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Looking for a Silver Bullet? It Begins With Us

When I was five years old, my father would take me and my then ten year old brother to work with him on the weekends.  My father served as a custodian for the school district and each Saturday morning we would join my father as he made his rounds through the schools.  I often joke that my father broke every child labor law that existed, often requiring us to help clean for hours on end.  My jobs consisted of emptying trash cans, erasing chalkboards, cleaning restrooms, sweeping and mopping classrooms, hallways, locker rooms and my favorite, sweeping the gymnasium floor with a push broom that was bigger than me.  Although my dad demanded a lot from us and expected us to perform our “duties” at a high level, he was always right there cleaning alongside of us and modeling for us exactly how he wanted it done. And if we didn’t do it the way he expected us to do it, he wouldn’t do it for us, but rather come back and show us again how it needed to be done and help us rather than make us do it alone.  As I got older, this became a way of life for the two Casas boys as eventually my parents got into the movie theater business and restaurant business.  Of course, these were both family businesses which once again, required us to serve in the role as ticket sellers, ticket takers, concession stand workers, gophers, custodians and later serve as hosts, waiters, cooks, inventory recorders, maintenance help, accountants and yes, once again, custodians.  During these critical fifteen years of my life from age five to fifteen, my parents instilled in me through these experiences a sense of pride, the value of a work ethic, and an understanding that if I wanted something in this world, then it was going to be my responsibility to make it happen.
This past week I had the opportunity to meet a man who serves as a school custodian who reminded me of my father in many ways and who I want to thank personally for inspiring me to reflect on my childhood memories with my dad and proving once again how important it is to take the time to engage others in conversation. By doing so, you may be pleasantly surprised by the smiles these interactions will bring to your face, the warmth they can bring to your heart, and the respect they will pay you in return by supporting you and the purpose you serve.  In fact, my new friend Larry and a few of his colleagues at Abingdon-Avon inspired the name of this blog post – “Looking for a Silver Bullet? It Begins With Us.”  What a blessing it was to meet this team of teachers, support staff and leaders who are committed to making a positive impact in their community.  People like Larry and his custodial team, Shane Gordon (@sgordonAAHS) Tina Stier (@tinastier57) Drew Witherell (@dmwitherell) Vanessa Witherell, (@VWitherell), Michelle Andrews (@mla5267), Chad Cox (@GalvaPrincipal) and so many others who have found their Silver Bullet….the knowledge that all positive change starts with each of us.
As we begin a new school year, I am jacked up as ever about the team we have put in place in my own school, but also just as pumped about the staff that is being put together in schools all around the country. Teams of adults who are ready to agitate the status quo in their own behavior and reflect on how they connect with kids can be the catalyst for significant change in school cultures which will lead to success for all kids.  I leave you with a comprehensive list of 40 responses that I compiled from interviews that I did with my teaching staff last spring and shared with them two weeks ago at our Welcome Back to School staff in-service days in order to challenge them to make this the best year ever!  I am not only extremely proud of them, but I am truly inspired by this list that expresses our core belief system, attitude, determination and a mindset that screams that connecting with kids and valuing their voice can and will be the change that is needed to bring about life changing experiences for our students. I hope that one or two of these will resonate with you and inspire you to be the Silver Bullet for your kids this year and bring about the best year ever to your school community.
You just have to remember that it starts with you.  Go be great!
Please share a strategy you use to illuminate learning in your classroom and share your belief in what makes a model teacher (Question posed during interview).

Model teachers…..

1.            Love learning
2.            Have internal pressure to succeed
3.            Value trusting relationships
4.            Are passionate
5.            Are empathetic
6.            Get as much as we give back
7.            Are risk takers for our students
8.            Focus on relationships – greet kids every day
9.            Are flexible – change based on feedback
10.          Reflect systemically
11.          Recognize learning goes both ways
12.          See what kids are doing, not what they aren’t doing
13.          Teach kids, not content
14.          Have students tell us where they are at so we know where to build from
15.          Strive to be the best for our students
16.          See students as partners
17.          Prepare assignments like they were for us. What would cause me to struggle?
18.          Are empathetic through our instruction; figure out what is going on with student so we understand
their thinking. This is a hard and demanding job. Not only do we give everything we have, we also take everything away from it. “The older we get the less we know.”
19.          Want to be pushed
20.          Understand the kids who frustrate us the most are the kids who need us the most
21.          Try to catch them doing things right
22.          Try not to bottle them up
23.          Want them to have a better experience than our own experience – don’t want kids to feel the way we did
24.          Want to find a connection with kids – show them we care
25.          Feed off of student energy and then give it back
26.          Stay active in the classroom
27.          Try to learn something from a student every day
28.          Give our time to students by serving their needs – share a small bit of kindness every day
29.          Take time to acknowledge our kids and recognize their work
30.          Often times as teachers we model ourselves after teachers we had in school so want to be that model   – “I Teach Because Of You!”            
31.          Try to find an emotional connection – desire to want to create something with them like a parent   would
32.          Create unique experiences
33.          Accept that teaching is a calling, a mission
34.          Have an appreciation for what all staff does –everyone works hard
35.          Own what we want to learn
36.          Challenge our own thinking
37.          Appreciate their talents and gifts. Take kids where they are and inspire them to move forward
38.          Honor what they bring to the class
39.          Are flexible with deadlines – understand that kids enter at different places
40.          Want all students to have a positive experience.

  • Jen H.
    3 years ago

    I can just sense that this will be a wonderful school year for so many reasons. It definitely does start with each one of us. But it can’t end there. We need to inspire our colleagues and our students to find what makes them passionate and use their strengths for positive change. I hope to model that this year and appreciate your list of strategies & beliefs – great reminders.

    • Jimmy Casas
      3 years ago

      Agreed Jen! I am expecting nothing short of the best year yet! I am confident our students and staff will rise to the- occasion. Thank you for being a great supporter of #bettpride – jimmy

  • jonharper70
    3 years ago

    Jimmy you truly have assembled an amazing team! I love the responses and they all seem to be centered around a common theme: do what is best for kids. I am sure you are proud of their responses and I’m sure you are proud of your team. Have a great year and I look forward as always to learning from you! I will make sure that I follow and learn with each and every person you mentioned.

    • Jimmy Casas
      3 years ago

      Jon – There is no doubt that there is something special in the air at #bettpride. We are truly blessed to work in a community that values young people & the importance of a great education. For 13 years, I have been fortunate to be surrounded by so many great staff members who not only expect the best, but walk the walk to be the best for kids. Thanks for your continued support of #bettpride Jon! – jimmy

  • Maria Galanis
    3 years ago

    Loved this post, Jimmy! Growing up I helped at my dad’s restaurant for years. There were so many times I wish I were somewhere else like at the Friday night football games, or with friends, or just anywhere else besides the restaurant. But, now I wouldn’t change that time for the world. Being with my dad at the restaurant, watching and learning from him every step of the way, has 100% helped make me the person I am today. My personality, work ethic, sense of responsibility, all of that. Anyway, I loved reading your story about how your father helped instill the beliefs, responsibility, and pride that makes you who you are today-an amazing leader and person. And your list of responses just proves all of the strong work ethics and belief systems we all have in us. As a coach, I want to be there to support and encourage these amazing teachers everyday and remind them of all of these beliefs they have in them, just like the ones you listed. Most importantly I want to help empower these teachers, even more than they already are, to make learning in their classes the best it can be. Thanks again for your inspiring post, Jimmy.

  • Jenny Miltimore
    3 years ago

    Your passion and encouragement is second to none. Thank you for your sharing your dedication to your family, school and community. It’s an inspiration and I’m jacked to start another school year!

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