Tuesday, May 16, 2017

My Letter to the Eakin Community

Dear Eakin Community,

It is with mixed emotions I publicly communicate the news I shared with our faculty and staff last Tuesday, May 9th. I announced to our amazingly gracious teachers that I was going to tender my resignation effective June 30th. I shared the news publicly with our faculty first. I felt it was important for our teachers to know before anyone else in a public setting. 

I am growing in my understanding as a school leader, that it is our teachers who really deserve the credit; the respect. It is our teachers who are on the front lines. It is our teachers who implement initiatives, goals, charges, tasks and more. Some of the work our teachers are charged with is set forth by me, their principal; and, on the other hand, some of the work is initiated by district, state, and national enterprises… most of the time beyond their control. In short, our teachers, far too often, are the first ones to be given a directive and the last ones to be considered with career, and sometimes life, altering news. I felt they deserved to know first. They have earned it.

I broke the news of my resignation and communicated I wanted to be clear that this was my choice. This was not a result of me being pushed out. Instead, I shared I am making the decision to resign solely on my own, in partnership with my wife, Kaydee. I am making the choice in order to focus on my health and the health of my family. I will transition to focus more closely on my role as a father to two incredible children, Kyan, our six year old wild man; and our sweet four year old girl, Tegan. It is my hope to focus on being a better man, better provider, and better husband to Kaydee. 

Our son will finish Kindergarten this school year at Eakin and then continue as an Eakin Eagle when he enters first grade in August, therefore my love and support for the incredible Eakin community will still be present in my new role as a parent. You see, Eakin is a special place, a unique place. Eakin IB World School is a place often misunderstood. It is a magical place for which many people cannot begin to understand unless truly immersed. Eakin is a place of grit, diversity, acceptance, love, service, care, imperfections, hard work, inquiry, beauty, generosity, blemishes, tradition, hurt and pain, politics, fun, restoration, smiles, art, competing interests, wealth, poverty, achievement, growth, the open minded individual and the individual who needs to be stretched a little, and more. Why would I not want my children to continue to experience what it looks like to be a part of the #EakinFamily? It is very much representative of what the real world looks like. Eakin is not a cloister. Eakin is not a bubble. I wish everyone could be so fortunate. It is true, “Eakin gives you the world.”

It is my goal to finish my annual contract strong and assist in cooperation with our MNPS leadership as it pertains to the search for a new school leader for Eakin. It is my hope to be as helpful as possible with the transition and contribute as much as needed. I am encouraged by all the recent messages of support for me and my family during this new season. Thank you!


Dr. Tim Drinkwine

Monday, March 30, 2015

Creativity: What are we truly wanting?

I just recently purchased my four year old son his first box of legos. In short... he loves them! Ever since he was born, he has been enamored with anything having to do with engineering, motors, construction, physics. He loves anything that moves, rolls, digs, bangs, clangs, rotates, etc. He loves cars, trucks, trains, machinery, dump trucks, garbage trucks, moving trucks, and more. Despite this love for the aforementioned items, I hesitated to dive into the creative world of legos because I just did not know what to expect... "would he become frustrated? would he even like it? could he manipulate the pieces with his tiny hands that could possibly prove a challenge for even his good dexterity?" All of these questions presented themselves to me. Nonetheless, I took the plunge. I am glad I did too. Here is what I noticed:

For the first time, he was able to create the things he loves. He was able to create with his own brain, imagination, mind, creativity, innovation, and planning any item he wanted that would/could roll, move, bang, clang, and move around. You see, for quite some time, he has had the opportunity to roll a "Hot Wheels" car or a Tonka truck, BUT he did not create it. He also has been able to move a "Thomas the Tank Engine" BUT he was not the curator. He manipulated remote control cars, BUT he was not the master mind behind the creation of the machine. It was already given to him and then he... well, he played (as he should). And, although he had fun while playing with these pre-made items (who wouldn't?), he lacked something extra... something he could really take pride in: his own opportunity to sit back and think and perhaps even say aloud... "look what I created."

In fact, my most significant observation came in the form of an awakening I had about what it means to create. You see, the box of legos I bought for my son came with explicit directions for how to create a specific machine which is conveniently featured in the photo at the top along with my son's small fingers. I put all of the pieces together, following each step of the directions meticulously so that I could achieve my own sort of self-accomplishment while also showing my first born my skills as if to pound on my chest and cry out to the world... "this is my creation, look at me, look at what I have done!!!" I am serious... it really is amazing how exhilarating creating even a child's lego feels to me, a man in my 30s. Okay... enough about me. I want to really focus on my son... you see... he liked my creation. I saw it in his eyes, he liked the fact that it mirrored the picture of the lego on the box. He really did and you know what... I am glad he did because quite frankly, it made me proud. But, you know what else? I noticed something else even cooler. Although he liked my creation which was identical to the rendering on the box and was a direct result of the directions... HE LOVED HIS OWN CREATION. His own creation can be seen in the photo on the right hand side. It comes complete with an antennae (in the form of the orange cone), a vent on the roof, and a simple body style. He LOVED it. And, you know what... I LOVED it too. I loved it because he did.

He did not follow the directions. He did not make his by following a standard. He did not meet any expectations. He did not abide by some template. He did not take a blueprint and make sure he was within the parameters of what someone else has required. He just created: freely, openly, and innocently. I love it! He also created a different lego car later (featured below) and he said... "look dad, this one is extra long!" He later discovered that the length made for a pretty fragile car in the middle of the vehicle where it would easily break apart. I saw his own learning taking place: his own analyzing, his own "wheels were turning" (pardon the pun).

These observations have left me asking the following questions about what we have set up with regard to creativity in our homes with our children, in our schools with our students and in our workplaces with our employees. What are we teaching our students and our young people or our workers or our employees when we hold them to the same confines of directions that are cookie-cutter? What are we really desiring by seeking standardization? What is the result of following a pre-made template/blueprint? Maybe it is the appearance of quality. I am not opposed to quality. I desire quality too. However, under what guise. I am seeing that even the quality lego creation I made for my son was not original, it was not innovative, it was not full of discovery and curiosity, and perhaps most importantly: pride. I want to encourage us all to think about what it means for us to be truly creative. What are we creating? More importantly, WHO are we creating? Individuals who merely follow a plan sent down from someone above like an obedient robot or individuals who think for themselves, experience the messiness of freedom, and who become curators and innovators of the next world-changing creation?

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Reflecting on My Social Media "Hiatus"

On Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015; I took a break. I announced to friends, family members, and some 3,000 other individuals who I connect with online that I would take a break from social media for an undetermined amount of time. In the end, the exact amount of time of my "break" was approximately 7 days, and 11 hours. This break was more than a break from social media. It was a break from connecting with others around the globe. It was a break from networking. It was a break from sharing. It was a break from some of my learning. It was a break from photography. It was a break from some reading. It was a break from news. It was a break from humor. It was a break from ideas. It was a break from spreading the good news of our school community at Eakin School in Nashville, TN. It was a break from so much more than what many of us view social media to be. Specifically, I took a break from twitter, instagram, facebook, Blogger, Pinterest, SnapChat, YouTube, buffer, , LinkedIn, Delicious, and more. It was a break I thought was necessary. Up until March 3rd, I had been connected and plugged in for 1,824 out of 1,825 days (in other words, for five years). It was a break that I needed to take for my health. The time had arrived for which I felt I needed a social medic, not social media.

It did not matter that my social media analytics revealed that my "digital footprint" had taken a nosedive. I thought I knew the impact of this hiatus and what it meant for my own social media presence. In fact, my social relevance took a hit by social media terms. -------->

And, to make matters even more surreal, just a few minutes after I posted that I would be taking a "break," I received an email from an online follower and fellow educator that simply stated... "quitter." The sender of that pithy and curt email and I enjoyed a series of emails exchanging questions and thoughts on my first day "off the grid." In short, his "jab" at me labeling me a quitter is exactly why I needed a break. It allowed me to take an introspective look at myself and ask this important question... "am I what the world of social media says I am? Am I my analytic value? Am I made up of more than my retweets and favorites or my likes and double taps? Am I only as valuable as my connected life?" The answer to all of those questions (and the same goes for you and for us all) is a resounding NO. We are all so much more. I am so much more.

The thing that makes social media so tricky is that we so often feel as if we NEED it. I have felt this a lot over the last five years. Nothing could be further from the truth. I do not need it. It is tricky, however, because it is such a great tool. Remember in the first paragraph above... because I gave social media a break, it also meant I took a break from connecting with others, networking, sharing, some learning, photography, some reading, some creating, some news, some humor, some ideas and more. Some people would also suggest it would be a break from "stress." The stress of feeling the need to post, type, tweet, etc. I actually received an email from a family member with an article that praises going on digital hiatus' and the following short message, "supports your digital detox." Now, don't' get me wrong... I took the break because as I mentioned before, I felt it was necessary. I probably needed a "detox," I needed a medic. However, remember... this is tricky. It is tricky because we feel like we will miss out. We feel like we cannot move on or move forward with out it. My break forced me to face this temptation head on.

Even when there are amazing things to share, I do not NEED to share them as if my life (or my career, or my social status, or my friendships, or my clout) depends on it. Again, do not get me wrong... this is tough. It is hard, at times, to decipher what is worth sharing and what is not. There was one moment during my hiatus in which one of my amazing teachers texted me this touching text (left) on day one of my break and it was so tempting to not tweet it out. You see, these temptations are the temptations nicotine, alcohol, and other dopamine driven addictions are made of. In fact, "Psychology Today" has written articles based upon the addictive nature of social media and how it actually raises dopamine levels in our brains. No joke!

It is important to note, however, that it is not social media's fault. I have to take responsibility- we all do. I had grown into an individual with an insatiable appetite for connecting with others. I understand I am wired for connecting. Heck... many experts, sociologists, social workers, and more suggest we are hard-wired for connecting with others. But, I took it way too far. In some ways, it became my idol. All of the aforementioned good things that can be gleaned from social media as a tool began to take a back seat. In short, I began to become out-of-balance... I began to see myself as a punch line to this very apropos cartoon (see image on lower right)...

All in all, my "detox" or my break lasted for a week. My "take-aways" were every bit as interesting as the emails and the texts. My first take-away is that I am responsible for my behavior online or offline. Secondly, we all have a platform... it can be even larger with social media... this is even more reason to aim for balance and health. People are watching me whether I like it or not (again... online and off). And, lastly... my first post after my break was one that I felt I needed to share: during my time off of social media, not only was able to take away inward, but I was also able to reflect on all the individuals who are so important to me and whom I am extremely proud. That tweet (see below) was what I was compelled to share upon my return. I meant it. Perhaps, it was revealing to me that my "break" showed me that I need balance and it also revealed who is so vital to my life in pursuit of this balance. So, what about you... do you need to take a break? Do you need to take a day, a week, a month and balance yourself? I would encourage it... it may even give you relief for your "text-neck." And... remember, you are not a "quitter" if you do. :)

Friday, January 2, 2015

Valleys over Mountaintops

There is no question that this past year (2014) has been full of its ups and downs. Its highs and lows. Its peaks and valleys. And, quite honestly... as I reflect, there have been more times where I was down than up, more lows than highs, and more moments in which I have felt like the valley was going to be a permanent residence for which I would live out the rest of my life. This is not to say that this past year has not had its share of amazing, encouraging, exciting, and wonderful moments... mountaintop moments--- it most certainly has! Do not get me wrong... I am grateful for those moments. I am humbled for any gift and opportunity that has been given to me. I am grateful to be the father of two precious children. I am honored to have a wife who loves me unconditionally. I am thankful for friends and family who support and cheer me on. I was given the amazing opportunity to serve as Principal of the Eakin School this past school year. I have a doctorate. I have presented to hundreds at conferences and grown my circle of influence. Relatively speaking, I am in good health. My Commodores won the College World Series :). I live in a GREAT city! I own a home, have two cars, live in the top percent of wealth in the world and so much more. There is absolutely so much for which to show gratitude. 

At the very same time... those moments of greatness during this past year have been overshadowed at times by the low moments, the times in which sadness smothered, darkness hovered, anxiety crept in, stress became the most noticeable character in my life, and my focus on the good things in life took a back seat to the stress and pressures in life. Quite simply... 2014 presented itself to me as my toughest year I have ever experienced. For the first time in my life, at age 35, I experienced emotional breakdowns, panic attacks, physical pain from stress, fear, and so much more. There were nights in which I awoke in the middle of the night in cold sweats of worry. There were tears. There were doubts. There has been hopelessness. 

As I have grown older, I am constantly learning the serum to these low moments is not avoiding them, but confronting them head on with honesty, transparency, courage, and a sense that I cannot do this alone... therefore I confront the valleys with other supports such as therapy, counsel, family and friends. I am also learning to embrace the struggle, to not run away, and to not resent the valleys. I enter 2015 with a realization that I need to continue to work on myself, lead myself, create balance and margin, and be grateful for each and every day, each and every season in life... even the valleys. After all... the valleys allow us to appreciate the mountain tops experiences. I invite you to join me this year while I give thanks for the valleys while looking to the top of the mountain. I want to encourage you with this excerpt from Andy Andrews work in which he elaborates on the importance of the valleys in our life:

“Everybody wants to be on the mountaintop, but if you'll remember, mountaintops are rocky and cold. There is no growth on the top of a mountain. Sure, the view is great, but what's a view for? A view just gives us a glimpse of our next destination-our next target. But to hit that target, we must come off the mountain, go through the valley, and begin to climb the next slope. It is in the valley that we slog through the lush grass and rich soil, learning and becoming what enables us to summit life's next peak.”  This quote by best-selling author, AndyAndrews

May you... may we all enjoy a wonderful 2015 while seeking to "summit life's next peak" on the mountaintop while giving thanks for the arduous times in the low valley where growth takes place.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

A Principal's Reflection: my first week on the job

Just 10 days ago, I began a new journey. August 1st, 2014 marked the first official day as the new Principal of the Eakin School, an elementary school serving students in grades K-4 in the Metro-Nashville Public Schools district. The first 10 days has been full of the highest highs... kind, warm, and welcoming teachers and parents going out of their way to make me feel well received. It has also been full of little sleep at night paired with many hours spent with my new school community as the unique timing required me to "hit the ground running" as we have also started school this past week.

Here are three "take-aways" from my first 10 days. The three tips are pointers to anyone out there who have found themselves also in a new setting. I encourage you to put others first. Hopefully, these three notions speak to you.

1.  Get Out of the Way: I believe good leaders of organizations know how to remove themselves and allow others shine. I believe effective leaders know when something is working okay, then there is no need to mess with it. I have allowed myself to sit back and observe a wonderful community of parents and teachers keep the momentum going that was already in place well before I arrived: Everything from procedures, to norms, to processes, to systems. As the old adage goes... "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." You see, whenever there is a change in leadership of a quality organization, that leader inherits quality individuals. There is no doubt quality individuals who make up the fantastic Eakin community. I have had to allow those quality individuals to reveal themselves and shine. It has been a privilege.

2. Listen and Care: The first initiative I want to accomplish is to build trust. Anytime, we deal with organizations like schools which are built on the premise of relationships; it is vital to build trust. I have already met with multiple stakeholders of teachers, parents, students, faith-based representatives, political figures, and more. No matter how many tasks on my "to-do" list: emails to read and respond to, items to organize, boxes to unpack, and more; it is ALWAYS more important to put those tasks aside and listen to the important individuals who make up the organization.

2. Be Patient: I am a leader. I have been a leader as far back as I can remember. I have goals. I have a vision. Again, I have been this way for a long time. I guess I can blame my parents because it is simply the way I am wired... being a visionary is in my DNA. However, I am also continuously learning that when leading others, it is vitally important to allow any vision that is worth it to marinate. It is important to be strategic. It is important to take the approach of "turning the ship slowly." Especially, when leading schools which have hundreds if not thousands of human beings; it is important to turn the ship slowly. Schools are like HUGE ships. They are not like little jet skis which can be turned on a dime and cut back and forth very quickly. There is no doubt I have a vision. BUT, what is more important is conveying the vision the correct way: with patience, humility, grace, and great thought while also allowing others to have a seat at the table.

What about you? What do you think? What advice would you give to someone starting a new chapter in leadership?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The End of One Chapter and the Start of Another...

It is with an equal amount of conflict and excitement that I close one chapter of my life and begin a new one.

In June of 2006, I joined the Williamson County School District and immediately felt encouraged, empowered, and charged to create, innovate, and change learning environments for the better. I have absolutely considered it a privilege to lead, coach, teach, speak, communicate, share, collaborate, help, sweat, volunteer, laugh, cry, and learn with so many extraordinary colleagues, coaches, leaders, staff, parents, and most importantly... students. In many ways it feels like yesterday that a community in Northeast Williamson County partnered together by rolling up their sleeves to open up a brand new school, Sunset Middle School, a school that will forever have a special place in my heart. 

Then, in 2010, I was asked to assist in opening up another school in the Southern end of WCS. That year is one that I will never forget. I am forever indebted to School Principal, Paula Pulliam, for hiring me to lead with her. Her tireless efforts to serve her community is second to none. She is one of the most passionate, caring, selfless, servant-minded, driven, focused, generous, kind, BIG-hearted, human beings I have ever known. My blog post is not long enough to contain all of the positive qualities she exhibits. In short, she is amazing! I have learned so much from her leadership. I am forever grateful and in many ways consider this upcoming chapter in my life possible because of all she has invested in me. 

I want to now thank Spring Station Middle School. If you are in any way associated with #MustangNation, then I want to thank you. I appreciate your patience, partnership, collaboration, risk-taking, persistence, endurance, teamwork, passion, creativity, innovation, vision, accountability, help, assistance, etc. Simply put, you are an incredible bunch of colleagues, educators, students, parents, businesses, and overall community. We have done great things for student learning, school culture, community involvement, and positive life change and I am just so humbled to have had a front row seat. Thanks for allowing me to journey with you.  

I am now transitioning to a new chapter in my life. I greatly anticipate partnering with the Eakin Elementary School community to impact the surrounding community in positive ways. I am thankful to reunite with Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools. As an alum, I am proud to come back and serve my community. I will assume the role of Principal at Eakin Elementary on Friday, August 1st, and I consider it an honor and a privilege to do so. Just after I was notified that I was selected to lead the fabulous Eakin community, my mother confirmed with me that my late-father attended Eakin when he was a young boy. He was a boy who grew up in poverty near Edgehill and I am sure he would be proud to know I am now serving where he once roamed. I am so humbled to come full-circle and lead students who will one day have their own shot at coming back to contribute to the Eakin community. Go Eagles!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

I am thankful for pain... here is why you should be too!

The video above is about a young lady that reminds us that "pain is one of life's greatest gifts." This case scenario challenges our preconceived notions of pain. In a world of prescription pain killers, serious stress reducers, numbing substances of all kinds, and an overall sense to rid ourselves of anything that would cause us harm; it is almost counter-intuitive to embrace the idea of pain and it's benefits.

No matter what you are going through... whether your circumstances are uncomfortable, cumbersome, hurtful, or even excruciatingly painful; there is something in that pain and discomfort for which you should be thankful.

Whether it is emotional hurt, physical pain, mental fatigue, relational and social stress, psychological discomfort; there is reason to be joyful. You see, it is all a matter of perspective. As in the video, pain is a key to living. Pain lets us know we are alive. Pain allows us to protect ourselves. It shows us when enough is enough and when to rest. It is simply human. We are living fully in our humanness when we experience hurt and pain.

Now, I am not a masochist, but I do know what it feels like to be hurt. I understand the problems of pain. I have undergone stressful situations. I have endured uncomfortable periods of my life. If I am honest, I did not like nor enjoy any of those periods. However, I can look back and see the purpose for those times and how the pain and even suffering at points allowed me to grow, learn, benefit, and ultimately LIVE!

Here is the challenge to us all: next time you are going through a tough time, a low point, a challenging circumstance, a stressful situation, or a painful period of life; think of the ways you can be thankful. How can you endure that time of your life with gratitude?

What do you say? Do you agree? Are you thankful for pain?