When I first became a public school principal, almost 20 years ago, I began communicating with my staff in many ways. We, of course, had face-to-face meetings individually, in small groups, as grade levels, departments, and as a whole team. There always seemed to be a need to disseminate more information. To get this information to my staff, I began to publish a weekly bulletin. Initially, these newsletters contained only background: a school calendar, due dates for variously required paperwork, updates on the academic community, and so forth. I tried to deliver this information in an easy-to-read concise style.
Over time, though, I added elements to these weekly bulletins. At first, I would add comic strips that related to school, interesting bits of trivia, historical facts, and some journal articles. Teachers began to tell me that they enjoyed these weekly publications.
As I became more comfortable as a principal, and as a writer, I started to share my thoughts on a variety of subjects related to the school, the programs, students, and the art of teaching. To make the passages interesting, I tried to infuse humor and personal anecdotes. I wasn’t sure how these passages would be received but found that most teachers were inspired by my writing. I was told that my words motivated them to be better and often to work harder. The message was most often about giving one’s best and making the students our constant focus.
While, at first, my writings appeared only occasionally in these bulletins, over time, my passages, reflections, and perspectives started to become to focus of the document I now began calling The Weekly Memo. Many teachers would look forward to the Weekly Memo as a way to reflect on their practice. (To be fair, it must be noted that not all the teachers read my words and there were some, a small minority of staff members, who didn’t necessarily enjoy what I chose to write about.) Still, by and large, staff members provided me with positive feedback, and they told me that my words and thoughts mattered and that my writing made a positive difference in their classrooms, and also in the school.
Some years later, a new opportunity presented itself to me. I was offered a chance to move to a school district closer to home that was also one of the finest districts in the state. This new position was in an elementary school, an aspect of education I had never experienced in my career. I jumped at the opportunity. While I loved the school where I had served, moving to Hawes Elementary School in Ridgewood, New Jersey was the best professional decision I ever made. The spirit of the school that permeated everything from the teachers to the support staff, down to the children, and the outstanding parental community was amazing. This was a school that shared my passions for children, fun, happiness, hard work, positivity, and love.
When I came to Hawes, I brought The Weekly Memo with me. Each week, I made the time, whether late at night, on weekends, or early in the morning (for I am a very early riser), to craft great inspirational or motivation passages for my staff. I searched within myself to write meaningful and well-articulated words. The feedback I received on these weekly readings was almost universally positive. I was thanked for my writing. This writing, I was told, inspired others. Sometimes my passages made the teachers think differently. Some passages brought humor. On some occasions, I even made others cry. I always wrote from the heart – and still, do.
I am self-motivated. I set goals for myself and work hard to achieve them. That being said, I am also motivated a great deal by positive feedback. The positive reception from my staff made me work even harder to write better and more engaging passages. Success begat success. Over time, more and more people told me that I have a way with words, a talent for writing and that I should seek to publish my works.
Eventually, I started to follow that dream. I wrote more. I worked on a novel. I wrote picture books for children. I began talking with writers. I attended conferences. I read…And I learned. I also wrote, if not each day, then at least each week, always honing my craft and always writing to share my thoughts, struggles, ideas, and successes as a way to inspire others – most notably the staff of teachers that I respect, care for, and truly love.
In time I created a blog as an outlet to share some of my best writing. Soon others began to share my works. I submitted passages to eduTopia who happily published my words. Some professional journals started showing an interest…
By this point, my novel (“Scattering the Ashes”) had received a publishing contract with Ravenswood Publishing. I then reached out to Ravenswood and asked if they would be interested in publishing a collection of my essays. The resounding, “YES!” is what brings this first book of my essays, “Impossible is an Illusion” to print.
I don’t believe in limits and honestly, think that anything is possible. At one point, I set out, after not being much of a runner, to complete a marathon – and did. I’ve now run 20 marathons with no intention of ever stopping. I set out to be a school leader – and did. I had a dream to be a published author – and I have achieved that goal as well. I don’t believe in limits. I don’t believe in impossible. I think I can do anything – and I think everyone else can as well. I believe that Impossible is an Illusion.