Dr. Miller's Blog

Dr. Miller's Blog

Developing EQ

January 19, 2023

Mental Health - a term that we didn’t talk much about when I was a student in K-12 school. In fact, it wasn’t something that we talked about when I was in college or early in my career. Today, we are very aware, and thankfully so, of the importance of mental health. Unfortunately, that awareness is likely attributed to the apparent decline in mental well-being. 


So what is mental health? 


Mental health includes our “mental, social, and psychological well-being.” 


“Mental health helps us determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices” according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). 


Mental Health and Mental Illness are different. Think about the difference between Physical Health and Physical Illness. 


Positive or good mental health is important for learning and socializing. And we are so aware of the importance of good mental health that in Ohio, like many states, we have Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Standards for K-12 schools. These standards include the following:


Self-Awareness

Self-Management

Social Awareness

Relationship Skills

Responsible Decision-Making


These are skills that educators have been teaching since the beginning of schools whether they understood it or not, and that many parents and guardians teach at home as well.


Why?


These are the skills that allow one to be successful in school, work, relationships… in life. These skills basically encompass what is often referred to as emotional intelligence, which by the way, is one of the top soft or professional skills that employers are looking for.


But even with the attention given to developing these skills, our students seem to need even more support and education to develop emotional intelligence. Perhaps this need arises from the expansion of media in general and the proliferation of social media, specifically. But whatever the cause, the real issue is how do we increase or promote positive mental well-being? 


I recently had the opportunity to hear Dr. Marc Brackett, director of the Yale Center of Emotional Intelligence. His presentation was full of important and useful information. But one of the key points that he made was this:


Emotions are data points that we can use to help us make intelligent decisions.


Often we think of emotions as things to be felt and expressed, and they are. But emotionally intelligent people can recognize their emotions and consider the causes. They can accurately name their emotions. Then they can express and regulate their emotions effectively. 


A key point. Emotionally intelligent people are not happy all the time. Mental well-being does not mean that one never feels bad or sad or embarrassed or angry. Mental well-being comes from being able to understand our emotions and use them to make decisions. 


As we work with our students and prepare them for their next step (Employment, Enlistment, Education, or Entrepreneurship), a big part of that work is helping them to develop emotional intelligence. And the great thing is that we can do this. Emotional Intelligence, or EQ, is not something we are born with; it is something that we learn just like reading, solving math problems, welding, programming, or shooting a basketball. Knowing that we have a way to positively impact the mental health of our students and actively putting those plans into place gives me reason to be optimistic about our students’ futures… and ours as well.


If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the National Suicide and Crisis Hotline at 988, the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, or reach out to a local provider listed below.


Nationwide Children’s Hospital

ADAMH Board of Franklin County

Buckeye Ranch

Community for New Direction

Concord Counseling Services

Comp Drug

Safe and Drug-Free Schools Consortium

Jewish Family Center





Be It Resolved

January 5, 2023
Resolute: Purposeful, Determined, Unwavering

Resolution: A firm decision to do or not do something.

Official resolutions, such as those made by government entities and boards, often start with these words:

Therefore, be it resolved…

So what is your resolution for 2023? After all, it is the time of year when many of us have made or will make some type of resolution. Often these resolutions are designed to make us and our lives better in some way. According to Economic Times, the top 10 resolutions for this year include:

  1. Work out to feel better, not to be thinner
  2. Stop gossiping
  3. Give one compliment a day
  4. Go a whole day without checking your email
  5. Do random acts of kindness
  6. Read a book a month
  7. Go someplace you’ve never been
  8. Clean out the clutter
  9. Turn off your phone one night a week
  10. Reduce your waste

Overall, that is a good list. Doing or not doing certain things in order to achieve a positive outcome. I like it. And most of us could probably accomplish all ten of those resolutions. Give it a try!

And maybe add one more. Learn something new.

Take some time to learn about a new topic, develop a new skill, or even take on a new vocation. At Eastland-Fairfield we are at that time of year when high school students are considering attending one of our career centers or satellite locations to learn new skills in a technical field that could propel them to a great job, college, a new business, or a career in the military after high school. Potential adult students have the opportunity to enroll in one of our workforce development programs in order to enter in-demand careers that can make a positive impact on their lives and the lives of their families. Regardless of one’s age or place in life’s journey, making a decision to learn a new skill or career is a significant one that can have lasting benefits.

So, whether you make one resolution, ten, eleven, or twenty, I hope that you will be resolute in your commitment to achieve your goals. The outcome will be worth the hard work and sacrifice.

Therefore, be it resolved…


About Dr. Kimberly Pietsch Miller

Dr. Kimberly Pietsch Miller, EFCTS superintendent/CEO
Dr. Kimberly Pietsch Miller is the superintendent/CEO of Eastland-Fairfield Career and Technical Schools; she was previously the superintendent of Bexley City Schools in Columbus, Ohio. Prior to earning positions as superintendent, Miller served as the Chief Academic Officer for Dublin City Schools in the Columbus area and assistant superintendent of Loveland City Schools outside Cincinnati, Ohio. Miller has also served as a principal, assistant principal and an English teacher. Miller earned her Bachelor of Science in English Education from The Ohio State University, her Master of Education in leadership from the University of Cincinnati and her Doctor of Education in leadership from Miami University (Ohio). Miller is a passionate advocate for students at all levels.

2022-23 Blogs


Are We There Yet?

December 22, 2022
When I was a kid, we made an annual trek to visit my mother’s parents and family for the New Year holiday.  My grandparents lived about five hours away from my home in East Liverpool, Ohio.  The road trip was one of only two to three that we took each year, and my three brothers and I loved it. Well, maybe we loved the anticipation of seeing our grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.  The trip itself was often what one might call “bumpy.”  It always started off well; it just didn’t always end well.

First, my brothers and I piled into the 1972 Ford Station Wagon.  The Country Squire - green with wood paneling on the sides.  We had pillows and blankets as we would be sleeping on the floor at my grandparents’ house.   We had snacks.  There was no stopping with my father; we had to “make good time” because the first question my uncles would ask my dad upon our arrival was, “What kind of time did you make?”   And we had an irrational belief that my parents would not be bothered at all by the four of us playing Big Time Wrestling in the back of the station wagon - no seatbelts in those days.

At any rate, off we would go through Pittsburgh to the turnpike on our way to Williamsburg, Pennsylvania.  After eating the snacks and having been given a very clear directive that Big Time Wrestling was over (seat assignments for the remainder of the trip issued by my father), we settled in for a long ride.  Of course, we didn’t have devices in those days unless you count the handheld football game that my older brother received for Christmas one year (Mattel, 1977).  So it didn’t take long for us to begin asking, “Are we there yet?’’

Are we there yet?  The question that every parent dreads and every kid asks…repeatedly.  We just want to get there!  

When our staff and students return to campus in January, we will begin a new year but also a new semester.  Our seniors and adult students will embark upon the final phases of their Eastland-Fairfield education and training.  We will be looking forward to warmer weather and the celebration of the end of another school year.  And through the dark and cold months of winter, we may be tempted to ask, “Are we there yet?”   But don’t get too anxious.

Enjoy each minute of the final days of 2022.  Find time for family and friends.  Take time to rest and rejuvenate.  And then, let’s bring on 2023 and make it the best year yet!

Happy New Year!


What I Learned From Charles Dickens

December 8, 2022
Every year after Thanksgiving, I break out my old copy of the Charles Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol.  It is one of my favorite holiday stories, and I reread it every year.  I have had my copy for well over 30 years.  It is the same paperback version that I used when I taught English; it is full of highlighted vocabulary words and notes in the margins.  Reading it each year not only helps me to get into the holiday spirit, but it brings back fond memories of helping teenagers to see the timeless lessons that Charles Dickens described when he first published the tale in 1843, even for those who don’t celebrate Christmas.

Lesson #1:  Remember the Past
It is important that we take time to reflect on the past and to learn from it.  Ebenezer Scrooge remembered the kindness of his sister, the generosity of his first employer, the promise of young love, and the pain of loss.  

Lesson #2: Live in the Present
We need to be aware of what is going on around us, appreciate those who are in our lives, and consider the needs of others.  Scrooge was shown the joy of gathering with family and friends as well as the pain and hurt of those who are in need.

Lesson #3: Prepare for your Future
The choices we make today will have a lasting impact on our future, so choose wisely.  Mr. Scrooge is shown and experiences pain that is sewn by selfishness and greed because of the careless choices he made.

If you know the story, you know that Ebenezer grew from a sensitive boy and promising young man to a selfish and miserable moneygrubber. You know that while he thought money would bring him joy, it actually robbed him of the most important asset - love.  The bottom line is that true riches come from the relationships that we cultivate, the generosity that we show to others, and the willingness to live with open hearts.  

As we prepare to close 2022, it is my hope that we will open 2023 with those truths in mind and live as Scrooge promised - in the past, the present, and the future.

“His own heart laughed, and that was quite enough for him.”
- Charles Dickens



Don't Skip The Gratitude

November 24, 2022
In 1973 Charlie Brown observed, “It seems Thanksgiving Day is upon us.” But he wasn’t happy about it. He and his sister, Sally, both lamented the downside of holidays - extra work at school and a feeling of depression.

In 2001 John Grisham published a book entitled Skipping Christmas. In 2004 the film version was released, Christmas With the Kranks, and starred Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis. The premise of the story is that a couple is missing their daughter who has left home for the Peace Corps the day after Thanksgiving. Sad that Christmas just “won’t be the same” without their daughter at home, they decide to skip Christmas and do something for themselves - a cruise!

In both cases, and in countless other stories and films, the challenges and stress of the holiday season are on full display. And why are the holidays so stressful for some? I think it is the expectations - either self-imposed or put on us by friends and family. Whether the expectation is around a party, a meal, a gift, or an event, the holidays can be stressful.

So what are we to do? How do we truly celebrate and enjoy the season?

I think the key is, “Don’t skip the gratitude.”

In the weeks between Halloween and Thanksgiving, we are inundated with images of the upcoming gift giving season: this year perhaps more than ever with rising inflation and concerns that consumers won’t spend as much as last year. In fact, I think everyday is Black Friday, a day that used to come on one day: the day after Thanksgiving. But this year Black Friday deals are everywhere both in stores and online. The message is clear: buy, buy, buy!! The problem is that we are stressed that the season is “upon us” again, and we are pressured to begin buying before we’ve even had our Thanksgiving meal, let alone a leftover turkey sandwich.

The race to the next thing is robbing us of the joy of the here and now and the opportunity to appreciate what is most important…our relationships. As difficult as it can be, I hope that you can turn off the tv, computer, and phone for a few minutes to enjoy some quiet time alone or a conversation with a loved one. It’s understandable that Charlie Brown and the Kranks wanted to skip the stress and expectations of the holidays. But the season isn’t really about meals and gifts; it’s about the love of friends and family. I hope that this year you won’t skip anything. But most importantly, don’t skip the gratitude.



Thank a Veteran

November 10, 2022
Friday, November 11, we celebrate Veterans Day. This important and annual event was first observed in 1921 when an unknown soldier was buried in Arlington National Cemetery at 11 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month. This day became known as Armistice Day and similar services took place in England and France celebrating the end of World War I, the “war to end all wars.” Sadly, we know that was not the case. However, Americans continued to set aside time to remember and thank our military veterans, and Veterans Day became an official holiday when President Eisenhower signed a bill proclaiming November 11 as Veterans Day in 1954.

I believe most everyone understands that serving in times of conflict and war is difficult for service members and their families. And of course, as originally designed, Veterans Day is a time to remember and thank those who made the ultimate sacrifice. But as we observe this Veterans Day, consider that for those serving in the military it requires sacrificing some of their freedom every day.

First, our service members must take an oath and swear into their branch of service. They don’t just sign a contract because the commitment is significant. Service members, and their families, relinquish control of their time. While you and I can choose to go out of town for a weekend or plan in advance to spend the holidays with our families, that is not always the case for our service members. Even if they do not have to report to work, they are not permitted to be more than a set distance from their base or post without officially being granted leave.

And leave can be canceled at any time depending on the situation at home or abroad. Imagine you are packed and ready to head out for your annual vacation, and you receive a call informing you that your vacation is canceled, and you are to report to work. This type of reality creates yet another sacrifice that our service members willingly make.

Another sacrifice is the ability to choose where to live. While companies may relocate employees, most of us have a choice over where we live - the state, or the city. But our service members do not have that choice. In fact, they find out where they will live for the next two to three years via orders, and quitting the company to find other work is not an option.

Finally, service members are often deployed to other parts of the world for extended periods of time during which they don’t have the option of taking time off. These deployments might take them to interesting and exciting places, but they can also mean months living on a ship in cramped quarters or in remote corners of the world.

I hope that this Veterans Day you will take the time to remember the men and women who have served, and who currently serve, our country in the armed services. If you meet one of those veterans, please thank them. Thank them for their service understanding that they raised their hand and committed to “support and defend.” Thank them for their willingness to put themselves in harm’s way if called to do so. And thank them for their daily sacrifice of some of their own freedoms, so that we can have ours.

Learn more at www.military.com/veterans-day or visit The National Veterans Memorial and Museum right here in Columbus, Ohio.




There is Nothing Quiet About Quitting - Part 2

October 27, 2022
In my last blog (see below), I wrote about the two views of “quiet quitting” and how this phenomenon impacts the messaging that we educators provide to our students.

In one view, “quiet quitting” is removing oneself from the “climb-the-ladder” concept. In the second view, an employee is unhappy in their work, and so they determine that they will do the minimum. As educators, we want students to find careers that engage them in work they enjoy and that gives them meaning and a sense of accomplishment.

We want them to work in and lead companies and organizations that care about people and respect home-work boundaries; provide opportunities that help people grow and make a positive difference; and receive honest and frequent feedback aimed at growth.

We believe that employees go the extra mile when needed in environments where they know they are valued and respected. A win-win! So what are we doing at Eastland-Fairfield to stop our students from feeling the need to quiet quit? We are building a culture where students feel valued and respected; we are fostering relationships with employers who do the same; and we are teaching the skills our students need to be successful. Here’s how we are doing those three things.

1: Enhancing Culture and Climate

We have implemented a district roadmap that focuses on developing our students so that their time at Eastland-Fairfield is meaningful. Our vision is to “prepare and guide each student to pursue success through exceptional educational experiences.” Our mission is to “engage, enrich, and equip students every day in every experience.” Finally, Pillar 1 of our strategic plan is “Enhancing Culture and Climate” with the goal to “create and nurture an inclusive culture for our diverse community that fosters the growth of the whole learner.” In short, we have made creating a culture that values each individual student, celebrates the diversity of our community of learners, and recognizes that learning career skills is just one aspect of a quality experience. It is our goal that our students will seek future employment in companies that offer a similar culture. In my last blog, I stated, “...we can also help them [students] to understand they should pursue work in companies and organizations where they are valued as both contributing employees and as people.” If we can provide that environment here at Eastland-Fairfield, and help students to pursue those types of companies, they won’t feel the need to “quietly quit.”

2: Fostering Communications and Relationships

We have made collaboration with our business partners a priority through the third pillar of our strategic plan: Fostering Communications and Relationships. In order for business and organizational leaders to develop cultures that value both the employee and the achievement of company goals, those leaders must understand the generation of students that we serve. From high school students, to recent high school graduates, to adults looking to upskill or change careers, understanding the wishes and needs of future employees is key. That is why we offer professional learning experiences to help our business partners understand today’s future employees. Through our advisory meetings, annual Continuous Improvement Planning event, and ongoing conversations, we understand that educating our business partners on this important topic helps to prevent “quiet quitting” by their current and future employees.

3: Teaching Needed Skills Effectively


Finally, we have made instructional effectiveness (Pillar 4) a key component of our district’s strategic plan. When we develop students’ academic, career, and professional skills, we set them up for success. Not just because they can get a job. But with the right skills in multiple areas, our students are equipped to have choices in where they go to work. When students leave Eastland-Fairfield fully ready for additional learning or employment, they don’t have to settle. They can find those businesses and companies for whom they want to work- for whose culture and mission they want to help achieve. When we have skills and when we have choices, we are more committed to our work and to our employers. We don’t want to quit - either quietly or loudly. We want to achieve!

Given the recent jobs reports that show there are more jobs than job seekers, it only makes sense that more companies would want to create cultures that attract and retain the best talent. At Eastland-Fairfield, we are doing our part to “engage, enrich, and equip” our students so they develop great skills, find great companies, and make great contributions…maybe not so quietly!




There is Nothing Quiet About Quitting - Part 1

October 13, 2022

Quiet Quitting. A new term that has suddenly become common in our culture. Some see the term as a positive. Some see it as negative. And some see it as nothing new.

What exactly is “quiet quitting?” The answer to that depends on who is defining it. According to an article from Johns Hopkins University, quiet quitting can be defined in two ways. One view suggests that “quiet quitting” is removing oneself from the “climb-the-ladder” concept. In this view, employees reduce their career aspirations to focus on other, more personal aspects of life such as family, friends, and interests. This shift may be brought on by personal life changes such as the birth of a child or an illness. Additionally, many see the pandemic as having contributed to the growth of this view of quiet quitting as people reassessed what is most important in their lives.

The other view of “quiet quitting” is less positive. An employee is unhappy in their work, and so they determine that they will do the minimum. Work only within the defined hours and do only what the job requires. Employees don’t go above and beyond or put forth extra effort.

What does all of this mean for educators? Consider that no teacher ever tells a student prior to an assessment to, “Just put forth average effort.” No coach ever rewarded the student who doesn’t hustle with more playing time. In fact, one of the fundamental aspects of education is that we are teaching students about work and work ethic.

My real concern with the concept of “quiet quitting” is that people might be staying in jobs or in companies where they are unhappy. In a recent At the Table podcast, Patrick Lencioni talks about the importance of companies treating their employees right, but that doesn’t mean tolerating minimal work. None of us want our doctors, airplane pilots, or teachers, for example, to give minimal effort. We should be concerned about a movement that suggests that minimal effort is ok.

The question we have to address is, “Are these two concepts of “quiet quitting” in opposition with one another and with what we try to teach in schools?”

Actually, I don’t think so. I believe that we can teach students the value of wholeness in their lives - making time for meaningful work and achievement at work while also preserving time for family and non-work related pursuits. And we can also help them to understand they should pursue work in companies and organizations where they are valued as both contributing employees and as people.

We should help our students to pursue careers that allow them to connect skills they have learned with pursuits they care about. We should help them know that they have the right to expect fair treatment from their employers.

According to that Lencioni podcast, if you are unhappy with your work, then you should actually quit. I would add, if you don’t like what you are doing, pursue new or additional training to find a career that you do like and then find a company that will care about you, allow you to see that you are having an impact that is needed and meaningful, and will give your feedback about how you are doing.

Because here is the point: quitting is quitting, and there is nothing quiet about it.




More than Workforce Development

September 29, 2022

Over the past few weeks, I have spent quite a bit of time in meetings regarding workforce development. That is not surprising. As a superintendent of career and technical schools, a big part of my role involves connecting with businesses, chambers of commerce, and economic developers so that we can understand the in-demand careers in our region. In fact, offering in-demand programming is one of the objectives of our strategic plan.

I take seriously the role that career and technical schools play in supporting workforce needs. However, our real mission is to help young people and adults transition into work that engages them, excites them, and allows them to contribute to the greater good. There is so much more that we must do beyond developing career skills, and while it may not create workers for those in-demand careers immediately, it certainly contributes to the overall health of the businesses and organizations that eventually hire our students.

We continue to see mental well-being as a significant need for our students. At a recent meeting with our assistant principals and student support coordinators, they noted a continued increase in the number and intensity of student mental health needs. Therefore, we cannot and will not only focus on career and technical skills. As cliche as it may sound, we have to focus on the whole student - learner, future employee, and in our high school programs, child.

Therefore, we have made significant efforts to ensure that Eastland-Fairfield is more than a place to learn skills that will lead to employment, entrepreneurship, enlistment, or additional education. We do not only look to the future; we are working to meet our students' needs right now, “every day in every experience.”

First, we have increased support for students by creating a department focused on student support systems. We are scheduling monthly Town Hall meetings with guest speakers and activities that bring students together around the issues that are important to them. We have implemented SMART (Stress Management and Resilience Training) labs at each of our campuses to support students who may be having a difficult time emotionally. And we invest in our staff’s professional learning so that they are equipped to understand and support their students.

We are also reaching out to our communities to become involved in supporting students from elementary to high school. Recently I was invited by one of our lab instructors to attend a youth football practice at our Fairfield campus. High school football players, some of which are career center students, from one of our partner districts were there to spend time with the youth players. Connecting students from elementary to high school and across communities strengthens our connections and helps students of all ages to feel they belong.


Football players from the Bloom-Carroll High School varsity team line up for a friendly game against Carroll Youth Football players.
We are holding our second annual Tech or Treat event at each of our campuses on October 26. This event is open to children (up to 8th grade) from our 16 partner districts. It is another way to create connections and demonstrate to our young people that there are networks of adults and older students who care about them and want to provide a safe and fun way for them to be together.

We are expanding our partnerships with districts to include career exploration activities for elementary and middle school students. Part of supporting students’ mental well-being is helping them to explore different types of careers and problem-solving. We promote curiosity across all grade levels because we know it helps students. In fact, a UC-Berkeley study found that curiosity is linked to six psychological, social, emotional, and health benefits.

I so value the opportunity to be at the table collaborating with businesses to support the economic health of our region. And yet, I know that we must also support the emotional and mental health of those in our region. In reality, that is the foundation for all other types of growth and well-being. It is just so much more than workforce development.


Stay the course

September 15, 2022

Perseverance. Grit. Commitment. Stick to it-ness. Staying the course.

Terms and phrases that we often hear when things begin to get difficult. When the newness or novelty of an endeavor begins to fade, we may be tempted to quit or change directions. And it is understandable. Beginnings are exciting, new, and engage us with the unknown. But beginnings are just that, beginnings. A beginning is a relatively short period of time. By definition, a beginning is “a point or space at which something begins.” Soon, it is just the way you are operating and it can become routine or mundane, or downright difficult.

Just a few short weeks ago, we celebrated the beginning of another school year. We updated lesson plans, installed new equipment, purchased new uniforms, or perhaps changed a hairstyle. We prepared to take on a new year and were especially excited about the fact that we could do it without the cloud of a pandemic mandating our actions.

But now we are a good five weeks into the year. We are just about halfway through the first quarter, and the beginning is over. We are now in the thick of academic lessons and skill development. We are setting into the routine of the school year. And if we are honest, it is not quite as exciting as the beginning.

And so it is now, and throughout the year, that we must encourage our students and our staff to persevere, to stick to it, to stay the course. For students who chose Eastland-Fairfield, this message is even more important. They have left the comfort of their home school to start anew. They have committed to a year-long or two-year long course of study that is the equivalent of post-secondary education. Some have long commutes to one of our campuses or satellite locations. When the routine of the year sets in, quitting might seem like a good idea. The aspirations and focus that brought a student to us may be fading. But don’t quit. Don’t give up.

Success goes to those who can fight through the mundane and the routine. Victory goes to those who endure difficult times and learn to value the challenge for what it will bring them at the finish.

Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Theodore Roosevelt spoke of the man in the arena. The man “whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;”

As we settle into our year, take heart and take joy in the everyday learning that comes once we are settled. The beginning is exciting…but the success upon completion is even sweeter. Stay the course!

Two individuals digging a tunnel in pursuit of blue gems. The top individuals continues to dig toward the treasure, while the second miner quits and turns away mere inches from the treasure.


Engagement is in the Details

September 1, 2022

On August 10, the staff of Eastland-Fairfield Career & Technical Schools gathered for our annual convocation to kick off the 2022-23 school year. The theme this year was Reframe and Engage. After two years of operating through the frame of a pandemic, it is time to change our frame or lens and engage in our work in such a way that we make all of our decisions based on what is best for our students and their learning.

Interestingly, I have seen and heard this same concept of engagement across multiple venues lately. A sermon on re-engaging with people through service. A high school football team who has committed to engaging with their community. It seems that many of us are realizing that we can’t keep operating the way we have over the past two years. While we had to make adjustments in the face of a pandemic, it’s time to fully focus on engaging with one another in meaningful and supportive ways.

So what does that mean exactly?

Merriam-Webster offers the following definitions for the verb engage:


  • To pledge oneself: Promise

  • To begin and carry on an enterprise or activity

  • To do or take part in something

  • To give attention to something


At Eastland-Fairfield, engaging means that we are pledging ourselves to fully focus on living our vision, mission, and values. In addition, we have begun the work of implementing an ambitious strategic plan, and we intend to follow through with our full attention. We are moving away from planning learning activities that students can do from a distance to designing classroom and lab experiences that require students to analyze, synthesize, problem-solve, and create.

And as I told our staff on that opening day in August. This work can be hard and will require us to think from the big picture down to the smallest pixel. Designing learning experiences that engage students takes detailed work. Implementing the high-level goals of a strategic plan requires daily decisions and actions that bring us one small step closer to the larger objectives. Ensuring that “each” student is growing from “every experience, every day” takes commitment to think about each minute in a student’s day, not just the chunks of time that constitute English class or time in a career tech lab.

It is in the very small actions, words, and planning that demonstrate our own engagement and that leads to an environment and experiences that engage, enrich, and equip our students. Because … engagement is in the details.

A magnifying glass displays the word "details" in larger font.


It Doesn't Get Easier. We Handle Hard Better.

August 18, 2022

At our recent Convocation, held annually to welcome back our staff and prepare for the upcoming school year, I shared a video speech given by Kara Lawson, head coach of the Duke University women’s basketball team. The speech was entitled, “Handle Hard Better” and in it she addresses our propensity for thinking that things are eventually going to get easier. 


Once I graduate, things will get easier.


Once I finish this project, work will get easier.


Once the kids are grown, life will be easier.


Or this. It’s easier for other people. It’s too hard for me.


Lawson then goes on to tell her players, and us, what we already know. It - life, work, you name it - does not get easier. And people who are successful - people who have a meaningful pursuit in life - learn to handle hard better. 


Eastland-Fairfield is a high school of choice. We serve 16 school districts in Central Ohio. We offer career technical education at two campuses and through satellite programs housed at four of our associate school districts. The vast majority of our students who take part in one of our programs had to make a very hard decision to leave the comfort and convenience of their home school to attend one of our programs. It is not easier to attend Eastland-Fairfield. Yet,these students make that hard decision because they have a meaningful pursuit in life. 


Eastland-Fairfield is a provider of adult education in fields that are in demand in our region. It is not easy to return to school when you are an adult. It is not easy to sign up for classes when you also must manage a job,a family, or maybe both. But for the students who choose to pursue education and training in a field that will lead to a career and not just a job, they benefit well into the future.


And when our students, high school or adult, complete their programs and graduate, “it” still does not get easier. But they made a choice to pursue something worthy of their time, effort, and money. They learned that meaningful accomplishments and meaningful goals are not easier. And so, they learned to handle hard better. 



Anticipation

August 4, 2022

When I was a kid, I absolutely loved riding roller coasters. I grew up in Eastern Ohio and there were three or four amusement parks within two hours of my hometown, and a day trip to one of those parks was often my family’s summer vacation. Kennywood Park in Pittsburgh. Idora Park in Youngstown. Geauga Lake in Aurora. I looked forward to those park days excited that I would get to ride my favorite coasters.


Now getting to the coaster ride required negotiation. Neither of my parents would ride. My two younger brothers were too little at the time. So my big brother, David, was my ticket. (My parents wouldn’t let me ride alone.) And David did not like coasters. I had lots of ways to convince him to go with me, however. 


Sometimes I took the sweet little sister approach. “Pleeeeeeeeze! You’re the best big brother ever!” 


Sometimes I challenged his tough guy image. “Come on, Dave! What are you? A scaredy cat!?”


And sometimes I resorted to bribery. “I will give you all of my Halloween candy this year.” 


Once I convinced him to go on the ride with me, I was giddy with excitement. And I loved going over that first big hill, hands in the air, screaming with the rest of the riders. But I think that the best part was actually the anticipation. Waiting in line and counting to see how many more trains would run before it was our turn. Trying to determine if we could get the first or last car. And of course, slowly going up that first hill, the chain pulling us clinking and clacking all the way. And then that little pause just before we went racing down the hill. 


For me, this time of year is a little bit like that roller coaster going up the first hill. We have spent the summer planning for the new school year. From instructional planning to facilities maintenance; From hiring new staff to moving classroom spaces. The administrative team has met and prepared, new staff will arrive on August 8, and all staff will return on August 10. We are slowly climbing that big hill, and I am anxiously anticipating reaching the peak and welcoming our new high school and adult students during Back to School Night and orientation.  


I know the year is going to be another fast and exciting ride. There will be hills, twists, turns, and surprises. But at the end of it, we will be so glad we decided to ride this train! At the end, we may even look for the next coaster, the next challenge, and ride all over again.




With Opportunities and Education, For All

July 21, 2022
A colleague recently sent me a link to a podcast on the topic of special schools for advanced or gifted students. The podcast tackled some very complex social issues including class systems, race, and cultural norms. The podcast included interviews with a variety of people as well as the hosts’ input on the topics being discussed.

Toward the end of the podcast one of the interviewees, who was talking about the quality of public education in her city, made a statement that really summed up what we should be about in public education, and honestly, in our country. She submitted that if we truly want to improve our world, our communities, our schools, we have to care about all children as much as we care about our own children. That is truly powerful if you think about it.

Making a better world for our own children really requires that we care about a better world for all children. We should approach funding and supporting our schools with the belief that ALL children deserve a high-quality education - not just some students, not just those who “qualify” for something extra. All children deserve opportunities, experiences, and challenges that can propel them toward a future of meaning, success, and pride. These do not, and should not, be the same for all students, but all students should have equitable access to that which will engage, enrich, and equip them for their own unique opportunities, experiences, and challenges.

So often it feels as if we are in constant competition. With one another. With government agencies. With special interest groups. We have been conditioned to believe that if we ensure equitable opportunities for one group then we must take opportunities from another - as if success and life are like pies with a finite number of slices. I believe we can view education like love…a gift that we can give endlessly and in great supply to everyone.

As we prepare for the next school year, and as we continue to traverse this “last great experiment for promoting human happiness” (George Washington, January 9, 1790), I hope and I believe that we can move forward putting all of our students, mine and yours, at the forefront of our efforts to educate and develop them. After all, we are counting on them to lead our families, schools, our communities, and our nation one day. Let’s equip them - all of them - to do it well!

Eight children from different ethnic, socioeconomic, gender, and ability groups holding up a book.

Regret vs. Opportunity

June 30, 2022
I recently saw an image posted on Twitter. It showed a person standing along a continuum. On the left side, it read “Regret” and on the right side it read “Opportunity.” The continuum was not divided evenly. Regret was the shorter side of the continuum, and Opportunity was much longer. However, the person on the continuum was facing the Regret side with the thought bubble, “I wish I had started earlier…”

A stick figure person stands on a line continuum facing left, "regret" on the left and "opportunity" on the right, with a thought bubble reading "I wish I had started earlier.

Why do we so often look back at what we cannot change and lament actions that we did or did not take? Why do we choose to regret our past rather than focus on our future? I am not suggesting that we should not look back on the past. If there were times of regret, we should own them, reflect on them, and then turn around and consider the future opportunities that we can embrace. The issue arises when, as in the image, we continually face the past with a feeling of regret rather than consider what we can learn from it and turn into future opportunities.


My son attended a military college for one year after he graduated from high school. He made it through a physically and emotionally challenging year. And he decided that school was not for him. He decided, instead, to enlist in the military. During the time that he waited to report to basic training, he often apologized for “wasting” that year away at college. And I always replied, “No experience is a waste if you learned something from it.” And it is true. Life rarely goes as we planned (take a look at my May 5 blog on preparing vs. planning). Sometimes we contribute to our own struggles, and sometimes life just happens. Either way, it is what we do with those experiences that impact our future - whether as opportunities or more regrets.


As we take time to enjoy summer, I know that many young people are planning to head off to college. And some are deciding if they are heading back in the fall. Some of us are thinking about a career change or wishing that we could learn a new skill just for our own personal growth, for a hobby, or just because we like to learn. If you are at a crossroad in life, just know that it is not too late to take advantage of opportunities that are there for you. All you have to do is look for them. Don’t think of what you did or did not do as wasted time. Look at that time as something that taught you the powerful lesson of looking ahead. 



If you are interested in exploring adult career opportunities at Eastland-Fairfield, click here or contact us at awdadmissions@efcts.us or (614) 836-4541, ext. 1537. 

Re-engage

June 16, 2022

Over the past two years I have heard the phrase “get back to normal” over and over again. I have even used it myself. In our culture, we seem to have a propensity for believing that the way things used to be were better. We regularly use phrases to suggest if we could just turn back the clock, life would be better or more comfortable. I’m sure you have heard or used expressions, such as: 


The good old days.


Return to a simpler time.


Once upon a time.


A pencil draws the outline of a chain link bonding two previously disconnected links in a chain.And I get it. Sometimes a return to the old ways of doing things or the old ways of living would be nice. To return to our childhood when summer stretched ahead of us with no end in sight. To only have three channels to choose from on the television (surely made deciding what to watch less stressful). To not have to manage so many passwords! There were things about the past that were “better.”


However, the reality is that we cannot go back. We must look forward and journey on. It is great to reflect on the past, to remember and to assess progress. But we cannot live there, and we should not waste the present or squander the future wishing for the past to return.


As I reflect on the last two years, I don’t see a need to go back to life before March 2020. However, I see a great need for us to re-engage in the work that many educators were doing before the pandemic. Prior to adjusting our educational strategies to online classes, posting of work in instructional management systems so that students didn’t miss out on content, and keeping our distance, many of us were working on developing more student-centered learning strategies. Whether you call those strategies problem- or project-based, inquiry-based, hands-on, real-world, or all of the above, we were focused on developing student-centered classrooms where students are “doing” the work. The teacher is the facilitator, and students grapple with the content in engaging and exciting ways. 


These learning strategies are designed to promote a more engaging academic experience for students - one in which they are active learners not passive recipients of information. As we look forward to the next school year, it is imperative that we engage our students in their learning, and that is going to require us educators to re-engage in the work that we were doing before we knew what COVID meant. 


In March 2020, we turned on a dime and figured out how to do school from a distance and without contact. And that was important…then. But now it is time to re-engage in our commitment to meet the needs of our students. The pandemic has not only impacted our students’ academic learning, but their mental wellness, and now is the time to commit to instruction that engages our students in exciting and meaningful ways. Now is the time to look ahead and create a new normal!


Engaging, real-world problem solving is what every career tech classroom is like every day. Students learning by doing; students learning by being presented with real-world, work-based problems and challenges. I invite educators of all grade levels to visit a career tech classroom this fall if you have never experienced one. You will be amazed and inspired.


Summertime

June 2, 2022

Frank Sinatra sang of the Summer Wind.

The Lovin Spoonful sang about Summer in the City.

The film Grease brought us Summer Nights.

Keith Urban told us about a Long Hot Summer.

And recently, Thomas Rhett sang what many of us are thinking each summer - Slow Down Summer.

Whatever your taste in music, chances are there is a song about summer that you love. I am not sure how many songs have been written about summer, but a quick Google search will yield results that list “25 songs with summer in the title; “40 great summer songs”; and “55 songs about summer to get you pumped for warm weather.” The point is…We Love Summer!

The days are longer; the temperatures are warmer; the pace is a little slower. Oh, and school is out - the official beginning of summer for many of us. Looking forward to the summer break is something most of us do…even school district superintendents. As the songs suggest, summer is a great time of fun for many.

It is also a time for us to reflect on the past school year. We identify the goals we met and the tasks or objectives that we didn’t quite reach. And then we look forward to the next year. What goals will we set for ourselves and our students? What new challenges will we encounter?

At Eastland-Fairfield, we are also taking that time to reflect and reset. On the high school side of the house, we are excited to bring new program pathways to our campuses and to our associate schools as satellite programs. We are sprucing up our buildings and making some moves to better serve our students. On the adult workforce side, we are preparing to launch at least two new programs (plumbing and facilities maintenance), and working diligently to add a Licensed Practical Nurse program in fall 2022. We are also in the planning stages for two exciting programs: robotics and mechatronics for high school and industrial automation for adults. It is busy, but the work is good, and the opportunities to serve more students is exciting for us.

I hope that your summer will be a good one. It seems we are already off to that Long Hot Summer, so I wish for the Summer Wind to keep you comfortable whether in the city, the coast, the country, or the mountains. And I know that with all the work we must accomplish before we welcome more than 1600 high school and adult students to our programs in August, I will be saying, “Slow Down Summer!”

Have a wonderful summer!


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