Who says you can’t go home?

This is the title to a song that was written by Bon Jovi while also performed by Bon Jovi and Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland back in 2006.  My favorite part of the song is the verse below:
Who says you can’t go home
There’s only one place they call me one of their own
Just a hometown boy, born a rolling stone, who says you can’t go home
Who says you can’t go back, been all around the world and as a matter of fact
There’s only one place left I want to go, who says you can’t go home
It’s alright, it’s alright, it’s alright, it’s alright, its alright
I titled this post after the song and included it’s lyrics in this post to reflect upon an opportunity I had on June 6th 2014 of speaking at the graduation for West Central Learning Academy II (WCLA) in Lima, Ohio.  WCLA is an online charter school that serves students in grades 7-12 who reside within a 50 mile radius of their office.  WCLA is also the school that I graduated from in 2005 and returned in 2007 as the technology coordinator.  When I left in 2011 for a different job I had spent eight years total involved with the school.  Leaving in 2011 also marked my leaving of the Lima community to which I had called home for the last 24 years and with it the friends, family and experiences.  I had been home countless times between 2011 and 2014 but this time felt different.  It was also an opportunity to travel back through my hometown and look at the places that were mainstays in my life growing up.  I drove past the hockey rink, my childhood home and many other places all which played a large role in my life.
I spoke to the graduates about my education experiences after I left WCLA and how those education experiences have led me to where I am today.  The main item I wanted to drive home to the students was the fact that it is easy to think you have a career or life path figured out but when you reflect upon the choices you made years later it doesn’t look like any thing you had planned.  Additionally I told them that while they will be graduating from high school tonight this is not the end of their learning.  Learning is a 24x7x365 process and you will learn until you die.  I told them that some day I will no longer be able to play hockey or ride roller coasters but I will never stop learning.  In 2005 when I graduated I would never have guessed that my focus and career was going to be based in the education field.  I shared with them that it is good to have a plan and know what you want to do but don’t believe that plan is set in stone.  Be willing to be flexible.
Enough about me.  The night was special because a graduate and former student was in the audience and the graduating class was comprised of two students who were some of the last that I worked with at WCLA before taking the job.  The graduate in the audience is finishing up her bachelors degree and she is certified in Missouri to be a sign language interpreter.  She plans to continue in the field of study.  I had last seen her when she graduated so it was a pleasant surprise and a chance to catch up.
A graduate that evening has a passion for racing and painting of race cars.  He has faced many challenges in his life but he graduated.  He came up to me and we started talking like it was 2011 and we hadn’t missed a beat.  His grandmother stopped me after the graduation ceremony to say Thank You.  I asked for what?  She said for believing in him, for being patient with him, for listening to him, for talking with him, for being an education option and helping him along the way to graduation.  I replied and said he did all the hard work and I didn’t have any major role in it.  She said you had a larger role that you realize and learn to take a compliment.
The interaction I had with her and the others throughout the night was a reminder to me of why I am in education.  When I worked in factory IT for the brief 3 months, I didn’t feel that my contribution was having an impact on any one.  It was a job that I couldn’t visualize doing for the next 30 – 35 years or more.  My work in education though has me seeing the impact on student lives.
So I ask the question again…Who says you can’t go home?

Anticipatory Customer Service

An article appeared in one of the sources I read a few days back and it involved an amusement park.  As I am a roller coaster junkie I was intrigued and started reading.  The article was about the customer service aspect of the amusement park industry.  The author mentioned that he had just secured an ice cream cone only to drop as he was walking away.  The team at Six Flags quickly sprung into action and had another ice cream cone ready for him before he even asked.
As we all know theme parks are typically seasonal operations and as a roller coaster junkie the words “Off Season” are dreaded because it means no more coaster riding for a while.  On the other side of that theme parks are seasonal operations and with that come traditions.  Families build traditions and theme parks are centered around those traditions so as a theme park operator you want the experiences those families have in the summer months to become memories during the off season so that when the new season rolls around they return to your park. He then stated the words in the article that stuck out to me and had me asking the question, how can we practice anticipatory customer service within a school so that the experiences of our students, staff and parents be a positive venture and one that makes them want to come back to us after the “off season” is over?  The words he typed were:
“Then you drop your cone: you do a total cone-plant on the midway. It’s such a simple, prosaic accident, but it can tarnish your whole day, or at least your memories of the day. And memories are all-important to a theme park operator like Six Flags. The mental snapshot stored in memory during the winter months needs to be a positive one, so that when the weather turns summery their customers will hurry back to the parks, bringing new generation after new generation with them.”
Where does the process start?  What does the process look like?  What are the common questions or problems that always come about?  How we can design our processes to be responsive before the student, parent or staff even have to say something about a situation?  How can we help develop those positive memories?