Category: Growth

Do Be Silly. Seriously.

I’m silly. I don’t know why. I’ve gone through phases in which I’ve tried to suppress it, times in my life when I attempted to not be silly. No good. Couldn’t do it. Failed miserable. I’ve had to face it; I’m silly.

My kids are silly too. They’re kids, so it seems more reasonable for them to be silly than it does for me. Most kids are silly. All of them are at least some of the time; all the ones I know anyway.

Occasionally, when my kids are being silly my wife looks at me as if to say, “you did that.” Like they’re silly because I’m silly. Like it’s my fault. When she does I look back at her as if to say, “don’t be silly.” Hypocritical, I know. Especially because I like it when she is (silly).

Truthfully, I believe she likes it too. After all, she did marry and proceeded to have four children with me. To tell a family secret, I was considerably silly even before any of that happened, and she darn well knew it.

I think she appreciates the silliness she’s surrounded herself with. At the very least, she couldn’t be entirely surprised that she’s become the mother of a veritable pack of silly kids. It’s a reality that might have been anticipated with very little thought and almost no effort.

I think she did it with intention. I think there was a moment along the way during which she thought, “this is silly,” followed by, “and I like it.”

I’m not suggesting that there isn’t threshold to reasonable, meaningful, and positively impactful silliness, that we should spend all of our time telling outrageous stories in broken, unidentifiable accents, or dancing around at all hours of the day and night with socks on our ears and stew pots on our heads. I am, however, suggesting that sometimes when we do those and other silly things, it makes us feel good and enhances our lives.

I’m also suggesting that there are degrees of silliness, and that if we take our silliness seriously we can use it for the greater good, ours and that of those we serve.

I’m suggesting that when someone says something truly silly like, “don’t be silly,” that someone is at least slightly misguided, and possibly significantly (misguided).

I say, do be silly. Seriously.

Is it silly to think that anything is possible? I say think it.

Is it silly to consider that being joyful spreads joyfulness? I say consider it.

Is it silly for parents and educators to praise our kids for being hard working and persistent rather than “smart?” I say praise on.

Is it silly to focus more on accumulating courage, creativity, and kindness than money and stuff? I say shift that focus.

Over the course of my forty-two years too many silly things have turned out to be wonderful. Silly has taught me too much. Silly has felt too good. Silly has helped me overcome too consistently. Silly has shown me the way to positive progress and reminded me not to take any of it too seriously. It simply moves too fast, and some of what seems to matter so much, turns out to matters so little (if at all).

At times I’ve confused my own silly with naïve, but it’s not. It’s silly, and it’s ok. In fact, I firmly believe it’s a source of strength. I can be silly and sophisticated at the same time. Frankly, I’d rather be silly than sophisticated. It’s considerably more fun.

If you’re already silly, keep it up. If not, try it out.

Put a toe in, take it slow, and stretch yourself.

If you’re resolutely serious it might feel strange at first, but don’t give up.

At the very least, look extremely closely and consider silly a viable alternative when serious seems like it might actually be silly in disguise. Seriously.

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

Strong Like Me

strength

I exercise. My doctor told me to. More specifically, he told me to eat less and move more. It’s good advice. So I do.

Anyway, sometimes my kids exercise along with me. In particular, my five-year-old son imitates every move I make during my daily routine. He grabs hold of my resistance band as soon as it leaves my hands, he pumps his arms up and down with a gritty growl and a stiffly crinkled face, almost masking the glowing smile plastered on it (but not quite).

He’s thrilled to do it. He drops down for push-ups and sit-ups. He stretches and runs in place, and he breathes deeply through it all.

Then, he looks up at me with a profound and piercing pride and exclaims, “Look daddy, I’m strong like you!”

Strong like me. Indeed.

The kid will no doubt face his own challenges, and those challenges will test and teach him, however, even with life’s innate guidance along the way, he will continue to look to me as a model of strength (and/or weakness), whether he knows it or not. It’s part of the deal with kids and parents. They observe what we do through critically reflective lenses.

They do the same with all influential adults in their lives. They’ve got eyes on grandparents, teachers, coaches, etc. Therefore, it’s equally important that we relentlessly consider what we do through critically reflective lenses as well.

Strong like me.

He’s built how he’s built. He’ll have the capacity to endure his amount of struggle and tolerate his amount ache, but he’s actively seeking to be strong like me.

An awesome responsibility, and one that gives me pause to think about what kind of strong I am, and what kind of strong I’m capable of being.

Am I strong enough to truly learn from mistakes?

Am I strong enough to check and regulate myself emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually through any and all challenges?

Am I strong enough restore myself to a place of focus and calm when I’m not?

Am I strong enough to hold back from crying when it isn’t really that bad?

Am I strong enough not to when it is?

Am I strong enough to hold on?

Am I strong enough to let go?

Am I strong enough to restrain my strength?

Am I strong enough to unleash it?

Am I strong enough to understand the type of strength I would have my children develop if I could simply will it into them?

Am I strong enough to continuously work toward that understanding with every breath and every step along my journey?

I happen to believe that among the greatest strengths we can possess is the strength to persist.

Linus reminds Charlie brown, “It’s the courage to continue that counts,” not only because of a connection to comedic irony within the context of their Peanuts adventures, but also because there’s some important truth to it. At the very least, it’s worth considering.

Parents, educators, leaders, adults of all sorts, what kind of strong are you? What kind of strength are you modeling for the benifit the children you serve?

When I think of my children becoming strong like me I don’t think of them running long distances or lifting heavy weights.

When I think of a strength legacy I prefer to think that my children, and all of the children I serve, will ever-increasingly have the strength to persists through ever-increasing odds, be they physical, spiritual, intellectual, emotional, or otherwise, and that something I’ve done, or will have done, will meaningfully impact that strength in them, even if only vaguely.

While I relentlessly fear the real and human possibility that I could fail in that mission, the fear is balanced by an equally relentless internal assurance that I will never give up trying not to.

Strong like me.

I’m continuously learning, growing, and hoping to one day understand exactly what that means for the incredible children I serve, and how I can contribute every bit of myself to the effort of making it so.

In the meantime, I’ll just keep on my way with hope, faith, and all the strength I can muster.

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

Real-Time, Reflective Vignette-ification

stumbling-and-falling

The Foundation. It moves really darn fast. Life, that is. Not just really fast, and not just darn fast, but really darn fast…and that’s fast. As I move along within it, doing my best to love, listen, learn, lead, and share the gratitude I have for each moment, I stumble and fall (a lot).

A growth mindset helps. It helps me realize that the stumbling and falling parts are really good for the learning and leadership parts, even critically essential if you don’t mind a bit of redundancy.

When I stumble I have to stabilize. I have to catch myself, counterbalance whatever set me off, shake off the equilibrium-shock, refocus, refresh, integrated new learning if it stuck, and take a “moving on with enhanced awareness and/or ability” breath (in those moments when catching myself during a stumble perpetuates enhanced awareness and/or ability). If I feel the benefits of such an experience immediately afterward, I might even smile.

When I fall I have to get back up. I have to make it through whatever pain is incurred during the fall, I have to dust myself off, I have to swallow my pride, and I have to keep on keeping on. If it hurt really badly, I have to take some time to heal. If it hurt really darn badly, I have to be alone for a minute (at least).

Either way, the stumbling and the falling feed the learning and the leadership.

The Strategy. Real-Time, reflective vignetteification makes it a bit easier, and arguably even more effective. Nothing in life is entirely easy (at least that’s been my experience), however, everyone knows that a bit easier is enhanced above a bit more difficult. One of the reasons life can be so difficult is that it’s often about interacting with people, and people feel. Learning and leadership are deeply embedded in the interacting with people parts of life.

Real-time, reflective vignette-ification calls for the compartmentalizing of emotions during any given situation that might otherwise be made more difficult or confusing by the same. Emotions, that is.

Here’s how it works: when you’re in a situation that calls for quick and critical thought and/or action in the face of high stakes challenges and/or heightened emotions, you force yourself to think about the situation as something you’re reading in a book. You know, a vignette.

Think of these situations as vignettes and think about how books with these types of vignettes are written. Sections that allow readers to reflect on the vignettes with thoughts and ideas about how they would react, respond, or proceed typically follow the vignettes. Real-time, reflective vignette-ification allows you to answer and act as if you were outside of the situation.

Be careful to stay connected, but do step outside of these situations with an eye on effective learning and leadership rather than emotion. You can return to the emotion later if you’d like. Some people process that way.

Now, it might be that the emotions of the person or people you’re learning and/or leading with are important to process, it often is. In those cases, make sure you don’t overlook those. I’m suggesting the removal of your emotions with real-time, reflective vignette-ification model, the ones that get in the way of your level-headedness.

Digging in a bit. Ever notice that when you reflect on the vignettes in those you books you have really good ideas, that those really good ideas come to you with a high degree of clarity, and that you feel great about the solutions you come up with.

Ever notice that sometimes, after similar real-time situations you think, or even say, “I wish I would have…” or “If I’d have been thinking more clearly I could have…” or even the classic, “hindsight is 20/20?” Real-time, reflective vignette-ification can help you avoid that.

It takes practice, it takes resolve, it takes wherewithal, it takes believing that most things that seem to be about you aren’t, that people are generally well meaning and kind even though we get upset and off balance at times, and that listening is often more meaningful than talking. It takes wanting to feel good, and it takes wanting the same for others.

It takes deep, goal oriented focus and the ability to visualize outcomes. It takes a desire and it takes a commitment. It takes time, it takes grit, and it takes holding back from complaining about the more self-pity-laden faux burdens we so love to complain about.

On the flip side, and to the benefit of all involved, it promotes not wanting to.

If you learn and/or lead, give it some thought, and then give it a shot. You might like it.

Live, love, listen, learn, lead…thanks.

Picking the Positive [a(IQ)]

pick-the-positive

The Foundation. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about diversity. I’ve been focused on considering ways in which I can effectively practice, model, and teach a healthy appreciation and respect for the diversity that exists in every direction I look around this ever-changing and often-challenging world.

I’ve been wondering about ways in which I can best make and support positive connections with those whose paths I cross or parallel along my journey. I’ve been carefully working to understand how the myriad thoughts, ideas, and perspectives constantly surfacing through my interactions with others play into our individual and collective learning and growth, and how the same enhance our individual and collective lives.

That’s what it’s all about after all, isn’t it? Looking for ways to be happy while simultaneously contributing to the happiness of others? The pursuit of happiness is an unassailable right indelibly connected to the core of who we are. Should it not be woven into the fabric of our quests?

As a husband, a father, and an educator, I feel a strong responsibility to protect that right for myself and for those I serve. Fostering and sustaining positive partnerships that lead to joyful teaching and learning has always been at the core of my learning and leadership vision, the foundation of who I am, and what I seek to do in every moment, with each passing day.

My aim is true. My intentions are pure and concentrated. I continue to look for tools and strategies to aid the unfolding of those intentions. I’ve become a master at forgiving myself missteps along the way in favor growth. Much of my thinking energy has gone into ways I might emphasize the importance and impact of positive partnerships.

Recently, I read an article called, “Unconscious Bias: When Good Intentions Aren’t Enough” by an author named Sarah E. Fiarman. Mrs. Fiarman is an educational consultant and a former public school principal who has written multiple books on learning and leadership. She sub-titled this article, “Deep rooted biases hinder our best intentions. Learn how to recognize and address them.” The article is published in the November 2016 issue of Educational Leadership, entitled “Disrupting Inequity.”

At first blush, when I’m considering equity in schools, I go to race. Then, I tend to move to socio-economics, followed by gender, and so on. Could this be a form of unconscious bias in and of itself?

After leading with some thinking on the impact of bias and the need for increased awareness, Mrs. Fiarman addresses naming it. She points out, “Sometimes we increase awareness by naming bias in others and in ourselves,” and goes on to assert that naming is not always comfortable. It’s not easy to consider your own biases. Especially in light of the fact that in most cases where bias plays a role in decision-making and actions the bias doesn’t fit with intentions or worldview.

Bias is often unconscious, which is why it’s so important to dig into it with an open mind, an open heart, and a clear purpose. My purpose in reflecting with critical intention on this article and digging into the potential of my own unconscious bias is to enhance my learning and leadership practice. I’m looking to do the hard work of figuring out where I could be more attentive to the needs of those I serve. I’m seeking to understand how I can enhance my ability to seek to understand.

After moving through pieces of the puzzle in which Mrs. Fiarman points out how important it is to recognize and appreciate that unconscious bias can negatively impact our behaviors, that designing systems to counteract those impacts is critical, and that positive, trusting, and collaborative relationships have the power to provide some essential unconscious bias understanding through shared analysis and genuine, caring checks and balances regarding decision making, I came to the part where she wrote about empathy.

She began with, “Another proven way to counteract the power of unconscious bias is to replace negative associations with positive ones.” This drove straight into the heart of what I’d been thinking about. It caused me to lift my eyes from the page and process. It’s what I would like to be best at. With Dweck’s growth mindset as a foundation, maybe it can be.

If you believe that everything happens for a reason, and at just the right time for that reason to be most striking, than it’s worth noting that this article came to me at just the right time. If you don’t, it might be worth noting anyway. Either way, I dig it.

Mrs. Fiarman says, “Biases are built by repeated exposure to a particular message,” and that, “Deliberately consuming counter narratives can help break down that automatic reflex.” I dig it, indeed.

So, what if our biases extend to the negative itself. What if we are bent to leaning toward the negative in any, and even more troubling, every situation?

The world moves fast ad it’s riddled with challenges. Lest we forget that every challenge is also a chance we could likely become wrapped up in the ongoing tumble of dirty laundry that seems to surround us.

The Story. Yesterday my five-year-old punted a beanbag in the middle of the living room at his Nan and Pop’s house. Let me clarify that Nan and Pop’s living room is not an ideal place for punting anything. Whatever grace prevented that punt from resulting in something being knocked over, smashed, or otherwise destroyed is undoubtedly real and indisputably powerful.

After several seconds that seemed to go by in slow motion, and upon a safe landing for the would-be-destructor of a bean bag, my son and I looked at one another wide-eyed and filled with relief in the knowledge that neither of us was about to be in big trouble.

I spoke first, “That was a really bad idea.”

Then he spoke, “A really bad idea but a really good punt.”

We both laughed.

The Reflection. What if that’s the way?

What if my astute five-year-old was the teacher and I was the student?

What if I found a new mentor?

What if, no matter the situation, picking out the positive is where the treasure can be found?

Sure, there are several, easily conceivable worse scenarios than the potential for a broken vase at Nan and Pop’s house, but in that moment, we were both slightly (if not considerably) terrified. Still, this kid picked the positive. My mentor modeled what might be the way.

My hope is that he understood the theoretically flawed decision-making and the potential for disaster. I try to impart learning around every turn. I also understand that learning comes at its own pace and in its own time.

What if the real learning here is that life is better when we look on the bright side?

What if the nugget of truth in this situation is about a holistic look at our moments with an eye on what went well?

Should I be considering the living room beanbag-punt experiment as a viable lesson in positive responsiveness?

What do we do when questionable decision-making goes right? Should we be focused on the decision making in a vacuum, or should we be focused on the “right?’

What if we set our individual and collective paths on picking the positive?

Is it possible that picking the positive could lead to a paradigm of progress and self-celebration? Might that be good for all involved? Could picking the positive help to foster cultures of teamwork, trust, and growth is school communities? Families? Within ourselves?

Could picking the positive shift our thinking in right directions by repeatedly exposing us to hopeful and optimistic messaging?

I suppose anything is possible, isn’t it?

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

 

A Whispered Message And A Hopeful Core (Fiction)

hopeful-core

“Learn to listen to listen to learn.”

He heard the words as he passed the bodega on the corner; the one with the $2 pizza slices and the monster, 3 lb pastrami sandwiches.

He must have passed it a thousand times.

He had never heard words as he passed it before, never with any clarity anyway.

It had always only been the buzz of shuffling feet and whirring cell phones, crying babies and barking dogs, honking horns and the terse calls of impatient passers by. It had always only been the unresolved, amorphous symphony of the city.

It had always only been freeform, unremarkable and mostly beside the point. What the distant point had ever been in any moment, it had always only been beside that.

This moment was decidedly different. He didn’t know why, what, or how. He didn’t need to. Not yet. A new thing was happening. It was as clear as his feet to the fire and as cryptic as a softly whispered message, too soft to fully perceive.

Like the subsequent shifts initiated by the many new things that came before, this new thing turned a page. This time, he felt the turn with fervor and an unapologetic swiftness. This time, he felt the previous pages being instantaneously seared to ash.

One phase of his life had suddenly come to a screeching halt. One phase of his life had proportionately-suddenly began. He was transformed; like it or not.

Something was awakened inside of him. Something that had been there, but something that had been mostly dormant. Something that had previously only slightly stirred in making its presence known, something that had previously only slept with an occasional restlessness that called his attention subtly to it, and something that was now fully awake.

He stopped and stretched every nerve to listen more closely. He leaned into it. All else had blurred.

“Learn to listen to listen to learn.”

The words weren’t buffered fragments of a droning, inaudible collective noise, but rather, they were lightning strikes. Each one bright white and blinding like galvanized thought fragments unabatedly crashing into the heart of his mind without restraint, like shards of cosmic insistence, each one aggressively disinclined to go unnoticed.

Simultaneously, reflective realization jarred him, a question occurred to him, and an unequivocal answer shocked him more fully into this new space from which he would not return.

I’ve never heard words in this way before. Have I ever really heard words at all before? No I haven’t.

He turned to look. There, just beyond the doorway of the bodega stood a mouse.

He noticed that the mouse was pristine and wondered how it could be, skittering around a city riddled with muck.

The two stood staring at one another for some time. Everything else passed by. A city doesn’t stop for a man staring at mouse. It doesn’t notice. It doesn’t care.

“Honoring other people’s emotions fosters unbiased listening.”

The words rang out. He heard them clearly. The mouse seemed to smile. He smiled back, an unsteady and apprehensive smile, but a smile nonetheless.

“Compassion onsets restorative energy.”

Did the mouse wink? He wasn’t sure.

“A pastrami sandwich.”

With these words, the mouse skittered away. Tracing its path, his eyes landed on a scruffily dressed old man sitting on a cushion of cardboard boxes and news papers, legs crossed and outstretched as if poolside at a posh hotel.

“Excuse me?” He asked.

“Excuse me.” The old man insisted.

“Are you asking me for a pastrami sandwich?” he stammered.

“I’m asking you go inside and get one,” The man replied with a smile. It was a smile unnervingly similar to the one the mouse seemed to submit only moments before.

“Sure,” he said, and then he strode into the bodega to acquiesce.

Reasonably, he figured the sandwich was for the old man. However, when he returned with it, the old man was gone. In his place was a note on a napkin. The note read: Eat it here, and while you do, listen with a hopeful core.

A hopeful core, he thought, and it came to him a flash. The words. The words he heard. The words like lightning, the words that activated this change, and the words that had him standing outside of a bodega smiling at a mouse.

Learn to listen to listen to learn, he thought. He was in the process of doing just that, he realized.

Honoring other people’s emotions facilitates unbiased listening, he thought. H-O-P-E-F-U-L, he realized.

He looked up. The noise had returned. It was different though. It wasn’t the collective, indistinct sound it had previously been. Now, it was an amalgam of many individual sounds. Still a collection, but now, unlike before, a collection made up of crisp individual parts, each explicitly meaningful in and of itself, while at the same time indelibly connected to what had become a striking and harmonious symphony, and not an unresolved, amorphous one.

Compassion onsets restorative energy, he thought. C-O-R-E, he realized.

All at once a wave of energy ran through him. He was exhilarated. Listening to the symphony of the city with compassion, honoring each noise and its accompanying emotion, feeling the shifting tones of joy, fear, hope, trepidation, passion, sadness, and delight coursing through the waves of sight and sound as they passed over and through him bolstered each of the same within him. It was invigorating.

The mouse had since returned. The two sat for some time, sharing a 3 lb pastrami sandwich, soaking in the symphony of the city with a hopeful core, feeling restored, and savoring the start of something new, while simultaneously not knowing why, what, or how.

He did know that life has many twists and turns.

He did know that things seem to ever-increasingly happen for reasons, and that the reasons often stand in blurred spaces just out of his reach until they become unveiled in their own time.

He did know that love casts a fixed ray of liquefying light on hate, that optimism offsets reluctance, and that hope binds us all through a flowing force which, even when hard to see or feel, can neither be denied or destroyed.

A bodega, a symphony of sound, a mouse and old man, a pastrami sandwich, and a hopeful core; A whispered message is often a difficult message to decipher. It is however, a message nonetheless.

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

Reflection and Growth: The Bad News Is the Good News [(a)IQ]

reflection-and-growth

When I think about reflection I typically think about looking back on something. I think about a blanket analysis of something I had previously thought, said, or done.

Why?

Why do I think of reflection as a simple backward-looking act when I know what the word means? A reflection is an image of the present. It’s essentially an aura of the moment in which it exists, and in that, it’s a powerful tool for considering growth and next steps.

While the incorporation of pathway and progress are essential to planning and forward thinking, it would seem that those next steps should be the critical focus of a meaningful reflective practice.

Hank Procee refers to Frank Serafini’s outlining of reflective practice on the foundation of both “reflectively” as dealing with “profession-related issues” and “reflection” as stressing “critical social issues.” He summaries Serifini’s distinction between “three critical dimensions” or reflective practice as follows, “The first dimension in purpose (what is the goal of reflection); the second is process (how is reflection exercised); and the third is focus (what is the central event or experience to reflect upon)” (p. 238).

I’m beginning to consider that my conventional reflective paradigm might have something to do with a type judgment that lays outside of the scientific lens that Serifini constructs, and in that, has the potential to restrict meaningful and progressive outcomes.       It is through that consideration that I have been further contemplating shifting my paradigm in favor of a more real-time conception, solidifying a new reflective paradigm that better aligns with my intended purpose, process, and focus, and framing each reflective stop along the path with forward progress always in mind.

In doing so, I’m also bearing in mind an effort to reframe and enhance my perception of judgment as a function of learning and growth indelibly connected to reflection.

Visualize your own reflection in a mirror. What do you see? Do you not see yourself as you are right now?

Arguably, in this moment, within your reflection, and given the knowledge you have of yourself and your past, you can see how that past has impacted your progress toward this moment.

As I reflect right now my thoughts are with what has led to this moment, professionally and personally, and with what I might think, say, and do to continue becoming what it is I’m aiming at. This would be a process focused on real-time growth with the purpose of learning and enhances practice…process, purpose, and focus.

In reflection through this lens I would be forced to think on a foundation of the moment I’m witnessing and asking how I can bring my best and most thoughtful personal and professional qualities to each consecutive moment, even as I change along with an ever-changing understanding of myself within both a personal and professional context.

Another critical aspect of understanding my best and how to tap it in each moment is reflection around best practices in others. Sometimes it’s difficult to see and understand our own best. It often seems less difficult to recognize others at their best or to pick out best qualities in others. If that is the case, scientifically reflecting on the thoughts, ideas, and actions of others as potential models of effective practice (whether through a “what to do” or a “what not to do” lens) could contribute to progress in meaningful ways as well.

In doing so it is critical to avoid negative or personalized judgment, while focusing in on growth-producing judgment. What if I were only to pull only the very best from every situation I see or hear about? What if my reflective practice was only about the positive? What if even the instinctively negative aspects of reflective judgment were forcibly viewed holistically as opportunities for advancement?

Inside of a growth mindset, even challenges and mistakes are to be considered positive opportunities for learning. Through this lens, even the bad news is the good news because the bad news is fodder for contemplation of connected development.

I would suggest that thinking about reflection as a scientific act in which purpose, process, and focus set the stage for growth allows us to separate from the arguably reflexive potential for negative judgment, and to connect our personal and professional practice to the meaningful growth patterns we would inevitably then discover in ourselves and in others. I would further suggest that the same has the potential to help reflective practitioners see those patterns with enhanced clarity and use them as drivers of continuous and positive progress.

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

Frustrated Tomorrow

frustrated-tomorrow

Frustration can be depleting.  It can be distracting. It can catalyze an energy shift from joyful to uneasy in the blink of an eye.

Running into frustration can zap you.  It can take you off guard and it can inundate potentially peaceful moments of your one, relatively short life with tension.  It can take you by surprise and spin you around.

Also, frustration can be extremely easy to come by in the busy, fast-paced world in which we live.

I understand that we are each unique. However, I would venture a guess that everyone experiences some frustration in one form or another.

I would further speculate that most of us experience at least a bit of that frustration over situations that, if scrutinized for balanced responses and significance, wouldn’t actually call for it (the frustration, that is).

Finally, while I suppose there is an argument to be made for frustration as a motivator, I would suggest that any number of alternate, upbeat, and progressive routes might be increasingly positive & holistically more productive than the frustrated one.

In that I don’t prefer the troublesome nature of frustration to joyful calm I’ve focused some relatively significant reflective energy on seeking one of those alternate routes for moments where frustration presents as a viable mindset.

After only forty-two short years of soul searching I think I may have found a decent strategy for energy shifting, reframing, and regulation toward the calm focus of which I speak when those moments arise.

I’m calling it, “Frustrated Tomorrow.”

Turns out, it’s not new and it’s not rocket science.  Not nearly.

It’s simply about having and exercising the desire, the will, and the connected commitment to joyful, present, and thoughtful living to counter-infect your mind with contented serenity as an antidote to any frustration that would seek to strip from you the same.

It seems to work too.  At least for me.  And at least so far.

I’ve only been doing it for a couple of weeks and the impact is already visible.

For example, I realized not too long ago that I had recently lost the will to engaged in car karaoke. A practice I’ve been enjoying for decades.

After enlisting the support of “Frustrated Tomorrow” I’ve found myself once again singing along with my favorite eighties superstars at the top of my lungs; Journey, Aerosmith, and even Bette Midler in a moment of pure abandonment (“The Rose” – I couldn’t help it).

Freed from the minutia of unfettered frustration by way of “Frustrated Tomorrow” I’m finding myself more frequently accessing the reflective, creative, and jubilant parts of what makes life fun for me.

I’m more available to my family. Ironically, one of the frustrations that at times has kept me drained and somewhat distant, even when I was physically present, was the fact that I don’t have nearly as much physically present time as I’d like.  Aside from thick with irony, that’s just goofy.

“Frustrated Tomorrow” helped me walk that back and remember what a blessing each moment truly is.

Under the “Frustrated Tomorrow” paradigm I’m more fun, I’m more thoughtful, I’m more introspective, and I’m simply more me.

If you ever feel frustration and question it as potentially unnecessary, and if you’re interested in exploring another pathway to peacefulness, you might consider the procedure below in exploring that “Frustrated Tomorrow” could work for you.

Step 1: When you feel frustration knocking decide to reserve it for tomorrow by saying, “I’ll be frustrated about that tomorrow.”  Out loud is good.  In your mind will do.

Step 2: Actually, there is no “Step 2.” Step 1 should do the trick if you trust yourself, and if you’re able to take your own advise. If it doesn’t work, you’ll simply get and possibly remain frustrated. No harm, no foul.

Good news though, you can keep trying as often as you’d like, even and especially if you fail at first.  After all, failure is a magnificent pathway to learning and growth.  The most magnificent some might say.

In fact, “Frustrated Tomorrow” might not work for you until you work on it.

It’s possible that you might have to see the benefits before it sinks in.

It’s possible that you might have to be cool with delaying the gratification of frustration before your able to give it up (if indeed frustration itself turns out to be your desired end game).

If you enlist the courage to continue through failure you might find that in some, if not most cases, you’ll end up not needing frustration once tomorrow comes.

If you dig in even when facing seemingly imminent defeat, you might experience that in some, if not most cases you’ll forget why you were considering frustration in the first place.

Who knows? Not me. Just a thought.

If you need it, and you want it, and you try it, and it works…well done (and happy joyful calm).

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Laugh. Lead.

And I Quote: Meeting Teachers In Their Classrooms As A Foundation For Professional Learning

Meeting Learners in Their Space

Professional learning in school communities is unquestionably a complex and challenging concept to attend to. Teachers, like all learners, are wide ranging in their interests, their developmental pathways, their learning styles, and their capacity to engage on any given day and in any given setting. There is no standard that works for everyone (at least I haven’t come across it).

Some adult learners require movement and interaction to stay connected while others prefer to stay put, listen, and take notes. Some want to generate thoughts and ideas through a process of individual and collaborative brainstorming, exploration, and critical thinking, while others prefer to have information delivered to them. Even so, dynamic lecturers can transform the traditional “sit and get” experience into vibrant and engaging opportunities for rich, meaningful, and connected learning, and effective group facilitators can draw enthusiastic participation out of the most reluctant collaborators.

As school administrators and professional learning teams consider reflective systems and structures such as Camburn’s three phase reflective process, Gladwell and DiCamillo’s professional dyads, and/or Purcell’s “post class reflective notes,” we must also consider connected and meaningful content. How do we get at learning that truly drives individual and collaborative progress and effectively impacts student wellbeing and achievement in authentically positive ways?

Of comprehensive school reform (CSR) programs, Camburn warns, “if we wish to develop a fuller understanding of how teachers’ work experiences support the development of their practice, it is useful to look beyond their participation in traditional staff development and consider a broader array of experiences” (p. 464). He further clarifies by suggesting, “knowledge about teaching that is acquired in teachers’ immediate work context (their classrooms and the larger school organization) may be more readily applied than knowledge acquired outside that context” (p. 466). A suggestion that connects directly to the “try it out, mull it over, and critically evaluate it” professional learning triangle he points to as scaffolding for genuine reflective progress.

Individual and/or collaborative reflective practices, employed in real-time and on location can influence professional learning a ways that provide teachers with the autonomy needed to connect in meaningfully with school reform or improvement initiatives, a valued voice along their own learning pathways, and a framework regarding how learning meets application for them and for their unique student population during any given moment in time.

Enlisting connected research and reflecting on outside scenarios and ideas has its place and should not be dismissed as worthwhile for professional learning in school communities. However, school leaders must also consider that the base of any truly connected progress specific to their school community is in fact real-time teaching and learning challenges and triumphs that are also specific to their school community, and that are concurrently transpiring along with the progress. Empowering classroom teachers to drive their own professional learning through reflection on their own experiences can be immensely powerful.

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

 

*The foundation of this “And I Quote” post is an article by Eric M. Camburn of the University of Wisconsin-Madison entitled “Embedded Teacher Learning Opportunities as a Site for Reflective Practice: An Exploratory Study,” published in 2010 in the American Journal of Education.

And I Quote: Immediate Written Reflection Might Make Even The Best Teachers Even Better

Immediate Puddles

Teachers have loads of pencils, shelves overflowing with books, buckets of paper clips and pushpins, and they have drawers that are jam-packed with construction paper. They have magic markers and they have paintbrushes to match their plethora of vibrant, plastic, circle-basin watercolor trays. They have computers, they have printers, and they have copy machines. They have chairs and they have tables. They have colorful carpets and they have decorative wall art. They have expertise and they have one another for collaboration when additional expertise is required. Teachers have many of the things they need to create comfortable, safe, and engaging learning environments for the students they serve.

What’s the one thing that teachers might highlight as something they don’t have? Enough time. The business of education is multifaceted, enormously demanding, and fast-paced. It often seems that there isn’t enough time in a school day to include intentional reflection along with the many other things teachers have to do, most of which present as urgent and important, while reflection might not, even for those who value it as important to their learning and growth.

David Purcell wrote about his exploration of “post class reflective notes” (p. 5) in a way that suggests consideration of time management with regard to ongoing and intentional reflective practice for connected, real-time learning and growth for teachers. Engaging in the practice took time, however, Purcell found the return on that time investment pointedly beneficial for him, and moreover, for his students.

Purcell suggested, “The cumulative effect over time of incorporating reflective practice is that I have increased my sense of mastery as a teacher (p. 14).” Again, time is critical in this equation. We don’t see the impact of reflective practice immediately, but rather “over time.” Ironically, for that impact to be maximized, Purcell suggests we engage in the reflective practice immediately.

While the challenges and triumphs of a class session or a school day are fresh in mind, a teacher’s immediate reflective notes can be invaluable to future learning and ongoing reflective growth. Keeping a daily reflective journal, even if only jotting down a few sentences or bullet points for further consideration, can be powerful in insuring a connectedness between professional learning and professional practice.

Whether as a foundation for any of Camburn’s three phases of reflective collaboration, as a tool for reference within a professional dyad as outlined by Gladwell and Dicamillo, or in connection with other intentional reflective systems or structures, immediate “post class reflective notes” are likely to serve as reminders of potential, and genuine areas of focus for driving progress in best practices instruction.

Regarding his use of regular and immediate written reflection Purcell further submits, it “has likely had a positive effect on student learning through (his) improved effectiveness as a teacher” (p. 14). He equates an “increased sense of mastery” with “improved effectiveness as a teacher,” as well he should. We know that one’s self image is a influential force in one’s progress. When teachers regularly remind themselves of their own challenge areas and growth patterns they energize themselves with the consistent cue that improvement is indelibly connected to critical and targeted processing.

Immediate written reflection is a professional learning practice that has the capacity to shift a traditional (and valid) time-deficient paradigm into one where connected perceptions of importance are capable of overriding those of urgency, even and especially in the busy day to day of teaching and learning.

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

 

*The foundation of this “And I Quote” post is an article called, “Sociology, Teaching, and Reflective Practice: Using Writing to Improve” by David Purcell.

Thankful Thursday: Unexpected Marvelous Surprises (ums)

Ums

Relatively recently I was the benefactor of an unexpected marvelous surprise. It was wonderful (in addition to being marvelous…as marvelous things often are).

Here’s how unexpected marvelous surprises (ums) work:

  1. You’re walking along, living your life in the way(s) you expected to be.
  2. Someone approaches you with an unexpected marvelous surprise (or one surfaces is some other form or fashion).
  3. It’s wonderful.

Ums are actually quite basic and they occur more frequently than some of us give them credit for. Also, when we recognize and appreciated them they have the capacity to be outstanding tools for developing relationships and fostering cultures of optimistic enthusiasm and positive progress in school communities and at home.

Ums have the power to support leaders and learners in framing the world as a surprisingly marvelous place, even and especially when they least expect it. Just one *um can fill a heart with joy and a soul with sustainable hope.

A viable school, classroom, and/or home practice to consider might be intentionally issuing 2-3 ums to people you serve on a daily basis. A nice note to your spouse, a new book from the library for your child, a “thank you” card for a teacher with some positive feedback on the wonderful impact he or she makes, or even the gift of a “magic” crayon to a kindergarten with the connected request for a “magic” drawing to be generated and hung on your wall.

Even the most simple, positive contact or communication can be an um in this busy world. Ums support cultures of caring and positive partnerships. Ums remind people that good is all around and that we are in this together!

The relatively recent um I’m writing about now began with an invitation to guest host a popular Twitter chat. My friend and colleague Dr. Mary Howard (@DrMaryHoward) contacted me and four other administrators from around the country. She asked each of us to guest host one in a series of five sessions that would combine to spotlight school leadership and collectively envision the incredible potential of forward thinking school communities (like the ones in which we’re each fortunate enough to serve).

Mary is the author of “Good to Great Teaching: Focusing on the Literacy Work that Matters” from Heinemann. She’s also the co-moderator of this enormously meaningful and collaborative weekly twitter chat under the hash tag #G2Great. The chat is co-moderated by the amazing Amy Brennan (@brennanamy) and the remarkable Jenn Hayhurst (@hayhusrt3) and it takes place on Thursday evenings from 8:30 – 9:30 pm. Join tonight with guest host Matt Renwick (@ReadByExample) if you can!

The invite was a real um for me, and it turned into multiple subsequent ums as well! It was my first time guest hosting a chat. The learning happened on multiple fronts.

First, I was blown away by the input from and digital dialogue of the #G3Great PLN (Professional Learning Network, if you didn’t know…and even if you did), and second, I was officially introduced to “tweetdeck” and thereby exposed to a whole new world of possibilities with regard to shared digital learning. Frankly…it’s awesome, not to mention very user-friendly. Check it out. And here’s the Storify link to our chat session if you’re interested: #G2Great 8/4/16.

As if that wouldn’t have been plenty of connected ums to fill me up for some time, Mary wrote a way-to-kind, accompanying post on the wonderful “Literacy Lenses” blog (linked to text).   The post warmed my heart, humbled and flattered the heck out of me, and it also fill me with inspiration and the ever-important reminder that the most effective and meaningful leadership is shared!

I’m so fortunate to have such amazing partners, from the students, teachers, and parents I serve, to my building and central office administrative partners, to the remarkable educational and organizational leaders I’m so proud to be intertwined with as a global PLN on this leadership and learning journey. I learn and grow the best and in the most meaningful ways when I do it together with others.

So, look out for incoming ums along with opportunities to provide outgoing ums as you prepare for the start of another great school year. Inspire those you serve with continued demonstrations of your commitment to shared learning and leadership, and allow yourself to be lifted up and inspired by even the most fundamental ums that come your way, if for no other reasons then…um…you’re worth it!

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thank you.

 

* In this context the term “um” represents a single unexpected marvelous surprise given the coinciding facts that, 1. The words “unexpected” and “surprise” are synonymous, making it unnecessary to include both unless speaking or writing in multiplicity (with the “s” indicating multiple “ums” as it does with regard nous in general), and 2. You shouldn’t say or write the phrase “an ums” because it simply doesn’t sound or read correct (and arguably, neither does this explanation, but whatever…you get it).