Don Shomette

People are the Prize


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You Matter That Much

We’ve gotten terrible about giving others our undivided attention. We can’t go a few minutes without checking our emails, texts, or voice mails—even when we’re engaged in a conversation, meeting, or event.

It’s crazy.

Once I was in a meeting with the Mayor of Washington DC and 4 of the 7 people contributing to the conversation were texting. I have no idea the value of their texting. Maybe they were engaged in meaningful actions, but the behavior has become so normal that no one at the meeting thought it was odd. Not even the mayor, who talked around the texting.

Pay AttentionThe next time someone, especially a student, is trying to talk to you, stop what you’re doing and turn towards them. Put your hands down and look them in the eyes and listen to them. If you’re outside and wearing sunglasses, take them off. If your day is so busy that you can’t even focus your thoughts on what they’re saying, try repeating their words in your head. It’s a great technique that forces you to be there in that moment and to listen. Abraham Lincoln used to do something very similar.

We have to do more than just say we care. We have to prove it. Today, when someone needs you to hear them, give them your undivided attention. Not a little bit of it—all of it. Every time you do, you’re proving to that person that, “You matter that much.”


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Every Student Must Have One…

Ask your students to answer this one question.

Which adult in the school, if any, would you go to if you were afraid and needed help?

This exercise doesn’t have to be fancy. Just their name and answer on a sheet of paper. Collect them up when finished and compile the data. You could also ask the older grades to explain why they chose this adult. (Imagine the fantastic professional development training you could create from this information).

In 75% of the school attacks, at least one student has known about it prior to the attack BUT didn’t come forward. We don’t know the exact reason why they didn’t come forward, but it cannot be because they didn’t have an adult they trusted. Every student must have at least one adult in the building that they can go to if they are afraid and need help. The only way to be certain is to ask. Take the five minutes and find out. This is too important not to know and to leave uncorrected.


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What Do You See Wednesday? (11/20/13)

Check out the comments to read what others have seen!

Being able to spot what is safe and unsafe takes practice. And experience is invaluable. We’re going to post a new picture each Wednesday and after everyone has had a chance to comment, we’ll post what we see.

(Sorry for the delay. I’ve been presenting in NY and wasn’t able to post it until today.)

From the picture, What can we tell about their policy and procedures, control, leadership, as well as current safety measures for the students and teachers. What, if anything, would make it safer?

As always, assess how well this school is using the three strategies of CPTED (‘septed’) or Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design:

1. Surveillance: The ability to clearly see a potential threat
2. Access Control: The ability to deny and delay access of unwanted persons into the school and/or school grounds
3. Ownership: Sending a clear message that the space belongs to the school

So what do you see?

cafeteria


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When Do You Call for Help?

How about when you have three vehicles worth millions of dollars and thirty Marines hopelessly stuck on a treacherous mountain in the blazing heat of the Yakima Desert? That’s when I called for help.

It was a training exercise and I was going to surprise another unit by coming over the hill instead of going around it.  Up we went and the vehicles made great progress until the fuel filters, empty of fuel because of the steep slope, burned out and were no longer able to push gas to the engines.  One by one the engines sputtered to a stop and the 18,000 pound vehicles became giant metal rocks on the side of a mountain.  You might be thinking, just roll them back down the hill.  Unfortunately, it’s not that easy.  That much weight requires air brakes which only work if the engines are running.

Having no idea I had burned out the fuel filters, I tried and tried to fix the problem.  Finally, I threw in the towel and called for help.

Soon my boss arrived and made the trek up the hill.  When he reached the top, I tried to explain but he raised a hand to tell me to wait until he caught his breath.  Bent over with his hands resting on his knees, he surveyed the mess.

When he looked up, he found my eyes and said, “That was boneheaded.”

I tried to explain, but once again he cut me off.

“Is anyone hurt?”
“No, sir.”

“Would you do this in combat?”
“Yes, sir.”

He righted himself and said, “Okay, let’s fix it.”

Most leaders would have fixated on the problem.  They would have screamed and shouted, cussed and made threats of punishment.  Instead, he fixated on the person—me—and from it I learned a valuable lesson.  I learned that the person is more important than the mistake.

Some things are difficult to work through and can require a lot of clean up.  Sometimes your hands are tied and you feel you have little choice.  But if no one gets hurt, and you have the ability to make a choice—always choose the person over the mistake.

Trust me, they will never forget it.


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“How Do You Get To Carnegie Hall?”

A man carrying a violin walks up to a police officer in New York City and asks, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?”

The police officer looks at the violin and responds, “Practice man, practice!”

Psychologist Anders Ericsson conducted a study in the early 1990’s to determine what separated good musicians from excellent musicians.  He looked at the lead chairs in the world’s greatest symphonies and what he discovered was astonishing…and very encouraging.  Like their fellow musicians, the lead chairs had been playing from an early age, possessed the highest quality of instruments, and had studied at the most prestigious music academies.  Lead ChairThe only difference was that the lead chairs had practiced more.  Each had racked up at least ten thousand hours while the second and third chairs had put in considerably fewer hours.  It seems that the real difference that separated the outstanding from the elite or even the good from the great, was simply more practice.

It can’t be that easy—can it?

Yes and no.  You have to practice the right thing, the right way, at the right time.  Bad practice won’t make you great.  It cannot simply be time spent, but time invested well.  The problem is that the world seems to only want the short cut—the technique—the trick—for getting the results without having to spend the time to acquire the skills.  What’s disheartening is that we have trained our young people to want the instant success without the effort that greatness requires.  Partly because we want to make life as easy as we can for our kids, which in the long run is actually making life harder, and partly because we’ve modeled this in our own behavior.  We want to lose weight, have a great marriage, get a great job, make really good money—and we want to do it with the least amount of effort.

Unfortunately, that’s not how it works regardless of how much we wish it did.

There is no short cut to successSo ask yourself, what do you really want?  Great family, great schools, great school climates, to be a great leader, to make a difference, to have safer schools?  These only come with practice.  There is no short cut around the fact that you and I, our families and schools, will have to practice if we want to occupy that lead chair.


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“A Cop is Never Cold, Wet, or Hungry.”

Have you ever heard this phrase?  Maybe you’ve even said it a few times yourself.

For the record, the phrase is incomplete.  There’s a word missing that, when added, radically changes everything.  If you don’t know the word, here’s a clue.

A _ _ _ _ cop is never cold, wet, or hungry.

Did that help?

What is missing from this phrase--a cop is never wet, cold, or hungry?In the days when police officers walked a beat, the phrase was “a good cop is never cold, wet, or hungry.”  When technology changed in the 1970’s and officers climbed inside cruisers, the ‘good’ was dropped.  Not because officers didn’t think it was necessary to be good anymore.  The cruiser simply created a shift in reliance.  When walking a beat, the police officer had to rely on the neighborhood to help meet some of his basic needs.  If you were a lazy jerk no one was going to open up their home to get you out of the cold or the rain and they certainly weren’t going to feed you.  Therefore, an officer’s behavior had a direct correlation to his or her level of comfort.  If you were a good cop, the community ensured that you were never cold, wet, or hungry.  They took care of you because you took care of them.

Now, if you’re cold, wet, or hungry, you just hop in your cruiser and take care of it yourself.  You don’t have to be a good cop to be warm, dry, and fed.

I’m not advocating a return to the beat cop.  Certainly the beat cop still has a place today in the total package of police services, but I don’t think it would work on the large scale other than the SRO program for a variety of reasons.  What I am advocating for is a return to an old but favorable mindset.  Namely, that the police and the community are dependent on each other and the concept of my happiness being interconnected with your happiness.  Police officers must behave as if everything counts on how they treat their neighborhood.

In other words, you have to be a good cop and not just a cop.


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What Do You See Wednesday Nov 6, 2013?

Check out the comments to read what others have seen!

Being able to spot what is safe and unsafe takes practice. And experience is invaluable. We’re going to post a new picture each Wednesday and after everyone has had a chance to comment, we’ll post what we see.

This picture was taken during morning arrival.  How does it look?  What can we tell about their policy and procedures, control, leadership, as well as current safety measures for the students and teachers.  What, if anything, would make it safer?

There is a lot happening here!

As always, assess how well this school is using the three strategies of CPTED (‘septed’) or Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design:

1. Surveillance: The ability to clearly see a potential threat
2. Access Control: The ability to deny and delay access of unwanted persons into the school and/or school grounds
3. Ownership: Sending a clear message that the space belongs to the school

So what do you see?

Safe or unsafe?  What is good and what could be improved?