Embracing Vulnerability

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So I have a tumor in my head. There I said it. I struggled to write this, so please bear with me as I reflect a bit on why I’ve put social media on the back burner as of late.

I’ve been working to find some answers that started with a prolonged stiff neck back in July. Traveling back and forth to the hospital for check-ups is getting old. Every week more blood tests, ultrasounds, MRIs. I think I spent more money on co-pays this past month than on the mortgage. It’s been the hardest secret to keep from those around me, because honestly, you’re thinking, talking, focusing differently than you normally do each day. I literally waited to tell my parents and brother yesterday because I didn’t want to worry them – that was wrong and I shouldn’t have tried to go at this without them.

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I’m blogging about this news because I now have a greater responsibility to role model three things as I begin teaching graduate-level courses to current and future school leaders: 1) Acknowledge the day’s challenges head on; and 2) Allow those around you to lend support in the best way that they know how. 3) Stay positive because there’s always someone in your school going through something much more difficult whether that be a student, teacher or parent in your class.

I’ve written previously about Everyone Is Always Going Through Something after my black lab passed last year, but this is little different. The fact that something only 4.5mm long in the front of my brain is causing me headaches and has the potential to change my life in every way imaginable scares the crap out of me, and it’s hard to hide that – even for someone who is used to downplaying fears, taking pride in picking friends up and embracing the rock of the family role.

The fact that I’m going through something that (I hope is a whole lot of stress for nothing) is significant, and I can’t fulfill my role as a father, husband and educator without facing my fears and understanding that life is unpredictable and its challenges are imminent. How we attack them speaks to who we are and who we are striving to be as an example for our own kids. As much as I’d like to be superman and ignore things happening in my personal life when I’m in a professional setting, I’m human. I have real relationships with my local and global colleagues, and there is no pay-off for me to keep things like this from them. So to those I haven’t connected with as of late, I’m sorry. That was me trying to get my head around what do to with all this.

Now that that’s out of the way

Last weekend I began teaching my very first graduate course in the Mid-Career Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership at PennGSE. The new and exciting course I’m teaching, Digital Instructional Leadership, is for second year doctoral students and features a brand new syllabus filled with on/offline transparency, anytime/anywhere professional development including EdCamps, a taste of relationship-based and collaborative social media tools for school leaders, all with PLN-infused learning experiences as a integral part of each class session. For those that know me, it is as much as a dream come true as it sounds. I absolutely loved the first class session with @MCDPEL Cohort 12 students, and left feeling invigorated and that the Leap of Faith I took last September was the best thing I’ve ever done for myself personally and professionally. I’ve really missed teaching since I left the classroom back in 2004 to start my administrative career, and now I have the opportunity to create engaging and PLN-based experiences within the same doctoral program I graduated from.

We started the course focusing on all things NOT related to technology. I wanted to frame very clearly, that as educators and school leaders, if we’re not transparent people offline, how can we even begin to think about online transparency? We spent the first class discussing offline transparency with the help of lead learners Dr. Sheilah Jefferson (NY) and Theresa Stager (MI), as well as connected superintendent Dr. Joe Sanfelippo (WI), who graciously Skyped into our classroom. Sanfelippo actually co-authored a new book with our 3rd year MCDPEL student / Cantiague Elementary School lead learner Tony Sinanis. We are reading all eight books in the new Corwin Connected Educator Series as our main discussion resource, as I’ve learned the majority of students in our program (and others across the country) do not feel they are prepared to confidently face the age of social media and connectivity we currently find ourselves in. I’m blessed to work within a school leadership program and under a Program Director (@MikeJohanek) that embraces educational innovation as a core value in teaching, learning and leadership.

Moving forward, I need to embrace the support of my family and friends. Anyone of us going through anything needs family, friends and colleagues to help them be their best on any given day. Whether it’s a text, phone call, post, vox, tweet, DM, quick visit – it matters to check in. It’s nice to have people in your life that let you know they care about you in a genuine way. These are the things that people who value relationships just do. People will choose to support you in the way that they feel they are helping. Sometimes what they say comes out sounding different than they probably imagined. Sometimes they do something that you wonder what they were trying to accomplish. I’m humbled that they even made an attempt. It matters.

So there. I offer some pellucidity on the latest challenges life has thrown my way. I have, however, nothing to complain about. I have everything I need in life. I live each day without any regrets. I’m blessed with a great family and friends near and far. It’s my favorite season – football season. I have a two-year old son who, when he smiles, erases every stress I have ever had. Whatever life has for me to deal with, bring it. I’m ready to roll.

*This post is dedicated to a good friend of mine who just began kicking leukemia’s rear end.

Where you invest your love, you invest your life – Mumford & Sons.

Update 10/27/14 – I got the phone call from the doctor this morning. It’s benign! Will keep an eye on it but incredibly happy with this news. Thanks for all of your thoughts and prayers of support. It means the world to me. — jm


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