Shower Them With Presence
Being exactly where I am during any given moment enhances that moment for me, and those around me.
Like everyone I know, I have a lot on my mind, a lot of the time. I’m truly blessed to have an amazing wife and three incredible children. Along with that blessing comes plenty of stuff to think about. I’m realizing with increasing clarity that thinking about all of that stuff all the time doesn’t make it less challenging to navigate the wonderful and occasionally unyielding waters of parenthood, professionalism, and overall humanness (I believe that’s a word). It’s tough out here! However, that toughness is manageable, and its effective management can go a long way in perpetuating quality and balance. My father-in-law, who beat what doctors told him was a fatal cancer over twenty years ago, recently told me that life is not always easy, but that it is always wonderful. He might be on to something. Sunday, after a long morning of two-year-old birthday celebrating, softball playing, bubble blowing, overeating, tickle fighting, diaper changing, imagining, and not napping, we pulled into our driveway hoping to get a moment or two of relatively quiet rest out of ourselves and our munchkins. Our hopes were not realized in large part because the lack of napping produces an explosive energy enzyme in my easily excitable sons (two and almost four years old). We missed our window.
Aside from the venerated moments of peaceful quiet that never came, I was hoping to get a bit of work done. No such luck. However, I do realize that I had another kind of luck…an even better kind. The trick that I’m going to work hard to pull of as frequently as I can is to understand and appreciate that kind of wonderful luck every time it comes my way. I was lucky enough to be able to spend an extended afternoon finding sticks and rocks, picking weeds (and even some flowers, which are difficult to distinguish from weeds for a two-year-old), playing pretend sea monsters in the pool, catching up with friends and their children, having burgers with my mom, my sister, and their friends, working through screaming, overtired baths (in collaboration with my exceedingly patient wife), reading books, tucking in the little whirling dervishes who are giving me exactly what I deserve (sorry mom), watching a few moments of mindless television with my aforementioned wife, and quickly melting into a deep sleep without even realizing that it was happening. I didn’t get my “work” done, but I am arguably better off having lived a bit without worry about it.
As a parent, I realized how important it was to my boys that we were engaged with one another. It didn’t matter exactly what we were doing, it only mattered that we were doing it with enthusiasm, and that I was aware and responsive. It’s possible that I spend too much time trying to plan meaningful activities, when I could be spending that time engaged in meaningful activities. If my boys are pretending that a beach ball is a giant rock, and they’re kicking it around the yard as if they have super powers, maybe I should be doing it with them rather then sitting on the porch figuring out if the Bouncy-House Warehouse is open until five. In fact, it might be all right to play pretend all afternoon long. Modeling imagination and sharing the experiences that my kids find meaningful seems like a good thing to do. Being fully engaged also gives me the ability to extrapolate meaningful pathways to development and growth. When I pay attention the people I’m with I learn about them.
As an educator, I’ve repeatedly realized that there may be no more impactful practice than true, deep, and reflective engagement. Students of all ages thrive on being recognized and understood. Value is added to learning when it’s owned by the learner, overtly recognized as relevant, and shared in authentic ways. Thinking about increasing my engagement gives me cause to reflect on times when I’ve found myself distracted in the classroom. There is so much to think about, plan for, and do over the course of a school year, let along the course of a school day. What if every time a student approached me I made myself fully available to interact, authentically engage, and respond? What if I purposefully deigned my classroom to make it easier to do? One person might not be able to give his/her full attention to twenty-five people all the time, but can I do better than I’ve done? Are there systems, structures, routines, or tools that can help? How about instructional leadership? Isn’t it true that my colleagues and I mutually benefit from consistent and active support and encouragement? There is only so much time in a day. The critical reflection I’m working to unravel as I write this post revolves around the balance between living that time and planning for it. Live IS wonderful, and for my money the most wonderful parts are shared.
THINGS YOU MIGHT CONSIDER:
- We live in a busy world. There is always lots of stuff to think about. Managing the process by which you do that thinking can help free you up to fully engage in the really important stuff.
- Life is not always easy but it is wonderful.
- A missed nap can be an opportunity for some meaningful togetherness.
- Recognizing the value of authentic, and truly interactive engagement is a good start to fulfilling that value for yourself and those around you.
- It doesn’t always matter what you are doing with your children, only that you are doing it together.
- Sharing experiences that other’s find meaningful is crucial to building relationships.
- Teachers have extremely busy days. It’s easy to become distracted and overwhelmed. However, there are ways to address that busyness and stay present simultaneously.
- Learning is enhanced when it’s shared and recognized as meaningful.
- When educators take time to support and encourage one another the entire school community benefits.
- Thinking critically about how you interact with others can help make those interactions increasingly meaningful.
THINGS YOU MIGHT TRY:
- Add an engagement section to your journal, or keep an engagement journal. Once a week, once a month, or every so often write critical reflections about how actively you’ve been engaging with the people in your life and consider the impact it’s had. Make note of times when you’ve been able to fully engage in the face of potential distractions and consider how you managed it. Write stories, bulleted lists, draw pictures, and scratch ideas. Actively brainstorm ways that you can increase your engagement.
- If you’re an educator, brainstorm ways to design an environment that promotes and perpetuates authentic engagement. You might consider digital media, flipped lessons or units, a workshop model with one-on-one conferences build in, responsive journaling, electronic portfolios, classroom Twitter accounts, video production, etc. Talk about it with colleagues and collaborate on implementation.