The Cardinal Way

Sharing and Learning at Southport Middle School

Student Success is a Team Effort!

IN THE MIDDLE OF IT - Making Time to Commit

Over break, I read What Connected Educators Do Differently by Todd Whitaker (@ToddWhitaker), Jeffrey Zoul (@Jeff_Zoul) and Jimmy Casas (@casas_jimmy). Numerous topics in this book resonated with me affirming many of my personal and professional beliefs. Still, there was one statement in the book that really made me stop and think. The authors state: “Connected educators have no more time in their day than any other living person; we each have available to us 60 seconds every minute, 60 minutes every hour, and 24 hours every day to get it all done. Therefore, these educators do not find time to give back (as there is no additional time to “find” in the 24 hours we are allotted each day); they make time to give back.”

I mentioned in a previous post It’s Only a Matter of Time about time constraints on our days and how we choose to live our 86,400 seconds each day. We cannot add time to each day; we can only decide how we use that time. What we choose to do with that time is what defines us. We all want to be successful, but are we dedicating the time we need to each day to achieve this success?

Although I have blogged about this topic a couple times over the past year; this idea of what we are willing to make time for kept coming back to me while I was out on a run during the week. I kept thinking, what am I willing to commit to “make” time to do?

I like the idea of making commitments rather than setting goals. I can easily set a goal for myself to become a more connected educator, or to spend more time with my family. But, what do those things really mean? Should I just focus on spending more time with my family, or should I commit to doing specific, important, things with them? Although they may seem similar, a commitment focuses on the process (which you can control) while a goal is usually outcome focused (which you may not always be able to control). Here is a practical example: If I want to be a healthier person, should I focus on dropping 10 pounds, and set that as a goal, or should my focus be on commitments/changes I am willing to make in my diet and lifestyle. I can control my commitments and spend my time on improving them. But, if I only focus on the losing of that 10 pounds rather than just overall health, what happens when I only lose 8 pounds? Did I fail? Or, perhaps, what happens once I have lost the 10 lbs.? If my only focus has been on the weight, will I maintain my new weight and keep the lost weight off? I can potentially drop 10 pounds in a very quick and unhealthy way. If I commit to eating better, controlling portion sizes, exercising more, and drinking more water each day; those commitments can become habits, which will sustain the long term benefits to my health rather than just dropping 10 pounds. Where should I focus - on outcomes, losing 10 pounds, or on the process, creating healthy eating habits? I believe, I should always focus on the process.

The items below are all things I have given a good deal of thought to over the past few years of my principalship but I have never put them on paper. In addition to my regular personal and professional responsibilities, here are things I am committed to making time for personally and professionally.


  1. Unplugging for awhile each weekend so I can do something that my wife or kids choose
  2. Exercising each day (I am currently training to run The Mini-Marathon in May)
  3. Sitting down for a home cooked meal with my family as many nights a week as possible
  4. Reading for 15-20 minutes each day about something that will affirm or challenge my beliefs
  5. Always being there to support my children at their athletic or academic events


  1. Spending time with students in the classroom and cafeteria daily
  2. Blogging every school day about the amazing learning that is happening everyday at my school
  3. Sharing daily stories of learning via our schools’ Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts
  4. Writing one positive note to a student or staff member each school day
  5. Blogging once a week about a personal/professional topic that has been on my mind
  6. Reading at least one educational article each day and sending it to a colleague who could benefit from reading it
  7. Participating in at least 2 Twitter Chats each week
  8. Taking a few minutes in quiet reflection to identifying something new I learned and three things I am grateful for each day before I leave the building
  9. Using social media daily as a way to connect to other educators who share similar passions

What are you willing to make time for personally and professionally? I challenge you to make the time to create a personal and professional commitment list. Stretch yourself...make some time for commitments that are out of your comfort zone. Put them in writing, place them someplace you will see them each day, and MAKE TIME for what’s important!

This is cross posted on my Principal's Blog


  • Congratulations to Kristen Jordan, Georgina Mayorga, Jessica Pilarski, and Michael Tygrett who received had Donors Choose or PTEF grants founded recently. When you have time stop by to congratulate them and ask them about their projects.
  • Tanya Johnson's son Micah made the 40 man roster for the White Sox this year. Tanya has been out this week and spring training. While there she got to see Micah get is first major league hit. Click here to watch it for yourself.

Teacher of the Month

Lori Farnworth and Paula Swengel are the February and March Teachers of the Month. Both Lori and Paula were nominated for the leadership in the 7th grade Language Arts department and for having perfect attendance during the month. Thank you to both Lori and Paula for you hard work and dedication to your students!


Week 11 Grateful Friday Challenge

Positive Post-It Note Challenge - Write as many positive post-it notes as you can through out the day. Stick them on teachers doors, student's lockers, student's desks, or anywhere you think could use an uplifting message.


I'm Seventeen | Kate Simonds | TEDxBoise


Each day we share a story of learning taking place at Southport Middle on our 180 Days of Learning Blog. Below are this week's stories of learning.

Iana Allen

Welcome back Mrs. Allen! Mrs. Allen returned today from a maternity leave and students jumped back into learning after spring break. Students are beginning to read Maus, a graphic novel by Art Spielgemen. Students discussed characters and setting as they prepare to read this novel which depicts Spiegelman interviewing his father about his experiences as a Polish Jew and Holocaust survivor.

Ashley Koontz and Stephanie King

Students in Mrs. Koontz and Mrs. King's first period math class are working with scatter plots. Students are using these graphs to determine the relationship between two topics. Students used the graphs to explain this relationship to a partner and then write explanations.

Sharon Ancelet and Janette Collins

This semester, Social Studies and Foreign Language teachers have been working on skills need to help students with the research process. Sharon Ancelet has been leading this professional development. Today, Janette Collins and Mrs. Ancelet led a professional development meeting on the Big 6 Research model to tie together all the individual skills the teachers have been developing.

Kristen Jordan

Mrs. Jordan's 7th grade Social Studies students are studying Ancient India. Today, students got a choice on how they wanted to learn the new material. Some students read from Discovery Kids Magazine, while others sampled an online digital textbook. All students completed the final assignments using Google Classroom and walked away from the lesson with a better understanding of facts and features of ancient India culture.

Spirit Days

One the first Friday of each month, SMS has a Spirit Day. Students have the opportunity to ditch the school uniform for a day as long as they make a donation. These dollar donations are then given to local charities to model out motto "Kindness is our Strength." This month Mr. VanMeter and the FCA supported a donation day for Hunger Inc. a local charity. Today, students could bring in a dollar or a canned food item to support Hunger Inc. Each school year SMS donates thousands of dollars and hundreds of pounds of food to charity organizations connected to our community. We hope that these days model empathy and a giving spirit to our students!


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