Holiday Blog 2021
Every summer and early fall across Texas, all schools and school districts are required to complete an improvement plan using what are known as SMART Goals. SMART represents goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely. At the year’s end, the goals are revisited and success in achieving the goals is assessed using several data points, including student performance on state-wide assessments.
Opinions on the validly of SMART Goals are plentiful. One point of contention is that SMART Goals focus on the outcome rather than the process. They tend to be short-term targets rather than long-term endeavors. SMART Goals are centered on achievement rather than on continuous growth.
As we enter that time of the year, the season the calendar draws to close, many of us turn our attention to resolutions and personal goal setting. Maybe we resolve to exercise three times a week or to shed 15 pounds. Perhaps we set a goal to be a better friend or a more empathetic boss. In writing and declaring our new resolutions, we may be tempted to describe them in terms of being SMART.
However, research from The National Society of Leadership and Success, suggests that SMART Goals, for personal change may not be the best option. Rather, the NSLS suggests developing goals that are Purposeful, Actionable, Continuous, and Trackable. The PACT acronym places the measure of resolution’s success on growth, change, and progress, not a final, single outcome.
What if you exercised only twice a week? What if you lost only 10 pounds? Are you a failure? I think the answer is, “No, you are not a failure. You just haven’t reached your goal, yet!” You have, however, made progress toward your goal. And you can, with purpose and action, continue to track your progress.
So, this year, make a PACT with yourself when you set your new year’s resolutions. Make a PACT that you will celebrate progress. Make a PACT with yourself that you will acknowledge achievement. Make a PACT with yourself that you will honor growth.
Make a PACT that you will have a wonderful holiday season and a happy new year!
This past summer I went to an activity park with my grandsons. They are aged 6 years and 8 years. They are energetic, adventurous, and it appeared almost fearless.
Among the kayaking, ziplining, and wall climbing activities was a free-fall experience. From 100 feet above the towering pine trees and meandering river of the park, you were expected to step off a platform into thin air and to allow gravity to do its work as you rapidly descended toward the ground below. Although harnessed to a winch, the fall left you feeling alone, vulnerable, and at the mercy of the laws of nature.
Given the safety precautions of the park, how real was the danger? I’m not sure. But I do know I signed a multiple-paged legal waiver, and my son did the same on behalf of my grandchildren. Consequently, although limited, I felt the danger was real and even more real as I stood at the edge of the narrow 100-foot-high precipice.
However, as is their nature, my grandsons dutifully followed the instructions of the guide, recited the safety advice, and with what appeared to be minimal hesitance, walked to the platform’s edge, and dutifully stepped off into the nothingness that was the afternoon air. I wish I could say I approached the feat with as much aplomb, but I found myself almost paralyzed with fear and it took all that was in me not to turn and to descend the same stairs that had led me to the precarious situation.
Why am I telling this story? Because ultimately that afternoon became about facing my fears. It was about persevering; it was about pushing through; it was about embracing the relative uncertainty of the moment. Although the fear nearly paralyzed me at the pinnacle, I took that step into the abyss of the North Carolina pine forest and then congratulated myself when I safely hit the ground – yes, hit, although safe and sound.
We all have fears, some very real and some more imaginary. We are all challenged by facing the novel, the unknown, and the untested. We all encounter those moments of fearful paralysis and want to turn and to retreat from what we face. Perhaps, the fear is an impending test, an unanticipated change, or an unexpected circumstance. Certainly, this new school year has been replete with all three – tests, changes, and an uncertain reality.
However, as we face these fears, day by day, week by week, we become less fearful. Like the nearly invisible wrench that controlled my fall, we are all surrounded by a network of supporters and encouragers that are standing with us through the uncertainties. They are beside us in our fears and, together, we are growing stronger and becoming progressively fearless.
It is often, said, “Face your fears!” This advice is not wrong, and it is not hollow. Our fears need to be faced, but we can be confident that we do not face them alone. When you encounter a fear, reach out – and you will discover a safety net, a lifeline, and a network of support at the ready. At Hamilton, we have an army of teachers, leaders, counselors, support staff, parents, and yes, students, ready, willing, and able to help us face our fears.
Dear Husky Team and Families -
You have likely heard Superintendent House refer to the 2021-2022 school year as the year of adaptability. Just a quick Google returns several definitions of adaptability. But one I like states, “the ability to cope with unexpected disturbances.” Well, I’m not sure how unexpected you find the continuation of the current global health crisis, but I find the long reach of its impact to be unexpected. I had every intention of welcoming this new school year as some sort of a return to normal.
Unfortunately, here we stand poised for another round of unplanned and unexpected changes. For many of our Husky families, the unexpected is in the form of illness. I have received numerous messages and emails about Hamilton families struggling with the consequences of sickness within their homes. To them the AHMS team offers support, understanding, and encouragement. For others, the unexpected is in the form of the numerous shortages found in local stores and shops and the frustration these conditions foster. Yet others, encounter the unexpected in the form of a change in job, a change in schools, a move across town, or perhaps the most difficult with which to cope, the loss of someone dear.
Please know that no matter the nature of your unexpected, we are all in this together. We are Husky proud, and we are Husky strong! So, as we begin this new school year, we will face the unknown. Together we will cope, and we will not only survive - we will thrive! Because we stand at the start of what also promises to be a sensational year at AHMS.
There are many exciting, positive changes already planned and underway. We are thrilled about our partnership with Verizon and Digital Promise that will grant each student a new computing devise with built-in internet access. We are pleased to offer more in-school supports for students who may struggle academically due to the impact of virtual learning. And we are thankful that we have many resources at Hamilton, available by way of our social-emotional team, that can help us all better cope with the unexpected that comes our way.
Here’s to a fantastic 2021-2022 school year and to a year of adaptability!
Robert R. Michaels-Johnson, Ed. D.
Alexander Hamilton Middle School
There is an ancient proverb that “the longest journey begins with a single step.” For our eighth-grade class, an unplanned journey was initiated by the global pandemic last spring. That journey, initiated by the district’s decision to go virtual, has continued this past year and appears to be stretching into the summer months.
Although, we remain hopeful that this particular journey will end by the start of a new school year, for our departing Huskies a different, fresh, and exciting journey into high school awaits. In preparation for this adventure, you – this year’s eighth grade class – have already taken many first steps. While at Alexander Hamilton Middle School you have gained innumerable skills in academics, athletics, and the arts. You have gained countless friends through classes and activities - in-person and virtual. You have gained a support system of fellow learners – students, teachers, and coaches.
As you depart AHMS for the high school of your choice, know that the teachers, leaders, and staff at AHMS are cheering you on. We are anxiously waiting to see you complete other new, challenging, and exhilarating journeys. But no matter how many adventures you complete, remember you are always a Husky for life!
A few weeks ago in the last Coffee with the Principal of year, I shared the exciting news that Hamilton has been named a Verizon Innovative Learning School, often referenced as a VILS for short. The VILS program is the result of a collaborative effort between Verizon, the program’s corporate sponsor, and Digital Promise, the agency tasked with facilitating the program. Hamilton is excited to be included in this prestigious initiative program, and we are eager to jump into the waters of innovative learning.
As I disclosed in the Coffee, there are several practical elements of the program that will benefit students and families, as well as teachers and campus leadership. First, all students will be supplied a new Chromebook personal device that will be available for their use 24/7 throughout the school year. The device will include the ability for students and families to access the internet at school, at home, and throughout the Houston community without a personal Wi-Fi provider.
All Hamilton teachers and leadership team members will also be provided a Chromebook so that they may support effective student and family technology use.
Additionally, our campus will be granted a full-time instructor who will oversee Hamilton’s integration of technology and instruction. As a member of the campus leadership team, the Campus Instructional Technologist (CIT) will schedule and facilitate a professional development plan that will ensure all faculty and staff are equipped with the tools they need to facilitate exciting and engaging STEAM-based classroom experiences and learning. The entire program will be supported by a Customer Service Representative (CSR) that will ensure all devices are properly working. The CSR will also establish and train a student tech team to work directly with student peers to help trouble shoot technology-related issues and challenges.
Currently, teachers are being provided with their devices and will participate in required onboarding training over the next month. Simultaneously, leadership is learning more about the elements of the program and understanding how we can best prepare to support students and teachers in the 2021-2022 school year. I will be sharing more about this energizing initiative over the summer break, as we prepare for a distribution of student devices in early August.
I am appreciative of the students, teachers, and leadership team members who were instrumental in our successful application for the VILS program. It was a several-months process and those who submitted videos and essays helped to make Hamilton shine for the initiative’s review committee. Hamilton is one of only three hundred plus middle school campuses in the program, nationwide. We are also part of HISD’s second cohort of campuses and the only VILS campus in the Greater Heights area. We are looking forward to all the wonderful things this initiative will bring our way.
Robert R. Michaels-Johnson, Ed. D.
Alexander Hamilton Middle School
In the musical, You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown, the Peanuts cast sings a song listing all the things that make them happy.
For me, happiness during the school day is watching a teacher hit the lesson out of the park – even on TEAMS. Happiness is hearing a teacher exuberantly welcome students into the classroom – even on day 150. Happiness is leading a campus of outstanding teachers who are daily striving for excellence in teaching and in learning.
Thank you for your daily dedication, constant commitment, and unparalleled perseverance during rough times. And don’t we know this year has been chock full of rough times!
Throughout this week, please enjoy the treats provided by our PTO and leadership staff and coordinated by Ms. Hawkins and Ms. Alderete. Happy Teacher Appreciation Week, but know you are appreciated every week of the year!
Robert Michaels-Johnson, Ed. D.
Awhile back, I had a teacher share with me about her frustration around the ubiquitous use of the word flexibility. I must admit, at first, I did not understand her perspective. It seemed that indeed this school year was to be a time of ongoing flexibility. This year was everyone’s first year teaching, learning, and leading in a new and not fully understood virtual environment. To survive, we would all need to be flexible.
Good morning, Huskies! –
New York Regents’ exam aside, there is very little I remember from my two years of Latin in high school. However, one phrase that has stuck with me, likely because it also has ecclesiastical roots, is pax vobiscum.
If I recall correctly, the literal translation is, “I give peace to you.” In the more vernacular, it is “Peace be with you.”
Regardless of the translation, I cannot think of a more appropriate salutation for the 2020 holiday season! No matter your creed, no one can deny the world’s need for peace, especially in the context of a year perhaps not quickly enough coming to a close.
May your holiday break, no matter the circumstances of your joining with family and friends, be characterized by peace. May your season be filled with joy, celebration, rest, and relaxation.
Pax vobiscum! – Peace be with you!
Happy Thanksgiving to all Huskies, those near and those not so near. I know
Happy Thanksgiving to all Huskies, those near and those not so near. I know this has been a year full of the unexpected. But you have embraced, and you have met, your challenges. You have shown that Huskies are made of greater stuff.
During this time of celebration and remembrance, I join you in giving thanks for blessings and for joys that manifest even in times of adversity. I am reminded of a quote from the author A.A. Milne who penned the Winnie the Pooh series. “Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold a rather large amount of gratitude.”
Happy Thanksgiving, Huskies!
Assistant Principals, Lakenya Scott and Darlene Thomas, outlined pertinent information for both virtual and face to face instruction students. You may review the video below.