much like whittling.

In that light, one of the things, I'm fascinated by is leadership. It can come in so many different forms. Mr. Bromley, who comes to us from Helena, mentioned that they had a leadership club there. I'm going to schedule an interest meeting soon to see if we have kids who'd like to learn more about leadership. I feel sure we can get enough copies of Maxwell's 21 Laws of Leadership (admins did a book study some years back). If you'd like to be a part of this, please let me know. Imagine how impactful this could be. Imagine if our kids walked into an interview (job or scholarship) and begin talking about having voluntarily read and studied such a book!

Lastly, imagine! Let's all strive to see see the potential for collaboration with our peers and our realize the exponential returns that synergistic efforts promise. It's been a great start. Let's build on that. And lastly...really this time...don't forget our WIG's.

1. Contact a parent for every student in your LEAD group with a positive communication (or just to introduce yourself).

2. Engage a different student every day (informally).

3. Every day, all students will be engaged in learning either written or orally.

I'm thankful to get to serve as your principal,


9/11/17 (sort of)

Thought for the Week: "The view from my apartment was the World Trade Center and now it's gone. They attacked it. This symbol of American strength and ingenuity and labor and imagination and commerce and it is gone. But you know what the view is now? The Statue of Liberty. The view from the south of Manhattan is now the Statue of Liberty. You can't beat that" ~ Jon Stewart

Morning Musings: It's been 16 years since the lives of Americans changed forever. It's been 5,843 days since America was dealt a blow unheard of in our nations history. It's been 8,412,480 minutes since we stood in front of our televisions and watched the unimaginable happen and since we as a nation joined together in a common purpose to care for one another, to stand against evil, and rise from the ashes of the worst attack on American soil.

Seems like yesterday. I can still remember the kids in my class that morning, the lesson we were doing, and even the specific seats they sat in. I can still recall the uncertainty and anger, the fear and the need to do something to help. I'm sure you can too. But I also recall a spirit of unity, a grassroots spirit of taking care of your neighbor. I'm sure you do too. Most of our kids, though, weren't born yet, and I'd be willing to bet none of them have any first hand memory of that day or the days that followed.

Fast forward 16 years and it seems our nation has forgotten the connectedness we all felt after 9/11. But then, I look at our kids, how they get along, the friendships that cross whatever artificial lines one may impose, athletes and non-athletes, popular and not-so-much, black and white, affluent and impoverished. Our kids get along and remind me that a lot of what we're shown isn't the reality of day to day life.

Certainly, I think it's worth taking time during our LEAD time on Mondayto talk about your experiences during 9/11, to remind kids of what happened, and how we, Americans, responded. And I also think it's worth sharing the great hope their generation offers to all of us.

I hope you've all had a great weekend. I look forward to seeing you all Monday morning. As always, it is my honor to serve as your principal.



Thought for the Week: "Nothing is so contagious as enthusiasm; it is the genius of sincerity, and the truth accomplishes nothing without it" ~ Anonymous

Morning Musings: If you're an English teacher, you love literature and writing and ideas. If you're a math teacher, you love numbers and formulas. If you're a art teacher, you likely love paints and canvas, clay and pastels. If you're a music teacher...well, I think you get the point.

We each are drawn to our subjects for a number of reasons, but it's worth remembering that we first and foremost teach our kids. We teach curriculum, but each of us is blessed to get to teach so much more. We get to teach discipline, hard work, integrity, honesty, kindness, citizenship, and so many more. How blessed are we!

Let's make sure we think about this, even on the days that don't go as planned. Let's let our kids see our enthusiasm for our subjects, but let's make sure they see our enthusiasm for them as well! Teaching kids helps us shape tomorrow. Frankly, it keeps us young at heart!

I hope each of you has a great week! I hope you find joy in the week ahead of us and I hope you each of us get the chance to tell one kid that he or she is the reason we teach!

Don't forget those WIGS! If you haven't made contact with your LEAD kids' parents, what a great time to do so!

As always, it's my honor to serve as your principal.



Thought for the Week: "Only those who have learned the power of sincere and selfless contribution will ever experience life's deepest joy; true fulfillment." ~ Anthony Robbins

Morning Musing: Sincere and selfless contribution...four words that, in my opinion, define what a teacher is. I see it every day. I watch you pour your knowledge, your heart, your life's energy into our kids. I see the joy on your faces...granted, sometimes it looks a little like exhaustion...let's call it exhausted one said teaching was easy!

I had an opportunity to see some of "my kids" this weekend, although under terrible circumstances. One of my kids lost her dad last week and so I found myself at his funeral Saturday. She actually married her high school sweetheart...both my kiddos...they are married, have a beautiful daughter and a happy productive life together. She is now a teacher too! As I stood in line and hugged them both, offering those same sincere but oh-so-insufficient words we all stumble over in these situations, I thought about who they were, who they are, and the gratefulness I feel for getting to be a small part of their story.

While circumstances like these are sadly too familiar to us all, the only real difference between these moments and the day to day is the obviousness of it and the intense emotions. In a real way, we do the same every day. We pour into kids...we show them we care, we won't give up on them even when they think they want us to. The day to day isn't very glamorous; it carries long hours and can be downright exhausting, but it's worth it. It's where we find some of this life's truest joys, some of our deepest fulfillment.

As we move through the week, let's keep in mind that who we serve isn't who they'll be. Working with kids keeps us young at heart, reminds us that it's okay to be silly sometimes. If we pull back to see, they are growing into young men and women before our very eyes. But growth is messy stuff! Kids make mistakes (so do adults). Kids sometimes make choices that serve self instead of others (so do adults). Let's be vigilant to invest ourselves in them this week, to see the beauty and joy in who they are, and to see the people they'll become. They need you, even when they don't act like it. They need you, even if they don't know it yet.

When I was an English teacher, I used to jokingly tell my kids I was in the business of saving souls, of teaching them to think for themselves, to suck out the marrow of life (credit HD Thoreau)! A sentence like this can't be said without a healthy dose of dramatic romanticism. But 20 years into this gig, the more I think I was right. Perhaps this week, we should all stand on our desks and quote Whitman to our classes! On second thought, don't do that...that feels too much like an injury report! Ah paperwork!

Thank you for being a great staff. Thank you for investing in our kids. Thank you for making my job fun and for making CaHS a great place to be. As always, I'm honored to serve as your principal.



Thought for the Week: "You can't cheat the grind. It knows how much you have invested. It won't give you anything you haven't worked for." ~ Anonymous

Morning Musings: If you knew me about five years and 30 pounds ago, you'll know I used to be a runner. I ran all the time. I ran early and late...I'd take a backpack and literally "run" my errands. I even ran to work sometimes. I have plans and ambitions to be again!

I ran countless 5K's, 10K's and half-marathons. Speaking of which, the Calera Eagle 5K is coming up on the 28th. I'm running it...hope you are too! But, I digress. I've also run three marathons...and it's these that are the root of my musing this morning.

If you've ever run a marathon, you know it's far from a sprint. 26.2 miles is a long way, but standing in the starting gate, it's difficult not to let your adrenaline push your pace in those first 3 to 5 miles too hard. If you do, you end up empty deeper into the race. I'll never forget around mile 5 of my first marathon, I was chatting with an older guy as we ran. I was explaining that it was my first...and how great I felt. I'll never forget his words, "The race doesn't really begin until mile 20." At the time, I remember thinking, "whatever!!" I didn't understand...yet.

The school year is a marathon too. Be measured in your pace and your responses. The growth and changes you want to see from your kids is a process. Patience is the key.

Then come the middle miles. You've got a good sweat going...your legs are settled into a nice rhythm. It's sounds crazy, but they're pretty easy miles. If you're in a scenic setting, you find yourself sight-seeing as you go. The danger of these miles, however, is getting distracted and losing sight of your pace and your goal. Every couple of miles, you need to check your pace. Some runners carried pacing charts; some folks had digital watches with GPS. I always liked doing the math as I ran!

We're entering those middle miles now. The first nine weeks is almost over, we're all settled into our routines (the kids and us). Let's be careful to monitor our pace and to not lose sight of our goals and our goals for our kids. A race, whether literal or metaphorical, can be lost without even knowing it during these miles.

And then there is Mile Maker 20 (capitalized on purpose!). "The race doesn't really begin until Mile 20." "Yeah, whatever!" That dude was capital R Right! I will never forget the 2006 Marine Corps Marathon in DC. Mile Marker 20 was at the foot of a long bridge. A buddy of mine had told me some weeks before that one should not try to stretch out anything after mile 18. As I started up the bridge, I could feel my right quad getting really tight. I thought, I'll stop for a second and stretch this out...after all, I've got six miles to go. To say my right hamstring morphed into a set of vice grips is a terrible understatement. It made for an interesting last six miles.

There's also a anatomical process (I don't pretend to understand) in which your body will reduce the activity of nonessential functions as you continue in any sustained exercise. In distance running, your body will redirect blood flow away from your stomach to provide more blood to your muscles. The result is you reach a point that you can't ingest anymore calories. You can through your training process (doing long runs and strategically taking in calories, you can delay this effect, but at some point, it's coming. The last few miles of a marathon you end up running on empty. It is ROUGH! You get get fuzzy headed...staying true to the goal and pushing through gets harder and harder. Like the man said, "The race doesn't really start until Mile 20."

Those last miles...from March to May. They are tough. Prepare now. Take in those calories now...train yourself to push back that fog, that unique brand of exhaustion that comes at the end. Faith, family, exercise, rest...those are all forms of energy. Relationships with peers and kids...that's calories too. Taking time to reflect on their growth...and frankly, our growth too...those are calories. But don't be surprised if on May 1st two plus two equals 37!

Lastly, the glorious sight of the finish line. The Marine Corps Marathon ends at the Iwo Jima Monument. There was a young Marine standing at the base of the hill (that's right, I said hill!) right next to mile marker 20 directing us to turn and encouraging us to finish strong. Just .2 miles left...Hallelujah! I probably had more unholy thoughts in those last two miles than I did in the entire race. But the finish came. I remember clearly finishing, getting our finisher's medal and a bottle of water. I felt proud. I felt accomplished. I also vividly remember thinking, "I'll never do that again!" Since I've run two more, and every time, that thought, "I'll never do that again!" rang in my mind. And every time, within the hour, normally while eating a greasy, salty cheeseburger, I begin thinking of how I could've done better, what I could've done differently, and which race I wanted to do next.

The parallel is obvious, I think. As we reach the year's end, take a moment and be accomplished. And be ready for that quiet voice that begins to whisper in your ear..."next time...."

As always, it's my honor to serve as your principal.


P.S. Don't forget those WIG's!


Thought for the Week: "Why do we close our eyes when pray, cry, kiss, or dream? Because the most beautiful things are life are not seen but felt by the heart."

Morning Musing: Our eyes sure are funny things. They zoom in and out. They focus in on tiny details and spread wide to take in panoramic scenes. But what's really funny to me is how tied to our mind and our other senses our eyes can be.

Yesterday morning, I got the chance to go fishing...just me and Molly (my golden retriever). Amy and the kids are out of town, so it was just Molly and me! We were on the water at first light. Frankly, this is my place; it's the seat of my earliest, best memories. Being a military brat growing up, home is a weird concept. For me, it's always been two granddad's house in Sheffield (never lived there, but it was the homestead of the Dixon family), and fishing. To this day, when I think of my dad, a million thought flood my mind, but eventually the one that settles is leaning up against his flannel shirt, listening to the Statler Brothers, on our way to the boat ramp (I had two older brothers, so all four of us were packed across a bench seat). I love everything about it, the red glow of the taillights, the lope of the motor as it worms up, watching the sun rise on the water. Although I've gone years without fishing at different times for one reason or another, the water is one of those places where time slows down for me.

Yesterday, I'm fishing a frog in the backs of weed bed, hoping to get lucky. I knew time was limited with the storms moving in later in the day. And this is where the thought about our eyes comes into focus (pun intended). I was being very careful to cast the frog as far back as I could, trying to land it softly. I mean I as hype-focused. It was silent and still. I was the Frog! Then slowly, almost like that weird half-conscious state we sometimes have when we first wake in the morning, I start to hear something. The trees directly in front of me hosted dozens and dozens and dozens of blackbirds. The cacophony of those birds was remarkable. They filled the trees and their calls filled the air. I sat there for a few minutes listening, reveling in getting to be part of that moment. It was beautiful! Then, I went back to "being the frog!"

But it got me thinking. Our eyes sure are funny things. Because I was focused on the task at hand, I blocked out everything else. Obviously, that's both very good and potentially very bad. I thought we had a great conversation in our meeting Friday about being "coach-like." It reminded me again what a great staff I get to work with and for, how truly invested in our kids you are. In many ways, our jobs are very much like casting that frog, aren't they? We analyze data, we plan lessons, we assess as we go and adjust. We focus on the curriculum we are charged to teach, and well we should. We'll be doing all that tomorrow, and I'm excited about it! Even if a student never uses chemistry or math (I still think y'all just make that stuff up anyway!), we are teaching them to think analytically, objectively, logically, etc. But we need to be mindful not to get so focused on the frog that we miss the rest.

As we talked about on Friday, our kids face real challenges, too many to name here. From our highest achievers to our most "at risk," our kids face, like we, live in a complex often difficult world. "Anger is the bodyguard of fear." Thank you for the honest, powerful conversation on Friday. It was a reminder to me and I hope it was to you to occasionally pull back the lens of our eyes and allow our ears and hearts to see what else is going on.

Thank you for being a great staff. As always, it's my honor to serve as your principal,



Thought for the Week: "Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose." ~ Kevin Arnold (The Wonder Years)

Morning Musing: Homecoming week is exhausting! It's also wonderful, and fun, and full of good kids engaging in good fun, full of school spirit, and a reminder to us all that we are community, a family. We are Eagles!

It's also a reminder that change is constant. The kids we have today are not the kids we had just a few short years ago. Many of those Eagles will make a return appearance to good ole CaHS this week! It's a great chance for us to fill our cups, to see who they've become, who they're becoming, and to remind ourselves of who our current students will be while celebrating this special time in their lives.

You hear people say it all the time, "People don't like change." But I do...or at least I've learned to. The unknown can be scary, but it's also exciting. Change affords each of us the chance to test our mettle. And frankly, we work in a business founded on change. When you think about it, every four years there's a complete turnover in our clientele. Many of us who have been at CHS for a while, remember 10 years ago...some of you remember much farther back than that. But not our kids. Our student body's collective firsthand memory is four years or less.

We also work in the business of internal change. If our kids today are the same as they were, we're not succeeding in our work. Our core business is change...academically, socially...we are about growth. Growth is change.

But weeks like homecoming are also a chance to pause (in between the craziness) to celebrate the lives we touch, the lives we have touched...and as importantly, the lives that are touching and have touched us.

This week, in the midst of the weird schedules, the shortened classes, the traveling pep rallies, and the madness that is Class Olympics, let's keep a keen eye on those kids sitting in our classes...whether they're dressed like Batman and Robin, or Santa. Let's celebrate who they are and who they'll become, and let's remember to be thankful to have the opportunity to be part of this community, this family.

All of that...and don't forget your coffee...and Advil. As always, I am honored to serve as your principal.


P.S. Don't forget those WIG(s)!


Thought for the Week: "Being humble means recognizing we are not on earth to see how important we can become, but to see how much difference we can make in the lives of others." ~ Gordon B. Hinkley

Morning Musing: 882...there are 882 lockers in our school. If you're me, your first thought is, yikes, we're going to need more lockers next year. But last night, near the end of the homecoming dance, I walked by lockers 881 and 882, standing at attention outside the lunchroom as they have for the last ten years. And well, it got me thinking. 882 lockers...each year our population is different, but it's fair to say most of those lockers get used each year. Each is one kid's locker. It's his or hers. It hold his or her books and maybe his or her dreams. The student may choose to decorate it. They might stick a pen in the lock so they don't have to do the combination...coincidentally, those same students may periodically discover that pen is gone...I hate when they do that! For that year, though, that locker becomes a home base during the school day. It holds books, notebooks...who knows...he or she might even get a note written to them and slipped through the slots by some secret admirer. Do they even do that anymore?!?! Regardless, for that year, it's theirs. But in twenty years, it's never occurred to me that same locker belongs to someone else the following year. Of course, we all know that, but let that sink in for a second.

Lockers become a sort of link to the past. Kids share a common touch point, even though I doubt they know it. What if we did? "John Johnson, class of 267." "Oh yeah, Lisa Lopez, class of 2017...good ole 267 for me too!" How's the old lady doing? Holding up okay?" What if we knew? Would it matter? We do that with textbooks, don't we? When you were a kid, did you ever open your textbooks to write your name and see someone you knew who had the same book years back? Folks, it's the stuff of eternal bonds right there! Silly, right? But what if it isn't so silly?

There are connections that bind us that we may never know. But perhaps we should be more mindful of the ones we do know. Homecoming gives us a chance to reconnect with those students from years past, to see how they are, to see who they've become and who they're becoming. When you see those kids, do you ever remember which desk they occupied in your room? Students pass through our lives, but they never really leave. They go on to live their lives, to be who we helped them to become. But they are always...always...always our kids. And they are always Eagles.

We are all connected, whether we know it or not. We are all Eagles. And that's a great thing to be! As we start a new week, a normal week, a regular week without the craziness that is homecoming, let's try to see our kids now as the kids they'll be in five years, ten years. You know, Tim Tidmore, class of 2018, locker 114...poor a flat on the way to registration and ended up with a bottom locker! (odds are tops, evens are bottoms). Or maybe it was just 11:30 on a Saturday night after a great homecoming week and I needed go to bed!

Let's have a great week! As always, it's my privilege to serve as your principal.



P.S. Don't forget those WIG(s).


Thought for the Week: "Sometimes, just having the guts to show up is enough." ~ Neva Smith

Morning Musing: So yesterday was the 10th Annual Calera Eagle 5K...and let's just say, the weather was less than ideal. We were up early to set the course up and get everything ready. There was a light mist and temperatures in the 50's while we set up. By the time we were finished, the rain had stopped...until start time for the race. The rain started again just before we started, then picked up. Add a stiff breeze and a drop in temperature, and you experience! Not exactly fun, but a great story to tell after the fact.

Funnily enough, Ms. Smith, Mr. Bromley, and I all placed in our age groups. This is especially funny because we were close to the last three to finish. As Ms. Smith was coming to collect her medal, she laughed and said, "Proof that sometimes just having the guts to show up is enough." And well, it got me thinking. We work with kids who come from such diverse backgrounds. Some of our kids come from stable homes where their basic needs are a foregone conclusion. Not only are their needs met, but many of their wants as well. But we also have kids who come to school for the stability of it, for the warmth, the food, perhaps for a smiling face. We have students who leave our school each day and wander into the unknown. For those kids, showing up is a victory in and of itself.

Being a teenager isn't easy. I've always found it interesting when people say, "These are the best years of your life." I know what they mean, but man, being a teenager is no cakewalk. They have a lot of responsibility when you think about it without a lot of autonomy. Many of them are crazy busy and are worried about a myriad of things: grades, relationships, their future, the expectations of others, and so on and so on. You add the normal hormonal swings that all teens experience with what seems like an ever-changing standard of right and wrong, good and evil, and no wonder they're stressed.

For many of our kids, and all of them I imagine as some point, having the guts to keep going is enough. It means they want something better than their current status. It means that while they may not be sure of the future, they trust their teachers to help guide them. It may not always look that fact, sometimes it probably looks dismissive, disgruntled, and downright disinterested. But they still show up. And that takes guts...and sometimes, lots of times...having the guts is enough.

As always, it's my honor to serve as your principal.



Thought for the Week: "'Men work together,' I told him from the heart, 'Whether they work together or apart.'" ~ Robert Frost "The Tuft of Flowers"

Morning Musings: If you'll allow me to go all "English-teachery" for a moment, I've always loved this poem. If you're not familiar with it, it's a story of two men, one a mower cutting a field of hay, the other coming after turning the grass to dry in the sun. The second man (along with a bewildered butterfly) finds a tuft of flowers beside a brook the first man left. He realizes while they don't see each other, they are in fact very much connected.

This will be the last "Week Ahead" email you get from me as your principal. The last four years have been challenging, rewarding, invigorating, and humbling. Working with kids is a business of loose ends and imperfect actions. Teaching kids is a study in alchemy. We deal with so many needs and so many challenges, it's a wonder we accomplish the things we do. It borders on the miraculous that so many kids thrive, so many leave us and become the people we knew they could. We exhaust ourselves in what sometimes seems a quixotic mission, but that's not the truth.

The truth is working with kids is made up of wonder; it's the stuff of renewal; it's the substance and colors of the phoenix. Teaching, as they say, is the profession that breeds all others. And we are blessed to be a part of kids' lives. Last night was a great example.

We got to see a fantastic high school football game...a one point win on the last play of the game...are you kidding me?!?! It was one of the most fun high school football games I've seen, one in which both teams should be proud. In final minutes, I went on to the field. During that last drive, I kept turning around, soaking up the reality that this might very well be my last high school football game in which I'd be directly connected to the school.

Frankly, it was a weird moment...all mixed with excitement, competitiveness, and misty-eyed pre-nostalgia. I tried to take in the whole scene...the players and coaches on the sideline and on the field, the cheerleaders and students crowded along the fence willing their friends to victory, the parents in the stands cheering, the band pounding out their support for the team. Mr. Drackett, serving as the voice of the Eagles, played the fight song and our familiar Eagle cry during each timeout. Even the other school's team and fans played their role. It was tense; it was fun; it was beautiful. And, well, it got me thinking.

When I look back on the last four years, there's so much I'm proud of and so much I'm thankful for, so many people I'm proud of and indebted to. There are so many things I'd like to get a chance to re-do, mistakes made and corrected if possible, times where I fell short in some way or another. But that's the nature of this thing called life; it goes back to the amazing alchemy that a school is.

Instructionally, I think we've grown. Not only grown in how we do things, but grown together in how we do things. We've seen some wonderful people go on to other places and other things, but we've been blessed with new additions. I hope you'll always continue to take risk, to try new things for the benefit of kids. I hope you'll continue with rounds, PLC's, and that wonderful informal collaboration that makes you so powerful.

I believe we've seen growth as a community within our building and within our town. Our kids have lots of opportunities to be involved, lots of opportunities to be connected to each other and their teachers. School spirit has always been a strength of our school. A Calera pep rally is something to behold. Class Olympics borders on pandemonium! Our kids share in a community in so many fun ways, but much more importantly, our kids are connected. They genuinely care about one another and about their teachers. Our teachers genuinely care about our kids. Our city offers us tremendous support, providing us support in safety, facilities, and financial help. Our schools work together to build upon a unified vision. In a world seemed determined on division and conflict, we are Eagles...we are all Eagles.

So I leave you with this, thank you for letting me play a part. Thank you for allowing me the honor of being your principal. It truly has been an honor. And while we not be working side by side much longer, we'll still be working together. One may be cutting hay and one may be turning it to dry in the mid-day sun, but we'll still be working together. And for that I will always be thankful.

As always, it's been my honor to serve as your principal.


Contact Principal - Joel Dixon

CAHS Office: 205-682-6100

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