Brave…Bravery…. The Bravest! What does brave really mean? Is someone brave for trying something new? Is someone brave for speaking up against something they truly know is wrong? Is putting your life on the line fighting in wars, fighting fires, or dealing with criminals considered brave? Can someone be brave without ever having fought for our country, joined the police force, or fought a fire?

As I contemplated my #oneword2018, the word BRAVE stuck in my head and played again and again on repeat.  Was I brave for trying new things in 2017 such as presenting on a webinar for the first time, traveling across the country to present in front of a live audience, or trying Sushi for the first time? Upon my reflection, the answer was clearly no but I wanted to identify bravery in today’s world and see if that was truly a word that I could live up to in 2018.

When thinking about the word Brave, there is one group of people who do not ever get the credit that they truly deserve.  This group is hard working, intelligent, giving beyond belief, and never asks for a thank you in return for their service.  This group of people are called Mothers. The definition of brave is, “Ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage.” If that does not describe this specific group, I have no idea what does.  As I look at all of the mothers in my world: my wife, my mother, my mother in law, my sister, my sister in law, cousins, and countless friends and colleagues, these are the most remarkable people that I know.  The challenges that they face on a daily basis are beyond what I would ever have to deal with in my line of work.  Each of them inspires me in their own way to be understanding, compassionate, to stand up for what I believe in, be a great father, and push the limits at work.  As I looked for my word for 2018, Brave had to be the choice for me out of the respect I have for these women alone.

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One of the biggest movements in 2017 was the #metoo movement made famous by @alyssa_milano but truly started more than 10 years ago by activist Tarana Burke.  As a father of a three-year-old daughter, I have read countless stories by the remarkable women who have had to deal with these acts of violence and harassment and were unable to speak about it for years.  In my eyes, each of these women are truly our heroes for 2017 as the culture of the world is about to change for the better.  Each of these women has empowered additional women to come forward with their individual stories. I pray that my daughter will grow up in a world in which women are treated equally regardless of their skin color, their weight, their clothing of choice, or their career choice.  For the first time in a long time, I believe on the backs of Tarana Burke, Alyssa Milano and the thousands of other women who are coming forward, this is will be a reality instead of a pipedream.  I think we would be silly to think that these issues were only taking place in Hollywood.  I believe there are countless women who go to work each day in every career and have to face these same issues.  I believe the education world will be a large part of this movement in 2018.  Each of these women are truly BRAVE for speaking up and attempting to change the world and I stand with them.

A few weeks back, @froehlichm wrote the best blog post of 2017(Destigmatizing the Depressed Educator)  that all educators should read if they have not already. When I began reading, I did not know what I was about to experience.  The writing was powerful and gave new meaning to the word RELATIONSHIPS within our school buildings.  Every day, there are staff members who enter our buildings and are dealing with way more internally that the average person would ever think about.  Not only was this an inspiring piece to write, but gave true meaning to the word BRAVE.  Mandy’s work has already started to eliminate the stigma attached to this serious issue as seen by the countless comments left about it all over Twitter. One of my goals for 2018 is to begin reading more blogs and be inspired by all of these courageous people who are willing to put their own personal feelings out there for the world to see and judge.

Every time when I walk by a police officer, fire fighter or soldier, I make sure to always say thank you.  One of the best moments of the year happened last week when I was at Six Flags Great Adventure with my family and my son noticed a Police captain in uniform.  My son loves police officers and has dressed as a member of SWAT for Halloween in the past.  He asked me if we could go up and say hello.  Upon walking up to the captain, my son was shy at first, but then said Thank You to him and asked if he could take a picture. During this freezing evening, not only was my family so proud of my son, but the police officer had the biggest smile on his face and told my son thank you for making his week. As we walked away, my son told me why police officers are so brave.  I believe as I raise my children, it is critical for them to understand what truly make someone brave both in and out of uniform.

I finally asked myself how I could be brave in my world.  I am not a mother, soldier, police officer, fire fighter, or activist.  I decided that being brave in life means being able to reflect on my own actions each and every day. It means taking the time out of my day to acknowledge my faults and work hard to be the best person that I can be. It means eating healthier, dedicating myself to working out every day even when I just do not have the time or will to. It means being able to have the difficult conversations at work or in life that will truly push the limits and force things to improve.

Being brave in education to me, means the willingness to encourage others to think so far outside of the box that it will allow our students to experience something that they never would have had the opportunity to do prior.  Being brave means getting up in front of your students and allowing yourself to not know all of the answers and be honest about it! Being brave means empowering your students to lead your class based upon discussions that will go so much deeper once we just get out of the way.

As I begin to attack 2018, I will do everything I can to stay focused on being brave personally and at work.  I will keep “The Bravest People I know” in my head at all times and know that if I slip, I will be letting all of them down.  I want to continue to grow and thrive in 2018, and being BRAVE will certainly put me on the right track.