Tagged: curiosity

Literacy Learning The “Fastway”

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

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

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

The kids take the initiative.

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

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

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

The answer was “yes.”

The window closed. Then something else happened.

He asked, “Why?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He can take pride in being somewhat of a linguist.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ready Position

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

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

Coach kept shouting, “ready position!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moxie, It’s Pretty Amazing (And Not so Bad)

So much is so scary. The world can be a relatively difficult place to navigate at times. This is true for people of all ages. At 43 I’m still not immune to hesitation, trepidation, and even fear.

Sometimes those emotional responses to challenging situations can stop me in my tracks. Sometimes, however, I overcome and persevere. Sometime I employ moxie.

Moxie is a word that means: strength of character. It means: determination. It means: courage.

If you’ve got moxie, you’ve got nerve.

If you’ve got moxie, you’ve got grit.

If you’ve got moxie, you have a growth mindset, which means you can’t be stopped, not by an emotional response to a challenging situation, and ultimately, not by anything.

If you’ve got moxie you believe in the will to proceed, a positive attitude, and faith in lots of trying, and when lots of trying doesn’t seem to work, you believe you simply need lots more.  If you’ve got moxie, you’re thrilled to keep towing that line to any end.

People with moxie are happy because they know that “eventually” is better than “now.” They know that the road is long and winding, and they know that the long windy parts can be particularly fun and specifically rewarding.

People with moxie, even as they hesitate from time to time (which we all do), are eager to press on, even and especially when times are tough.  They know that it makes them stronger.

People with moxie shudder with anticipation when they stand at the edge of an adventure, especially the mysterious kind of adventure, during which multiple failures are preeminent.  To people with moxie, that’s the good stuff; the spice.

My two oldest sons and I go downtown to the Detroit river walk every so often. At one point along the walk there’s a stream running parallel. The stream is just wide enough not to present as un-leap-across-able, and just thin enough for kids with moxie to want to try (and to need to).  An exciting dichotomy for my kids, who have loads of moxie (some to spare you might say…no doubt they must get it from their mother).

Anyway, there we were, thinking this would be the year. Sure of it. This would be the year of the dry leap. The stream would be cleared. Last year we walked away with wet shoes (and socks).

The boys were brimming with excitement and anticipation, running back and forth, stopping at the edge, visualizing the jump, building courage, and priming their moxie pumps.

A long-bearded man with coveralls and a fishing pole walked by, saw what was going on,  and told the boys they’d never make it. He said they were too small.

Apparently that was the hammer dropping, because before I could say “wet shoes and socks” the first kid came flying across the great divide, followed closely by the second. They both did it! Just barely, but they did it nonetheless. Adrenaline rushed through their veins, they jumped for joy and hugged one another repeatedly and uncontrollably.  it was blissful.

In a flash of realization my fiver year old shouted, “That was pretty amazing!” and then matter-of-factly added, “and not so bad,” addressing the courage his moxie had him overcome, shaking his head in affirmation, raising his eyebrows, and curling his lower lip.

With out much ado they went back to hugging and jumping around before leaping over the stream at least two-dozen more times each.

People with moxie don’t let the negative infect them, they let it inspire them toward the positive, and they don’t apologize to anyone about it.

That positive bent might be my most favorite thing about moxie, which is saying a lot, because I have a lot of favorite things when it comes to moxie.

That thing, the thing the makes people with moxie believe in positive outcomes through any challenge, that thing truly inspires me, and I sure do appreciate being truly inspired!

Thank you moxie.

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

I Am Here To…

I am a principal. That means I serve a community of people who function on the premise that all children can learn at high levels, and that through genuine and positive partnerships with those I serve, that I can support the children of my school community in safe, joyful, and consistent growth.

I have principles. That means I believe in certain things. It means I believe in them so much that they are embedded in my core, and that they surface in various forms through my thinking, decision-making, and actions.

Among those principles is the notion that they (the principles) should drive how I attend to my charge, and the notion that they should be, and always remain at least somewhat fluid. Who knows what I’ll experience next and how if might shift my worldview.

Based on a solid foundation of the where I’ve been, what I’m learning, who I am, and who I’m becoming, I believe that an open-minded outlook on the possibilities is essential for positive progress.

While principles should be bedrocks, time, along with other powerful forces, tends to shift even the sturdiest structures. For that reason I think we must be as steadfast in our resolve to maintain a principled center as we are in our openness to listen to and move with the winds of change.

Some principles are pretty standard. Kindness, gratitude, generosity, humility, faith, curiosity, reflectiveness, and more are likely not to move out of the principle bank that contributes to my learning and leadership. I can’t imagine a time when I discover that it’s actually not best to be kind, gracious, generous, humble, faithful, curious, reflective, and more. That’s not to say that I always measure up to those principles. The good news is that I hold mistake-driven growth as among the “more.” Falling down gives you opportunities to practice getting up; it’s a good thing.

So much happens each day in my life as a principal. The range of events, interactions, and emotions is extraordinary at times. I suspect it’s that way for many people and in many roles. It certainly is in my role as a parent as well.

With a focus on the core principles that guide me, I am able to navigate the extraordinary range of which I speak, relatively unscathed and with the mission in mind. If I can understand and articulate why I am here in any given moment, I can remain balanced and grounded.

I am here to serve kids & to learn along the way. I am here to model and share hope. I am here to be inspired and to inspire others when I can. I am here to take pride in myself and to be proud of those around me. I am here to model a positive, growth mindset and to share the tools and strategies I use in doing so. I am here to embrace and celebrate diversity. I am here to listen and I am here to lead. This is not an exhaustive list, but it’s a start and it’s a reminder.

Where are you? Why are you there?

Taking a moment to draw out your reasons and principles that support your journey can help to center you and steady your course. If you have that moment, give it a try. It might not help, but I’d suggest a strong likelihood that it won’t hurt.

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.

The Beat and The Flow

Take an intentional breath. Let your shoulders relax. Let your breathing settle into whatever pattern it finds. Let it shift as it will; follow it, don’t force it.

Experience the world with your ears for a moment. Let the sounds around you connect with the sounds inside of you. There is a flow to both. There is a rhythm. There is a pace. There is a beat.

Do you hear the beat? Do you feel the flow?

If not, take another intentional breath, a deep one. Try again. Relax into it. Believe you can.

Imagine that you are on a cosmic beach, watching and listening to waves of energy softy roll or rise and crash. However they come, see them, hear them, and feel them. Don’t seek to shape or influence the waves of energy as they roll or crash, simply seek to understand and appreciate them. Wait for the beat to join the flow. Your influence will come later. Exercise patience. Exercise faith.

If you do hear the beat, and if you do feel the flow, smile. What you do next is entirely up to you.

We have no jurisdiction over many of the forces that impact our lives; at least that’s been my experience over the course of forty-two ostensibly short years.

We do not determine any more than our core, our intentions, and our movements along pathways that twist and turn at the whim of forces outside of our control.

That said, if you listen carefully, with open-minded, openhearted, and genuine intention, I believe you can connect with those forces. I believe you can conjoin the beat of your core with the flow of the world around you. I believe, at the very least, that trying won’t hurt. I have also come to believe that not trying might.

With learning and growth in mind our stumbles through space and time don’t represent setbacks, but rather gifts, each delivering invaluable input into our ever-expanding capacity for connected progress along whatever pathways we tread, and toward whatever benchmarks we aim to reach and surpass.

As educators and parents, the foundation of our internal beat is the children we serve. As community leaders, that foundation extends to all stakeholders impacted by our thoughts, our words, and our actions.

My personal internal beat includes a drive to expand my capacity to live each moment of every day with increased gratitude, passion, curiosity, and humility; in the service of those I devote my energy to, including myself.

I experience moments of confusion and I experience moments of calm.

When I am able to meet and match the flow of the forces around me, amplified or benign, to the beat that defines my core, that capacity grows.

My wife consistently reminds me that most of what we worry about never comes to pass. It’s a mantra handed down by her grandmother. It seems true.

It also seems true that when we allow worry to supplant patience and faith (which is absolutely justifiable in this fast-paced & often frenzied world), we stifle the ongoing development of our individual and collective capacities for genuine learning, compassionate leadership, and positive progress.

So, if you have any sense that there might be value in seeking to join the beat that drives you with the flow that surrounds you, take an intentional breath. Let your shoulders relax. Let your breathing settle into whatever pattern it finds. Let it shift as it will; follow it, don’t force it.

Wait for the beat to join the flow. Exercise patience. Exercise faith.

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

Thankful Thursday: YET [Your Extension Ticket]

Celebrate Progress

In last week’s Thankful Thursday post (My Personal Paleontologists) I mentioned the power of the word “yet” in learning and growth. This week I decided to isolate the word and shower it with gratitude of its own because I continue to see that power contribute so mightily to my own positive progress and to that of those I serve.

Yesterday I watched my determined five year old spend almost a half hour attempting to leap across a muddy riverbed from one bank to another. He stood looking at the mud, the water, and the tall reeds, saying, “It’s too far…I can’t do it,” followed by the bust of a smile on his face, the exclamation, “Yes I can!” and a backed-up run to the edge where he repeatedly stopped mid-stride, going through the same process over and over until the much anticipated launch.

He performed the “run up and stop” at least two dozen times before launching himself over the edge (albeit hesitantly), catching the toe of one shoe on the opposite bank, and sliding clumsily into the mud. He looked up, and through gelatinous, vibrating, crocodile tears he informed me, “I can’t do it,” and then he sniffled, took a breath, and added, “yet.” My heart smiled. My face smiled. We hugged. A great hug. He asked if we could come back tomorrow and keep trying.

I was so proud. I told him I was. He was curious about why I was proud of something he “couldn’t” do, why I was super excited about something he “didn’t” do, and why I was gushing with genuine enthusiasm over a flop in the mud partway to a goal.

We talked about how he tried something that scared him. We talked about how courageous it was. He talked about how courageous he is. We talked about his resolve to keep working on it in the face of the flop and how that stick-to-itiveness is, and will continue to be more important than any prize he could ever want. We talked about how his growth mindset literally makes the world is a place of limitless possibilities.

We discussed the effort and the mental fortitude he demonstrated. We celebrated what he did do. We agreed that the accomplishment was in the trying and that the key, no matter how many times he falls in the mud, is that he keeps trying.

It was the same when my oldest finally rode his bike without training wheels. He woke up one morning and told me that he would be able to do it by the end of the day. It took a while too.

As kids learning to ride bikes do, he spent several determined hours counting pedal rotations and finding balance until finally it clicked. It clicked, as it does with bike riding, in the exact instant that he realized he could do it. It happened on the foundation that he was employing his “yet” each time, with the courage to continue along the way, safely wrapped in the faith and the knowledge that it would in fact happen.

It’s the same click we feel repeatedly as we courageously break through any of the many barriers and face the multitude of challenges that we do in life. It’s the possession of a “yet” that makes it possible.

Today is great. We should be grateful for each today. But we must understand that it doesn’t all happen today. That said, we must remember and appreciate that only some of it happens today, some of it happens tomorrow, and some of it will happen a long time from now.

In school and at home we must model faith and enthusiasm for the possibilities to and with regard to the children we serve. We must instill in them a sense of pride for the strength they demonstrate when the engage excitedly in the process. We must celebrate their efforts, their courage, and their progress along the path. We must remind them that they each have unlimited extension tickets and that can always access them with courage, even and especially in the face of fear. We must help them understand and believe in the power of “yet.”

Thanks “yet.” I appreciate you and I deeply value the hope and inspiration you bring to my life & to the lives of those I serve.

Happy Thankful Thursday (on this lovely Friday)!

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

Thankful Thursday: My Personal Paleontologists

Interest as readiness

Paleontologists are thoughtful and patience people. They spend loads of time very carefully uncovering tiny bits of stuff that connect them to bigger fragments of stuff and eventually lead them to thinking about whole pieces of stuff that points to enhanced knowledge of stuff that existed a long time ago (or something like that).

It all represents a bunch of time, a throng of patience, a bundle of thinking, a great deal of dot connecting, a big slice of goal focusing, a deluge of excitement on the part of the paleontologists (and eventually on the part of those of us who get excited about looking at and thinking about the stuff paleontologists uncover), and a process parents, educators, and organizational leaders have a lot to learn from.

The patient and painstaking work of this kind of digging typically takes more time than most people in today’s busy world are willing to devote to any one pursuit. It’s really a means to an end. An end that could be profound and impactful if discovered but also one that might never be (discovered, that is). Paleontologists have to find lots of the stuff they’re digging for before they can do the part of their job that produces new knowledge and understanding.

Even so, they love it. As I alluded to above it excites them. It seems that dirt excites them. Maybe that’s because of its potential. It seems that digging in the dirt excites them. Maybe that’s because of the same. No matter how long it takes to meticulously chip away at some semblance of fossilized rock or brush dust off of an ancient bone, they’re thrilled.

I have a few personal paleontologists. On this thankful Thursday, which has very quickly become a Saturday, I’m eternally grateful for them. Through my personal paleontologists (even thought they’re seven, five, and three-years-old respectively) I get to see first hand how the process works. Moreover, I get to directly experience the mindset of patient people who dig because they see & understand the value of digging, because they believe in it’s potential for uncovering some of the more remarkable and miraculous mysteries of the world in which we live, and because they love it.

Because of my personal paleontologists I’m up close to the process, and in being so I get to think reflectively about the magic of patient, thoughtful, and targeted discovery. I get to benefit from the potential it has to positively impact my processes regarding living, learning, and leadership.

It began with my oldest son. He was hooked from his first dinosaur. I’m guessing that lots of kids are. Still, he took it to a place that amazed me. From a very young age he painstakingly studied dinosaurs. He never let his skill level or developmental readiness get in the way. Before he could read he studied the pictures. As he was learning to read he forgave any pronunciation errors, not that he knew he was pronouncing things in creative ways, but he didn’t allow frustration about his reasonable limitations to stifle or frustrate him.

My second born started with dragons. Eventually he recognized the diminished likelihood of discovering dragon bones in the backyard (diminished but still not completely unreasonable). In light of that recognition along with his undying veneration for big brother’s pursuits he has since shifted to dinosaurs. He now joins his brother in the regular declaration that he’s going to be a paleontologist (plumber is a close second at the moment).

Little sister isn’t fully devoted to paleontology (or patience for that matter) but she did find and remove a bone from their practice dig site block the other day. The boys abandoned it for a snack and a break. Not five minutes later we heard a shout of, “I found a bone!” from the other room. She took it upon herself to pick up where they left off. Carefully and quietly (not her standard mode of practice) she dug and brushed out a pteranodon bone. A rib, or part of “the guts” as my oldest called it.

Shame on me for even wondering if the boys would be upset; turns out they ran into the other room with open arms, ready to embrace their little rascal (I mean, sister) in celebration. She instantly became a member in good standing of the Berg family paleontology society. They were thrilled about the discovery, despite not making it themselves. The look of pride and accomplishment on her face was priceless!

As a bit of a side note I feel duty-bound to mention that our youngest (one and a half) has made many efforts to join the club. To date, those efforts have been thwarted in large part because to his predisposition for unintended but enthusiastic demolition. I don’t suppose his older siblings will be able to fend off his curiosity and devotion to the practice of paleontology much longer. We’ll see.

Go, ready or not. For parents, educators, and organizational leaders, if we concern ourselves too much with readiness we may never start. What’s more, we may never encourage those we serve to start. We should be making sure that those we serve (especially the children) feel comfortable digging into any reasonable pursuit whether or not we feel they’re ready. We should let their interest be their readiness, and then we should make sure that our enthusiastic guidance and support serves to enrich their pathways to progress.

Yet (the potential of potential). Our children will have to thank my wife and me later for our commitment to “yet.” They certainly aren’t thanking us now. In fact, sometimes when we use the word they shout, “STOP!” in close proximity to our faces. And loudly. But we’ve emphatically decided not to stop. We use the word in response to the phrases, “I can’t,” and “I don’t know.” We believe that “yet” is a critical caveat to both sentiments if you want to maintain a growth mindset, which we do. It’s an important component of our core values. And what a connection to the great thinking, believing, and discovering our children are modeling through their commitment to paleontology.

Hey, maybe they’ll thank us for a bunch of stuff eventually (but I digress).

Inclusion & celebratory collaboration. The boys were thrilled that their sister discovered a piece of the puzzle that they’d been diligently working on. At home and in our school communities we must follow that lead. I don’t tend to think in absolutes but if you don’t believe that it truly takes a village I believe you should spend more time considering that it might, absolutely.

Let’s listen to the voices of those we serve. Let’s remember Covey’s charge to see though a lens of abundance rather than scarcity. Let’s actively share leadership; secure in the knowledge and understanding that if we don’t we’re bucking human nature. Let’s celebrate the accomplishments of others and take pride in them as if they were our own, if for no other reason than that the achievements of those we serve only serve to enhance our communities and our lives.

Let’s be patient. Let’s listen to one another and to the world around us as if we have nothing but to learn. Let’s breathe deeply and take all the time we need to see the learning unfold over time. Let’s live in each moment and realize its potential as a piece of whatever whole we exist in and a stepping stone meant to support us, individually and collectively, on whatever journey we’re each on.

I could not be more grateful for my personal paleontologist. Their dedication is another shining example of the good in what we have to learn from one another.

Paleontology…I dig it.

Happy Thankful Thursday!

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

Victims and Villains vs. Miraculous Works in Positive Progress

Victims and Villains

Even when kids are doing the “wrong” things, they’re not necessarily doing anything wrong. Today we went to the Ann Arbor hands on museum…a great place for kids to explore. The first thing you see when you walk in is a musical staircase. Each step produces a different tone, leading up to seemingly endless hallways and rooms filled with gadgets, structures, machines, and activities specifically designed for kids to explore science. It’s truly an amazing place intended for use by our most amazing people…kids. I’m sure you would agree that each one is truly amazing.

Typically we head to the water room first, and then we play in the sound hallway or build in the block cul-de-sac, or engage with one another across the coding space before heading to the ambulance room. We go everywhere from the bubble room, to the pre-school play room, to the light and laser room…there seems to be no end! It’s like Wonka’s factory for science lovers, which all kids seem to be.

The stimulation is extremely intense. My children are 6, 4, 2, and 1. I make it very clear before we enter that we must stay together. I tell them each in no uncertain terms. I remind them of the consequences their mother and I will dish out if they don’t follow those instructions.

Do they stay together? No. Of course not, they’re little kids. Little kids get distracted very easily. Some sight catches their eyes, some sound catches their ears, and then they’re off. It’s our job as adults to corral and wrangle them along the way. Even knowing that they were not going to comply I continued to remind them to stay together. As I did they continued to drift apart.

Toward the end of the experience we started to round them up to leave. Guess what? They didn’t want to go. We were stern, we were forthright, and we even used their first and middle names for a deepened impact. Still we needed to hold on to hands and pick some of them up while they were pitching fits to get them to the door. It was frustrating. However, they were not doing anything wrong. They weren’t doing what we would have liked them to do, but they were doing what kids do whether adults like it or not.

It would have been nice if at least one of them were to have said, “Yes father, and let me hold my little sister’s hand as we exit the museum, “or” It’s all right dad, I’m quite sure I’ll have the opportunity to experience some of what I missed this time on our next visit.”

That would be great but intensely surprising. It’s not surprising that in their tired and hungry states they were pitching fits. It’s not surprising that they were whining and groaning and talking back. It’s not ideal, it’s not polite, it’s not fun, but the fact is…it’s developmentally appropriate.

As parents and educators we must stay ever mindful that even when kids are doing the “wrong” things, they’re not necessarily doing things “wrong.”

Kids in kindergarten through second grade are still figuring out how to communicate with one another, and with us. They’ve only been alive for about five to seven years. Sometimes the break rules as they figure it out. Sometimes they get physical, sometimes they call each other names, sometimes they exaggerate, sometimes they complain about one another, sometimes they seek attention in a variety of other seemingly counterproductive ways.

In third through fifth grade our eight to ten and eleven year olds act out as they explore their increasingly social world. It can be very difficult to navigate the rough waters of this phase of life; it might be hard for us to remember but trust me, it’s true.

As they move away from the parallel social existence of little kids to the coexistence of older kids they each experience tremendous growth and subsequently tremendous challenges. How do you behave in the midst tremendous challenges?

None of these things should surprise us.   It’s our job to guide each of them by way of compassionate discipline and targeted instruction as they each crave out their own unique developmental pathway through these years. We should not be disappointed that they behave like kids. In fact we should be thrilled. When kids behave like kids it suggests healthy developmental progress, and that’s good.

For that reason I believe it’s critical for parents and educators not to cast our kids as victims or as villains while we work to see them safely through their early years. Our words and actions are more impactful than we may even understand. We must resist any impulse to define any kid by a moment, a situation, or even by what might seem to be a lengthy phase. To many times over the course of my life have I seen the wild, boisterous, or defiant little kid become the responsible, kind, and thoughtful older kid.

We must give our kids space to grow into the incredible people they’re each becoming, we must believe that is in fact what’s happening (even during the most frustrating and extended challenges), we must tap the strength they innately have to be courageous and kind, and with no hesitation or uncertainly we must make each of them know that he or she is unique and remarkable around every turn.

Kids do not have to be victims or villains. If we cast them as such there’s a chance they might think they are. Furthermore, I would argue that if they do it could be a difficult thought to overcome if not developmentally stifling.

My kids, your kids, someone else’s kids…we make this world a better place when we lift them up through the developmental challenges they each inevitably face along the way. More specifically, when we teach them that no person is perfect, but that we are each instead a beautiful and miraculous work in positive progress, we give them the vital gifts of hope and inspiration.

Live, listen, learn, lead, and always bring your best.

 

Every Challenge is also a Chance

Challenge and Chance

As parents and educators our primary concern is keeping our children safe. Along with safety we spend a lot of time thinking about and planning for our children’s success in life. Sometimes the two of those concepts seem at odds. Actually, if you dig in, I would suggest that you might find they’re not.

This morning my three older children (6,4, & 2) were playing a game that involved pieces just small enough and just large enough to be choking hazards for my youngest child (1). So, while his brothers and sister played this game he was bound to a high chair. He was miserable.

We tried to distract him in every way possible. We made silly faces. We made silly noises. We dances silly dances. We offered him a variety of food. He screamed, he cried, he threw the food. Nothing would satiate this poor child. All he wanted was to play with his siblings.

We were confident in our adult-knowledge that he could not play this game. It involved manipulating the little pieces with a small plastic tweezers. We “knew” that he could not do that. We “knew” that he would try to eat the pieces. We “knew” that he could choke on the pieces. Therefore we were doing everything we could to make it so that he couldn’t and wouldn’t play the game. It turns out what we “knew” wasn’t exactly true.

Sometimes it’s important for parents and educators to think out of the box. Instead of always protecting children from life’s challenges it’s important that we provide children with safe opportunities to be in challenging situations. As parents and educators we should consider looking at all challenges as simultaneously being such opportunities.

In my own life, looking bath on my path, I can clearly see that every single challenge I’ve experiences has also been an opportunity for learning and growth. When I’ve reflected on learning and growth and subsequently shifted my thinking and/or developed new skills sets, that learning and growth, born out of challenges, has enhanced my life. Even challenges that have caused me discomfort, triggered fear, or produced hurt have only made me stronger and pushed me toward becoming the best I can be (still becoming by the way).

I believe that children become better at grappling most effectively when they’re given opportunities to grapple and challenges to grapple with. Every challenge is also a chance.

Shortly after doing everything we could to keep our little guy (who’s actually quite big) from playing the game he was pining over his siblings moved on. He didn’t. Eventually he got to it. But guess what, he didn’t choke. In fact, he didn’t even attempt to eat the pieces. Instead, he carefully used the tweezers to move them from place to place. I was amazed that he had the fine motor skills to get the task done. This kid looked at the game as a challenge and was determined to overcome it.

In hindsight I realized and remembered that kids can do amazing things when they’re given the opportunities and support to do them. I realized and remembered that anything is possible, even when it’s outside of what we adults think we know. I realized and remembered that every challenge is also a chance.

The children we serve, both at home and at school, are at various places along developmental timelines. Like us, they are neither perfect nor stagnant in their imperfection. Like each of us, none of them can or should be defined by any one decision or any one moment in time. Each of us is a work in progress.

With the safety and wellbeing of children in mind we must consider pathways to independence. It’s critical that we keep progress in mind along with the idea that pushing through challenges with mistakes as catalysts to successes is going to best equip them with the tools they need to be happy, independent, and successful throughout their journeys…even thought it ain’t easy. Some would argue that nothing worthwhile ever is.

Live, listen, learn, lead, and always bring your best.