I started writing Lyon’s Letters as emails in 2008 after attending an ASCD conference where I heard Robyn R. Jackson speak. To the best of what I can find in looking at the archived conference details, the session was titled, “Seven Leadership Behaviors That Promote Rigor, Equity, and Access.” I can’t begin to tell you why that session would spark a weekly email, but it did. Perhaps there was some part of the session that spoke to the importance of leaders communicating their values. I’m not sure. What I can say is that when I got back to the office, I sent out the first Lyon’s Letters entitled "Inspiration."
In 2011, I started a new job. If I wanted, I could have stopped writing Lyon's Letters emails. I didn't want to. At that point, I was three-years in and had received very positive feedback. I would often get several people who would write me back and I knew that my Catches of the Week at the end of each email had a big impact. As well, writing has always been a major component of my identity.
In 2015, I started another new job. If I wanted, I could have stopped writing Lyon's Letters emails. I didn't want to. This job was in a much bigger setting. Whereas in my previous jobs, there were 400-500 students total that I was connected to, in my new job, I was connected to about 2,500 students. Whereas before I was a building-based administrator, in my new job, I was a district-office administrator. I didn’t have the gumption at the time to email Lyon’s Letters to all of the building-based folks (like teachers, related service providers, clerical staff, etc.). Even so, I was directly connected to the principals, so they became my target audience. As a building-based person, my audience was about fifty people each week; suddenly, my audience was just five people. Though the size of my audience changed, my purpose was still the same—I wanted to share my values, thoughts, and influence on those with whom I worked closely.
Then, in early 2017, I attended a workshop where George Couros—author of the book Innovator's Mindset—spoke so powerfully about the importance of a Professional Learning Network (PLN). He shared that everyone should have a Professional Learning Community (PLC) of people that you physically work with and learn from and a PLN which is a larger, often virtual, group of people with whom you may not work directly but you can reach out to with questions. Couros also spoke about helping students understand the power of their influence through digital tools and social media. In fact, the second LyonsLetters.com blog post, “Innovation 4: Networked,” is about the influence Jackson and Couros had on me; because of Jackson, I started writing Lyon’s Letters and because of Couros, I started LyonsLetters.com.
I have to admit, though I love writing, it’s a commitment to do so every week. In fact, there was a point in 2017/2018 when I did stop. I was overwhelmed by the things that I had to do. Though I really enjoy writing, it started to feel like it was yet one more thing that was on the to-do list and I needed to winnow down the list. I was fortunate because I shared my challenge with a colleague who encouraged me to stop doing things that were unnecessary. That was so difficult at the time. I really enjoy my work and the things I tend to like less (or not at all) are not things I had the ability to stop doing. Even so, I realized that there were things in my life I was choosing to do because I liked them even though they prevented me from doing things I love (like being with my family). So, Lyon’s Letters was put on pause.
In 2019, I started really writing Lyon's Letters again. This was a year into my current job. I wanted to get a feel for the district before I started lobbing out Letters. In 2019, I also realized that I had been paying for my website but didn't set it up under the address www.LyonsLetters.com; I was still posting to the site whose address was the much longer and clunkier free version. Unfortunately, it was not easy to transfer the posts from the free site to the paid version so, I dedicated time to just copying and pasting.
Now, in 2021, I recently was the “guest author” in a Creative Writing class. I was honored to have the opportunity to speak with high school students about writing. I was eager to hear about their writing and to answer any questions they had about my writing pathway. While there, I learned that they read Stephen King’s book, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. Because of them, I read King’s book too. This paragraph from the book struck me and I wanted to share it with you.
You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair—the sense that you can never completely put on the page what’s in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say that again: you must not come lightly to the blank page (p. 106, emphasis in the original).
I’m thinking about writing and Lyon’s Letters because even though there are more Lyon’s Letters than I can count now that I'm over a decade in, today’s post is my 100th blog post! While that’s very exciting to me, I want to share some of the lessons I’ve learned over the past 100 posts.
Don’t sacrifice the people you love for the things you love. The demands of my time ebb and flow. If I’m not spending enough time with the people in my life, the things that I choose to spend my time with will need to wait.
If you like to write, you will write. My audience at first was literally zero on this blog. I still have old posts that have no views. I wasn’t writing to become famous, I wrote because it was in me and wanted to get out. I write because I like to write.
Having an audience matters. While I like to write, if I'm writing for a blog, I also like to have readers. Anyone who takes the time to write on a blog is a liar if they say that they don't care if anyone reads what they write. If you're writing publicly, you want your writing to be read. If I'm being honest, there is a thrill to know that my words are being read by you. That relationship between the writer and reader is reciprocal. I appreciate the accountability that comes from knowing that someone will read my work. Even better, I love feedback!
Be patient. I don’t know what overnight success looks like, so that’s not a yardstick I need to measure myself against. I will find my audience and they will find me.
Be influential. I never know who will read what I write, but I do know that if I’m going to take the time to do so, I want my words to matter. If you ask my kids, I am not cool nor current, but I do understand what an influencer is (we may have called that peer pressure when I was in school). I want to have positive peer pressure with my words. I have a platform so I’m going to use it for good. Whatever your platform is, remember you have one and use if for good.
Be honest. Anyone who knows me knows ME. That is to say, I'm really good at being myself and really bad at being insincere. For that reason, I am willing to be raw, take risks, and go for it because what you see is what you get. If I can't do that, it's not worth the time.
I have not come to this lightly. Thank you for coming with me.
P.S. This week, I've asked Rachelle Dene Poth, Spanish and STEAM Educator, Consultant, and Attorney, author of books including In Other Words, Unconventional Ways to Thrive in EDU, The Future is Now, Chart A New Course, True Story: Lessons That One Kid Taught Us, Your World Language Classroom, and her newest book Things I Wish [...] Knew for a catch. Here's what she caught... Check out Spaces EDU for creating digital portfolios, extending class discussions, using for PBL and so much more for tracking student growth! But beyond using it in your classroom, join the Spaces Spacetronauts Community, a fantastic community to share ideas and gather resources and become part of a global PLN. There are questions posted, webinars and other fun activities shared and even prizes too! But most importantly, it is a welcoming community to connect with and learn from educators around the world! Join Spacetronauts today! See you there!