Tagged: Discovery

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.

It’s What Matters

A few years ago someone I knew experienced an extremely challenging personal tragedy, one that turned her world upside down and inside out.

It would have been reasonable by any standard for her to fall apart as a result. She didn’t; in fact, just the opposite. She took stock of what mattered in her life and made a steadfast commitment to focus exclusively, and joyfully on those things.

She followed through with that commitment, in part, by repeating the phrase, “it’s what matters” at every turn, as kind of a mantra-style motivator.

Baseball…it’s what matters.

Peace…it’s what matters.

Ice cream…it’s what maters.

Happiness…it’s what matters.

And so on.

I was, and remain astonished by her ability to live her core values, even through what I’m confident was unremitting heartbreak. She amazes me with her resolve to stay true to a core that demands courage, faith, and joyfulness above whatever pain life’s challenges bring her way.

Mercifully, not all of us have or will experience extreme personal tragedies.

Challenges are relative though, and we all have them. Large and small, our daily challenges are important opportunities. I firmly believe that every challenge is also a chance, a chance to learn and grow.

How do you manage to balance your daily challenges with your core values?

In what ways do you ensure that the your daily journey is one you can reflect on with a sense of fulfillment and gratitude?

If you’re interested in exploring an alternate strategy you might consider the “It’s What Matters” method. It’s easy to do and it supports a direct connection between what you believe and how you live.

All you do is take a few minutes each morning to identify some things that matter most to you, write them down or commit them to memory, and then force yourself back to them if and when you feel as though you’re shifting away.

Some of my standards are children (mine and the other ones I serve), family, reflection, gratitude, kindness, and calm.

When I falter in maintaining a steady course with each of those at the foundation (which I do multiple times each day) I can forgive and right myself by thinking or saying:

Serving children…it’s what matters.

Appreciating my family…it’s what matters.

Thoughtful reflection…it’s what matters.

Gratitude…it’s what matters.

Kindness…it’s what matters.

Restoring to a place of calm focus…it’s what matters.

And so on.

So many things, large and small, can work so hard to bring us down. Sometimes it happens and we don’t even know how or why.

In the energized heat of any moment, anything, even the most trivial and inconsequential things can seem to matter so much. When I take stock with an open heart and open mind I discover that some of it, especially those things laced with negativity, don’t. That’s when reminding myself of what does, makes such a difference.

What matters most to you? How do you maintain a steady course and right yourself though rough waters? If you’re searching at any level, you might consider trying the “It’s What Matters” method. At the very least, it can provide you with an opportunity for a thoughtful, reflective, moment. If all goes well, it can be a reliable strategy for so much more.

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

Picking the Positive [a(IQ)]

pick-the-positive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We both laughed.

The Reflection. What if that’s the way?

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

What if I found a new mentor?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I suppose anything is possible, isn’t it?

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

 

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

Meeting Learners in Their Space

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Mr. Berg Reads: Celia

One of the best things about my job as an elementary school principal is that I get to read. I get to read for my own learning and growth, I get to read to enhance my expertise and my collaborative capacity, and I get to read for the benefit of the incredible children I serve.

I’m so excited to start another wonderful school year, in part, because I’m eagerly anticipating getting back to my “Mr. Berg Reads” duties.

“Mr. Berg Reads” is a program based on classroom teachers signing up for half-hour blocks of time during which I read to their students. I’m very fortunate to work in a school community where the teachers I serve have charged me with the task of sharing my passion for reading so that I can be a part of driving the culture of literacy they work so hard to build and maintain.

Sometimes I simply read. Sometimes I engage with the students in thinking routines linked to the reading. Sometimes I read picture books and sometimes I read novels. Sometimes I read fiction and sometimes I read informational texts. Heck, I’d read a blog post if it seemed like something the kids would enjoy, appreciate, and connect with.

I love to read and I love to share that love with others, especially students. When I do, I find that they share their love of reading with me too. It’s awesome. Just a bit of genuine modeling and some time spent suspending disbelief, digging into information, or traveling through history together seems to connect us in very cool readerly ways.

There are the parts of reading that are knowing words, understanding what they mean, stringing them together to make sense of sentences, paragraphs, and chapters, and those are very important parts of reading.

There are also the parts of reading that are feeling like you’re somewhere else, being transformed into someone or something else, catching a distant breeze in your hair, jumping for joy, holding on with eager anticipation, wondering what will happen next, and getting goose bumps. Somewhere along the line I realized that those are very important parts of reading too. Those are the parts I’m looking to share with “Mr. Berg Reads.” Frankly, those are the parts that fuel my love for reading.

You see I was never very good at reading. It always took me a really long time. I was always really good at getting goose bumps, though. Stick to your strength, they say.

In the “Mr. Berg Reads” video above I read a book called “Celia.” I found it at my local library. It spoke to me immediately. It pretty much jumped off the shelf. I love it when that happens.

If you’re a parent or an educator you could connect “Celia” to the idea of talking things out, relying on people close to you for support when you’re feeling sad, and being there for people you care about. You could dig into the idea that we all feel a range of emotions and that there are ways to restore ourselves to happiness from anywhere within that range if we have the tools and use them with intentionality. Or, you could simply enjoy the touching story and the unique, lighthearted illustrations.

And if “Celia” isn’t the book for you, that’s ok too. I would challenge you however, whatever role you play in a child’s life, read more. If you don’t read much, step it up a notch. If you read a lot, take it further. Listen to them read and read to them, no matter what age they are…and no matter what age you are.

Read all kinds of literature. Explore themes and concepts with shared wonder and curiosity. Remind yourself and the children you serve about the immeasurable delights of reading as frequently as possibly, and above all else, enjoy it. After all, when kids love to read they tend to want to read more and with greater enthusiasm, and when that happens they tend to self-identify as readers.

When kids know how to read and understand a lot of words it’s great, and as you support them in building their vocabulary and stamina also remember that when they self-identify as joyful readers it’s priceless. Support the love, the passion, and the confidence, and the words will come.

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!

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.

I Don’t Know: Understanding via a Lack Thereof

Imagine

I heard the most fascinating story yesterday through an interview of a fifty four year old woman, Kim, who self-discovered her Asperger’s Syndrome and then got a brief glimpse into a world in which it didn’t stifle her ability to read social cues.

Researchers exploring a method called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) showed Kim a video. In the video a woman answered her door to find a man standing on the other side with a bag filled with DVD cases. The man handed the bag to the woman and said, “Here are the DVDs you lent to Roger,” followed by, “He asked me to return them to you.”

The man suggested that the woman take a look in the bag and examine the state of the DVDs. She did. She opened each one to find that nothing was inside. The bag was filled with empty DVD cases. After a few moments the man asked, “Is everything alright?”

The woman replied, “Oh yes, everything is just fine.”

The man then asked, “Would you be willing to let Roger borrow your DVDs again?”

The woman replied, “Absolutely…without hesitation.”

Kim reported that after watching this interaction she was very impressed and somewhat surprised by the woman’s reaction. She told the interviewer that she thought the woman in the video was uniquely forgiving and generous.

Then came the TMS. The researchers delivered a series of precisely targeted magnetic pulses into Kim’s brain with the aim of stimulating key areas in the hopes that it would enhance her ability to read social cues, a standard reported deficit in people with Asperger’s Syndrome. Kim recounted that it did. She told the interviewer that she was shocked upon watching the same video again after the TMS treatment.

The woman in the video did not seem forgiving or generous this time. In fact, she was clearly upset. Kim described high levels of sarcasm in the woman’s responses that she could not detect previously.

When the woman said, “Oh yes, everything is just fine,” she meant, “No, everything is not alright…can’t you see that Roger has taken all of my DVDs?”

When she said, “Absolutely…without hesitation,” she meant, “Not in a million years!”

Kim was stunned. In that moment she realized that she had been moving through the world with a blindness of sorts. She thought about her inability to maintain positive relationships and her confusion over the same. She expressed relief in finally understanding that her interactions with people have been marked by a distinct inability to recognize “appropriateness” in communication.

She talked specifically about kindness. She expressed a profound shift in thinking about it. She realized that when people are unkind to one another it’s not necessarily because they’re mean people. She thought about the possibility of a primary source of unkindness and that the unkindness itself could be a side effect.

She recalled being bullied as a child and instantly forgave the perpetrators, suggesting that they may have simply been trying to bond with one another, not fully (or even partially) understanding the impact their bonding had on her.

Through TMS Kim had but a momentary glimpse into a world in which she could recognize, understand, and interpret social cues. The effects were not lasting. Furthermore, the researchers cautioned that the treatment remains unreliable for this application. They strongly warned against its clinical use expressing that a tremendous amount of research and exploration lies between these experiments and a practical, safe application…if one should ever come to be at all.

Kim expressed that she’s not disappointed. She told the interviewer that the experience, while brief, was momentous and profound. She said that it left her with a critically important view of a world that has always been acutely confusing.

Kim is a successful physician with a thriving practice. She’s achieved much in her life so far and is only part way along her journey. However, she’s consistently been on the outside of what most of us seem to understand as acceptable social norms.

Well meaning and kind, Kim has struggled significantly to build and maintain relationships. By bravely risking what I can only imagine would be a terrifying paradigm shift, she now knows a bit more about why.

Kim’s experience has me wondering about how I see and function. Is my worldview the same as yours? Is each of ours different? As we try to communicate with one another, how often do we miss the mark? How about the people we serve? What within our daily messaging is well received by students, parents, colleagues, spouses, kids, friends? What is misperceived and subsequently potentially damaging?

I can only conclude that exploratory leaps of faith with open minds, while scary, are very likely boons of positive progress. What if I’m not hearing what I think I’m hearing when I hear it? What if I’m not saying what I think I’m saying when I say it? If perception is reality…what if we each perceive the world in a unique way? Even if slightly, imagine the ripple effect and the impact on relationships.

I believe that the great majority of people are driven by kind hearts and hope for positive pathways. I think that incorporating a mantra of acceptance not fully knowing stuff with the connected act of consistently seeking to enhance my knowledge might help deepen my understanding of the social world in which I live and my productivity within relationships as a result.

My aim is true but I’ve seen that even the softest wind can shift the pathway straightest arrow. I’m amazed by Kim and truly grateful for having had the opportunity to see through her lens, if only for a moment. Let’s listen really carefully to one another’s stories…it can only help advance our collective vision of a peaceful and productive planet. Let’s imagine that the world might be different than we currently perceive it to be, if only slightly, and if only because it truly might be.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead.

Thanks!

What Do I Expect?

Organic Nature of Nature

In an effort to go greener I switched to an old-fashioned push mower last year. You know the kind with whirring drum blades. No gas, no plug, no charge. Turned out…no good. I couldn’t reconcile the unpredictability of the cut. Some pieces of grass or weed (another side-effect of mission greener) were longer than others. Some were simply pushed over instead of cut. It was wild looking. It felt untamed. I wanted uniform, manicured stripes. I got jagged, indelicate streaks.

I cursed that little push mower before relegating it to a cobweb-crammed corner of the garage. It was all but predestined to fade away. It could very well have ended up a curbside bargain but for a “one more chance” wind that blew through me at the beginning of Michigan’s mow season this year.

“One more chance” was just the beginning though. What followed was a holistic paradigm shift with regard to my expectations. I guess another cycle of learning and growth flipped a switch in me. So, in a moment of forgiveness, acceptance, and serenity I pushed that little mower over my lawn, cobwebs and all.

As I complete the first go around I looked out over what might have been familiar jagged, indelicate streaks to discover that they were not familiar. They seemed different now. There was no distain in my mind or my heart. No anxious wanting of uniform, manicured stripes. I appreciated what I saw. I liked it.

In a fluid scoping out effort my gaze cleared the streaks and landed on a perennial bed stretching its arms after a long winter nap. Plant tips in varying shades of green peeked out past the dirt browns and the faded greys of what was once a stark black blanked of dyed mulch. It was organic. It was connected. It made sense. It was more than ok, it was right.

Headed into my third summer as a school administrator, my eighth as a husband, and my seventh as a father I greatly appreciate the organic nature of the path; so much more jagged than it is manicured, and in my humble opinion, so much more exciting and meaningful than it would otherwise be.

What do I expect? Life is mysterious. Learning is messy. Love is wild. Last year I couldn’t deal with the natural look and feel of a powerless blade-cut lawn and this year I’m actively deriving power from the same.

I’m excited to continue reflecting on how this newfound appreciation for the organic nature of nature can contribute to my growth as a learner and a leader, and how it can enhance my support for those I serve in my professional and my personal life.

I’m enthusiastically diving into thinking around expectations and how I can manage them with an eye positive progress, even and especially through challenges.

On a whim I used the power mower last week. I thought I’d give it one pass in between the push mover grooming, just to even things out a bit. I got manicured stripes. For a moment I thought that’s what I wanted again. It wasn’t. Things aren’t even. Things are uneven. Things are irregular and rough, and even so, things are wonderful.

I can’t wait for my lawn to grow back. I expect it will soon.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead.