Category: WAYS

These are some ways that I’ve seen, read about, or otherwise come across that seem to engage students in learning and growth.

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.

Booger Boy and The Big Bad Nostril in “The Quest For Courage”

E.E. Cumming wrote, “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” Ain’t that the truth.

The other day my two oldest boys (7 and 5 years old) told me about a story they were collaborating on. Jolts of delight visibly swirled in their minds and shot light laser beams from their inspired eyes as they revealed the idea.

The story was being constructed on the premise that a kid had realized his super powers in the form of an ability to project boogers from his fingertips. Gooey boogers, crispy boogers, boogers in any state needed for any given challenge.

Appropriately, Booger Boy is the kid’s name.

The Big Bad Nostril is the kid’s nemesis (appropriately, too).

The boys explained that The Big Bad Nostril has the power to blow so hard (out of his nostrils) that he can fly. Booger boy can use crispy boogers to knock him down and gooey boogers to stuff his nostrils so full that his flying powers are nullified.

Gross? Yes.

Creative, connected, and meaningful? Possibly yes, too.

Who is Booger Boy in the mind of a 7 or 5 year old? Who or what is The Big Bad Nostril?

What does it take for a child to understand the super powers in his or her own arsenal?

What does it take for a child to employ those super powers as needed?

Courage? I think so.

Just before I reminded my boys only to write and talk about Booger Boy and the Big Bad Nostril at home, and not at school, I found some courage of my own, and then I stopped myself.

This line of creative thinking might be a connected source of development regarding their own superpowers, and their ability to use them.

What if they’re figuring out how to be brave?

What if they’re digging into the source of their courage and unfolding pathways to practice overcoming challenges?

What if one of them is Booger Boy?

What they both are?

What the Big Bad Nostril needs to be addressed?

What if this is the boys’ way of getting at it?

What if this is an inspired story that deserves to be written?

What if the development of this story is a part of the process that has my boys growing into confident writers, independent thinkers, self-assured storytellers, reflective dreamers, and courageous seekers of tools and strategies designed to help them face and overcome any number of the inevitable challenges that they will each encounter over the course of their lives?

What if giving way to my hesitation, as founded by my perhaps baseless concern over the potential trouble these two unsuspecting young authors could face over the public exploration of this subject matter, is a super power in and of itself?

What if facing a bit of potential trouble over their creative thinking and expression might enlist just the courage they need to persist in true and brave ways?

What if?

It does take courage to grow up and become who you really are. I know this because I still need it at every turn; closer and closer each day, and still needing courage along the way.

Note to self: Be brave, and teach your children the same.

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.

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.

Let’s help boy writers celebrate themselves as writers, please (thanks).

Believe It.

There’s so much more to being a writer than simply thinking you’re one. I think. Or maybe not. Who knows? Not me. I’m just a guy who thinks he’s a writer, but that’s beside the point (kind of).

Anyway, in elementary school we find that some students don’t think they’re writers. Specifically, we tend to find this diminished sense of writerly self or otherwise holistic lack of confidence and/or drive in boy writers. But that’s too bad, and it’s also the underpinning of unfortunately inaccurate feelings on their part. In fact, they are writers. We all are. We all have a story and we’re all capable of telling it in some written form. That’s writing, and that’s what writers do.

I love to write. Writing quite literally feeds my soul. It scaffolds my growth. It’s the foundation of my reflective processing. It’s in no small way a big part of my life. I crave it.

When I feel bad, writing helps me feel better. When I’m stuck, writing helps me move. When I need it, it’s there. I can write on a napkin or in the sand. I can writer standing up or siting down. I can think about what I would write even when I don’t have anything to write on or with. I call that mind writing and I think it’s writing too (some people consider it daydreaming; you say tomato…).

I consider myself a writer, and I consider that consideration a gift. It’s a gift given to me by those who have celebrated my self-identification as a writer, and those who have supported me in doing the same, for better or worse…and there’s been a lot of worse with some peppered in better.

I distinctly remember writing and submitting a piece composed in a language that I totally made up. It was entirely nonsensical from start to finish, but it made sense to me. I was compelled to do it even thought I suspected that my teacher would be frustrated and that my parents would most likely be on the receiving end of an angry phone call regarding my lack of solemnity for school. What if that was the moment they found out I was a silly guy? So be it.

But it wasn’t. My teacher took it seriously. She celebrated it. She celebrated me as a writer. She supported me in doing the same, so I did. I loved it. I wanted to write more. I did that too. I still do. I even write in English (a well establish and widely recognized sensical language) much of the time.

I identify as a writer. I made, and continue to make no apologies about using words like “sensicle.” Just look at this post. With regard to writing proficiency it’s stinky at best. And that’s being kind. Heck, I’ve used the words “but,” “with,” and “and” to begin sentences throughout these paragraphs. I honestly have no idea if I’m actually allowed to do that. I’m walking a fine line to say the least. But I love it (oops).

Getting boys to self-identify as writers is a challenge that we in elementary education face with a great many of the boys we serve.  We want boys to self-identify in this way because we believe that self-identification breeds confidence and fosters engagement. It does and always has for me.

I was a boy at one time. Granted, it was long ago and for an appallingly brief period of time, but I was. I promise. Now, I’m the father to three boys. I want them each to feel free to write as they see fit. I want them to know the power and the joy of the written word, or the written whatever. I want them to be able to define what it is to write for themselves and to feel comfortable exploring this cathartic medium with vim (and even vigor if at all possible). I want that for all the boy writers I serve.

Parents and educators, let’s make sure to celebrate as the primary response to boys when they seek out quiet spots with pieces of paper and pencils in hand, when they get lost in scribble and sentences, when they discover the power of expression that writing can uniquely grant them, and let’s get wildly excited when then decide to share their writing with us, even and especially if and when they use silly words or broken punctuation. Let’s be ok with “but,” “and,” and “with,” as sentence starters if we can muster the strength.

We can refine along the way. First let’s help them explore, discover, and understand what being a writer means to each of them individually, and then let’s help each of them get excited about the fact that that’s exactly what they each are! Writers indeed.

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

Write? Write.

The Immeasurable Joys of Conscious Weight Gain Leadership

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We went to my mother-in-law’s house for Thanksgiving dinner. Technically speaking it’s my father-in-law’s house too, but he doesn’t cook like she does. In fact, I don’t know that he cooks at all. When my mother-in-law is at our house babysitting for more than a few hours at a time I suspect that ‘Papa’ has to skip meals.

I feel for the guy, but with the four little ones at home we do need help. He’s lost a lot of weight since we began having kids but he seems to be surviving. He’s very resilient. Anyway, as I was saying, we went to my mother-in-law’s house for Thanksgiving dinner.

I took a bit of nap before dinner because I knew that I’d need the energy for digestion later on. I could have waited to take the nap until after the meal but I nap on the floor, and given the “Tigger”- like nature of my children I’m never too far from a surprise pounce on the belly while floor-napping. Last night I was confident that my belly would be full in a not-for-pouncing sort of way. I was well thought out and prepared. I was driven and dedicated to getting the job done.

Any dinner at my mother-in-law’s house is not for the faint of heart, and this was Thanksgiving dinner. We’re talking about a woman who grew up in the kitchen with a mother who loved to cook. She watched and learned. She loved it. She still loves it.

Her food is no joke. I’m a grown man of forty-one years and this food often has me crying tears of joy in anticipation. I ‘ve been known to weep with eagerness days before I know she’s cooking. It’s the type of food that makes inevitable weight gain worthwhile. I go in knowing that the scale will tip. It’s a sacrifice I’m always willing to make.

Adding to the forthcoming lapse of dietary judgment I was planning to commit, I snuck a few chocolate truffles before dinner…maybe three or four (or so). They were siting on the counter calling my name (repeatedly). I was warming up. I thought I was alone but I wasn’t. My mother-in-law caught me red-handed. I didn’t know what to say so I just blurted out, “Not so good for my waistline but these truffles are great!”

With every bit of calm and encouragement, and as she continued stirring, pouring, and managing her orchestra of culinary wizardry, she assuredly replied, “We don’t worry about our waistlines while eating chocolate.”

Wow. Good point, and therein sets the leadership message: trust yourself, decide purposefully, and feel good about the path you tread.

For example, there are plenty of times during any given day when I feel way too busy to spend quality time with the incredible people I serve. Times when I feel stuck behind my desk responding to e-mails, writing reports, or organizing files.

However, there are times when I cast those things aside for the former. Times when I decide to go into a kindergarten classroom for some counting with beans or sharing of creatively written stories. Times when I decide to engage in the process of science exploration with a group of enthusiastic fifth graders. Times when a Teacher or a parent sits down in my office and we simply catch up on life for fifteen or twenty minutes.

These times are great. These times are important. The key is that the joyfulness remains intact. The key is that I’m not fidgeting with sweaty palms, anxious to get back to my e-mails, reports, and files. The key is that I engage in real-time, genuine conversations and learning collaborations without guilt or heightened stress.

What if you felt miserable every time you ate a piece of delicious chocolate? What if throwing caution to the wind with a rich and hearty meal every once in a while was a dismal experience? I say with balance and intentionality you can keep on course and also indulge every now and again. In fact, I say it’s important.

Conscious weight gain leadership is when you deliberately switch out a moment of one thing that seems imminent and critical for a moment of another and is actually more important. Parents might try this too.

I would suggest that you only do so with the confidence that the switched-out thing will eventually get done, and in a meaningful way. I would also suggest that you highlight the joyfulness of whatever it is you’ve switched out for. Don’t spend time on regret. It’s not helpful for anyone involved.

Be thoughtful, error on the side of joy, get done what you need to get done so that you can be intentional about switching stuff out every now and again, put people first.

Above all else, never eat a piece of chocolate or a rich and hearty meal with your waistline in mind…it’s simply not as good.

Live. Learn. Lead.

Dream Big. Work Hard. Use Courage.

The Fine Art of Eating Crow

Making Mistakes

Making mistakes is an amazingly meaningful and important component of learning and growth.  We have to do it.  If we didn’t do it we would run the risk of stagnation.  Without mistake making, we could forget that stumbling is a wonderful way to learn balance, that falling is great start to getting up, and that failing is an incredible tool for understanding what it takes to succeed.  I am a true Edisonian (it’s a word now).  I love that Edison got giddy about making mistakes!  I appreciate that he checked failed attempts off of his list, watching the list morph into an expansive doctrine on how not to do stuff, create things, and achieve goals.

The bigger the list got, the closer he came to doing that stuff, creating those things, and achieving those goals.  Best of all, when folks laughed, told him so, or gave up on him, it didn’t cross his mind to join them.  It wasn’t important that they believed or gave him any kind of credit for forward progress.  He just wanted to make good things happen.  He yearned to be a factor in positive change.  However, the positive change was the reward, not being the factor.

Being Right v Doing Right

Creating a light bulb is about offering people a mechanism by which to see with clarity in dark places.  We in education can relate because we have a very similar intended outcome.  We seek to bring light into dark places too.  We work to facilitate processes by which those we serve are able to maximize, and even exceed their potential.  We believe in what others might consider impossible.  We understand that the world we are ever-preparing for is in many ways beyond even our most outstretched imaginations.  We know that we don’t know.  We seek to know more every day.  We push ourselves to the max.  We hope.  We dream.  We believe.  Nowhere in the core of the values that drive us does “rightness” play a role.  It ain’t easy, in part, because we are regularly bombarded by voices that insist we’re wrong.  Ironically, many among us consider those voices, not in self-defeatist ways, but in reflective ways.

Educators are a kooky bunch of do-gooders who would much prefer to do the right things than to be the ones who are right.  At our core, we want our communities to learn and grow, whoever those learning and growth paths are paved by.  I believe that it behooves us to consider that as we walk through the fast paced, high intensity, and sometimes-exhausting world of our daily lives.  It’s hard though.  When frustration creeps in, we can always fall back on the action part of “rightness” and ask ourselves, “what’s important here?”

Have you ever moved forward with consensus, failed, then looked up at faces that were no longer consenced (probably not a word…but you get it)?  Have those faces ever worked to cut you down with assertions like, “Wow you really dropped the ball there!” or, “Ouch, you couldn’t have been more ineffective at that?”  Casting blame, pointing fingers, and other sundry attempts to deflect or distract should actually be considered boons for educational/organizational leaders!  They give us opportunities to model value driven professionalism and maturity, to show those we serve that even when the road is long and windy we are better off to tread with optimism, and to thicken our skin (which can help everyone focus).

I don’t prefer to cast generalizations.  However, every experience I’ve had leads me to firmly believe that being right is almost entirely inconsequential in the face of authentic learning and growth.  Remember that while process is key, we should always keep our eyes on the prize.  Student achievement, positive cultural development, learning, growth, fulfillment, and joyfulness perpetuate enhanced communities.  Arguments and extensive perseveration over who’s right, who’s wrong, or whose idea it was, diminish communities, weaken systems, and distract from the incredibly important work we do.

Don’t Over-Chew

So, eat that crow folks, and don’t over chew.  Swallow it like a pill and move on with your life.  Keep it light hearted and positive.  When people point out the messes you make, the balls you drop, the mistakes, the challenges, and the errors along your path, own all of it and thank them.  Then, ask for their help in moving forward.  Give them the voice that they need.  Offer autonomy inside of your partnerships, distribute credit for achievement, and overtly appreciate those you serve for their dedication, hard work, and contributions.

Remember that you are but a link in this chain.  Celebrate the strength of team, reserve pride for your own reflective growth, and help others understand that you are ready to take responsibility for positive progress, even when that means eating crow.  The more you practice, the easier it becomes, and the more impactful you will be on other individuals’ ability to see past distracting behaviors and into value/goal driven professional practice.  Besides, crow isn’t so bad with a dab of ketchup.  Just don’t put your foot in your mouth…that really stinks!

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Dream Big.  Work Hard.  Be Well.

Personalized Theoretical Constructs for Doable Ongoing Action Research

Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary suggests multiple definitions for the word “theory.”  I find, “an idea that is suggested or presented as possibly true but that is not known or proven to be true,” to be the most impactful one, as viewed through a researcher’s lens.  Specifically, think that definition works well for practicing educators and educational leaders engaged in ongoing action research framed by already-defined theoretical constructs.  In large part, research is designed to impact change in positive, progressive ways.  The developmental process by which change happens is embedded in a paradigm of possibility.  Using theory to guide research, with the understanding that there are ideas to be adapted and truths to be discovered, can be a powerful strategy for growth and development.

Dressman (2008) points out, “as research methodology has broadened in its scope, the ways in which theories are used have changed as well, from the generation of hypotheses to be tested to the use of theories as rhetorical “framing” devices that provide powerful metaphors that in some cases organized entire research projects” (p. 3).  In other words, research does not have to end in the proving or elaboration of any given theory.  Alternatively, theoretical beliefs and assumptions can be used to guide research that is intended to impact people, programs, and/or situations rather than the development of those beliefs and assumptions.  That kind of research is based on theoretical constructs or paradigms.

“Applying theory as a lens through which to view the social world is a powerful analytic process with significant implications for social change” (Allen, 2011, p. 16).  I think of the lens that Allen writes about as a theoretical construct, and the analytic process as research.  Suppose that people learn more effectively when they are joyful.  This is not an entirely implausible supposition.  In fact, there is a large body of existing research that suggests comfort, happiness, wellbeing, and even joyfulness can aid in productivity.  Stephen Covey’s incredibly popular strategies for organization and communication are meant to increase meaningful productivity and lead to “success.”  In part, Dr. Covey’s strategies focus on finding joy in one’s work, life, and relationships.

Regardless of Dr. Covey’s, or any other research, it would be reasonable for me to theorize that joy plays a significant role in learner productivity and success based on my own experiences, both as a learner and as an educator.  I can recall a multitude of situations in which the absence of joy left me preoccupied, and equally as many in which the presence of joy contributed to my ability focus on the task at hand.  I have worked with a several students who have lacked drive, and have pointed to challenging, joyless life scenarios as distractions from engagement and productivity in school.   I could very reasonably scaffold a research project on the theoretical construct that joy enhances learner productivity, without seeking to validate or otherwise justify it.

I could use case study methodology to identify ways in which joyful learners participate in the learning process, and then generate a list of behaviors that seem to lend themselves to meaningful engagement.  I could do a comparative ethnography of varied school or classroom cultures that speaks to joy as a motivator for learning, never attempting to substantiate the theoretical construct itself, only using it to scaffold understanding and progress with regard to learning cultures.  Research requires a starting point and a frame of reference.  A theoretical construct can provide both, even without defining proof that the construct is universally held to be true.  Furthermore, resulting data need not point to the validity of the theoretical construct, only to progress in the area of focus, or for the focus subjects of the research.

As an administrator I appreciate the use of theoretical constructs as the basis of ongoing research, because I believe that it diminishes the perceived intensity of research itself.  When research can move forward without the burden proof its assumptions, its accessibility is enhanced.  Besides, the outcome of such research will speak to that proof, even if in indirect ways.  The researcher and the research subjects can benefit from focused exploration, especially if they are willing to adapt according to outcome indicators.

I think that educators at all levels should be constantly doing action research.  Using personalized theoretical constructs to support that effort reduces formality and allows educators to weave reflection, analysis, and a growth mindset into their daily work.  By simply identifying critical challenges, framing them within a theoretical construct, collecting and analyzing related data, then applying those data to development through application, educators can effectively engage in continuing progress.

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Dream Big.  Work Hard.  Be Well.

 

References

Allen, E. J.  (2011).  Women’s status in higher education: Equity matters.  Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Dressman, M.  (2008).  Using social theory in educational research: A practical guide.  New York, NY: Routledge

Theory.  (n.d.).  In Merriam-Webster online.  Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/theory?show=0&t=1393191734

3,2,1 – Value Driven Leadership Made Easy

I’m about to make a generalization, so close your eyes if you don’t want to read it.

Value driven leadership is really the only way to go.  Leaders serve.  Within the notion of service, two groups exist…you, and those you serve.  I happen to believe that while distinguishable in many ways, during the leadership/service relationship, those two groups ought to be conjoined (so to speak).  What is leadership about if not facilitating a process by which an organization and its members are supported and encouraged in the ongoing process of reaching and exceeding their potential?  Moreover, should that facilitation not be aimed at the organization and it’s members, both as individuals, and as a collection of individuals with a universal initiative and a shared notion of anticipated outcomes?  If so, how better to lead an organization than by understanding and working through a set of values that speaks to that collection of individuals, lends itself to that initiative, and perpetuates those outcomes?  If not, what could it hurt:)?  The following is a simple system that can help any organizational leader tread a value driven coarse with ease.   Let’s call it “3,2,1.”  Check it out.

Do these 3 things during every interaction:  Listen, Care, and Offer to Help.

Again, organizations are make up of individuals, and by individuals, I mean people.  Typically, people like to talk.  School communities in particular, are made up of people who like to talk.  Teachers work really hard to build meaningful relationships and provide high quality classroom instruction.  They focus tons of time on learning and development.  They share their professional world with large groups of other stakeholders, who provide them with plenty to talk about.  Many of them enjoy talking about their journeys.  Some of them need to talk about their challenges.  Most of them are well served to know that someone is listening.  Be that someone.  Listen.  It couldn’t be more important.

Students and parents have a myriad reasons to talk as well.  They have thoughts and ideas about learning and sharing in the positive progress of the school community.  They have hopes and concerns.  They too need a venue for sharing.  Being a good listener can go a long way in building the type of culture that enhances learning and growth for all.  And, if you intend to be that “good” listener, I would suggest that you care.  Incidentally, this is not something that you can pretend to do.  Have you ever had a conversation with someone in a crowded room, but felt like you and that person were the only two people in there.  That’s good listening.  When you truly care about what someone is saying to you, it’s an easy feeling to achieve and project.  When you don’t truly care, it’s nearly impossible.  So care, for real.

Finally, offer to help.  This can be done in a variety of ways.  However, I have found one to be highly effective and quite easy to implement.  At the end of a conversation, e-mail, or text, just say or write, “let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.”  Simple, tells the story.  Then, if the person that you’re talking or writing to responds with a suggestion of how you can help, do that.  If you’re not able to, communicate that.  The key is that you authentically try to help in any way you can.  Listen, care, and offer to help.  Now you’re counting down to value driven leadership.  More importantly, you’re framing those values in a way that makes sense and has meaning to the people you serve.  It’s good.  And don’t worry if you mess up on any of the three at any given time.  You can try again.  You can keep trying.

Do these 2 things in between:  Reflect and Respond.

Reflect as frequently as you’d like, in whatever fashion suits you best.  I like to blog.  Blogging gives me an archive of my regular reflections, it gives keeps me on a reflection schedule, and it gives me a contributing audience whose input has been invaluable to my growth process.  While I highly recommend starting one, you don’t need a blog reflect in a meaningful way.  You can write in a notebook for ten to fifteen minutes at lunch or the end of the day.  You can speak into a voice recorder whenever an idea for reflection pops into your head.  You can sit in a quiet room and think, you can draw pictures to storyboard your growth, you can write poetry, you can sculpt, and you could even talk to your dog (a very non-judgmental individual, I would guess).  However you choose to reflect, do it, and make sure that you do the second part of the “2” – respond.

Reflection is great practice.  Some would suggest that it’s essential to learning and growth.  I will suggest that it’s infinitely less meaningful if it doesn’t lead to action.  Respond to your reflection by doing something.  If you had a negative interaction with a colleague on a given day, reflect on it, and then respond by brainstorming ways that you might approach that person in the future or repair a bruised relationship.  If you are consistently unable to address all of your daily e-mails in a timely manner and falling behind as a result, reflect on it, then refine your organizational or time management systems.  Taking the time to reflect and respond to your reflections will help to keep you grounded your values, and those of the organization in which you lead.  The practice will highlight successes, expose missteps, and encourage forward progress through challenges.

Do this 1 thing all the time:  Forgive.

Forgive yourself and others.  We will all make mistakes.  Forgiveness helps people move forward.  Also, it can be a power tool for grounding oneself in an authentic set of core values, because if done from the heart, it can diminish many of the unnecessary distractions that some of us face on a regular basis.  Keep this tool in mind when you drop the ball.  Remember, if you can forgive yourself for being human and fallible, you can feel good about trying again.

If you try “3,2,1” or use a different system, I’d love to hear about it!

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Dream Big.  Work Hard.  Be Well.