Category Archives: Personal

Lessons My Daughter With Autism Has Taught Me – TEDxDayton 2018

It’s live!

My October TEDx Dayton Talk, “Lessons My Daughter With Autism Has Taught Me” is now live on YouTube.

This presentation was probably the most difficult to prepare for of any I’ve done.  The process made me deeply search what I think, what I feel, and what I believe – not only about Amelia, but about education and all students.  I hope the result, and Amelia’s story, can serve as an inspiration to think deeper about learning and expectations.

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TEDx Dayton 2018 is coming!

Earlier this year, I submitted a TEDx Talk proposal for this year’s Dayton event.  Mine was one of nearly 200 proposals submitted.  I was very pleased to be chosen as one of about 50 to get to audition.  And now I have the honor of being chosen as one of the speakers at this year’s TEDx Dayton!

My talk is titled “Ten Things I Have Learned from Amelia.”  Amelia is my soon-to-be-nine-year-old daughter, who was diagnosed with autism just before her third birthday.  This talk has been brewing in my mind for years, and I have already used it as the basis of a five-minute “Ignite” style talk, and it appears in the CCHMC booklet “Sharing Hope”, which is given to families of individuals who are beginning a plan of care at their Department of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.  While there have been many discussions over the last six years about what and how we might teach Amelia, I have found it to be much more powerful to pay attention to what and how she is trying to teach me about herself and the way she sees the world.

The organizers of TEDx Dayton have pushed me (and all of the other speakers), to make sure that we are able to give the best quality delivery we can of the best quality construction of our message that we can.  On Friday, October 12, Amelia’s will be one of several stories that are told that day, on the stage of the Victoria Theatre.

I have many, many people to thank for their contributions to Amelia’s development over the last nine years, and I won’t have time to thank them all on October 12.  But, my goal is to let Amelia, and all of her friends and family, and everyone out there who can identify with her, know just how amazing she is and how much we can all learn from one another if we’re willing to pay attention to the lessons being taught.

 

The Power of Stories and Storytelling

I heard this story on a radio station.  I have looked for it online, but am coming up empty.  Let me know if you know who I can attribute this story to.

A man opened a coffee shop in a nice little town.  Eager to get to know people in the town, and drum up some business, the shopkeeper put up a sign in his window.

cuppa_joe“Free coffee, if you listen to my story.”

The shopkeeper was very proud of his new shop, and wanted to share the story of his dream with everyone in town.  But, when he opened the doors, not a soul came in.

“What a terrible, unfriendly town this is,” bemoaned the shopkeeper to the bank’s business loan officer, who was there for the opening.  “I’ll never make it here!  You might as well take the deed to the shop now.”

“I have an idea,” the loan officer kindly offered.  “I think your sign needs a little change.”

He took the sign out of the window, found a thick marking pen, and changed the text.  He placed the sign back in the window and told the shopkeeper to get things ready for the next morning.

When the next morning came, the shopkeeper was stunned when he raised the blinds and turned the “Open” sign in the door.  The line was around the block!  As he fumbled to unlock the door for the crowd, the shopkeeper looked to the side at the changed sign in the window:

“Free coffee if you tell me your story.”

Everyone has a story.  And, they’re all worth telling.  If we want people to tell their stories, we have to first be willing to listen.  In education, in work, in life.  You have a story worth telling.  Be ready to tell it.  But first, be ready to listen to the stories of those around you.  They are worth hearing.

That is the first and biggest lesson I have learned in my new job as an educational technology coach this year.  I should probably say “re-learned,” because it’s something I already knew.  But I have not been doing a good job of putting into practice.  I often felt like there was too much to do to invest that time.  I felt like I needed to focus on the technology.  I felt like I needed to work in the short-term and go for immediate results.  In short, I made all of the mistakes I see some teachers make in allowing external pressures to steer us away from what we know are effective practices.

The problem is, even when focusing on the wrong things results in success, it is the wrong kind of success.  Fireworks are dazzling, for an instant; but a pilot light can be called upon to do its work at any time, and it will roar to life… only because it was always there, calmly and quietly waiting for the moment of need, and responding accordingly.

Everyone has a story worth hearing.


For further investigation, see Dave Isay’s TED Talk about his StoryCorps project:

And Karim Jovian’s “New Yorkers Share Their Story for a Dollar” project:

Why We Are Baseball Fans

small20paints20201220logoThe Chillicothe Paints are the closest baseball team to where I live.  They are part of the Prospect League, a  summer collegiate wood bat league.  They play their home games at VA Memorial Stadium, My eight-year-old son, Quenton, loves watching live baseball, so I try to take him to several games over the summer.

He shares my love of sports, but he rarely roots for the same teams I do.  In fact, he seems to go out of his way to be on the complete opposite side of the fence from me!  I like the Columbus Blue Jackets, he likes the LA Kings.  I like the Reds, he pulls for the Cubs (Quenton was minus-100 years old in 1908).  I like the Bengals, he’s decided he’s a Steelers fan.logo

I like the Chillicothe Paints.  Quenton’s favorite team is the West Virginia Miners.  Go figure.

Sometimes, Quenton likes to hang around after a game and try to get some autographs.  During the 9th inning at a recent Paints-Miners game, another fan walked up to us where we were standing, near the dugout exit.

“Have I been hearing you cheer for the Miners?” said the stranger.

“Yeah…” replied Quenton, a little hesitantly.

“Well,” continued the stranger, “I have this game ball that I got from one of the Miners’ players today.  Would you like to have it?”  Getting a game ball is probably the holy grail of take-home treasures for Quenton.  We’ve gotten a couple over the years, but they’re very rare.  I’m not sure Quenton took his eyes off the ball as he said thank you.

“Which one is your favorite player?” he asked my son.  Baseball has a way of bringing people together.

“Number 7, Austin Norman,” was my son’s reply.  My son has a scout’s eye.  Austin is one of the league leaders in batting average, RBI, runs scored, and steals.

“Really?” said the stranger as a smile curled his lip.  “He is staying with my family this summer.”  Remember, this is a summer league for college players.  They stay with host families during the 10-week season.  “Would you like to get his autograph?”

Silly question, right?

When the game ended (a tough walk-off loss for the Miners in the bottom of the 9th), I saw the “dad” go up to Number Seven and have a brief conversation.  Austin then came straight up to my son and said hello, and shook his hand.

“So, you’re a Miners fan, eh?”

“Yep, sure am!”quenton-austin-cropped

“Well, thanks for coming to the game!”  Austin took the baseball and a black Sharpie (I try to always carry one to the games) and gave Quenton his autograph.  I asked them to pose for a photo, and they happily obliged.

Quenton was holding Austin’s batting gloves while he signed the baseball.  After the photo, Quenton started to hand them back to Austin.

“That’s okay, you keep those.”

Quenton was practically beside himself!  I shook Austin’s hand and thanked him for being so kind to my son.

All the way to the parking lot, Quenton relayed to me every detail he learned as he inspected the gloves.  The palm of the right glove had completely worn through.  “And they’re still wet!” he proudly informed me!

Of all the team rivalries I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I’m not sure any of them are more hotly contested than a Paints-Miners game.  And that’s no small feat, considering the fact that the teams are made of college athletes from various places who rarely play on the same team more than a season or two.  Paints fans love to hate the Miners.  The Miners fans seem to enjoy finding reasons to deplore the Paints, too.  And that’s sorta the way baseball ought to be, as long as we can still shake hands at the end of the game and bid each other safe travels until we meet again.

Thanks, Austin.  I hope you have a long, bright, and happy career.  And I’ll even be fine with you going 4-for-4 against my Paints – as long as the rest of the team goes 0-for-27 and we win!

____

This article was published in the Sunday, July 31, 2016, issue of the Beckley (WV) Register-Herald.  Assistant Sports Editor Gary Fauber kindly asked if they could reprint my article and photo, and I gladly obliged.  Thanks, Gary!

See You Soon, Wilmington College

Friday, May 13, 2016, will be my last day with the IT Department at Wilmington College.  I have had a wonderful experience here for the last nine months.  At a time when I needed a change, the opportunity to come to Wilmington College was so coincidental that it is hard to explain it away as pure happenstance.  Wilmington College is a special place, with a lot of special people working hard to make it that way.  They made me feel like part of the family from day one, and that’s the sort of experience that makes a deep impact on a person.

I’m sad that I’m leaving here.  There are so many nice people.  It’s a beautiful place to work.  The college atmosphere is alive with energy and drive.  Wilmington’s Quaker heritage emphasizes a set of core values that give that energy a focus and direction, much like the rudder on a ship.  In fact, I never would have considered leaving here if not for an offer of a job working as a Technology Integration Specialist.

There are two factors that cushion the blow.  First is that I will be doing something I love.  I will have the opportunity, every day, to work with educators on how to use available technology to help every student achieve more.  I used to say that is the sort of thing I would love to do all the time if the chance ever became available.  Now it has.  Second, I have spoken with the Education department at Wilmington College about coming back here for the Spring 2017 semester to teach two Technology in Special Education classes.  Teaching college classes was one of my favorite professional experiences ever, and I feel like I have so much more to bring to the table now than I did then.  I eagerly anticipate the opportunity to come back, and to remain part of the Wilmington College family.

So, it isn’t “good-bye,” DubC.  It’s “See you soon.”

My ten favorite TED/TEDx talks

Holy schlamolies.  It happened.

TEDx logo.I have previously submitted proposals to speak at TEDx events in Cincinnati, Dayton, Columbus, and Kalamazoo.  Every time, I have been told there was a large volume of great ideas, and my proposal happened not to be selected.

Fifth time was the charm.  My presentation proposal has been accepted for the TEDx Worthington event on Saturday, February 27, 2016.  The event will take place at the McConnell Arts Center at Worthington High School.  The theme for the event is “Resolve”.

As I prepare for this event, I thought I would put together a list of my ten favorite TED/TEDx talks, to remind me of what I like most about the format and give me some pointers on what I can do with my 12-15 minutes.

My ten eleven twelve favorite TED/TEDx talks (in alphabetical order by the speaker’s last name):

BONUS

Meet Tim Harris

A few years ago, I was sent a link to a video that made me smile.  The video was about a man named Tim Harris.

Tim Harris is a restaurant owner.  He is a college graduate, a dynamic speaker, and an all-around likable dude.  His restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and hugs.  Lots of hugs.  Tens of thousands of hugs.

He also happens to have Downs’ Syndrome.

Since then, I have used this video in lots of presentations and workshops when I want to illustrate the impact of “presuming competence” in all students, and how limiting our expectations for our students because of a perceived disability in them short-changes them in school and in life.

I kept telling myself that someday I would love to meet Tim Harris in person.

Thanks to OCALICON 2015, I got my chance.  Tim was the Thursday keynote speaker.  I got to the conference a little later than usual that day, because I took the opportunity to drop off my son at school before driving to Columbus, but I got there in time to hear Tim’s whole presentation.  From the back row.

After his enthusiastic, heart-warming address, the crowd was asked if they had any questions for Tim.  I shot up from my seat and walked through the darkened aisleway toward a microphone.  Someone else was first, and I can’t even remember what they asked.  I was second.  I had so many questions in my head from the many times I had watched the video, so many things I would have wanted to know more about his experiences and his motivations.  But, if I could just ask one question, I knew exactly what that question had to be.

“Tim, my name is Michael.  And my question is, ‘Can I have a hug?'”

Tim Harris gave me a hug at OCALICON!Tim answered with his trademark, “Oh yeah!”

I headed straight for the stage and got my hug!  The hug even came with an “I love you, man!”  I don’t know anyone else who can say they have hugged someone who has hugged a US President, and a First Lady.  But I have!

Sometimes, it just takes twenty seconds of insane courage.  I’ll never forget the day I met one of my idols, Tim Harris.