Tagged: Discovery

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.

Mrs. Burp

Kids Can

I was walking in the hallway the other day when a kindergarten student ran up to me with pure excitement painted all over her face. She was practically jumping for joy. This was a child who could hardly contain herself. She was enthusiastically looking to get my attention. She had some very important information to share. I could tell.

As soon as I saw her coming my way I was struck with a jolt of excitement. Turns out the stuff transfers. I couldn’t wait to hear what she had to tell me.

Once she was close enough she shouted, “Mrs. Burp!” At least that’s what I heard. Even though my name is Mr. Berg, Mrs. Burp works almost just as well (when it’s coupled with good intentions, that is).

I didn’t suspect that there was a person named Mrs. Burp walking just behind me. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that she was shouting at me. I smiled. Levity mixed with transferred and still relatively mysterious excitement. Good Stuff. Now I was really keen on discovering what the hullabaloo was all about!

Truth told, I couldn’t say with great clarity that “Mrs. Burp” is actually what she said. Also, if it was, I couldn’t be sure if it’s what she meant to say (sometimes kids words don’t come out exactly as intended).

Here was a kid extremely eager to get my attention. She might have been thinking “Mr. Berg” and as the thought traveled from her brain to her mouth on a thought-train riddled with anticipation it could have simply come out as “Mr. Burp.” Regardless, we can assume that she meant to say “Mr. Berg.” Again…and after all, her energized message was targeted squarely at me. That much was clear.

Actually, so much more was clear, even before the message was delivered. Therein lies the moral of the story (one of them, that is): Sometimes how you say it matters even more than what you say.

Before I knew what was going on I knew that something wonderful had occurred. I knew that this student was going to recount the wonderful thing.   I knew that we were going to share a moment of celebration. I knew that the next part of our interaction was going to strengthen our partnership in teaching & learning.

With the same zeal that accompanied “Mrs. Burp” she shouted, “You have to see my thinking!”

This six-year-old directed my attention to a bulletin board on which she and her classmates had used sticky notes to respond to a third grade team’s collaboration on “leadership” and “growth mindset.” They took it upon themselves (with some guidance from both teachers albeit) to adorn the third graders’ board with their thoughts post-production, thereby extending and sharing in a foundation of collective thinking on the two important subjects.

She didn’t want me to see her “work” or her “project” or her “sticky note,” she wanted me to see her “thinking.” Therein lies the moral of the story (the other one, that is): Kids, even the youngest among them can get really excited about the process even above the outcomes.

I was thrilled that these incredible teachers and students had been so clearly making collaborative growth the focus of their attention that to the point that it had become the bedrock of their learning paradigm. I was proud that the “Mrs. Burp” kid lived it out with me in that moment. She trusted me to enough to share her thinking. I’m excited that she’s learning in an enthusiastic culture of thinking at our school; more good stuff. She was my teacher in that moment.

So, sometimes how you say it matters even more than what you say and kids, even the youngest among them, can get really excited about the process even above the outcomes.

It’s fun as an educator and a parent to think that there might be no end to the learning and the growing we can each experience over the course of a lifetime, and that there might be no limits to the potential within each of us for the same.  Fun and exciting!

Live, love, listen, learn, lead, and always bring your best!

First of All (Why Not be Flabbergasted?)

First Of All

Firsts are really important things. They’re indelibly connected to learning and growth in unique ways. Children experience lots of firsts. It’s cool. Is would seem that the younger the child the more firsts he or she is likely to experience. I have four children, my oldest is six and my youngest is one, so I’ve seen this phenomenon in action a great deal over the past several years.

The little guy (my one-year-old who’s actually big) defines “bright-eyed and bushy-tailed” (as they all did at his age). To that end he’s an especially enthusiastic audience for this exceedingly silly dad. I hardly need to make a goofy face or dance a bit of a jig to get huge smiles and belly laughs from the jolly fella. Admittedly, he’s not the first to laugh at my dancing prowess (or my lack thereof) and my face is organically goofy, so I have an advantage.

The point is that even silliness is relatively new to him, and in its newness he’s hyper-susceptible to its charms. To him, silliness is remarkable, and when he experiences silliness he thinks, “Wow…this is extraordinary…and so darn funny!” (or some one-year-old version of that thought).

Incidentally there’s nothing quite like hearing a one-year-old laugh his little bottom off (or his big bottom in this case). My wife insists that’s not a good enough reason to have a fifth child, but it sure is wonderful. His brothers and sister get excited about silliness when they’re in the right mood, but increasingly they’re ever-growing other interests distract and carry them to alternate, “Wow…this is amazing!” places. Still plenty of awe and wonder in this world for them, it’s simply shifting as it does for all of us.

But who says that firsts have to ever go away? Truly, there is far to much in this existence to ever experience everything. What if it’s simply a matter of perspective? Wouldn’t it be great if we could continue to experience firsts throughout our lives in the ways we did when we were young?

I once read a philosopher who asked, “If you didn’t know your age, how old would you be?” Good questions. I wouldn’t be one, almost three, or even six (and three quarters) but I certainly wouldn’t be forty-two. Furthermore, and strictly speaking, every moment is a first if you live with a growth mindset in a progress-oriented paradigm.

By nature, we’re learning organisms. It’s our core. What if we let that core surface and lived as if every moment was new…new in that the previous moment injected newness into each next moment in that each next moment is essentially the each previous moment plus the learning and growth experienced in it (each previous moment, that is). What if? What if, indeed?

When I think of my last moment on earth (and I hope it’s a long time from now), I find myself feeling certain that just before I pass into whatever I’ll be passing into, I’ll think (and possibly even say), “oh,” in the realization of something new that will make my next steps alright, and then I’ll drift into it with a one-year-old’s amazement and wonder.

Romantic? Sure. Fantastical? Some might argue. Possible? Why not? In fact, if firsts are so incredible why not intentionally, and even forcibly if necessary, experience each moment as the first that it truly is. Each moment is the first moment of its exact kind. Why not be thrilled at the gift it is? Why not be flabbergasted by its awesomeness? Why not do it and why not model that to the children we serve as parents and educators? There would be a lot of awesomeness and a whole bunch of flabbergastedness going on! Could be fun. Might be cool; possibly even a boon to learning, growth, and a joyful journey for all involved. Who knows, you might even like it. After all…there’s a first for everything.

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.