Saturday, September 13, 2014

Put the Love in Education

Let's face it. I don't really do anything in the traditional way. Why would I lead as a principal in a traditional way? While it may be customary to not blur one's "professional" life with one's "personal" life, I can't seem to separate the two. You see, I am not two people. I am just plain ole' Amy Casey. My life is an open book and love fills my heart. I bring this love to my school, my staff, my students and their families.

I love my school and my people. And yes, I tell them that. I tell teachers that I love them. I tell students that I love them. Because I do. And this love is not a fluffy, surface level, "puppies and rainbows" kind of love. This love is the kind that holds people accountable, while lifting them up…not tearing them down. This love is the kind of love that says, "you may not have gotten it today, but I believe you will get it tomorrow." This love is the kind of love that says, "I am not looking for perfection, but I am looking for the best you can do." This is the kind of love that nudges people to fulfill their potential rather than pushing them over the edge.

Indeed, love is patient and kind. It is not rude or arrogant. It does not insist on its own way. While I have not reached mastery in this endeavor, it is how I strive to lead. I am a human being and on occasion that humanness just comes right on out. However, when I have done my best to lead from this place of love and I have a human slip up, I find that my staff and students are much more inclined to forgive me. In love. Because what goes around…comes around.

This love that I have for my learning community is all about connection. I feel connected to my staff, students and family. They are my "village," my "tribe," my "family." Heck, I actually get to spend more time with them than I do with my own flesh and blood family. So our school BETTER be a good place to be. Not perfect, but a wonderful place to learn and grow together.

So while some might possess a leadership style that is much more "professional" than mine, I have found that love is my way. Namaste dear friends!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Origin of a Geek

I just finished a fantastic weekend! Planet Comicon 2014. It was an incredible weekend and I met some of my favorite Sci-Fi icons. This experience actually caused me to do some self-reflection. How did I tend to this secret love affair with Science Fiction and what caused me to finally come out of the closet? Well, it goes back to the days of the original Star Trek.

As a young girl, I would sneak in episodes of Star Trek. And yes, I mean sneak. I was absolutely captivated by the encounters of the crew with different life forms and the multi-cultural nature of the crew. I was always hungry for the next episode, but didn't want anyone to know. It really wasn't acceptable for a young girl to be interested in such things. Especially a young girl from St. Joseph, Mo. I remember actually pretending NOT to watch the show while soaking in every single minute.  I never discussed the episodes with my family, nor was it a topic of conversation with my friends. There was just something empowering about "boldly going where no man had gone before." But it wasn't just men. There were women, too.

By the time I hit middle school, I was very proud to be a straight A student, but I was also feeling a little rebellious. I proudly declared a Cyndi Lauper day in which I was promptly sent home to change clothes because I was causing a disruption to our learning. I didn't really mean to disrupt learning…I loved learning. But I also loved socializing. I was able to socialize by being on the yearbook team and through cheerleading. These were quite "acceptable" activities for a young lady to pursue. I easily became friends with people from all walks of life. I particularly enjoyed talking with some of the guys about D & D. I was actually lost during most of these conversations, having no background knowledge of D & D other than what I was taught at church. I was taught that D & D was of the devil, yet I found myself being reeled into their conversations regardless. And while some people might have called these guys nerds, I found them to be some pretty cool friends.

I participated in honors classes in High School, but most of the people in my classes were much smarter than me! I could not figure out who the heck I was! I was a cheerleader, in Biology Club, Latin Club, Show Choir and the High School Musicals. I was on the school newspaper and excelled with my History and English classes but struggled a bit through my Science and Math classes. Ok, well I struggled A LOT with my math classes. I was working desperately at being who everyone expected me to be. But I left the most important person out…me.

Many things happened between High School graduation and Comicon 2014. Most notably, I became an avid fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation and did not hide it, I began playing D&D (Pathfinder, actually), completed my Ph.D., binged on every episode of Big Bang Theory, caught up with Firefly, watched Monty Python, as well as several other Sci-Fi shows. I have planned and hosted several themed-based parties (Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean, Zombie Apocolypse, Secret Agent, Steam Punk, etc.) and dressed all out for every single one. I jumped up and down with glee as I hugged the neck of Jonathan Frakes, and got a tear in my eye as I shook the hand of Marina Sirtis. These people represent a part of myself that I have learned to embrace whole heartedly. It was actually quite spiritual.

The passing of time has given me the gift of confidence as I no longer try to play the roles expected of me by others. Instead, I have learned to embrace who I am and not worry so much about what other people think. I must also thank my husband for allowing me to evolve. He and I spend endless hours talking about everything under the sun. He is a brilliant game master who has been patient with me as I learn the intricate rules for D & D. He doesn't think I am goofy when I want to dress up (as in costumes) for events. Heck, he doesn't even mind when I make up events just so I can wear a costume!

I know that some people must look at me and scratch their heads. I am fine with that. I love this part of me…just as I love my "peace, love and happiness" part of me…my performer/vocalist/dancing queen part of me…and my serious educator part of me. Somehow it is just all goofy me. Amy Casey. Boldly out of the closet!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

I Got You Babe ~ The Secrets of My Happy Marriage

Nothing like a snow storm to give me time to think and write! Today I have been thinking about Mr. Casey and the things that make us work so well together. I thought I would take a moment and share. :)

1. We don't NEED each other, we WANT each other. When I was younger, I thought I needed a husband to make me complete and happy. My head was full of all those sappy, romantic books that promoted the idea that you could find true happiness if you could only find the right partner. I believed that somehow I was incomplete as just me. I needed someone to complete my soul…blah, blah, blah. After my first marriage of 11 years ended, I was stuck with just myself. I took some time to explore who I truly was and fell in love again. Only this time, it was with Amy Dragoo. I was actually a pretty cool person. I became exceedingly independent and knew exactly what I wanted and didn't want in a relationship (that doesn't mean I always got what I wanted, however). By the time Shawn Casey proposed to me, we both had a good idea of precisely what we wanted in our marriage. We were both independent people who were quite capable of taking care of ourselves and we didn't necessarily NEED another human being in our lives, but we sure WANTED one another.

2. We don't try to change each other. We dated for two years before getting married. I knew, for a fact, that Shawn Casey loved to play computer games. A lot. He knew that I loved to sing. A lot. There are times that he might play computer games into the wee hours of the night, but I am not going to nag him about it. It is his thing and he really enjoys it. It brings ME joy to see HIM enjoying himself. There are times that I sing into the wee hours of the night. He doesn't nag me about it. He knows that performing feeds my soul. He loves to see me happy.

3. We bring balance to one another. I am an Aquarius. All the way. My head is often in the clouds. I love a new adventure and I am deeply spiritual. Shawn is a Taurus. He is reliable, predictable and deeply intellectual. That is not to say that Shawn is not spiritual and I am not intellectual - but when we interact with one another, we have a way of balancing each other in the most complimentary way. He is the earth to my air ~ he grounds me and I lift him up. He is my safe haven and I am his thrilling expedition.

4. We keep our money separate. I know this doesn't sound terribly romantic. It has nothing to do with trust or the lack thereof. It goes back to point number one. He doesn't need my money and I don't need his. We seriously NEVER argue about money.

5. We laugh. We play. We try new things. Sometimes we chase each other around the house. I have this weird thing about my belly button. I don't want anyone touching it. He acts like he is going to touch it...but he doesn't. Then we laugh. (I know…we are weird). We play "name that tune." I dance and he laughs at me. He dances, and I laugh at him. We use puns, we tell really horrible jokes. We love trying new restaurants. I started gaming (role playing) with him. We go to fun places on vacation. We have great sex! We zip lined. We go on float trips. We go camping. You get the idea.

6. We spend time together. See number 5.

7. We talk to each other. And I mean a lot. We talk about religion, spirituality, politics, education, technology, Big Bang Theory, diversity, racism, Network Engineering, vegan diets, books, zombies, Ayurveda, yoga, fitness, Star Trek, Obama, Pathfinders, music, wine, scotch, beer, vacation, Key West, charities, friends, relationships, sex, parenting, the devil, God, chakras, crystals, computer games, gadgets, family, the environment, climate change, gardening, house projects, science, evolution, wellness, heroes, dreams…the list goes on and on.

8. We have little rituals. Sunday mornings are sacred for us. We sleep late and then partake in numbers 5, 6, and 7! We love cooking together. We go to the Bier Station and he orders the newest craft beer on tap while I order the Malbec wine every single time. We like to game on Sunday nights. We love to watch "Hell's Kitchen," "Master Chef," and "Big Bang Theory" together. He washes the laundry and I fold it. We text each other every single day.

9. We have left some mystery in our marriage. Basically - we do not perform bodily functions in front of one another. As far as he is concerned, I don't do that. Even after being together 14 years! LOL! :) That may be "too much information" for this blog - but - I am totally serious. I like having a little mystery!

I am sure there are many more things that I have not thought to share here. Perhaps I will come back tomorrow with number 10. And I am sure if you compare this list with the "research," you will find some similarities and perhaps you will find some oddities. Nevertheless, I am certainly blessed to be married to my very best friend on planet earth.

[HIM:] I got you to hold my hand
[HER:] I got you to understand
[HIM:] I got you to walk with me
[HER:] I got you to talk with me
[HIM:] I got you to kiss goodnight
[HER:] I got you to hold me tight
[HIM:] I got you, I won't let go
[HER:] I got you to love me so

[BOTH:] I got you babe
I got you babe
I got you babe
I got you babe
I got you babe

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Highlights of My 2013

2013 was a big year for me. By far, the greatest achievement of 2013 was completing my dissertation, defending it, and walking out of that room as Dr. Amy Casey. There were so many days I just wasn't sure I could complete the rigorous process! The encouragement from family and friends helped to keep me on my path. But it was also the research ~ the moment I realized there was a gap in the literature regarding changing beliefs and attitudes about culturally responsive teaching, I was re-inspired to finish!  My research would add to the body of literature and knowledge regarding diversity issues…a subject I am passionate about! There will be more research to come!

Following my defense, I took Mr. Casey and Miss Alexis to Jamaica. It was my way of thanking them both for putting up with my butt being in school for an eternity! Up until May of 2013, Shawn Casey had no idea what it was like to be with me when I was not in school. No joke. And Miss Alexis really didn't know what it was like either. I have been in school since she was 4 years old. And she has seen me graduate three times in her lifetime!

We immediately fell in love with Jamaica. I spent lots of hours right next to the ocean on a hammock trying to recover from the intensity of the previous months. We enjoyed dancing in the evening, beach volleyball and snorkeling during the day, as well as incredible food around the clock! I was so grateful for these two people in my life. It was truly a highlight of my life (not just 2013) to have these experiences with the two of them!

In August, my baby girl became a SENIOR. What?! How did that happen? Then she got a job and then she got a car! It seemed like I blinked and BAM! She is all grown up! She is a good human being. :) She has a heart of gold and a good head on her shoulders. Don't get me wrong. She IS a teen-ager. So…you know. But all in all, I can't complain too much. :)

In September I actually took TWO WHOLE DAYS off from work to celebrate my beautiful sister's 40th birthday! Carrie, Erick, Shawn and I spent four days in the Riviera Maya, Mexico. Once again, the magnificent ocean reminded me to slow down a bit and enjoy a slower pace. Ocean walks, froo-froo pineapple drinks, and a romantic ocean-side dinner were a most awesome way to celebrate a most awesome woman! :) The highlight of this vacation was our excursion to Tulum and Xel-Ha. The ruins and view of the ocean at Tulum were breathtaking! Xel-Ha was just plain fun! We tubed through mangroves, enjoyed snorkeling and zip-lining over the water and watched Erick jump off a cliff! We also enjoyed some authentic Mexican food and Mexican coffee! Yum! Then back to reality.

October brought our annual trip to Herman for Octoberfest. This is always a time of good friends, good food, and good wine! We stumbled across a wonderful find off the beaten path this year! Bommarito Estate Winery had excellent wine and was so quaint! We were able to visit with the owners a bit before packing up for our communal dinner that evening. It was a riot to watch so many couples try to put a dinner together in one kitchen! But success! The meal was incredible and the friendship even better! The bonfire at the end of the night was the sweet ending to a perfect weekend getaway!

Throughout the year on most Sunday nights, I have been amused by the unexpected enjoyment of gaming with a group of fantastic friends. What started out as a simple act of love for my husband Shawn Casey, has led to a new past-time. You see, he is always willing to try crazy things that I ask of him. Additionally, he supports me in my band endeavors, my education endeavors, my work endeavors…get the picture? I knew that in his past he enjoyed a lot of role-playing games that I did not have the slightest understanding of. In an attempt to show how supportive I could be in return, I started playing a Dungeons and Dragons like role-playing game called Pathfinders with my husband at the helm. During this time, I have found just how creative and brilliant my husband is as a game master and otherwise. It has given me a much needed break from reality on several occasions and I have enjoyed immensely the friendship and fellowship of this group.

Last night was a memorable way to wrap up 2013! Cherry Bomb played at The View@Briarcliff and the view truly was spectacular! With the cityscape as our backdrop we rang in the New Year with our spouses and ever loyal Cherry Bomb fans. I danced and sang my butt off next to my partner in crime and best friend, Natalie Wessel as the boys shredded their instruments!  I am blessed to be in a band with people I love! After 11 years, it still does not get old! I snuck kisses from Shawn Casey as often as I could throughout the night. Then the after party with the spouses was full of laughs, bad jokes, feet rubbing, scavenged 2 A.M. snacks, yoga and a few more drinks. I really couldn't ask for a better start to 2014! :)

The overarching theme of 2013 was time with family and friends of which I am so grateful! I am not sure what 2014 will hold, but I am looking forward to creating more precious moments with the people I love! <bows in gratitude>