There’s A Bug On My Hand & The LIght Bulb has Got To Want To Change

Playing at the Park:  A Learning Adventure

My wife and I were playing in the park with our kids the other day.  We were hanging at the swings with our two-year-old and our soon-to-be one-year-old when we heard a shriek from across the monkey bars.  Our four-year-old was doing an obstacle course maneuver over a wooden fence, during which (& much to his dismay) a bug landed on his hand.  “Aaaaaaaaaahhhhh!”  I looked up to see that he was bouncing around, holding one hand in the other, and crying hysterically (a solid, full-on, hyperventilating cry – this big guy leaves very little to the imagination when it comes to expressing his discontent).  I figured that a splinter from the worn wood had jabbed him in the palm, or that he knocked his funny bone in just the right way, or possibly that a confused squirrel had attempted to nest in his hair (again, it was a pretty intense shriek).

So, in line with any delusional father who believes that a calm reaction can make pain and/or fear instantly diminish, I strolled over with a raised brow and a combined look of compassion and confusion, and I serenely asked, “What’s the scoop Bud?”  Now convulsing uncontrollably, alligator tears streaming down his face, lower lip forcibly curled and trembling, an impressive, globular string of drool emerging from the corner of his mouth, and through an Oscar caliber puppy dog whimper, he mustered the strength to utter, “A-a-a…a b-b-b…bug l-l-l…landed o-o-o-on my ha…ha…hand!”  I would be remiss if I neglected to articulate that this particular child has somewhat of a flare for the dramatic.  I don’t where he get’s it.  No one in my family is overly dramatic.  Must be from his mother’s side (nice folks none-the-less).

Anyway, the very next thing he said was, “I want to have my birthday party inside this year.”  I love this guy!  What a mind!  If you spend any time with children you quickly realize that their personalities shine as bright as interrogation lamps (stars felt a bit cliché…but you get my meaning).  I can picture how it went down.  He felt a bit of a tickle on the back of his hand.  He was in mid-climb.  He reached down for a quick scratch.  Then came the moment of shock and distress, the instant of realization when he was supremely aware that no mere scratch would remedy this situation…the disgust, the awfulness, the unadulterated terror of being faced with the knowledge that this was no simple itch.  No patch of dry skin or wind gust could have caused this sensation.  He felt the bug.  Even worse, he may have crushed the bug with his gargantuan human child finders (ironic, isn’t it).  Can you imagine the shudders that ran down his spine and lingered in his soul?  Chilling!  I truly love that he projected the possibility of a bug landing on him again, and the need for a bug-secured birthday party.  I giggled as he continued to cry and leap into my arms.

But here’s the rub, kids (along with the rest of us) are intense and easily distracted by lots of stuff.  It makes sense.  They’re figuring things out.  This one has only been alive for four years.  Kindergarteners have only been alive for five years.  Fifth graders have only been alive for ten years.  High school freshmen have only been alive for thirteen or fourteen years!  Considering the intense volume and sheer magnitude of things I have yet to understand at the tender age of forty gives rise to the notion of distraction as an important part of the developmental learning/growth process.  Let’s face it, I’m no spring chicken, and when I reach for an itch that turns out to be a big, hairy bug crawling on me, I’m startled enough to consider an indoor birthday party.  I had to carry this kid around the park for next half hour.  What fun for the both of us.  He was eventually able to make his way around independently again.  He joyfully returned to swinging and sliding, and I’m guessing that he might even re-consider an outdoor birthday party.  However, it’s the intense and immediate distraction that peeks my interest from an educational leadership perspective.  We have an agenda.  We have learning standards and pacing guidelines that must in be taken seriously, and rightfully so.

As our students progress, they do need to develop skills and understandings appropriate to next steps at each level of growth and achievement.  Also, bugs on their hands (along with many other legitimate distractions) will contribute and/or detract from their focus and motivation.  How do we, as educators, account for, appreciate, and value that which is important to the individuals we serve while perpetuating cultures of collaborative learning and universal progress?  In what ways can we recognize that bugs on hands are legitimate issues to be addressed, and keep the growth train moving simultaneously?

Some related stuff I’m working to improve upon      

            Seeking First to Understand.  Here we go again with the darned Covey references!  Whether in a disciplinary situation with a student, a professional learning effort with colleagues, or in partnership/communication with parents, I am consistently working hard to remind myself that we each have a personal, unique, and deeply critical perspective; critical in part because our individual perspectives drive our motivation, and in part because it is through those perspectives that we are able to contribute to the achievement of universal outcomes.

Recognize, Appreciate, & Address the Bugs.  Wouldn’t it be great if our organizations ran like clockwork simply because we want them to.  What if we could will every learner to be ready and excited for each new day of exploration?  What if educational leaders were able to effortlessly perpetuate positive partnerships with all stakeholders simply by knowing how effective optimism, collaboration, and mutual respect are in growth and development?  That would be cool.  However, as we know, this stuff takes lots of dedication and hard work.  One piece of the partnership puzzle is that bugs cannot simply be brushed off (pun intended).  I am working hard to remind myself that when communication doesn’t seem to be working, it could be about a real and important distraction.  I am working hard to listen with an open heart and an open mind, so that when my partners (be they students, teachers, parents, colleagues, or other school community stakeholders) need to address bugs that land on their hands, I can compassionately assist.

Be Patient.  How many people does it take to change a light bulb?  One, but the light bulb has got to want to change.  I know that as an educational leader I must remember that change, while ever-present, is a patient process, and that each of us needs to see the value in potential growth before we are able to fully engage.  To that end, I am focused on listening and learning, modeling and encouraging, and being patience as those who I serve work independently and collectively to learn and grow through the constant changes that drive progress in our learning community.  I just wish it wouldn’t take so long:)!


Dream Big. Work Hard. Be Well.


  1. Starr

    Great post, Seth. I have a child who has a flare the dramatics too as well as a bunch of seniors I teach. Sometimes I don’t understand what sets them off, but I work hard to diffuse in a meaningful way. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences.

    • bergseye

      Thanks Starr! I really appreciate the read and the thoughtful reflection. More importantly, I appreciate your commitment to making sure that your child, and each of your students, is able to connect learning to life! Parenting is tough, teaching is tough, and it is certainly tough to even make an attempt at understanding the motivation or internal struggles of each of the children that we serve, but I know that teachers like you, who see through a lens of compassion, reflection, learning, and growth, make an invaluable impact on many lives! I would love to be a fly on the wall in your classroom! Thanks again, Have a great weekend!

    • bergseye

      Thanks Don…what a fun age! I excited to hear from people who are going through this amazing adventure too! Isn’t it incredible that they can surprise us around ever turn? These little people are pretty complex…and they provide so much joy! I really appreciate the read, and the suggestion that I’m doing good work as a dad is pretty cool too – I hope I can live up to it:)! Have a great weekend!

  2. Jon Harper

    Seth I loved the piece and the message. Your focus on relationships and others always comes through in your writing. I have a three year old and can totally imagine how that whole event went down. Thank you very much for sharing this and wording it so perfectly.

    • bergseye

      Jon…you honor me with your compliment on the writing! I share this blog in part because I find so much value in the reflective process, and in part because I hope that others can find some value my expression of it. I’m glad to hear that this one was meaningful for you! From your writing, it’s clear that service and collaboration are important aspects of your leadership/learning philosophy. It ain’t always easy to understand what others are thinking and feeling, but as educational leaders, I think that it’s important we try:). Thanks again Jon…I always looking forward to reading your insightful reflections! Have a great weekend!

  3. Joshua Berg

    Great post. I could be wrong but, the flair for the dramatic may run somewhat in our family as well. I think my daughters would have to go outside in hazmat suits to feel completely safe!

    • bergseye

      Well, now that you mention it…I do sometimes find some of the slightly more unique character traits strangely familiar:). I appreciate you reading the blog, and the realism/levity that bring to the ‘comments’ section is always a treat for me! Thanks for the support/encouragement. I hope that you’re finned meaning in some of my reflections! Have a great weekend with the girls! I’ll talk to you soon:).

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