Sunday, February 12, 2017

Reflecting and Learning

I'm pretty sure each of us understands that when we come to school each day we are going to be faced with new challenges. Sometimes these will be small situations and we can use our past experiences to find solutions quickly. Other times these will be large challenges that are new to us in some way. This past week has brought some challenges my way. I have been reflecting on two of these challenges most of the weekend and thinking about how I want to take action on these challenges next week - this time with a fresh mindset and after some support from friends.

I know that I am not the only one who has been thinking about this. My friend, Todd Nesloney, an administrator in Texas, recently posted:

There are some days, after much reflection where I am so aware of my shortcomings and areas to work on as an administrator and educator. It's in those days of doubt and feeling like a loser that I have to know I am working to be my best. Even when all you hear are what you're doing wrong, there are things to celebrate. None of us are in this career because we're perfect. I know I have a lot of work to do to be even half the administrator I want to be. But I'm working on it. I will always work on it.

And my friend, MIchael Medvinsky, a teacher in southeast Michigan, posted:

Today, I felt like I failed learners. I have so much to learn. I will try again tomorrow.

I am going to continue to try to understand my shortcomings and to work on them to be a more effective leader. This week, I am going to strive to be like the girl on the hill in the video. Some challenges are scary. But I will use the support of those around me to tackle them and to continue to learn from my experiences. And I'm thankful for another week to try again.


Sunday, May 3, 2015


By Michele Corbat

This week is Teacher Appreciation Week.  All of us have memories of a special teacher who has made a positive impact on our lives. We have memories of teachers who have left a lasting impression. For me, there are many teachers who have set a great example.  Especially my 2nd grade teacher, Mrs. Ash.  She was my teacher when my sister died.  The kindness and love that she showed me and my family will never be forgotten. Her husband even built a beautiful podium for the school in my sister's memory.  She would give the biggest hugs exactly when they were needed.  Another teacher that showed me how much she believed in me was my 8th and 9th grade math teacher, Mrs. Brown.  I breezed through Algebra in 8th grade and then had Mrs. Brown again for Geometry in 9th grade.  To say that Geometry did not come easy to me is an understatement. Mrs. Brown tutored me and gave me confidence to persevere through each proof (she was teaching me how to develop a growth mindset).  Without these amazing teachers, I would not be the person I am today.

My children have also been fortunate to have teachers who have made a positive impact on their lives. The elementary teachers at Morrish Elementary and Swartz Creek Middle School have wiped away their tears when they were worried about getting on the wrong bus, given them a quarter for a bag of popcorn when I forgot to send them to school with change, laughed with them as they joked about drinking diet water, let them borrow the class read aloud to read ahead (with the promise of not spilling the beans to other students), let them shine as mimes signing the lyrics to songs, made positive phone calls to me letting me know how they are a blessing to the classroom community (these calls brought tears of joy to my eyes because someone else knows just how special my boys are), and attended their sporting events to cheer them on!  The list goes on and I hope that each teacher knows that I noticed how you treated my children as if they were your own.  

To top it off, I GET TO work with educators who are living their purpose.  Teachers, administrators and support staff in Swartz Creek Community Schools who support, guide and nurture children.  I have witnessed the compassion of educators across the district who have worked together to support students who are suffering sickness or loss.  Educators who have been there to listen, inspire, and empower children. Thank you to my colleagues for believing in children and giving of yourself so freely to support them.

Don't let this week go by without letting a teacher know just how very thankful you are for the difference he or she has made.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Letting Go of Control

 by Michele Corbat

Sometimes life gives us little, gentle reminders to teach us important lessons.  We can reflect on these little events and learn from them or we can ignore them and carry on.  Sometimes it takes great big events.  

About Me

During the past week, my life has been filled with a big event that is a great reminder for me.  I have one of the most Type A personalities anyone could have.  I like to plan ahead - weeks, months, and even years ahead.  I make lists.  I make lists about my lists. I delay deliver email messages to myself for the date and time that I will need the information.  My outlook calendar does not have a blank day. It includes meetings, reminders, and even my daily to-do lists.  According to a definition I found on the website

Type A personalities experience a constant sense of urgency: Type A people seem to be in a constant struggle against the clock. Often, they quickly become impatient with delays and unproductive time, schedule commitments too tightly, and try to do more than one thing at a time, such as reading while eating or watching television.
That fits me to a T!  Every moment of every day is filled with work and meeting deadlines.  

The Events

Last Wednesday, I woke up at 3 AM with sharp pains in my upper abdomen and chest.  I was nauseous and vomited once.  At first, I self-diagnosed that I had caught whatever my youngest son was experiencing. He had been vomiting for a couple of days.  After a few hours of trying to get comfortable, the pain did not go away and was unlike anything I had EVER experienced before.  I thought I could use mind over matter to wish it away so I could take my shower and get to school for a very important staff meeting (a teacher team was going to share out some highlights about their visit to a Leader In Me Lighthouse school).  After all, I had a schedule to keep.  It became obvious to me that there was no way I was going to make it to school that day and I sent out a Remind text to my team letting them know that the staff meeting was canceled.  

The pain in my chest worsened and I thought that I might be having a heart attack.  After a phone conversation with my parents, they both arrived at my house - my dad to stay with my sick son and my mom to drive me to a clinic.  On the way to the clinic, the pain intensified and my mom headed to the ER (she even ran a red light).  I was admitted to the hospital because my liver enzyme levels were extremely high and went through a series of tests to try to pinpoint the problem.  

There is A LOT of time to think while lying in a hospital bed.  My type A personality is strong and it went into overdrive about everything I was supposed to be doing at school - the post-observation conference with a teacher to reflect on practice, the parent meeting about a child with frequent absences to develop a plan to help improve attendance, the first-annual Grandparent's Day at my school, the student I promised to have lunch with to talk about how school is going and so much more.  My husband sat at my bedside and tried to reassure me that my focus needed to be on my health. But I talked him into bringing my laptop to the hospital so I could do some work (I had a BIG project due for my Ed.S. class and was only half-way finished).  I soon realized that I could not type at all with an IV stuck in my arm and gave up the idea of working.  

Finally, all of the test results were in and I met with my doctor Saturday morning.  The good news is that my heart, gall bladder, spleen, pancreas and kidneys all seem to be normal.  However, the MRI and CT scan both show a mass on my liver.  My doctor and the hepatologist determined that the next step is to schedule a liver biopsy.  Since my liver enzyme levels were coming down and the chances of having a biopsy over the weekend were nil, they sent me home.  I will schedule the biopsy tomorrow.

The Lesson

I have been home for a day and a half.  The IV is out of my arm and I could spend ALL of this time trying to get caught up on all of the deadlines that I missed.  But I haven't.  I played games with my boys, watched a movie with my husband and even took a nap. You see, a very close friend of mine sent me an email about control and an excerpt is here:
You and I have very little power and control over the most significant things in our lives. You and I don’t know what’s going to happen next. We don’t have a clue what will be on our plates next week or next month. We have little control over the principal people in our lives, little power over the situations in which we live, and almost no control over the locations of our lives. Honestly facing your lack of sovereignty over your own life produces either anxiety or relief. Anxiety is God- forgetting. It is the result of thinking that life is on your shoulders, that it is your job to figure it all out and keep things in order. It’s worrisome to think that your job in life is to work yourself into enough control over people, locations, and situations that you can rest assured that you will get what you think you need and accomplish what you think you need to accomplish. If you fall into this way of thinking, your life will be burdened with worry and your heart will be filled with dread. But there is a much better way. It is God- remembering. It rests in the relief that although it may not look like it, your life is under the careful control of One who defines wisdom, power, and love. In all of those moments when life is out of your control, it is not out of his control: “For his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; . . . and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?’” (Dan. 4:34–35). You see, rest is not to be found in your control but in God’s absolute rule over everything. You will never be in a situation, location, or relationship that is not under his control.
The big events of the past week have served as a reminder to me that I am not in control.  As much as I think that I am or that I want to be, ultimately my life is under control by a greater power.  I don't know what is going to happen next.  I don't know what the results of my biopsy will show. But I do know that our lives are in God's control.  Today, I chose to let go and give it to God.  

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Important Thing

By Michele Corbat

The past two months have been a whirlwind of opportunities, challenges, reflecting, reading, growing and learning.  In the past two months, I...

...was hired as the new lead learner of Morrish Elementary, 
...delivered my first AND second keynote addresses about building a culture of learning (with my #COLchat friends - Adam & Rod),
...felt helpless as I watched my friends suffering with unimaginable pain, thought-provoking books like The Carpenter by Jon Gordon, Passionate Learners: Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students by Pernille Ripp, The Collected Writings (so far) of Rick Wormeli by Rick Wormeli and Brick House by Danny Hill

The past two months have taught me lessons that I will carry forward and do my best to put into action.  The past two months have been two of the most important months of the year for me.  These are some lessons I have learned. These are some of the important things about the past two months.

The important thing about leadership is the ability to create more leaders. 
It begins with trusting relationships.
It can influence up, across or down.  
It has common traits like honesty, empathy, and transparency.
But the important thing about leadership is the ability to create more leaders.

The important thing about facing fear is growing from being pushed out of your comfort zone.
It peels away an old layer of yourself so you can become something better.
It makes you braver to try things you have never tried before.
It shows you how strong you really are.
But the important thing about facing fear is growing from being pushed out of your comfort zone.

The important thing about friendship is knowing that you are not alone in the world.
It makes you feel better when all that person has to do is be there when you are hurting.
It reminds us how much people care about us and love us.
It brings a smile and chuckle when you are alone thinking about a funny memory.
But the important thing about friendship is knowing that you are not alone in the world.

The important thing about passion is it helps us live our purpose.
It drives us to find answers to our questions and to create.
It brings hope to students when they are allowed to explore it.
It thrives in a culture of learning, but is killed in a culture of compliance.
But the important thing about passion is it helps us live our purpose. 

The important thing about language is it has the power to kill or to give life.
It is a free choice you make every day.
It can shift fixed mindsets to growth mindsets.
It shows those who you love, serve, and care about that they matter.
But the important thing about language is it has the power to kill or to give life.

The important thing about reading is it takes us out of our own minds and into the minds of others.
It is the starting step that prepares us to cook a meal, use a new gadget, or take a trip.
It boosts our imaginations and creativity.
It allows us to gain knowledge and experience from others.
But the important thing about reading is it takes us out of our own minds and into the minds of others.

These are a few of the lessons I have learned over the past two months.  These are a few of the important things.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Bye Bye Bystander, Hello Hero

By Michele Corbat

Sometimes scratch that, many times this past school year I have been astounded by the way my school community has come together to support one another and show kindness.  We've had tragedies that have forever changed us, such as the death of  beloved Dieck Elementary teacher, Mr. Christopher Carney and the suicide of adored high school senior and varsity football quarterback, Brendon Fitch.  Our teachers, administrators, students, parents, and the entire community pulled together for the families of these individuals (Chris's wife is also a teacher at Dieck Elementary where his two children are students and Brendon's mom, uncle and aunt are all teachers at Swartz Creek Schools where his cousins also attend school).  On Saturday, May 10th, students and staff from Swartz Creek Middle School, joined together, once again, to show kindness.  Thanks to the work of our SCMS Diversity Club, which is lead by teacher, Tony Suchanek,  the first ever "Bye Bye Bystander, Hello Hero" event was held on Saturday, May 10.

Description of the event on our district website

A Little Background

On November 4 & 5, 2013, several hundred educators, students and community members gathered for the first ever The Hero Roundtable at Swartz Creek High School. This is a one-of-a-kind multi-disciplinary conference on heroism and was organized by Adam Hartley and Matt Langdon.  The opposite of a hero is not a villain; it's a bystander. Every community in the world, big or small, can use more heroes. Those who attended, learned how to stop being bystanders and start becoming heroes.

I attended the conference with a small group of middle school students and a few other teachers.  We were moved by stories shared by Jeremiah Anthony, a high school kid from Iowa City, Iowa who created the Twitter account Westhighbros to take a stand against bullying.  The account tweets sincere compliments to students and staff.  And stories from author, Dave Rendall, who told us, "What makes us weak, makes us strong and what makes us weird, makes us wonderful."  He encouraged us to embrace our uniqueness by flaunting our weakness.  We also heard from a 15 year old boy from Michigan, Ethan King, who started a non-profit charity to donate soccer balls to under-privileged children around the world when he was only 12!  Ethan told us, "It doesn't matter how old or how young you are, you can make a difference."

After this inspiring event, the students, teachers and I met a few times to plan how we could begin taking action in our school.  Many ideas were shared and initiatives were beginning to happen in small ways in our school. Paper buckets were posted on all staff members' doors or work spaces. Announcements were made to fill the buckets with post-it notes with compliments or uplifting messages.  Lockers were decorated with uplifting notes and compliments as well.  Students and staff were encouraged to take the Ten Day Challenge.

The Ten Day Challenge

Thanks to my colleague, Tony Suchanek, the momentum continued.  Tony is a 6th grade teacher in our school who started and leads our Diversity Club.  He took the ideas from The Hero Roundtable Conference to this club and we had a movement!

Fast Forward To This Weekend

The Diversity Club organized an event to make an even bigger impact. They organized the first annual, "Bye Bye Bystander, Hello Hero Celebration".  I attended this celebration on Saturday.  As participants arrived, they signed in to the guest book and noted the time.  When we left, we signed out and noted the time. These logs will be used to determine how many people were involved as well as how many total minutes people stood up against bullying.  There were problem-solving games like untangling a human knot and uplifting games like a compliment web.  Students sang and danced.  Three of our 8th grade students rocked the house as their band played rock classics from the 80's.

Most moving for all though, were the stories shared during open mic time.  Some shared stories about feeling worthless because of how others had picked on them to the point that they wondered if life was worth living.  Others shared stories of knowing you are different and celebrating those differences anyways.  A parent took the mic and explained to students that our attitude is not a feeling, rather a choice.  He told us that we can choose kindness.  In between stories, videos were shown about people who took action as heroes like the story of the Olivet Middle School Football team who planned to make a classmates day, to make his week, to make him happy.

Inspirational messages were also shared from across the world from people like Matt Langdon, Jeremiah Anthony and Ethan King.  They encouraged the students to keep standing and doing the right thing.

Now What?

I wasn't the only one impacted by this event.  A ripple of kindness is spreading.  I know this because three students have started an Instagram account that they call SCMS_Hero.


This is one example of how the event made an impact on those who attended.  I wonder how many other people, both students and adults, left the event thinking, "I will not stand by, I will STAND UP when I see someone in need."   I am excited to see what the future holds for my community because I know that this is not the end.  It is the beginning.  The beginning of a movement where people look out for each other.  Where people look at one another and say, "I see you and I got your back!"

Almost 1,000 Swartz Creek Middle School students and staff wearing their #SCMShero T shirts

Want To Learn More?

Tony Suchanek will bring students from our Diversity Club to share on July 29, in Swartz Creek, Michigan at the COLchat To Action Conference.  Come meet these heroes in person and learn how you can start a movement in your school!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Letter To My Son On His 13th Birthday

By Michele Corbat

Dear Brady,

Today is a special day.  Today you are thirteen!  It does not seem possible that you are turning thirteen.  It was only yesterday that I was in labor with you for 15 hours...scared...and hoping that you would be healthy.  It took forever for you to be born. I was exhausted and almost to the point of giving up, telling the doctor that I couldn't push any more. However, I found the energy to try to push one more time and finally you were born (only four minutes from Friday the 13th).  As exhausted as I was, all of that faded away the moment the doctor handed you to me, my beautiful son. You had jet black hair and the biggest blue eyes.  You were amazing, so tiny and perfect and beautiful and such a gift from God.  I have been more amazed by you as you have grown.  I thank God in trusting me with the gift of being your mother.

The past 13 years have definitely been the most blessed learning experience in my entire life. I am certain that I will continue learning from you in the years to come.  You have taught me how to love unconditionally not expecting anything in return, how to enjoy the small things in life, how to be carefree.  All the way home from our vacation today, my mind was flooded with memories as I was driving.  The times we danced in the living room with the stereo blaring, the times you'd help me 'clean' with your mini-vacuum, when I found you hiding behind the recliner using nose hair trimmers to shave your head, playing grocery store and McDonalds with you in our basement, your first day of school as I cried my eyes out putting you on the bus, watching you play tee-ball (picking weeds), then baseball (hustling behind the plate as catcher), cracking up at your spot-on impersonations, watching you act as the third parent for Austin (#firstbornprobs) and watching you comfort him when times have been difficult. The list is endless.  Thank you! You have made my life worthwhile. You have been one of the brightest lights of my life.

Someday I hope you look back and read this letter with a different perspective than you do today. As you begin your journey as a teenager I want you to know a few things. 

1.  Stay close to God in all times.  When you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, talk to Him.  When you are feeling blessed and thankful, talk to Him.  Change is constant and life is short.  God will be with you through it all.

2.  Dad and I love you.  There are going to be times that it may seem that we are 'lame' when you ask to do something that 'all of your friends' are doing and we say no.  Please know that every decision we make is out of love.  We want the best for you and want to protect you. 

3.  Be a good big brother.  Austin ADORES you.  He watches everything you do and say, often imitating you.  Be a good role model for him.  When you make mistakes, admit them and then change your ways.  He is going to be there for you long after Dad and I are gone.  Make time for him.  Nurture your relationship with him.

4.  There are going to be girls that come and go in your life. There will be heartbreaks.  Choose the ones that are special to you. Most importantly, treat them with respect, and respect yourself. Treat every girl as God's property. Treat yourself as God's property.  Remember that you can talk to Dad and me for advice. 

5.  Be kind.  Be a great friend to others.  Be the person that people can count on and trust.  Treat people with respect and give everyone a chance.  Remember that everyone is fighting a battle we know nothing about. 

6.  There are going to be some rough times as a teenager.  There will be days when life is awesome, but there will be many that it seems the world is against you. In those days, I want you to remember, Dad and I have your back. Always. No matter what. Take it slow, you don't have to grow up overnight (even though you keep reminding me how many years until driver's training or college).

I am so proud of you! You bring joy to my heart and I love being your mother. Every day is a blessing and the best is yet to come.

Love you always and forever,


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Reflections on #MACUL14

by Michele Corbat

I attended the 2014 MACUL Conference along with some of my colleagues.  There were countless, amazing technology tools shared and I have an Evernote document loaded with these tools.  However, the tools were not my main take away from this conference.  My take away was the importance of establishing relationships and connections with one another.  Every keynote address and every session that I attended included stories about the power of connections and relationships.

My eyes welled with tears during  Adam Bellow's mind-blowing keynote address when he shared this video clip of John Berlin's emotional appeal to Facebook to unlock his late son's account. After his son passed away, John wanted to watch his son's "Look Back" video, and thankfully got the opportunity.  The technology enabled John to connect with his son one more time.  Adam reminded us that technology allows us to capture the meaningful experiences in life and to create the big ones.

Then I heard more stories from Todd Nesloney, better known on Twitter as TechNinjaTodd,  Todd shared his journey in creating a flipped project based learning classroom.  One of the first statements he made was, "Relationships are number one.  If you are not building relationships, then nothing I am saying will work in your classroom."  AMEN!  Todd told us about the Math Fair he does with his students and how it has been the highlight of his career.  I was inspired listening to him explain how proud the students were of their learning because they could choose their project based on their passion.  Todd understands the importance of establishing relationships with students and making his classroom a place where students want to be.

At the end of the first day of the conference, my last session was on Game Changing Apps by Drew Minock, Brad Waid and Todd Nesloney.  Once again, the power of connections came up.  One of the game changing apps the guys shared was Cargo-Bot.  Brad shared a story of one of his former students who was a mute.  This student talked to no one for years.  However, once this student was introduced to Cargo-Bot, he became inspired.  After several weeks of working with Cargo-Bot, this student spoke.  He was the first to volunteer his group to do a presentation to the class on Cargo-Bot.  He even led the presentation!  Brad explained that you never know what's going to impact, inspire or engage one of your students.  It could be a connection with technology.

Throughout the second day of the conference I continued to hear stories about the importance of relationships and connections from George Couros.  George told us about how his father, an immigrant from Greece, learned to use Facebook and FaceTime.  Why did he choose those tools?  Because he knew that was the way he would connect with his children and grandchildren.  He told the story of Alyssa, a seven year old girl from Australia whose father helped her start a blog.  Alyssa posted a video to her blog that George took at a Justin Bieber concert and her father tweeted it.  Teachers around the world commented on Alyssa's blog and she would rush home from school each day to read the comments.  The power of connections using technology inspired and motivated this child to write more blog posts.

An idea was also born out of this conference.  An idea on encouraging other teachers and administrators to become connected.  Some of the #michEd crew including,  Todd Bloch, Jeff Bush, and Mike Kaechele connected with me at the end of the second day to ask if my #COLchat team would be interested in joining them in submitting a proposal to present at the 2014 Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals' Conference.  We set up a Google Hangout with my administrators and #COLchat co-moderators, Adam Hartley and Rodney Hetherton.  We are working on our proposal now and the focus will be how a culture of learning can be created through relationships and when educators are connected. 

George Couros said, "To inspire meaningful change you must make a connection to the heart."  It's about the relationships and connections that we make NOT about the technology itself.  We need to be sure that we are not missing the best part of the internet--the power of connections.  This is the big idea that I want to share with my colleagues when I return to school this week.  This is the big idea that will continue to be my focus with my school community.  I will take what I learned from MACUL14 and put it into action.  I will focus on relationships and connections. 

Thank you to all who spent countless hours organizing or preparing presentations for the MACUL14 conference.  I am grateful for the opportunity to have connected with so many passionate educators from Michigan and across the world!