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The year was 1862. To be more exact, it was May 12, 1862 when a 22-year-old slave by the name of Robert Smalls would courageously pull off one of the greatest escapes to freedom in history.


At that time, Union Naval forces had created a blockade around Charleston, South Carolina and Confederate forces had dug in to defend its coastal waters. Robert Smalls was a mulatto slave that had been sailing those waters since his early teens. He was a “wheelman” aboard the gunboat CSS Planter, a cotton steamer that had been heavily armed to go out into battle the next morning. The Planter was commanded by three white officers and had a crew of eight slaves including Smalls. Smalls was intelligent, resourceful, and a skillful navigator yearning to free himself and his family. On May 12, 1862 he saw an opportunity to do just that. Against regulations the three white officers disembarked the ship for the night, leaving Smalls and crew behind which shows how much they trusted Smalls and the crew.


After the officers were gone, Smalls shared his plan with the crew and went into action. At 2 a.m. on May 13, Smalls put on the captain’s uniform and straw hat to look the part . Then he and his skeleton crew hoisted the South Carolina and Confederate flags as decoys and begin easing the Planter out of the dock right past General Ripley’s headquarters. He first stops at West Atlantic Wharf to pick up his wife and children, four other women, three men, and a child.

There were five Confederate harbor points Smalls had to guide ship through. Over time he had studied every signal given by his Captain so he was well prepared for this moment. At approximately 4:30 a.m. Smalls had sailed past the last point at Fort Sumter when the alarms sounded, but by that time the Planter was out of gun range.


He had one more obstacle to overcome, the US Naval forces. After sailing past Fort Sumter, they pulled down the two flags and hoisted a white bed sheet brought on board by his wife as a sign of surrender. However, it was still before sunrise and John Frederick Nickels, the acting captain of the USS Onward, could not see the white flag, so he ordered for the “ports to open” meaning prepare to fire. Just before the order to fire, the sun came up and one lookout spotted the white “flag” preserving the Planter and her crew. Smalls’ turned the ship over to the US Navy. His escape plan had succeeded. 


Smalls would share with Naval intelligence the captain’s code book containing Confederate signals and a map of the mines and torpedoes laid in Charleston’s harbor. His shared his extensive knowledge of the Charleston waterways and military configurations. His valuable information allowed for Union forces to take over Coles Island and its string of batteries without a fight. 


Smalls would not only gain freedom for his family, but would go to serve in the U.S. Navy until 1968 when he began a career in politics. His first stint was in the South Carolina House of Representatives, then the state senate. In 1875, he would be elected to the U.S House of Representatives for South Carolina’s 5th district and then the 7th district until 1887.


While Smalls exhibited great courage that night of the escape, he had been preparing for that night long before. He had the courage and the foresight to prepare for that moment. He took courageous steps every day knowing the uncertainty and the dangers he would face. Yet he planned for it anyway. 


A lesson from his story can be summed up in a quote from an unknown source. 

“Sometimes life can be challenging and you can feel as though you are not getting anywhere. However, you have to remember that every courageous step counts and if you take small steps every day, one day you will get there.”


Posted by cestevens@hcps.us  On Oct 20, 2019 at 12:09 PM
  
Henry Ford, found of Ford Motor Company, said, "Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right."

Belief is self-fulfilling. In the mid-1990s, I studied and earned a master's degree in sport psychology from the University of Virginia. I was intrigued to learn that what separated the good athletes from the great athletes was their mindset and their belief, not their physical abilities and skills. But this doesn't just apply to athletes, it applies to everyone in the game of life. 

Alexander Lockhart writes in his book The Portable Pep Talk, the single most important attitude affecting human performance is belief in oneself. Anything you believe with feeling becomes your reality, turning the mental into the physical. The more intense belief, the more likely it will be true for you. 

When you believe without a shadow of a doubt that you can achieve great success, you develop an attitude that nothing can stop you. You develop habits consistent with what you desire to achieve and lose the habits that are inconsistent with what you want. Your success in life is in direct proportion to your daily habits which feed into your beliefs.

Gary Newell, founder and president of Outreach America, said, "people will doubt their beliefs, but believe their doubts." To turn that around, overcome your doubts by developing positive daily habits that will feed your belief and then have the stick-to-itiveness to never relinquish that belief.
Posted by cestevens@hcps.us  On Oct 13, 2019 at 6:43 PM
  

The year was 1874 when the United States Lifesaving Service, a forerunner of the U.S. Coast Guard came to the Outer Banks. That year they built the first seven of 29 Lifesaving Stations in North Carolina.

Political appointees first ran the stations for the Service, but they were soon replaced with more competent personnel regardless of race. Richard Etheridge, a black Civil War veteran living on the north end of Roanoke Island joined the Service at Oregon Inlet in 1875. 

Just five years later, Etheridge was appointed keeper of the Pea Island Station on what is now the north end of Hatteras Island. First LIeutenant Charles Shoemaker, who recommended Etheridge, stated that he was “one of the best surfmen on this part of the coast of North Carolina.”

When white subordinates quit, Etheridge recruited fellow black watermen from Roanoke Island. Pea Island became the only all-black lifesaving station in the country, a distinction it kept until it was decommissioned in 1947. 

Soon after Etheridge's appointment, the station burned down. Determined to execute his duties with expert commitment, Etheridge supervised the construction of a new station on the original site. He also developed rigorous lifesaving drills that enabled his crew to tackle all lifesaving tasks. His station earned the reputation of "one of the tautest on the Carolina Coast," with its keeper well-known as one of the most courageous and ingenious lifesavers in the Service.

The courage of this man come to the forefront in 1896.

On October 11, 1896, Etheridge's rigorous training drills proved to be invaluable. The three-masted schooner, the E.S. Newman, was caught in a terrifying storm. En route from Stonningham, Connecticut to Norfolk, Virginia, the vessel was blown 100 miles south off course and came ashore on the beach, two miles south of the Pea Island station. The storm was so severe that Etheridge had suspended normal beach patrols that day. But the alert eyes of one of his surfman, Theodore Meekins, saw the first distress flare and he immediately notified Etheridge. Etheridge gathered his crew and launched the surfboat. Battling the strong tide and sweeping currents, the dedicated lifesavers struggled to make their way to a point opposite the schooner, only to find there was no dry land. The daring, quick-witted Etheridge tied two of his strongest surfmen together and connected them to shore by a long line. They fought their way through the roaring waves and finally reached the schooner. The seemingly inexhaustible Pea Island crew members journeyed through the perilous waters ten times and rescued the entire crew of the E.S. Newman

The courage of Etheridge and his crew that day was immeasurable. They stepped up when others that they never knew before needed their help. Etheridge was also courageous by stepping up to take command of the Lifesaving Station during an era dominated by white men. When all of his subordinates quit, he could have given up and moved on, but that was not in his DNA. He had the courage to keep moving forward because he knew the value of his work.

What is the moral of this story? Courage is about stepping up. Stepping up to help others. Stepping up to add value to other people you may not even know. When you have the courage to put the needs of others first, you not only add value to their life, but you also add value to your own. 


Posted by cestevens@hcps.us  On Oct 06, 2019 at 8:27 AM
  
John Maxwell, a noted author and leadership coach, said," People who add value to others do so intentionally. I say that because to add value, leaders must give of themselves, and rarely that occurs by accident."

One simple way to add value to others is by lifting people up with your words. Your words have the power to raise people up or tear them down. Most people to some extent struggle with self-esteem. Use kind, encouraging, and uplifting words when speaking with others. You never know in what moment those words will be just what they need. 
Posted by cestevens@hcps.us  On Sep 29, 2019 at 5:56 PM
  
I completed a book in early August entitled The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson. One comment that stuck out to me was, "Simple daily disciplines - little productive actions, repeated consistently over time - add up to the difference between failure and success."

We are all creatures of habit. Some habits are good for us. Some are not so good for us. For instance, I had gotten into the habit of not getting physical activity every day. So I made a commitment to walk at least one intentional mile every day. Since Aug. 2 when I made the decision to do this, I have walked at least 1.5 miles daily and as much as 5 on some occasions. For real change to happen for me, I had to make it one of my daily disciplines or habits. 

Now this is not earth-shattering as there are people out there who exercise way more than I do. However, over the course of time this one action will greatly benefit my physical and mental health. 

I encourage you to take an inventory of what your daily habits are and determine which ones you should keep and which ones need to change. 
Posted by cestevens@hcps.us  On Sep 22, 2019 at 9:12 AM
  
Being kind is an intentional act that adds value to the life of other people.

The following is an excerpt from The Portable Pep Talk by Alexander Lockhart that "speaks" to the heart of kindness.

Wouldn't it be a different world if we could learn to become more caring and more unselfish. If someone were to pay you ten cents for every kind word or act that you said or did and collect five cents for every kind word or act, would you be rich or poor? Sharing kindness with others is the most rewarding and fulfilling act you can do. 

Kindness is always returned to the one who sends it out. You reap just what you sow. What you do to and for others tends to come back to you. It has been said that kindness is a hard thing to give away because it keeps coming back to the giver. By helping other people and by doing kind things for them, you will experience an inward satisfaction and joy that is immeasurable. 

There is nothing more comforting, more gratifying than knowing that through a kind word or act you made someone else's day a little brighter or someone else's life a little easier. A kind and generous act will go further, last longer, and be remembered long after the prism of politeness or the complexion of courtesy has faded away.


Check out this one minute video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNXkV1UkGkE, We Rise by Lifting Others.
Posted by cestevens@hcps.us  On Sep 15, 2019 at 1:20 PM
  
We are typically motivated by what we "get to do," because they are desired opportunities. We get to watch our favorite shows on cable, NetFlix, or YouTube. We get to hang out with friends. We get to take a nap on a Sunday afternoon. Things that we "get to do" often make us happy.

In an Aug. 2, 2018 article of Business Insider, 17 Seriously Disturbing Facts about Your Job, the author wrote that 80% of US workers were dissatisfied with their jobs. Translation: Something they "have to do" versus something they "get to do." 

When you "have to do" something, there is less motivation and desire toward the task at hand. However, it really comes down to your perspective. Check out and share this video with your students, The Power of Perception - Change Your Perspective Change Your Life.

The more our students develop the perspective that learning is something they "get to do," the more impact the learning will have on their lives.
Posted by cestevens@hcps.us  On Sep 08, 2019 at 4:51 PM
  
In 1990, tennis champion Andre Agassi was the face of Canon digital cameras as the company coined the phrase Image is Everything

While that phrase popularized the digital camera of that time, I would like to popularize that Perspective is Everything. Perspective is the way in you see something. Perspective drives your outlook which drives your thoughts, your decisions, and ultimately your actions. How you interpret what you see determines the manner in which you respond to what you see.

I had the privilege of hearing Dr. Adolph Brown (@docspeaks) on August 8 at our Hanover County Public Schools Equity Day professional development. His message about how kids carry around two backpacks solidified for me that Perspective is Everything when it comes to working with students. 

The first backpack is everything visible a kid brings to school in a "backpack," notebooks, pens or pencils, textbooks, etc. The second backpack is what we don't see; what's happening with them on the inside. We don't always know what life challenges each kid may have which why it is so important for us as adults to help them unpack that second backpack. The more we help each kid get through life's challenges, the more each kid becomes empowered to get more out of the tools in the first backpack.

At Lee-Davis, our goal is to maintain perspective on our mission: To empower all learners to be successful. A perspective where ALL means ALL.
 
Posted by cestevens@hcps.us  On Sep 02, 2019 at 10:17 AM
  
The following is an excerpt from a book entitled The Portable Pep Talk by Alexander Lockhart. I have read and referenced this book many times over the last several years. I think it only fitting to share this with our graduates who are heading out into what I call the "pre-adulting" phase of their lives.

It has been said that knowledge is power. The truth is that applied knowledge is power. It's not how much knowledge you acquire that counts, but how you use it. It's not what you know but what you do with what you know that produces results. Your knowledge should be put to use in a what that will enrich your life and the lives of others. You have the ability to perform at exceptional levels in at least one area of your life, given that you activate your thought processes through acquired knowledge. To move ahead of your current conditions, you must expand your current level of knowledge. Although we have the unlimited potential to learn, many of us only use a fraction of our minds.

Think smarter, think bigger, and commit yourself to lifelong learning.


Life will be your greatest teacher and the place where you can acquire the greatest knowledge. Learn from it!
Posted by cestevens@hcps.us  On Jun 09, 2019 at 12:52 PM
  

Loyalty means we demonstrate pride and allegiance to our country, community, school, family, and peers. In short, it means to show you are there for someone else at all times good and bad, up and down. The following is a short personal story about my family’s history that speaks to the very essence of loyalty.


The date was February 4, 1945. The crew of the USS Barbel - ss316, a submarine, was struck by bombs from Japanese aircraft several miles off coast of the Philippines and all were lost, killed in action. This event hits home for me because my great uncle Ellis Henry Stevens was a Motor Machinist’s Mate 2nd class aboard that submarine. Now, I never met my great uncle, but his youngest sister, my great aunt Mae Stevens made sure I knew who he was when I was growing up as a kid. She often told me stories about him from her childhood and read many of the letters he wrote home while he was in service.


My great uncle was a loyal serviceman to our country, but he was also fiercely loyal to the family back home. He was the oldest of four children and joined the Navy in 1939 at the beginning of World War II. During his time in the service, he would write home to his family on a regular basis and would wire money home monthly so that my great aunt Mae, the baby of the family, could stay in school until she graduated. My grandfather and his other brother worked the farms to make ends meet and never finished school while my great aunt was able to stay in school.


Shortly after his death, his family received the Purple Heart for his sacrifice and service to our country. My great aunt Mae would go on to graduate high school thanks to my great uncle’s loyalty to family.


Regardless of how you define family, the following quote from film director Mario Puzo sums it up best.

“The strength of a family, like the strength of an army, lies in its loyalty to each other.”


Posted by cestevens@hcps.us  On Jun 01, 2019 at 8:54 PM
  
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