When an email becomes a blog post

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On August 28 we had an amazing PD day in Ashland. I was thinking of how I wanted to share this out in a blog and decided that the email I sent out to staff yesterday sums everything up perfectly! Good luck to everyone as we start the school year, and remember to make those connections; they are so critical!

Hi,

I wanted to say thank you to everyone for making today a great day. A huge thank you to our custodians, IT department, and administrative assistants for making today a success. We had a close to twenty presenters, across 3 sites, inside and outside, interference from Mother Nature, and an ice cream truck all to schedule. It was no small task, but one that ran smoothly, it does take a village.

Our theme for the year is to focus on merging SEL into the Curriculum. Today we heard an important message from Aaron Polansky, listened to Lisa Campbell talk about mindfulness, attended a self-care fair, and participated in stress busters. As I spent the day running around the school, here is what I witnessed: happiness, joy, smiles, laughter, engagement, people talking with each other and catching up on the summer, celebration, respect, openness, positivity, collaboration, collegiality, and so much more. All of these are what SEL is about and all of these are things you can do inside your classroom. Take a look at some of the pictures today to see many of these traits come to life. You experienced all of this today!

Below is a copy of a blog post that Aaron wrote after he left Ashland today. It is shared with his permission and with one modification:

Marriott or Mom and Dad’s house? I called them to ask if I could sleep in my old bedroom. My destination was Ashland High School at 7am and I wanted to avoid early morning traffic. 18 minutes from Natick or something similar from a Marriott. The Marriott didn’t have old pictures of my family in the room where I was going to sleep. I chose home, a bright reminder of where I came from, where I’ve been, who I love, and why I live.

When I arrived at Ashland High School, Christina Marshall (Social Studies) let me in. I thought to myself, Paul probably hit the same traffic I was working to avoid. Paul met me in the Auditorium and helped distribute thank you cards in preparation for the morning ahead. Little things make the biggest difference. We talked about our children and shared stories as we set up. Thank you for your friendship Paul. 

Randy set up the tech and I spent the hour leading up to the keynote getting to know some faces in the crowd. Amy, a reading specialist. Rose and Debbie, from the office. Kristin A., Second Cook. I later learned there is more than one Second Cook? Is there a first and third cook? Just wondering. 

Brian Cote, the new AP and fellow Jon Gordon fan. Gerry from last year, Kelly, Jim, Dave, Brian Garrigan from Vermont (38 years in Guidance). The list goes on. Enjoy the journey and know your impact. Connection is powerful and words change worlds. The Ashland team and staff are amazing. The depth, palpable.

About 36 minutes into the keynote I spotted a dear friend who I grew up with. Time froze. I was speechless. I felt pressure. Pressure to be better. I wanted to make more of a difference because someone I grew up with was there and wondered to myself, “Am I enough?” I don’t even know if that question mark belonged inside the parentheses or if a period should followed. Who cares.

Nostalgia is powerful. People matter. They don’t just matter. We are here for each other. Life is about our peeps. We must know and live for and from our “why”.

Last night, I was driving and received a text from a dear friend, Andy Pigeon. He shared a short film (here’s the link: https://youtu.be/4p5286T_kn0). At 6:00 a.m., I sat at my parents’ kitchen table and added the film to the presentation. It moved me. Thank you Andy and Denise Pigeon. Andy gave Denise the credit for “Mr. Jensen”. That’s what functional leaders and partners do. They site their sources and honor contribution.

At the end of the presentation, my childhood neighbor came over and asked if I remembered her. Not Andrea Smith Lareau, Mary Kay Pantera. I said her name before she could introduce herself and thought about the fact that I wasn’t always nice to her as a kid. I apologize Mary Kay. I should have been better. We hugged. We talked about her brothers and she showed me pictures of her children. It was so nice to see her.

Jim Adams greeted me with a hug; Paul Vieira – a hug; Kelley St. Coeur – a hug. Ashland Schools are led with love. I stuck around to see an incredible wellness fair that Jen organized and had the opportunity to meet, Janet and Debbie (again), along with SRO Keefe. They all shared on a deep level. SRO Keefe teared up as he told me about how much he loves his job. I thought about how awesome his passion was. We discovered that his cousin Shane and dear friend Wes were also close friends that I grew up with. The world is small. Know your impact and the power of a ripple effect. We talked about Mr. Keefe, Shane’s Dad. We talked about Shane’s nephew and the impact Shane’s Dad has had on so many lives. 

What if we taught our students the power of love and connection? What if boys didn’t have to be macho? What if all students felt so loved at school that staying home felt lonely and coming to school felt therapeutic? What if you’re that person? What if we greeted our colleagues like we hadn’t seen them in years (Thank you Pam Garramone), EVERYDAY? Love is a powerful thing. #BeTheOne

One single moment can change an entire life. There’s a difference between being the best in the world and being the best for the world (Clint Pulver). Today, Ashland was the best in the world. As I left the school and drove to get some work done, I passed the preschool that my eldest daughters attended 17 years prior.

As I drove down Route 9 West, I made a literal and figurative U Turn in my mind, in my travels, and in my life. I texted my oldest daughters with the picture of their preschool. We chatted briefly. 

Instead of choosing to work a little more, I called home. I’m sitting in the parking lot of West Bridgewater High School waiting to pick up their sister. Love is strong. Connection is everything. 

Wishing my friends at Ashland Schools an incredible school year. It’s your time to shine. It’s your time to change the world. Godspeed.

So many of you had an impact on Aaron today, instead of going off and enjoying his vacation day at 9:30AM he stayed for our wellness fair, went home and wrote a blog about it, went for a ride, and picked his daughter up from school. All because of the reception he received and the connections he made in Ashland. Never underestimate the power and importance of relationships and connecting with kids. You never know the life you may change and the impact you may have.

Enjoy the long weekend and see you all on Tuesday.