Maurice Dudley is a graduate of Palm Beach Gardens High School 1976. He joined the US Army in Feb 8, 1977 and served 20 years in the Army. Retired June 1997 as a First Sergeant. Maurice did a combat tour in Gulf War (Desert Storm) and was awarded the Army Bronze Star after the war. He started working at Sumner High School Aug 1997 – Presently serves a Campus Safety Officer and Track Coach. Maurice was awarded Coach Of The Year 2018. Maurice's primary role at Sumner High School is to provide a safe environment for education and positive social interaction between multicultural teenagers grades 9 – 12.
We talk with Maurice about the importance of a positive attitude, strategies that can help us connect and build trust with our students, and he shares his key to creating a safe school.
“I think the key and creating a safe school is just making it a welcoming environment, just a welcoming environment that is open to all, that we have what you need to get to the place where you want to be. We have what you need to get where you want to be. With everything that the school has to offer and band and drama and athletics, there's something in this schoolhouse that if you give it a chance, we could put you in a place to open up a life for you that may be better than the life that you came from. So just open it up and go for it. And I think that'll be it in a nutshell. Just go for it”
— Maurice Dudley
- John: Welcome to the CharacterStrong podcast where we have conversations on school culture and leadership. Today, we're talking with Maurice Dudley. Maurice is a graduate of Palm Beach Gardens High School in 1976. He joined the US Army in February of 1977, where he served 20 years in the Army. He retired in June of 1997 as a first sergeant, did a combat tour in the Gulf War Desert Storm and was awarded the Army Bronze Star after the war. He started working at Sumner High School in August of 1997 and presently is the campus safety officer and track coach. He was awarded the coach of the year for the Sumner Bonney Lake School District in 2018 and his primary role at Sumner High School is to provide a safe environment for education and positive social interaction between multicultural teenagers grades 9 nine through. 12 are you ready? Let's get CharacterStrong with Maurice Dudley.
- John: All right. I am so excited to be welcoming to the CharacterStrong podcast, possibly the most positive human being I have ever had the honor to work with, Mr. Maurice Dudley, Sumner High School, campus safety. How are you today, my friend?
- Maurice: Oh man, Mr. Norlin, I'm doing absolutely marvelous, you know what I mean? It's a great day here at the high school and I feel absolutely honored to be a part of this journey and into your program, but I'm doing absolutely great.
- John: That's awesome, man. Well, I feel like that has always been the case with you even during difficult times that you choose the positive. And we are a big believer on this podcast of cut the fluff, get right to this stuff, and I know that you have a powerful message to share and so let's just dig right into it. I want you to talk to me. I mean, one, tell us how long have you been in the work? How long have you been serving in education? Because you've been doing it for quite some time.
- Maurice: Oh yes, I've been here at Sumner High School. This is my 22nd year at the high school and after coming out of the military, being a military veteran of 20 years, just fell right into this place, and this has been like a calling in my life. So yes, I've been here at Sumner High School for 22 years.
- John: That is amazing. That is amazing. Well, one, thank you for your service both and being a veteran as well as thank you for the service that you have given and continue to give to our students and our community and our staff. And so let's dig into it. I mean, you've been through a lot. If you've been in school for that long, you've been through a lot in education and the majority of people that listen to this podcast are educators, are connected to education. Tell me about why you believe that positive energy has such a positive effect in the work that we do.
- Maurice: I mean, it's the foundation of everything, you know what I mean? It starts out early in the morning when these students are actually coming in to school and the way you position yourself and the way you make that verbal contact with those students initially, it sets their mind into the area of having trust in you and just liking to be around you and it just flows into the way they absorb the information that you give them by the way you present yourself and the way you have that motivated type outlook. My positive energy is generated on a daily basis in just making verbal contact and visual contact and looking at the student eye-to-eye, giving that student something that they can actually touch and see more so than what's going on in this world that they live in today that seems to be fallen to negativity.
- Maurice: I generate that, I walk that, and I always see that as my purpose here in Sumner High School on a daily basis, just to make sure that I'm putting myself in the right frame of mind to have an impact on their lives. And that's what it's all about. You ask yourself, "What is your why?" I got that from a few motivational speakers that I've listened to over the time. You got to figure out what your why is every day. And my why is just to make sure that I'm presenting myself in a way to help people grow in a positive way, so no doubt about that.
- John: Yeah. Well, to put just a stamp of outside approval on that, I've seen you walk that day in and day out. I can't remember a time in my memory, even though I'm sure that we all have off moments, but it's about that consistency, and I do not ever remember a time in my time with you where you had an off moment. It doesn't mean that I wasn't there, it just means that you are incredibly consistent in walking your why, and I think as we say a lot of times with our educator trainings, the number one way that we're going to teach strong character, the number one way we're going to teach strong emotional intelligence is to role model it.
- John: I've been taking notes here, as you've been saying, and I think there's a couple of things I want to zero in on. One, tell me a little bit more specifically the intentionality that you just mentioned. Here's some of the notes I just took. Your early in the morning connection, where you put yourself and the way you present yourself. Talk to me a little bit about literally, what does that look like in the morning for you when students are showing up? Because your school starts, what, 7:25 AM? That's
- Maurice: That's right. That's right. My school starts at that particular time, but I'm here, my day starts at 6:30. I'm here early in the morning so I can be here. I can put myself to welcoming the students into this school. When students come in here, I'm positioning myself to greet them no matter what their night have been and the night before coming to school. They may have a bad situation at home, but they can rest assured that when they come here that morning, there's going to be a smiling face that welcomes them in, that has an open mind to whatever that may be troubling them, to try to change that direction, change that negative energy into something positive and put things into a better perspective.
- Maurice: Everybody is going through certain things in life where they have problems with this and problems with other things and so forth. But you got look at things on the bright side. You've got a lot to be thankful for when you really get down to it. It's just a matter of perspective. If a person is coming here with a chip on his shoulder where they had a bad experience or something, it's my job to try to get them to see that things can be a lot worse for you. Things can be better for you if you just put it in the right place and don't just dwell on the negativity of things and look at something positive and try to get some positive out of what you might be experiencing in a negative way.
- John: Yeah. Well said. Well, I think about this too. I think one of your gifts that I'd love to even get some more maybe specific tools, strategies that you use, but one of your gifts that you have is being able to connect with all students in a school, whether it's a student who's excited about school or student who's not excited about school and especially with the student that is not low-hanging fruit in the sense of easy to connect with, but a lot of times maybe takes more intentional work. What strategies or tools have you found or that you could share with someone listening today who maybe at times finds themselves struggling, right, to deal with maybe behavior that they're not used to, or a student who's not excited about school? What advice would you give them?
“It starts out early in the morning when these students are actually coming in to school and the way you position yourself and the way you make that verbal contact with those students initially, it sets their mind into the area of having trust in you and just liking to be around you and it just flows into the way they absorb the information that you give them by the way you present yourself and the way you have that motivated type outlook.”
— Maurice Dudley
- Maurice: Well, I can just say, you got to change the approach in this world that we live in today. You have students now, they all into the technology and they're coming from a different time and a different era than what some of the educators may be in tune to. So change your tactic. Find some type of way to make a connection with that student, either through music, either through some names of some artist that they might be familiar with. Look at something about that student that you can tap into. Maybe the student might like UFC or maybe the students likes to break dance.
- Maurice: Find some type of way that you can generate a smile and to open up some trust from yourself towards that person. And from there, slowly start building up that relationship. Slowly start building it up, and then the next thing you know, you end in terms of having a relationship with that person. And now that students can start trusting you and then that student can find something in you that he thinks you're cool about. That's the main phrase that they like nowadays, "Oh, Mr. Dudley, he's cool."
- Maurice: But little do they know and understand that I'm cool in the sense that I'm trying to help you bridge a gap of understanding and move you into a better place where you don't have to be a victim of your circumstances, that you moving in a positive manner and you may be the only one in your household that have made that stride to get into a better place in this world that we live today. And if that's the case, more power to you because now you're moving on and you're going to open the flood gates for that other family member to move on. And it just turns to a vicious cycle. But yeah, find some type of way to tap into that child that opens up a level of relationship. Yeah. So that's it. That's the key.
- John: Yeah. No, I love it. And just to highlight what I heard there, I mean, the idea of one ... There's a mindset piece there. We need to change our approach, because the world that we live in is different for our teens than it was for most of us, right, that are older, and I don't even consider myself to be that old and it's far different, right-
- Maurice: Yeah, no doubt. It's definitely different.
- John: ... than when I was at school, right? So change our tactic and I love that. Very practical. Find something to connect with them on, right? If they're listening to something, maybe it's asking them about what they're listening. If there's something on their shirt like UFC, asking about that and then slowly start building up that relationship. So sometimes if there might be ... I'm thinking about a scenario like a low level behavior that really isn't that big a deal. Instead of pouncing on it, what if instead you took that as an opportunity to connect, slowly build that relationship and so that when trust is built there might be more likelihood to be able to have a teachable moment if that was needed down the road? But too many times I see people pouncing, right? They pounce on that behavior, which is actually damaging the relationship and it doesn't need to be.
- John: Well, how about this? The time always goes so fast, but I want to get a couple more things in with you because it's too good, man. One is this. What are two to three things that you see? Because I've seen you build trust. I've seen you build connections with so many students. Right now, what are our teens facing in regards to the difficulties? Has it changed? Is it different? I know you mentioned the increase in technology, right? But in regards to what they're facing, help us to have some empathy today. What are you noticing are some trends or some themes of what our students are facing on the tough side, the adverse side in their lives right now?
- Maurice: I can say right now, one of the toughest things that I'm seeing right now is that attitude of equality. I mean, in the school that I work in, it's a predominantly white school and so forth, right? And just trying to get a lot of our diverse students and so on to feel connected to what individual school has to offer them. Open your eyes up and just absorb all the opportunities that the school has to offer you. Social media has totally drained, is draining the fabric of some of our kids and the way socially they interact with one another, that interpersonal connection that they may have.
- Maurice: They're spending a lot of time looking into these devices that they have through social media and those facial expressions, the human-to-human contact is slowly, slowly starting to get lost. And it's causing them to not have good social skills to be able to talk to other people and have confidence and knowing that they can get out into the environment they're in and be a part of it. They're being sheltered. They're being shut down because they're getting caught up into this social media thing where everything is coming through a screen.
- Maurice: And it's just those type of things. If there was some type of way they can open their eyes up and look at what's going on around them, look at the interaction they can have with their fellow student or even their fellow staff member at times, so those are some of the challenges that I see moving on. Mind you, technology is great. It's a great medium for them to take advantage of, but there's a limit to the type of things that you have in that social media area.
- John: Yeah, even more of a reason to be focusing on the whole child and teaching the whole child and giving them opportunities to learn and experience, right, like social emotional learning, character development. Well, how about this? Last question. Let's make it as a social media post, right? So if you were to tweet or it was a post on Facebook and the question was this ... I mean, you work in campus safety, right? But you really work in, right, campus culture and climate. I mean, you're improving the climate every single day by your actions. But when you think of it though, through the lens of safety, what is the key to creating a safe school? If you were to post something on social media, what would the post say?
- Maurice: Well, I think the key and creating a safe school is just making it a welcoming environment, just a welcoming environment that is open to all, that we have what you need to get to the place where you want to be. We have what you need to get where you want to be. With everything that the school has to offer and band and drama and athletics, there's something in this schoolhouse that if you give it a chance, we could put you in a place to open up a life for you that may be better than the life that you came from. So just open it up and go for it. And I think that'll be it in a nutshell. Just go for it.
- John: I love it. I love it. Yeah. And our definition of school spirit is creating a place where all staff and students want to be there versus feel like they have to be there. I think that that is so in line with that and we are about serving the work. And from me to you, Mr. Dudley, thank you for serving the work for so many years, serving the work right now. I know that you're going right back into it because you're in it right now as we're talking.
- Maurice: You know it. That's my path.
- John: Know that we are grateful for you and the work you're doing. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us today.
- Maurice: Oh, it's been a great opportunity, Mr. Norlin. I mean, like I said, I'm overly excited to be a part of what you're doing throughout this nation and so forth and I'm hoping that maybe some words or something that I have said over this past moment can enrich and brighten the spirit of someone out there. But it's been a treat. Maybe you can get me again sometime.
- John: I love it, man.
- Maurice: It's been awesome.
- John: Yeah, and I want to say, too, for those that are listening, I love it, I heard that you walk down the hallway sometimes and you point at people and say, "Are you characterstrong? I'm characterstrong."
- Maurice: Amen.
- John: I love it, man.
- Maurice: I can. I will and I must.
- John: Have a great day, my friend. Thank you.
- Maurice: Okay. Thank you.
- John: Bye-bye.
- John: Thank you for listening to the CharacterStrong podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, feel free to share on your social media. Please rate, review and make sure to subscribe for future episodes on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Play. To learn more about CharacterStrong and how we're supporting schools, visit CharacterStrong.com. Thanks for listening and make it a great day.
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The CharacterStrong Team is a partnership of educators, speakers, and students who believe in creating sustainable change in schools and helping young people develop the skills of service, kindness, and empathy.