Category: Ethics (ISLLC 5)

A school administrator is an educational leader who promotes the success of the students by acting with integrity, fairness, and in an ethical manner.

Love

We were in the car the other night on the way home from a dinner out. We brought two cars because I came straight from work.

The big three decided to ride home with mommy. I was with the little guy (who’s actually not so little – our three-year-old outweighs his four-year-old sister by a few more than a couple pounds at this point).

Just into the drive I heard a sleepy voice from the back seat asking, “Daddy, are we on a height?”

“On a height?” I clarified.

“Yes,” he told me, and then he went on to request and inform, “Please tell me when we’re on a height because I’m afraid of heights.”

I assured him that we were not on a height and that I would let him know if we happened upon one. He thanked me.

Then I asked him if he knew about the thing inside of him, and inside of all of us that can help us when we’re afraid. I was fishing for “courage.”

With great confidence this old-souled munchkin chinned-up, perpetrated a wide smile and a raised eyebrow, and he told me in no uncertain terms, “I do know about the thing inside that can help us when we’re afraid!”

I peeked in the rear view mirror, suggesting, “Go on, “ to which he enlightened me (as kids so frequently do).

“Love.”

Of course! Love!

Love’s the thing we can use when we’re afraid. We can use it when we’re sad, when we’re frustrated, when we’re angry, when we’re confused, when we’re down on ourselves, when we feel hurt by others, when we’re not sure where to go next, when we slip and fall off course, and any time we need a boost or a reminder that things are going to be alright.

The Beatles told us, and I almost forgot, “All we need is love…love is all we need.”

For us parents and educators we’re headed into the tail end of the school year. There’s so much to do and so much to think about right now.

If you’re feeling like me you’re not sure how it’s going to get done. You’re not sure that it is.

The challenging news is that it’s not. It never does.

The exciting news is that you’re going to prioritize and make sure the stuff that needs doing does get done. You always do.

Three-year-old wisdom reminded me that I can trust love to help me navigate the challenges and the triumphs of the next couple of months.

If you’re interested, take a moment to make a shortlist of what love does for you.

Here’s my go at it:

Love reminds me that I’m connected to those around me.

Love helps others know that I care about them and that they care about me.

Love puts things in perspective.

Love frames even the most challenging challenges in bright, colorful ways.

Love draws out possibilities.

Love inspires hope.

Love scaffolds optimism.

Love drives confidence.

Love makes it ok to be wrong and to genuinely listen for rightness from others.

Love reminds me that there are perspectives outside of my own, and that even when I struggle to understand them they’re real and critically important.

Love provides opportunities.

Love smashes stubborn pride and supplants it with healing humility.

Love brings me peace.

Love grounds me.

Love makes me know that anything is possible.

Love shows me that light shines even in the darkest corners.

Love feels good.

Love simply feel good, and if the past forty-forty years is a sampling of how fast this life moves, I’d like to feel good as much as possible.

There’s my one-minute shortlist on what love does for me. Writing it was a worthwhile exercise. I recommend it.

Parents and educators, when you’re feeling like it can all get done, when you’re worried about how the next moment, the next day, the next week, or the next month can possibly unfold in right ways, when there’s too much to do and not nearly enough time, when you’re worried, flustered, and super-stressed, try to remember about love.

If you can do nothing else in any given moment, try to shower yourself and those around you with love.

You might not be able to teach them everything you wanted to, you might not be able to see each of them mastering every standard by June 15th, you might not have unfolded every plan or fulfilled your vision of how this school year would unfold, you might be light years off, but you do have the power to shower those kids with love.

Start with yourself, be ok with it being ok, and then no matter where you are along the journey, no matter what you’ve accomplished or not, you can make love the priority from this point forward.

We all need it. We need it from ourselves and from each other.

Easier said than done? Maybe.

Possible? I think so.

You?

In it together for the kids!

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

Forgiving For Giving

Life ain’t easy.

People are complex.

I happen to believe that the great majority of us are well meaning.

I’ve been thinking a lot about communication lately. I’ve been thinking about how during busy, challenging times communication is difficult. It’s hard to get effective messaging across when were moving really fast and there’s a lot at stake.

Educators and parents are moving really fast much of the time, and there’s always a lot at stake because it’s our job to care for kids.

Whether we’re communicating with one another or with the kids we serve, whether we’re writing or speaking, we really do need to be careful to communicate in positive, optimistic, encouraging, hopeful, and compassionate ways.

Possibly even more importantly, when we don’t (which happens), I think we need to forgive. I think we need to forgive one another and I think we need to forgive ourselves.

Do you know someone whose aim isn’t true? If so, how do you know it’s not? Does that person communicate in unkind, sharp, curt, and/or suggestive ways? Is that how you know his/her aim isn’t true? It’s not easy to receive unkind, sharp, curt, and/or suggestive communication. It’s not easy once, and it’s certainly not easy regularly.

Maybe you know someone who communicates in ways that frustrate you all the time. Maybe you know multiple people who do. Maybe you think those people’s aim is not true.

However, what if it’s that those people are simply moving to fast with too much at stake? What if they’re overwhelmed? What if they simply don’t know, or don’t know how to operationalize tools and strategies for communicating through overwhelming times?

What it their aim is actually true but they don’t know how to demonstrate that? What if their unkind, sharp, curt, and/or suggestive communication is a shroud, masking a true aim and thereby diminishing positive, collaborative energy?

What if you could get to a collaborative core through assumptions and forgiveness? What if it wasn’t easy, but still possible? Would you try? Would you keep trying?

I think it might be a good idea to assume good intentions in this type of situation, and then to forgive, and if the person communicating in deteriorative ways is you, you can remember good intentions instead of assuming them, and then you can still forgive.

Not easy, strangely complex, but maybe a something to consider.

Life ain’t easy.

People are complex.

When we give we gain, immeasurably some might say.

When we’re frustrated with ourselves or with others it’s difficult to genuinely give. It’s difficult to give chances, to give input, to give kindness and caring, to give love.

Ironically, all of those things and so much more that we can give when were focused on positive pathways and assuming best intentions are just the things that relationships need to thrive, especially in times when it’s most difficult to communicate effectively, in positive ways, and with hope and optimism.

As we navigate the challenging waters of parenting and education with hope in our hearts and true aims, we might consider enlisting forgiving for giving.

We might think about forgiving one another and ourselves around every turn so that we can give to one another in ways that promote positive progress and address the many complex needs of those we all see as the foundation of that potential progress, the kids we serve.

Forgiving for giving, just a thought.

In it together for the kids!

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks!

[CAREFUL[L]EADERSHIP]

When I came home the other day little miss was waiting by the door (the four-year-old).

There she was as I walked in, ready to pounce. Incidentally, knowing that a munchkin or two could be ready to pounce as I walk through the door is one of the great joys of my life.

This time it was her, and she’s determined (get’s it from her mom).

It’s likely that she’d been waiting there for some time. When she sets her mind to a thing she usually sees that thing through to its end.

The thing her mind was set to that day was that I smell her feet.

I managed to find and turn the key in spite of the random many accouterments I was carrying that day (educators carry a random many accouterments to and from work each day; I’m not sure why).

As the door cracked I heard a small but powerful voice command, “Dadda, smell my feet!” It was hers.

She sat on the third step up with both bare feet lifted in the air. She presented them for the smelling. I acquiesced. They smelled nice.

She went on to explain that she and mommy had rubbed lotion on them, and that she just “couldn’t wait” for me to get home and share in the aromatic podiatric situation they created in doing so.

I smiled and smelled them again. I may have even tickled them a bit at that point. Little feet are fun to tickle.

“Smell my feet!”

Generally, it’s not a command met with eager anticipation and joy. It can be, however, when it comes from a person you care deeply about.

Here I would go further and suggest that feet are generally recognized as “bad” smelling appendages, and that the act of smelling them is universally accepted as unpleasant.

However, I would further suggest that genuine caring has the power to see people through situations that might otherwise be universally accepted as unpleasant to outcomes that enhance positive pathways for all involved.

Where am I going with this? I’m not suggesting we smell one another’s feet. In fact, I would expressly advise against it.

What I am suggesting is that caring is powerful, and that organizations within which people feel as though, and dare I say, know that they’re cared about are healthier for it.

I’m suggesting that those types of organizations are healthier for it (a foundation and widespread understanding of genuine caring) because challenges that might otherwise be universally accepted as unpleasant are sometimes seen as short-term, limited in scope, and solvable between and among people who genuinely care about one another.

In other words, an optimistic outlook is easier to adopt and maintain, and pathways to positive progress through collaboration based on shared core values are easier to pave and tread when people care; not necessarily about the outlook or even the pathways, but again, about one another.

Parents and educators are well positioned to lead the way in this regard.

Dr. Ron Ritchhart reminds us that the expectations we set, the language we use, the modeling we do, the interactions we have, the opportunities we provide, the physical environment we build, the routines we employ, and the time we take to foster healthy relationships based on shared thinking are all particularly powerful.

I say we focus on being careful to adorn our relationships and organizations with caring, inside and out.

I say we take care to intentionally drive relational and organizational paradigms that are care-full in honest and genuine ways.

I say that when we do we benefit.

I say that when we do kids benefit, and ain’t that what we’re in it for after all?

No feet smelling at work. I insist. Rather, let’s be sure to always keep our aim true by reminding ourselves that ours is a caring path and that consequently we are caring people; genuinely caring people.

Let’s use that reminder to face the robust challenges and celebrate the remarkable triumphs together with open resolve around leadership that is full of caring. Genuine caring.

[Careful[l]eaderhip].

Let’s.

In it together for the kids!

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

Somebody Feed Me!

We were at my mom’s house for dinner on Friday night. We have dinner at my mom’s house most Friday nights. It truly does take a “village” for our crew, and we’re very fortunate in the “village” department. There are plenty of us, too – enough to make all kinds of noise over dinner.

We were, eating, talking, laughing, and playing, when all of the sudden we heard a primal toddler-shout from across the kitchen, “Somebody feed me!”

It was our two-year-old. He’s quite capable of feeding himself, however, he doesn’t like to get messy. So, when he’s eating something with the potential for a mess he enlists support. He demands it, actually.

In this case it was cereal, something my children eat for dinner from time to time (judge away, after four kids in eight years I’m impervious to it). He didn’t want to get milk on his shirt. He needed some help.

When I looked over he was staring at the bowl, still shouting, “Somebody feed me!” So I did.

As I patiently ladled each spoonful into his mouth, without spilling a drop, the words rang in my mind.

“Somebody feed me.”

I thought, isn’t that something every kids needs in one form or another? Then I thought, isn’t it something we all need? For better or worse, don’t we feed one another all day every day?

Then I thought about food. When we eat healthy food, we feel good. When we eat unhealthy food, we don’t feel so good (in the long-term, at least).

As parents and educators we are responsible for feeding the children we serve, and for feeding one another in healthy ways, that promote and perpetuate positive partnerships.

We are responsible for feeding hearts, minds, and spirits. We must push ourselves to only feed one another the good stuff – kindness, gratitude, humility, compassion, hope, & inspiration.

We must model a growth mindset, take the time to show how deeply we care, interact respectfully with one another, even through challenges, use language that matches our core values and drives our expectations, and always seek to enhance the learning environment in which we exists, through mindful, reflective problem solving and connected adaptation.

“Somebody feed me!”

If that is our call, we should be looking for routes toward independence while staying focused on answering it only with stuff that supports nourishment and well-being, for ourselves and for those we serve.

And if that’s how we set our course, with intentionality & purpose, we can forgive ourselves each stumble, shake it off, and do better next time.

In it together for the kids.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

Be Selfish, Make Others Feel Good

I recently read a powerful & though-provoking quote.

I don’t remember it precisely, but paraphrased it went something like, “Everyone you come across is struggling with challenges beyond your understanding. Be kind.”

Indeed. Powerful & thought-provoking.

Now, focus on yourself. Consider your personalized interaction-utopia.

Specifically, how would people treat you in a perfect world? What would interactions look like? What would they sounds like? How would they make you feel?

Maybe everyone would communicate with kindness and respect all the time, even through challenges. People who feel good do that.

Maybe everyone would express lots of gratitude with all kinds of humility. People who feel good do that.

Maybe everyone would genuinely listen for deep understanding while truly considering your perspective with open minds. People who feel good do that.

Maybe everyone would treat you in ways that match your intentions and core values. People who feel good do that.

Maybe everyone would be patient. Maybe they would give you space & time when you need to process & rejuvinate. People who feel good do that.

Maybe everyone would get excited about your thoughts & ideas, and maybe they would all believe you can achieve your goals, no matter how precarious. People who feel good do that.

Maybe everyone would focus on making you feel good. People who feel good do that.

Maybe you have interaction hopes that I wouldn’t think of. Whatever they are, I would suggest that if they’re built on thoughtfulness & the common good, people who feel good do that.

As parents & educators heading into a new school year, I say we consider being selfish by squarely aiming our communication efforts at making others feels good so that we can come ever-closer to perpetuating the types of interactions that are best for us, & even more importantly, drive the type of collaborative culture that’s best for our kids.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

Even When You Can’t Be Certain, Be Positive

As a parent and an educator headed into the final month of preparation for the upcoming school year I find myself reflecting considerably on how I intend to face the many challenges and celebrate the many triumphs that will undoubtedly come in working to ever-enhance my leadership and learning practice on behalf of the the kids and the community I serve.

Around each bend, my reflective thoughts turn pointedly to the language and the practices that drive individual and cultural positivity. The following is some food for thought on that foundation.

Your input is always is always welcome and greatly appreciated in the “comments” section. Thanks for reading!

Certainty.

Certainty is a paradox.

We must move forward with conviction. We must attend to our core values as we confidently think, reflect, decide, and act along the shifting pathways upon which we tread ever closer to the achievement of our goals, on the foundation of particular concepts that we consider to be certainties.

As educators and parents, one such concept might be that all kids can learn at high levels, and that it’s our responsibility to hold hope for, provide opportunities to, and inspire each that we serve to consistently and joyfully do just that. It’s one for me anyway.

There are other things I’m certain of as well. I deeply and inexorably love and appreciate my wife and my kids, I’m not interested in even considering anchovies on my pizza or in my salad, I’m a dog person, etc. These are some of the things things I’m certain of, however, lots of the other stuff exists on a spectrum from “let’s give it try” to “I’d bank on it!” That’s where moxie, optimism, problem solving, and positive partnerships come in handy.

Moxie.

Moxie is word that indicates: strength of character, determination, and courage. It’s also fun to say. Try it. “Moxie.” Fun…right?

In fact, it’s so fun to say, and so profoundly grounded in our core value of grit & in the growth-mindset orientation my partners and I work deliberately to impart upon the kids we serve that I’ve chosen it as my word for the upcoming school year.        Stakeholders in our school community are “Meadow Mice,” and Meadow Mice have moxie! I plan to use that language in driving a message of hope, inspiration, and unlimited possibility.

Another way to describe someone with moxie is to say that he or she has the ability to face challenging circumstances with audacity. For my money, people who face challenging circumstances with audacity do so because they believe they can overcome the challenges embedded within those circumstances.

I would further speculate that the same people believe overcoming challenges is a pathway to learning and growth. I would even go so far as to suggest that they might consider that possibility a certainty. I do, which leads me to “optimism.”

Optimism.

One defining characteristic of an optimistic person is that he or she considers any challenge to be: short term, limited in scope, and manageable. This consideration is in contrast to a pessimistic the viewpoint that some challenges (if not all) are permanent, pervasive, and insurmountable.

People trapped in a pessimistic paradigm preemptively and consistently defeat themselves, drive negative tones and worry into the cultures in which they serve, and, while typically not intentionally, they tend to counteract positive progress.

Taking an optimistic tact, conjoined with holding a core founded on moxie can greatly enhance our ability to carve positive pathways for ourselves and for those we serve. It’s a good start anyway, and if you’re worried that “moxie” and “optimism” are well and good, but possibly shallow and vague, let’s talk tactics. A solid problem solving process can be relied upon to take a focused & progressive attitude to the next level.

Problem Solving.

For the purpose of leadership and learning I tend to consider problem solving on two fronts: supportive and restorative.

Supportive Problem Solving. This is what educators and parents do when we work out the details for the kids we serve. Here is the four-step process my team and I have refined to use for both academic and behavioral intervention and enrichment thinking and implementation (I am increasingly consistent in using the same process in my personal life as well…it seems to work when I do):

  1. Identify the challenge (what’s happening that calls for the problem solving process?)
  2. Consider the reason through multiple lenses (why might this be happening according to various lines of thought?)
  3. Assign a connected course of remediation (what can we do to address the challenge though intervention and/or enrichment?)
  4. Decide on data-collection methodology and a time-line (how will we understand the impact of our chosen remediation & when will we evaluate that impact for next steps?)

Restorative Problem Solving. This is what kids (and adults) do when they (we) work out challenges for themselves (ourselves), particularly social challenges in which someone is treating them (us) in counterproductive ways, or ways that they (we) don’t appreciate.

Restorative problem solving rests on regulating and restoring energy levels and emotions to a place where rational thoughts prevail so that rational, positive actions can be taken.

Click the following link to explore a post in which I write about restorative problem solving more extensively on the foundation of the “Color Zones of Regulation.”

The basics exist within another four-step process:

  1. Tell the person what they’re doing that you don’t appreciate (“You’re calling me names.”)
  2. Tell the person how it makes you feel (“When you call me names I feel sad and angry.” Some educators refer to this as an “I” statement).
  3. Tell the person what you would like them do from now on (“Please don’t call me names anymore.”)
  4. If steps 1-3 don’t work out, remove yourself from the situation and enlist the help of a trusted adult, or a supervisor if you are an adult. I am always available to work with kids, teachers, parents, and colleagues on restorative problem solving as needed. My efforts in this collaborative work revolve around Stephen Covey’s advice to assume positive intentions, seek shared understanding, work toward wellbeing for everyone involved, and promote positive progress.

Positive Partnerships.

Finally, unless the progress you seek exists in a vacuum in which you’re alone, trusting and positive partnerships are critical.

The key is to stack each of the previously listed concepts on top of one another to set a workable foundation for the partnerships you form and perpetuate.

With moxie, optimism, and a commitment to shared standards of intentional problem solving in mind and in practice, partnerships can and will thrive, even and especially within the often challenging and frequently uncertain waters of parenting and education.

The very language we use can either drive or diminish a culture of positive progress. Words cast into cultures like rocks into water, rippling shock waves that stretch out as far as they are permitted to.

While making way for optimistic tones to ring out loud, clear, and indefinitely, we must each do our part to thwart gloom and crush cynicism. We must do so on behalf of ourselves, and most importantly, on behalf of the kids we serve.

When we enlist moxie, maximize optimism, firmly root ourselves in intentional problem solving, and dig deep to maintain positive partnerships, we are all significantly better off.

Being human, we are sometimes discontented, we occasionally fall into slumps of doubt, and we are each as fallible as one another. In that, we can sympathize with and support one another.

As I work to take the tact described in this post I find the need to regularly forgive myself for falling off course, and to always shake off the dust as I regroup and reset. The more I do, the better I become, the less I fall, and the quicker I recover.

After 43 years of ups and downs I’m certain that moxie, optimism, problem solving, and positive partnerships perpetuate progress. If that ship goes down, I’ll be on it.

Still, there are many things about which I remain uncertain. My hope and inspiration comes from the fact that even with regard to those things, the ones about which I remain uncertain, I am confident that I can always find my way to being positive and thereby making a positive impact on myself and on those I serve.

In it together for the kids!

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

What KIND are you?

I’m constantly looking for tools and strategies connected to emotional regulation and restoration, for myself, and for those I serve. I believe both contribute significantly to effective communication and meaningful relationship building. Each of us comes across challenging times during which our blood pressure rises and our vision blurs. A walk, a deep breath, some reflective writing, drawing or paining, talking to a friend, and so on; there are lots of effectual ways to calm the heart and settle the mind.

Among those ways is the transfer of kindness, and it works both ways. Simple acts of kindness don’t only make the receivers of that kindness feel good; they also have the potential to significantly impact the giver in positive ways.

With that in mind, I ask, what kind are you?

Here’s a list of a few kinds I can think of:

The hold the door kind. This kind is pretty basic. This is the kind who sees someone walking up behind and decides to step aside and hold the door rather than charge ahead. Sometimes this kind sacrifices a quicker trip to the counter or a better seat on the train. This kind doesn’t mind. This kind is rewarded by a smile or a nod. This kind enjoys the moment of shared humanity that generally transpires as a result of the humble act of holding a door.

The comfort kind. This kind is there when needed. This kind is a listener. This kind can deliver a message of compassion with his or her eyes. This kind truly seeks to understand. This kind is a friend first. This kind assumes positive intentions. This kind feels deeply, and this kind genuinely hopes that a listening ear and an open heart can support positive pathways for those entangled in challenging times.

The shine a light on others kind. This kind operates on the foundation of what Covey refers to as an abundance paradigm. This kind is happy when others achieve and this kind actively celebrates the achievement of others. This kind believes that the world is a better place when serenity and joy are spread far and wide rather than concentrated. This kind is excited to share and thrilled to be a part of the advancement of others.

The invite and include kind. This kind looks for opportunities to include. This kind seeks those out who struggle to get involved. This kind is actively aware when someone is standing off to the side, but seems to want to be a part of whatever action is fashionable in the moment. This kind smiles and reaches out. This kind is happy to show and to share. This kind feels good when he or she plays a role in putting a smile on someone else’s face. This kind understands the significant and profound nature of human interactions, and this kind seeks to build as many bonds between as many people as possible. This kind recognizes that even, and especially through our diversity, there runs a common thread linking us all together in a cosmic chain. This kind thrives on the strength of that chain.

The give gifts kind. This kind looks for ways to surprise those around him or her with gifts. This kind tries to understand the wants and the needs of others, and thrives on finding ways to translate those wants and needs into tangibles. It might be a piece of chocolate on your desk, a card expressing gratitude, or even a cool new bike. This kind is overjoyed at the delight associated with the giving as defined by the hopes and desires of others.

The gratitude kind. This kind is authentically grateful. This kind also knows that sharing gratitude can be deeply empowering, and that it feels good to appreciate and to be appreciated. This kind moves through life with a sense of good fortune associate with the people and things he or she has access to, and the experiences he or she is blessed to have. This kind expresses gratitude regularly and feels that the expression of gratitude is more than a passing pleasantry, but a model of healthy living. This kind is not looking to receive gratitude (although he or she welcomes and enjoys it), but rather to show anyone who’s looking that living with it is a boon to personal and communal balance, harmony, tranquility, and joyfulness.

The smile a lot kind. This kind smiles as much as possible. This kind believes that people should smile when they’re happy, and that smiling can serve as a catalyst to happiness. This kind can feel a smile on his or her face and on his or her heart. This kind allows smiling to infect him or her, and he or she believes that a smile is infectious to others, too (whether on not they understand, appreciate, or admit it).

I believe we’re each at least one kind, and probably more. I also believe that we can each learn to be any kind we want to be. It simply takes interest and effort. What kind or kinds are you? What kind would you like to be?

It’s fun to try out new kinds too. If you’re interested, you should give it a shot. You might just find that it’s cool to be kind. Personally, I feel almost certain you will. But then, I’m the naively optimistic, hopeful, and filled with faith in the human spirit kind.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

3 Ways To Practice Forgiveness, 2 Reasons To Consider It, & 1 Disclaimer

Near Seems Bigger

Do you ever have moments you’d like to return? Have you ever thought better of an action or a decision and wished you could step back in time? Is there an occasion you can recall in which bringing your best would have been wonderfully effective, but instead you brought something else?

Have you flopped? Have you failed? Have you disappointed yourself? Have you disappointed someone else? Has something like this happened to you? Has it happened repeatedly? If so, congratulations! Not only do these circumstances represent powerful opportunities for learning and growth, but if you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, I can verify with a high degree of certainty that, like me, you’re a human being; a flawed but extraordinary thing to be.

The 3 Ways:

1. Forgive Yourself. Do it. You can thank yourself afterward. Forgiving yourself is a boon for maximizing the learning and growth of which I speak. It’s not always easy. Not for me anyway. Sometimes you’re not forgiven by others, and in those cases it’s especially not easy. But still, do it. Don’t forget. Don’t overlook. Don’t dismiss. Just forgive, and then, reflect with intention. Don’t repeat the same mistakes too many times; a few will do. Be strong in your resolve to make positive progress. Focus on your core values as you reflect. Enlist strength to defeat frustration. Never give up. Try to remember things that are near can seem bigger than things that are far. Down the line you might even wonder why forgiveness was needed in the first place. Still, I would suggest that it might be.

Think about what might happen if you make strides with each opportunity; even tiny strides. Do it. If you don’t like it or see value in it, stop. But I think you will. If you already do it, keep it up, even and especially when it’s most challenging. Give yourself permission to stumble, and if you don’t catch yourself, to fall. All the while, remember that you’re brave, strong, and in every way capable of bringing your best at every turn; dark, light, or otherwise.

2. Forgive Others When They Ask For Forgiveness. Grudges are bad. You don’t have to be best friends with everyone along the way, but don’t waste time obscuring your positive progress with extended negativity. I believe most people are well meaning. Like us, they stumble and they fall. Give the benefit of the doubt, maintain optimism, consider that good intentions abound, suppose that pain could be the root of hurtful behavior and that sadness might be the foundation of insensitivity, and then use those considerations to exercise compassion in the face of frustration. Take an apology as an invitation to support someone in learning and growth. Give them that gift.

3. Forgive Others Before They Ask For Forgiveness. Why wait? If you agree that forgiveness is a positive thing you might consider carrying some with you all the time. A reserve, if you will. Even a bit of “just in case” forgiveness can go a long way. Most people mean you no harm, and those that do are typically seeking to gain power over you. Dissolve that possibility. Don’t be harmed. Be strong. Have resolve. Again, stick to your core.

The 2 Reasons:

1. Practicing Forgiveness Is Good For You. When you practice forgiveness in any of the ways listed above you open yourself up to a world of possibilities that tends to be stifled by the opposite. Again, forgiveness and apathy are wildly different things. When you forgive the humanness of any given situation and the human being within it, with the understanding that we learn from bumps on the road, you stand a chance at paving the section of road you just stumbled on. Pave it. You bring your best when you seek do so. You enhance the world when you bring your best.

2. Practicing Forgiveness Is Good For Those You Serve. Speaking of enhancing the world, we are all servants. I mostly speak to parents, educators, and organizational leaders because that’s my wheelhouse, as it were. When we offer forgiveness we model forgiveness. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. We should be teaching those we serve, especially the children we serve, about the power of forgiveness and we should support them in learning to exercise it themselves. Practicing it might just be the best way. Besides, it feels good to be forgiven. It promotes confidence and suggests value. Confident people who feel valued contribute great things to the world.

The 1 Disclaimer:

1. I Could Be Wrong. It’s a human thing. My thoughts and ideas on this and all other topics of which I think, speak, and write are inexorably tainted by my limited capacity to understand the complexities of this world and inescapably skewed by the experience I’m having within it. In other words, this stuff might work for you and it might not. It’s really just food for further reflective thought.

So, if forgiveness isn’t currently a part of your paradigm and you decide to consider it on the basis of reading this post…and, if doing so isn’t effective for you…please forgive me, or not. I already have.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.

A Happy Thing

I belong to a small neighborhood gym.  It’s not much, but it’s plenty for me.  Something unique about the morning locker room population at this gym is that I’m among very few men under the age of a hundred & twenty five.  While that might be a slight exaggeration, there really is some serious senior socializing happening.  I love it.  These guys are wandering back and forth from the lounge to the steam room, wrapped in little white towels, talking about everything from politics to pizza, shrugging their shoulder, flapping their hands, and rolling their eyes at one another.  In the midst of that shrugging, flapping, and rolling, they seem to understand, appreciate, and enjoy the nuances of their little old man banter.  I enjoy it too.

I mostly listen.  However, knowing that in the relatively near future I myself am likely to be a towel wrapped, shoulder shrugging, hand flapping, eye rolling, little old man, I do try to work my way into the conversations every so often; for practice.  Isn’t it amazing, almost unfathomable?  I’m not complaining.  I know there are many joys that go hand in hand with aging…increased wisdom, enhanced knowledge, the early bird dinner special.  It’s just that there’s something mind-blowing about knowing that if I manage to last another forty years, I will undoubtedly be reflecting on what I now know as “today” with statements like, “it seemed like yesterday,” and it will seem like “yesterday,” only it won’t be “yesterday,” it will be forty years ago.  Time moves pretty darn fast.  I recently had cause to remember that every moment is precious, and that maximizing happiness is a good idea if you’re looking to live a happy life.  The undeniable truth is that each of us is happiest when we’re happy.

One of the guys at the gym is named Fred.  Yesterday Fred stopped me and asked, “Did you hear about Herman?”

I had not.

Fred told me, “He had a heart attack.

I asked how he was doing.

Fred said, “He died.”

My heart sank.  Last week Herman was going on about his grandchildren.  He was beaming.  He was filled with joy.  Herman was always filled with joy.  It billowed out of him like steam from a fog machine.  Wherever Herman was, so there was the joy…flowing from him, seeping out, spreading, attaching itself to everyone in its path.  Herman wouldn’t allow anything but happiness.  He smiled in the face of bitterness, offering the jelly donuts and bagels with cream cheese (which he brought to share every morning).

If someone said, “I’m having hip surgery next week,” Herman would say, “Oh…have a jelly donut.”

If someone said, “My sciatica is acting up,” Herman would say, “Oh…have a bagel with cream cheese.”

He would smile when he suggested these things.  He made the others want to accept his offerings.  He made people understand that it really was that simple to focus on joy.  During the moments Herman spent with you, you knew how to countermand the negative with the positive.  He was always quietly teaching an important life skill.  Maybe it was his mission.  I never realized how impactful Herman’s message was until I found out that he had passed.  Once I did, that realization was instantaneous.

Friends come in all shapes and sizes.  I never hung out with Herman outside of the locker room.  His children are old enough to be my parents.  We never talked on the phone or met up at the mall.  Regardless, Herman was my friend.  I hope he knew that.  I believe he did.  I will miss him, but to honor his legacy, I will do so with happiness in my heart.  I will carry Herman’s message with me, and work to exemplify his joyful spirit as I tread my path.  For me, old man-ness is but the blink of an eye away from right now.  I intend to be a joyful old man.  I will do my best to be joyful in all of the moments from now until then, and when I fail…I will do better.  I will find the positive stuff among the negative stuff, because I will focus on it.

I think that Herman was suggesting that our moments as we know them are fleeting and limited.  He thought that eating jelly donuts and bagels with cream cheese was a better use of time than complaining or feeling sad.  He thought that smiling was better than frowning, and he showed what he thought through his words and his actions.

Commendable, brave, and wise.

There’s a proverb that suggests, “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was ending, he turned into a butterfly.”  Fred told me that the last thing Herman said, with his friends and family at his side, just before he passed, was, “Don’t be sad, this is a happy thing.”  He said it with a smile.

Dignified.

I don’t know what happens to people when they die.  I wonder if caterpillars know what happens to their caterpillar friends as they loose them to cocoons.  I wonder if they’re scared when as they watch their fellow caterpillars embark on that journey, or as they prepare to take it themselves.  What do they think is going to happen?  Do they ever get to know?  Does it matter?

This reflection is dedicated to my friend Herman, and to his endless pursuit of happiness, even in the face of life’s many challenges and mysteries.  Thank you for sharing you gift of positive energy, and for always reminding me that happiness is the way.  Wherever you are along the pathways of your journey, I hope that peace and joy are with you.  Having known you for even a moment, I have to believe that they are.

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Dream Big.  Work Hard.  Be Well.

Mirror, Mirror

Fairness

What do you see when you look in the mirror?  Are you looking for particular information, like the evil queen desperately wanting to be the “fairest of them all?”  If so, and you find that you’re not the fairest, are you the type who would serve up a poisonous apple to the one who is?  Can comparative reflection catalyze authentic growth?  Maybe?  What about individualized reflection with comparative components?  For example, what if the evil queen was simply seeking to be the fairest that she could be…her fairest self?  What if she had asked the mirror to show her a pathway to potential lifestyle choices that would propagate growth and development in such a way as to maximize her own fairness without directly comparing it to the fairness of others, but possibly cross referencing the fairness of others (along with their individual journeys leading to that fairness) in an effort to generate a potential means to that end for herself (no doubt a less marketable storyline for Disney, but maybe a better example of reflective learning and growth? Who knows?)

Let’s face it…we are each unique.  We can’t always become what we see, what we admire, or what we wish we could be, and in many ways, that simply doesn’t seem fair (and it certainly doesn’t seem to be the fairest).  However, I would argue that critical and consistent reflection, drawing on comparative analysis without resting on comparisons for individualized outcomes, can fosters and maximize fairness in meaningful ways.

Poisonous Apples

How much energy should a person spend working on the degradation of the people, places, and/or ideas that they see in their rear view mirrors, as opposed to working on the positive promulgation of people, places, and/or ideas that lay ahead of them?  What’s the point of distributing poisonous apples?  What benefit can we derive from the defamation or breakdown of others?  Would it not serve us better, specifically as we seek reflective development, to identify and articulate the positive attributes of those we pass, rather that highlighting their perceived negative ones…especially because perception, like beauty, is arguably in the eye of the beholder?

Unless I’m missing something, it seems important to view reflective growth though a lens of abundance and optimism, rather than one of resentment and scarcity.  I’ve seen it done both ways.  I hate to admit it, but I’ve done it both ways.  Having seen and done so, I have come to firmly believe that a compassionate, positive, optimistic, individualized, and celebratory reflective paradigm is enhanced tenfold over a negative, diminishing, targeted, and excusatory one (and frankly, I don’t even know if “excusatory” is a real word – creative license rocks!).

Sharing Light bulbs & Letting It Happen

For those of us in educational leadership, we are well served (and better able to enhance the lives of those we serve) when we can recognize and perpetuate positive reflective growth in others.  I recently had an amazing experience.  While monitoring the cafeteria on day last week (“other duties as assigned”), an eighth-grade boy responded to me with unrestrained disrespect, which wasn’t the amazing experience, just a fundamental preemptive annotation.  Stick with me.  I’m getting there.

If you’ve never faced a cafeteria occupied by almost four hundred eighth graders on the second-to-last full day of school, I’ll invite you to invoke your imagination.  It’s an energized space.  These young people are truly bustling with end-of-the year enthusiasm.  A great majority of the students in our school community are very well mannered.  For the most part, they make thoughtful decisions scaffolded by solid core values.  During the moment that I’m referencing now, this young man did not.  So there I was, doing my best to maintain a safe and sanitary environment in which these kids could rejuvenate and nourish themselves, when all of the sudden, I was staring down an opportunity for shared reflective growth.  Exciting, to say the least!  Actually, I was “marching” the young man to the office in a bit of huff, but “excited for positive, reflective growth” sounds better, and deep down, it’s always my intention.

Here’s the thing, when we got to the office, this insightful kid pushed ahead of any assistant principal huffing and puffing I might have unintentionally slipped into by saying, “Mr. Berg, I was being silly with my friends, and for some reason, I couldn’t switch from being silly to being serious when I started talking to you.”  In that moment, he was being critically reflective.  In doing so, he showed incredible self-awareness, identifying an inability to effectively code in that situation.  I was thrilled, and frankly, I had to sit back and reset for a moment.  We went into an upbeat and thorough conversation about self-awareness, coding, and the importance of critical reflection.  We celebrated the fact that he could identify this challenge, and we enthusiastically decided that spending some time thinking about how important communication is in high school and beyond would be a positive use of some of his time this summer.

The student teaches the teacher!  How cool.  It reminded me that the sharing of reflective growth might be as important as reflective growth itself.  I would argue that being willing to learn from the reflection of others…whether they’re your students, your teachers, your friends, your children, or even total strangers, is an important characteristic of those who learn best.

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Dream Big.  Work Hard.  Be Well.