Category: Student Success (ISLLC 3)

A school administrator is an educational leader who promotes the success of all students by ensuring management of the organization, operations, and resources for a safe, efficient, and effective learning environment.

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.

Literacy Learning The “Fastway”

When we drive on the expressway my children close their windows. It’s been a longstanding guideline in our family. The basis is a perception that rocks and other small objects have the potential of being scooped up by tires attached to the cars and trucks in front of us, and consequently that these rocks and other small objects have the additional potential of flying into our open windows, were they open.

Thankfully, due to this longstanding guideline, they’re not.

While it’s fun and even kind of exciting to watch flying rocks fly, none of us want to be hit on the nose by a scooped up one (or any other scooped up, flying object for that matter). We think that might hurt.

The kids take the initiative.

When they think there’s a chance we’re headed there, they ask, “Daddy, are we going on the expressway?”

If the answer is “yes” they roll the windows up.

Yesterday, on our way downtown, my six-year-old asked, “Are we going on the expressway?”

The answer was “yes.”

The window closed. Then something else happened.

He asked, “Why?”

He wasn’t asking why we were going on the expressway, of even why the window needed to be closed, but rather, he was asking about language. He was asking why this particular road is called the “expressway.”

I told him that the word “express” has the same meaning as the word “fast.” I told him that people drive on the expressway so that they can get to the pace they’re going faster than they otherwise could.

He thought for a minute, and then told me that is should be called the “fastway.” Decent point.

He suggested that more people are likely to know about the word “fast” than the word “express.” I suppose he’s right.

Regardless, his expression of curiosity and reasoning made me think. It made me think about language and about speed.

We (adults) might be using language that kids don’t completely understand. In fact, it’s likely we are. Part of what kids are doing all the time is learning (like us, but even faster). Part of what they’re learning about is language. It’s one aspect of literacy learning. One that is ever present, no books, worksheets, or multi-media presentations required.

When I talk about the expressway with my kids they understand that I’m talking about a road on which cars move faster than they do on other roads. Until now, however, this one didn’t get why it’s called that.

That’s ok. In fact, it’s natural. Kids don’t know as many words as we do. Ironically, this experience has me visualizing words like the rocks and other small object that have the potential to be scooped up and fly into open windows on the expressway. Words come at kids really fast, and they have to learn about them bit by bit, with intentionality.

If we’re genuinely attentive to language learning, and thoughtful about our communication with kids, we can give them cause to think carefully about language, and when people think carefully about language their communication tends to be enhanced.

If we pay attention to our interactions with kids around language, we can act as windows, keeping fast flying language from hitting kids in the nose while allowing it to be seen and considered by them as it leaps, dances, and even sometimes flies by them.

On the surface, it doesn’t seem terribly significant that kids know specific details about words that they get the general idea of. However, let’s consider the possibility that communication, and even literacy at its very core might be heightened with every layer of depth we add to their understanding.

My kid can now contemplate “express” lanes, “express” washes, and even explanations that are given “expressly.”

He can practice making connections with the word “express,” and making connections sometimes feels like solving puzzles, which is fun.

He can use the word “express” in the stories he writes or tells.

He can share his newfound knowledge and sophistication around language with his siblings and his friends.

When he reads the word “express,” a light bulb can go of over his head, he can shutter with excitement, and he can exclaim, “’Express’ means fast!”

He can take pride in being somewhat of a linguist.

Let’s not talk to the kids we serve about language because we want them to be able to use fancy words, but rather because we want them to enjoy, and be excited about words in general.

Let’s dig in with them and take time to fulfill their language curiosities because it’s fun and exciting.

Let’s take every opportunity as initiated by them, and let’s also provide opportunities by striking up dialogues and asking questions about language that we find interesting, or that we think might be interesting to them.

Let’s model curiosity and care around and about language.

Language doesn’t cost a thing and there’s plenty of it to go around.

Let’s make it as fun and exciting as it actually is to those who discover its innate influence on our lives, and let’s make sure that the kids we serve have every opportunity to maximize their potential to use it for good.

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

Some Simple Heart & Mind Math (Exponential Multipliers)

How do you feel? How do you think?

How do you want to feel? How do you want to think?

How do you feel you should be thinking? How do you think should be feeling?

How do you feel thinking impacts the feelings you think you’re having? How do you think feeling impacts the thinking you feel you’re doing?

Ok, I am having fun, but I’m also confusing myself…so let’s move on.

For the purpose of this reflective exploration let’s define the possibilities for both “feeling” and “thinking” within two categories each.

For feeling, let’s go with “good” and “bad.”

“Good” could indicate happy, contented, relaxed or any other desirable emotional state of being. It should be one that promotes well-being and productivity; your choice.

For thinking, let’s go with two traditional frameworks: pessimistic-style and optimistic-style.

Let’s further define our two “thinking style” possibilities as follows:

Pessimistic thinkers view “negative” events or challenges as personal, pervasive, and permanent. They think that every obstacle is a targeted attack on them, aimed at the very core of who they are.

Additionally they think that each obstacle exists to knock them over, infect all aspects of their life, and last a really long time (if not indefinitely).

Optimistic thinkers view “negative” events or challenges at opportunities for learning and growth. They think of obstacles as short-term, limited in scope, and manageable. They believe that after grappling with a challenge they emerge stronger and better equipped for the next one.

Now that we’ve framed out the basis, let’s get to the strategy.

Once you’ve decided how you want to feel and how you want to think, you can insert your intentions into the following equation for optimal results:

(Desired State of Heart and Mind + Strength of Character) x (Interactions + Accountability)/(Patience + Forgiveness) = Actual State of Heart and Mind

The bottom line is that states of heart and states of mind are exponential multipliers.

Embedding yourself in “bad” feelings and “pessimistic” thoughts causes waves of “bad” feelings and “pessimistic” thoughts to advance. Monstrous walls of negative energy, coupled with vicious & destructive undertows pound relentlessly upon those trapped in the negative.

Let’s assume, for the sake of the children we serve as parents and educators, that we each have at least the desire for good feelings and optimistic thoughts. Under this exponential multiplier model, it’s achievable. Give it a try.

Surround yourself mostly with others seeking, and actively working toward the same, act with optimism as a foundation, smile and speak in positive tones, check yourself regularly to ensure a consistent effort, forgive yourself for falling of course as needed, and possibly most importantly, forgive those who insert negativism into the spaces you occupy with bad feelings and pessimistic thinking. I would strongly suggest that they are not doing so from a place of malice but rather one of hurt. Bitterness sinks while compassion floats.

Even more simply, to let the positive multiply within and around you, avoid engaging in the negative. Use your positive energy to shatter negative forces. Know that they are short-term, limited in scope, and manageable, and care deeply about the well-being of others, as it arguably has a profound impact on you and the world at large.

If nothing else, I would confidently suggest that taking this aggressively positive tact can’t hurt.

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

Letting Go

Letting go ain’t easy.

As parents and educators we know this all too well.

Headed into June we’re faced with the difficulty, and the opportunity of sending the kids we serve along into the next phase of their journeys.

Winston Churchill said, ”pessimists see the difficulty in every opportunity; optimists see the opportunity in every difficulty.”

For their benefit and ours, we must send our kids along with smiles on our faces and optimism in our hearts.
We’ve prepared them well. We know they’re ready.

Teachers will miss them and parents will miss this moment it time. It does seem to go by incredibly fast.

My wife’s great grandmother (Mumma Hattie) used to say, “the days drag and the years fly,” which strikes a chord as I watch my youngest of four play with his big brothers and sister. In the blink of an eye, this kid isn’t a baby anymore.

I remember my oldest clinging to my leg and crying as I walked him into his kindergarten classroom for the first time (through about the sixty first time). Now, this confident almost third grader barely turns to wave goodbye as he self-assuredly strolls into school through the big kid doors (as least he still says, “I love you”).

We must savor & cherish the dragging days. If we don’t, the flying years will hit us even harder.

So how do we do it? How do we watch as the kids we serve fly away? I can’t offer absolutes. It’s going be difficult, as it always is. However, with Winston Churchill’s message in mind, I can suggest some strategies to ease the ache and maximize the opportunity.

Model confidence. The kids might have a bit of tough time too. We should smile as we wrap up the school year. They need to know that we know it will be okay. They need to know that we’re confident the path is a right one. They need to know that we’re not worried about what’s come, but rather that we’re excited about the days ahead.

Believe. Make sure that confidence genuine. Make sure that excitement is authentic. Kids can smell insincerity from miles away. We’ve prepared them well. We know they’re resilient. We understand that when they fall along the way, it’s only because they need to learn how to get up. We know it’s the best way. We know that no matter what happens next, learning and growth is ongoing and limitless. Let’s show what we know.

Celebrate. We can enhance feelings of confidence on their part by reminding them of how far they’ve come. We should be taking every opportunity to celebrate as we close out the school year. Did someone discover the joy of reading this year? Was there a special project that one of our students really connected with? Did a meaningful friendship form? There’s lot’s to celebrate. Let’s focus on as much of it as we can recall, as much of the time we can think to recall it.

Look Forward. Talk about the days to come. Intentionally make note of the exciting things that are sure to come during the summer and into the next school year. Talk about it and listen to kids’ excitements and curiosities. Explore with them, reassure them, and validate their visions of the next steps they’re about to take. It truly is exciting, and it’s what we’re here to do.

One of the great difficulties of being a parent and an educator is that we are meant to let go. It’s also one of the greatest opportunities. It’s among our most important functions, and for the sake of all involved, we must do it well.

Here’s to a peaceful and productive transition into the next phase of this incredible journey! You can do it!

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

Ready Position

This afternoon I was at baseball practice with my seven-year-old. This one reminds me a bit of myself when it comes to baseball. I remember my own excitement over being regularly assigned to right field.

I remember feeling that it was unlikely that balls would come my way, and that I would have plenty of time for pulling dandelions, spinning around, finding shapes in clouds, making up stories, laughing to myself about the stories, and occasionally jumping up and down in place while counting to a hundred (or so).

Coach kept shouting, “ready position!”

He wanted my kid to bend his knees slightly, put his hand on them, and look toward home plate.

Granted, that is the correct “ready position” for what coach is responsible for teaching my kid to do. However, it isn’t the correct “ready position” for what my kid was actually up to.

My kid was pulling dandelions, spinning around, finding shapes in clouds, making up stories, laughing to himself about the stories, and occasionally jumping up and down in place while counting to a hundred (or so).

I have to imagine it’s some pretty basic apple and tree type stuff. I like to, anyway.

I tried not to smile too big or laugh too loud as I watched the kid do his thing. I didn’t want coach to think I was encouraging him in wrong directions or enjoying myself too much, even thought I was actually doing both.

I have to say, it is truly a joy for me to watch this kid blossoming into a world-class dreamer. I forgot that he was practicing baseball for a minute (or two).

Anyway, my wife asked me to stop by the drug store on the way home from practice. When I told the kid, he shuttered with excitement.

“I need a new journal!” he exclaimed. “One with lines, like ‘The Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ paper.” He clarified.

We picked up a pack of four journals (in my world it’s important to get one for each kid).

The big guy spent the rest of the evening drawing and writing stories. The volume and the creative quality of his work tonight amazed his mom and me. We had to peel the journal out of his hands so that we could get him to go to sleep (as we have to do with a journal or a book almost every night).

As I reflect back on baseball practice I realize he had been in “ready position.” If a fly ball happened along in his direction he would most likely not have been ready for that, but that’s not what he was trying to be ready for.

As a parent and an educator it makes me wonder, should we be asking the children we serve to be getting into “ready position” for what we want, or think they should be doing in any given moment, or alternatively, should we be working on genuinely understanding what they are in “ready position” for during those moments, and then supporting them in efforts to “play ball” in whatever way they feel most compelled?

My kid is a real slugger when it comes to creative writing, and he can field a wild idea like a pro!

It strongly feel it’s important to support his interest-based progress as a wonderer, a dreamer, and a creative artist…even as some of it takes the form of absent minded ball playing. With that feeling in mind, I try to stay in “ready positon” to do so.

Sorry coach…thanks for your patience…and batter up!

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

On Promoting Childish Conceptions of The Future

The other day my seven-year-old was reading on my iPhone. He was using comprehension-promoting software.  For every “book” he read there were a series of comprehension questions to answer.

Points were earned for correct answers. He could use those points to buy things in a digital store. The things he bought were meant to help him create a digital world within the software. It was like a game. He was having fun.  I’m old.

This is a kid who loves to read. He has actual, physical books strewn about his bedroom, and wherever he travels throughout our house books follow like the stardust dust trail from a comet.

He also enjoys digital devices. He likes this reading software and he likes games.  All of my kids do.  Thankfully, they all also seem to like actual, physical books too (my personal favorite – a bias I’m working on).

That day, I told him there were no iPhones when I was a kid.

“Really?” He asked.

“Really.” I said.

I told him that my friends and I could have imagined what iPhones would be like, but that they didn’t exist.

I told him that they pretended to have something like iPhones on TV shows about the future, but just not in “real life.”

His face turned incredibly thoughtful, he let out what seems to be an unstoppable, “Ohhh,” and then he matter-of-factly stated, “So this is the future.”

“It sure is, Bud.”

He went on to explain that if it’s true, anything he and his friends might imagine can become a reality one day too, in tomorrow’s future, or the future that will be here on the day after tomorrow, or the one that will happen any number of years from now.

“It sure can, Bud.”

When do we begin to restrict ourselves?

When do we start to deny the incredible potential of our capacity to unfold the individual and collective imaginations of ourselves and our contemporaries into the fabric of reality?

At what point do we decide that not everything is possible?

How old are we when time, cost, and ability begin to seem prohibitive?

At what age do the laws of physics begin stifling our desire to fly?

We must resist.

One of the greatest strengths of kids is that they believe anything is possible, unless and until we redefine their innate gift-of-a-paradigm into one in which it isn’t.

Let’s not.

Here’s to today, and to every future today we are blessed to experience with the incredible children we serve.

Here’s to their childish conceptions of a nonsensical and brilliant series of tomorrows and future todays.

Here’s to the hope that each of their wildly outlandish dreams comes true.

Here’s to the faith that it can, and that it will.

Here’s to the possibility that we will be with them, watching, hoping, supporting, inspired and proven wrong, and witnessing, with blissful awe, the unfolding of what might otherwise have been unimaginable positive progress.

Yes, here’s to the possibility.

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

“Yet” & The Language Of Opportunity

I recently heard a story about two shoe salesmen who were sent to the same small, remote village in an attempt to sell shoes.

The first salesman returned and told his colleagues that there was no opportunity to sell shoes in that village because none of the villagers wore shoes.

The second salesman returned and told his colleagues that there was tremendous opportunity because none of the villagers owned shoes, yet.

The distinction between the two salesmen’s perceptions, and the language they each used to describe those perceptions, solidified two very different pathways.

The first salesman denied himself opportunity. He closed a door.  He stymied potential.

The second salesman created opportunity on the basis of the same challenge the first salesman faced. By articulating his perception in a positive and progressive way he opened the same door that the first salesman closed.

Like the second salesman, we can each employ a positive and progressive view of the world to expand opportunity and amplify potential.

When we choose a negative and stagnant view of the world we limit opportunity and stifle potential, for ourselves and for those around us.

I would argue that this equation is true of the challenges we face on a daily basis as parents and educators.

The word “yet” is critical in our ability to positively impact each child’s unique pathway to wellbeing and achievement.

The very nature of learning and growth tells us that children will demonstrate limited ability before they are given the modeling, the tools, the strategies, the practice, and the experiences that subsequently lead them to demonstrate ability in the same areas where it once seemed limited.  They each need, and are hungry for hope, inspiration, and experience.

The very nature of learning and growth tells us that we must always cling to a foundation of potential over and above one of defeat.

As we guide and nurture the potential of each child in our care, we must always keep “yet” in mind. We must always speak the language of opportunity.

We must always perceive and believe that growth is seamless, no matter the rate or frequency of its visibility.

The road is long and winding. Moreover, it is unique for every individual.

As parents and educators we must always trust in progress over and above end points.

As parents and educators we must never define the children we serve according to any moment in time, but rather according to the continuum that we know unfolds over time, with kindness, hope, and an undying resolve for the ever-unfolding and limitless potential that exists within each of them, and within each of us.

We must face each challenge with the knowledge that there is a pathway for it to be it to be resolved, and where we encounter roadblocks we must tirelessly seek alternative pathways.

I, for one, have a long way to go in understanding how to meet the needs of every child I serve. Nevertheless, I firmly believe, and have experienced time and again, that the language of potential, with the word “yet” and as a reminder, provides for and builds upon hope and inspiration at every turn.

I believe that a positive and progressive worldview with limitless potential for learning, growth, and opportunity at the center is the way forward.

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

The Perfect Lie

Sometimes I tell my kids, “That’s perfect!”

Sometimes I tell them, “Nothing’s perfect.”

My son caught me in the perfect lie the other day.

We needed to get out of the house. He was drawing a picture. He was in one of those moods during which he becomes overwhelmed by a visceral need to “get it right” before moving on. I know the feeling. I understand that this need can be problematic, in part because there often seem to be no “getting it right,” maybe especially for those of us who feel the need in that way (viscerally).

I wonder if those who don’t feel the need to “get it right” all the time are actually “getting it right” by thinking that “not quite right” is in fact “right,” on the premise (as Carol Dweck wrote in her book Mindset) that “becoming is better than being.” Ironically, I genuinely believe that’s “right.”

Regardless, I’m thinking there might be some apple and tree stuff going on here, which is beside the point, other than to suggest that I was confident our hero wouldn’t shift his attention to whatever pressing play-date or junior athletic need was looming, until the drawing looked like whatever he was tying to make it look like.

So, after exercising what I considered a good deal of patience I exclaimed, “That’s perfect!”

He smiled, put down his crayons, and off we went.

A few days later he was back at it. This time, we had nowhere to go and nothing else to do. I was excited that he was taking his time. I was present with him in that moment. I was in awe of his racing, creative mind. I didn’t want him to be stifled by the perfect lie. My motivation had changed.

He got frustrated. He wasn’t “getting it right.”

This time, in a sincere effort to help him get unstuck and shed some frustration I told him, “Nothing’s perfect.”

He looked at me with a crinkled face. He asked, “Then why did you tell me that my drawing was perfect before?”

Oops. I forgot that they don’t forget a thing.

Carol Dweck would be ashamed of me.

I suppose I could have explained that sometimes adults mislead kids when we’re trying to get them to do things the way we want them to, but that didn’t seem sensible. How would he ever trust me again? I was in a pickle (figuratively).

I told him that I shouldn’t have said it. I told him that one of the greatest things about life is that we’re always learning and that there’s always room to grow. I exposed my manipulative ways and revealed that the other day I was trying to get him to move more quickly. He smiled. He got me. It brought him joy. I was happy to help.

I thought about how easy it is for me to utter a tiny falsehood or a harmless misrepresentation to my children when it seems to serve my purpose. I found myself wrestling with the idea. I certainly can’t be the only parent who misinforms his kids from time to time. I tell myself that it’s for their good when I do it. That should count for something. The intention is there. Am I misleading myself? This reflective pathway is wrought with irony.

It’s not like I’m telling him that the earth is flat, of that pigs can fly, or that spinach tastes good.

However, it strikes me that the perfect like could actually be whopper if I’m not careful with it. What if he develops a fixed mindset? Then I’d be sorry.

I once read about a Native American folk tradition set on the foundation that no human being is, or can produce anything “perfect.” Within this tradition was the practice of purposefully leaving flaws in artwork; woven blankets with loose strings or off pattern colors, carvings that might be unbalanced or disproportionate, etc.

The idea being that life is a process and not a product. That the aim should not be to achieve perfection in any given moment, but to keep moving forward, learning all the while, and seeing evolved outcomes unfold along the unique and wondrous pathways we each tread.

I was caught in the perfect lie, and I’m glad of it. I may be better off. I’m thinking that being caught and reflecting on the experience might even enhance my ability to parent in a growth-mindset oriented way. It could help me help my kids live enhanced journies by instilling in them an enthusiasm for things like “becoming” and “beyond” instead of “finished,” “perfect,” or “right,” and that seems right. Right (you know what I mean)?

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

Fresh-Made, Real-World Creative Play Rules!

When I came home the other day my five-year-old approached me immediately and with a focused urgency. He had no time to waste.

Bolstering a sizable orange at the end of his outstretched arm he asked, “Daddy, is this an orange?”

No greeting, no hug, just the question.

As I mentioned, it was an orange, and for that reason I answered, “It sure is Bud.”

Off he went.

I didn’t think much of it. Goofiness runs deep in our family. Here he was being goofy, par for the course.

No sooner did I drop my keys and loosen my tie when he was standing in front of me again, with a different orange at the end of the same outstretched arm. Different orange; same arm.

Now I began to wonder. Not so much about what he was up to, but how much effort it would take to clean up after this exploration.

“Daddy,” he asked again, “is this an orange?”

“It sure is, Bud.” My brow was furrowed at this point. He smiled. I smiled (on the outside at first, and subsequently on the inside, realizing that regardless of the insuring mess, this could be a moment that might become a cherished memory, and I sure do love those moments).

This time I shadowed the big guy into our kitchen, where sure enough I found subjugated orange parts strewn about the island countertop, encircling a small plastic cup with maybe a quarter once of juice inside it, and possibly two or three ounces under and nearby it.

Now, his smile was huge; super proud juicer in action.

He looked up and shouted, “Fresh-made orange juice…just ten dollars!”

I am a sucker for fresh-made orange juice, but that price was outrageous!

He enlisted the help of his two-year-old brother for sales while his seven-year-old brother and his three-year-old sister ran upstairs to get their piggy banks.

Over the course of the next two hours, the fresh-made, real-world play was energized and stimulating. After very quickly running out of fresh-made orange juice (little brother was thirsty) the team decided to fill what seemed to be about dozen cups with fresh-made water; much more accessible.

It went for ten dollars without a straw and eleven dollars with a straw. Ice was complimentary.

When the fresh made water well ran dry they turned to toys, buy on get one free. What seem to be hundreds of them laid out on various surfaces around the living room.

My daughter took advantage of this outstanding opportunity by filling a partially empty diaper box with sale items, digging her way underneath them, and working hard for some time to close herself and her bounty in the box. She wasn’t playing with the toys; she was playing WITH the toys. It was a spectacularly interesting sight to see. She’s strong willed; get’s it from her mother; serves them both well.

Our little big guy found a dragon puppet and set off engaged in a ventriloquist-style conversation for the remainder of the evening.

The school-age brothers worked hard at keeping shop. They even drew about and wrote about the experience, creating marketing pieces and making business plans. It was an engaging, fun, thinking and learning experience for each one of these kids ranging from two to seven-years old (not to mention me at forty three).

I realized, as I do each time I support and celebrate fresh-made, real-world creative play, that kids love it. Even fifteen minutes after bedtime routines were supposed to begin they were crying for more. I had to drag them upstairs kicking and screaming.

At no time did they talk about or ask for television or any device, and at no point did they disengage or complain of being bored.

So, in reflection I developed a set of very simple rules for adults interested in encouraging fresh-made real-world creative play:

  1. Listen & respond
  2. Celebrate, encourage, participate, & enjoy
  3. Extend & integrate

At home or at school, fresh-made, real-world creative play initiated on the foundation of kids’ interests can be exciting and meaningful, it can promote thinking, doing, and learning across subject matter and curricular areas, it can provide kids with hours of fun, social, and enriching opportunities, and by the way…no screen is required.

In conclusion, I’m going double entendre by once again suggesting: Fresh-Made, Real-World Creative Play Rules!

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