Tagged: Enthusiasm

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.

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.

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!

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!

How ‘Bout You Be

How Bout

My daughter turned three yesterday; she’s amazing! I know that all three-year-olds are. I know that all children are.

This one’s been on an imagination tear. My boys have imaginations too, active ones, but they don’t do as much pretending as their sister does. At least they don’t initiate it as much.

Among her favorite things to say is, “How ‘bout you be…” followed by the suggestion of a pretend scenario in which we each play out familiar roles. For example, “How ‘bout you be Kristoff and I’ll be Anna,” or “How ‘bout you be Charlie Brown and I’ll be Sally,” or “How ‘bout you be Kion and I’ll be Fuli,” or even, “How ‘bout you be the baby and I’ll be the mommy?” The pretending ensues.

She absolutely loves it. Admittedly, the pretending can occasionally get a bit monotonous. She’ll say something in character, I’ll respond, she’ll repeat or direct me, I’ll be silly, she’ll demand that I get back in character, and so on. This can go on for long periods of time and follow some pretty simple story lines. I guess that’s what you get when you pretend play with a three-year-old.

However, it’s not the play itself that keeps me coming back for more. It’s the creative thinking, the connected imagination, and the pure joy that I see my daughter experiencing, and especially the time we get to spend together.

She’s a little kid. When she says, “How ‘bout you be…” I suspect she’s not actually asking me to pretend to be something I’m not, not beneath the surface that is. My guess is that she’s actually asking, “How ‘bout you be…here for me,” and I’m thrilled to be blessed with the opportunity.

As educators and parents we’ve got to remember that one of the most important gifts we can give the children we serve is the gift of fully engaged interactions. We can’t always be there, but when we can we should be there holistically, valuing their voices, modeling caring and kindness, and appreciating the gift that is our collective learning and growth. There’s nothing more rewarding than being around for the joyful imagination of a child. How ‘bout we all be…?

Live, 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.

Good Luck Poop

Challenge as Opportunity

A bird pooped on my shoulder the other day. We’d just dragged the bikes out for a test run. Both my six-year-old and my four-year-old sons are learning to ride with no training wheels so it’s an exciting time at the Berg house. Come to think of it it’s always an exciting time at the Berg house. No shortage of milestones being reached daily between the four munchkins.

There I was, getting ready to run (an not let go – wink, wink, nod, nod), when I felt it. “Plop.” Of course I reached across my body and dragged my finger through it, because the only thing more disgusting than getting bird poop on your jacket is getting it on your skin. Why do we do things like that? Who knows?

Anyway, in response to the pooping I naturally exclaimed, “A bird just pooped on my shoulder!” The kids were wide-eyed and awestruck. They stood with mouths agape looking up at the trees. They couldn’t believe it. Was it funny? Was it gross? What do we do next? Again, who knows?

My wife simply smiled and said, “Hey…that’s supposed be good luck.” Good luck indeed.

Maybe there’s something to it though. Maybe getting pooped on is lucky. Maybe it all depends on how you look at it and what you do next. Maybe it depends on one’s commitment to a growth mindset.

Getting pooped on isn’t ideal. In fact it’s yucky. It causes you to have to stop what you’re doing. It makes you have to wash your coat and scrub your finger. It’s simply not what you hope for when you step out the door. However, it’s a good reminder that you don’t always get what you hope for when you walk out the door.

Maybe getting pooped on is an opportunity to think of life as a process indelibly connected the ups and downs we each inevitably experience. Maybe it’s an opportunity to practice being comfortable with, and even excited about that. Maybe it’s a chance to practice maintaining a positive mindset even when you do get pooped on. I can’t imagine that anyone’s ever been seriously injured or otherwise negatively impacted by a fly by pooping. Typically you survive it, just like lots of other less than ideal situations.

Maybe the good luck is in the message of strength through adversity and hope through challenges. The simple fact is that occasionally we get pooped on and that’s ok. As educators and parents we know that the good stuff is in what we do next with out thoughts, emotions, and actions. Getting pooped on is an easy opportunity to practice and model resilience and joy. For that I’m grateful to the bird who recently relieved himself on my shoulder.

May you have many opportunities to push through challenges with learning, growth, and joy in mind, and to that I can only add…good luck!

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