Tagged: Guiding Questions

The End Of Beginnings

We visited lake Huron this past weekend.  It was a really cool place on Michigan’s east coast called Sturgeon Point.  There’s a one room school house, a lighthouse, and an awesome, rocky beach.  We’ve been all over the mitten this summer.  Sturgeon Point is quite different from the more tourist-populated, built-up destinations we spent most of our time at on the west side of the state.  That said it was among my favorites.  

The rocks were smooth and colorful.  Many fossils for the kids to discover and collect.  The wind was blowing perfectly. Not to hard but steady enough for each blade of dune grass to stand a bit slanted and wiggling in unison with each of the others.  The waves capped off in white foam as they crawled toward the shoreline.  

The kids’ kites lifted up out of their hands to dance above us with such little effort. On that day, and in those moments, they were all world class kite pilots; youngest to oldest.  The cheap wood and plastic apparatuses were dipping, weaving, diving and soaring at their will. Our three dollar kites would have thrilled even the Wright Brothers with their grace and utility.

I was in the waves.  It’s one of my favorite places to be.  A Michigan kid all the way.  The water was warm so a few of the others took the plunge with me, body surfing and horsing around a bit.  

When they finished I still wanted to play, so I jogged through the whitecaps to the shore where the nine-year-old was fastidiously selecting rocks for his bucket.  I asked if he wanted to take a break and splash around for a bit.  He replied, “Do I have to?”

“No,” I said, “not if you don’t want to.”

He smiled and said, “Maybe another time,” before dutifully returning to his task.

Ouch.  Maybe another time.  Ok.  I had no option but to grab the seven-year-old from a few yards away toss him back in the water.  Unlike his big brother, he had to.

I wondered about the line.  When does a kid change from someone who appreciates being forcibly (and lovingly) tossed into the lake to someone who doesn’t.  Different for each I suppose.  

Regardless, in that moment it struck me that this kid could be experiencing the end of a beginning.  He’s certainly not done being a kid.  He’s not at the end of the end of it.  I hope he’s not at the end of the middle of it, or even the middle of the middle.  Just maybe at the end of the beginning.

For a moment I had succumb to a whirlwind of reflective thinking about this seemingly horrible prospect.  If this ridiculous thing is happening to the nine-year-old what might be happening to his siblings?  

Earlier in the day I told the three-year-old that we were going to go on a glass bottom boat, only to be confronted with, “Is it a secure glass bottom boat?”  Three-year-olds don’t ask that.  Is he at the end of the beginning of tiny tot-ness?  

The seven-year-old is stretching out.  There’s no more meat on his bones at all.  Where did it go?  All of his pajama bottoms are floods.  I could swear they fit him last weekend.  Is he at the end of the beginning of little kidish-ness.

The five-year-old doesn’t give me a hug and kiss anymore when I drop her off to play with friends.  Instead, she extends her tiny hand and insist, “Just go, Daddy!”  Doesn’t even look back.  I know because I do.  A lot. What beginning could she she be at the end of?

I don’t know what kind of fortitude I’m supposed to have, but thinking about all these ends of beginnings was really starting to get tough on me.  The previously enjoyable waves of Sturgeon Point, once calmly lapping at our beautiful rocky lighthouse shore had transformed into pulsating waves of mocking, taunting laughter that almost had me holding on for dear life.  “Time waits for no man!” They laughed.  “Your grip is slipping!” They provoked. 

Until it hit me.  Things came a into focus and I quickly settle back into the great joy of my lot.

I’m a husband, a parent, and an educator.  It’s not for me to want for stillness, but rather revel in the movement that drives all I’m supposed to be doing.  I’m supposed to appreciate growth.  I’m supposed to look on independence with gratitude and find the courage to step ever-back as they move ever-forward and even away.  I’m supposed to find the strength to continue showering those I love with that love while I loosen my grip on their hands.  

Sigh.  Joy.  Sigh.

There are ends to my beginnings too.  Good ones.  Headed into my fifth year as the principal of a warm and welcoming school community in a progressive, cohesive district I feel that a beginning may be at its end for me.  To be clear, I have light years to go in my capacity for service and in my leadership practice.  It’s just that I know a bit more than I did before.  I have a bit more skill on the foundation of a few more mistakes I’ve been gifted to make in the bit more time I’ve had to practice my job, craft, my art.

As we think about moving into another energized and exciting school year I say we consider intentionally relishing the end of beginnings as it comes to us, to each other, and to the kids we serve.

We’re built for growth.  We’re made for movement.  Even when it’s tough, which it is sometimes, we should find strength to celebrate the end of beginnings in the same fashion we would celebrate our most triumphant moments.  Then, we should breath deeply, reflect clearly, smile and move along.  

Cherished memories in our minds and our hearts and the conviction that our collective learning will guide us ever-closer to wherever it is we’re going…we should smile and move along.

In it together for the kids.

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

A Lucy Fist Bump: “Wonder Twin Powers Activate!”

When I was a kid I watched a cartoon called “Wonder Twins.”  The “Wonder Twins” were extraterrestrial superhero siblings; brother and sister.  Their super power was an ability to transform themselves in ways that allowed them to achieve amazing and otherwise extremely improbable things.  They could also communicate telepathically with one another and they had a pet space monkey named Glick.

In order to transform they had to fist bump one another.  They would extend their arms, bump knuckles, and call out, “Wonder Twin powers activate!”

Then there was an animated explosion of color between them and they would each enthusiastically describe their intended transformation. 

The brother (who could take the form of anything made of water) might shout, “Form of a giant ice monster!”

The sister (who could take the form of any animal) might exclaim, “Form of a five hundred pound gorilla!” 

After which they would proceed to subdue villains and save the day.  Nothing short of amazing!

Well, last week Lucy Calkins fist bumped me.  Can you guess what I was thinking at the time?  You got it…”Wonder Twin powers activate!” 

Then I thought (enthusiastically), “Form of an educator who can inspire real-time, meaningful, long-term, and transformational progress around literacy learning on behalf of the kids I serve!”

Lucy must have been thinking the same thing, because only moments later she was doing exactly that for a group of wide-eyed, energized educators from all around the world who were hanging on her every word!  I was one of them.  Nothing short of amazing!

Now, I’ve had no success at my attempts to communicate with Lucy telepathically and I saw no signs of a space monkey during the TCRWP institute last week, but we have the fist bump…and that’s something!

Maybe I transformed too.  It feels like I did.  I’m certainly inspired!  

Also, I feel like it’s doable.  I’m not a giant ice monster or a five hundred pound gorilla, but I am something at least slightly different than I was before.  Lucy told me to go back home as “the consummate learner.”  Maybe that’s just what she turned me into.

To be clear, I can’t remember a time when learning wasn’t a priority, but I am energized in a new way having spent the week at Columbia.  I’m infused with tools and tips from the TCRWP team and I’m aching to take the learning and use it to share in even more learning with the team I serve back home.  

I’m super excited to dig deeper into the power of Writers Workshop with my district and school community partners!  

I’m eager to read and to hear what words flow from our students’ minds as they learn to share their truths with even more purity, style, and skill!  I’m grateful.  I’m ready.  

Did I mention super excited?

“Wonder Twin Powers Activate!”

It makes sense.  After all, what does “the consummate learner” do if not wonder?  

I can’t say for sure that Lucy considers herself my “Wonder Twin,” but having listen to and learned from her last week I believe she’d appreciate the literary reference, the playfulness, and the fun of it.

The truth is that we should all be “Wonder Twins.”  If nothing else, Lucy reminded us that this journey is about a process and not a product.  She reminded us that it’s about “wonder” in its varied forms; the “wonder” that comes in question form and the wonder that comes in awe form.  

Lucy told us that writing should bring people together and build genuine relationships.  She told us that it should “breath life into the comings and goings of the moments of our lives.”  

She told us we must listen really closely to our kids and be courageous in response, and that we have to create classroom and school communities in which our kids can do the same. 

She told us that “writers’ notebooks should bristle with vulnerable truths,” and that “people should gasp when they hear each others’ stories.”

She showed us that kids are capable of amazing expressions of truth, power, pain, and joy, and that we are capable of guiding and coaching them into the capacity to deliver those amazing expressions to the their peers, to the communities in which they live, and to the world.  

She inspired us into believing, and in doing so she expanded our potential infinitely.

“Wonder Twin Powers Activate!”

These are my sketchnotes from the institute: TCRWP June 2018 SeB Sketch Notes-pin97b

They’re not my original thoughts and ideas, but rather a frenetic attempt at capturing as much of what Lucy Calkins and her amazing team shared with us during the week.  I plan to use them in conjunction with multiple other tools to share in ongoing collaborative thinking and learning with the team I serve in the upcoming school year. I also plan to share details of that learning journey here and through various other media including Twitter.

Please feel free to use them as well if you’d like (and if you can read them). If you do, please feel free to reach out with feedback and for collaboration along the way.  Actually, whether or not you do, please feel free to reach out with input and for collaboration along the way!

“Wonder Twin Powers Activate!”

Now, as Lucy would say, “Off you go!”

In it together for the kids!

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

Forgiving For Giving

Life ain’t easy.

People are complex.

I happen to believe that the great majority of us are well meaning.

I’ve been thinking a lot about communication lately. I’ve been thinking about how during busy, challenging times communication is difficult. It’s hard to get effective messaging across when were moving really fast and there’s a lot at stake.

Educators and parents are moving really fast much of the time, and there’s always a lot at stake because it’s our job to care for kids.

Whether we’re communicating with one another or with the kids we serve, whether we’re writing or speaking, we really do need to be careful to communicate in positive, optimistic, encouraging, hopeful, and compassionate ways.

Possibly even more importantly, when we don’t (which happens), I think we need to forgive. I think we need to forgive one another and I think we need to forgive ourselves.

Do you know someone whose aim isn’t true? If so, how do you know it’s not? Does that person communicate in unkind, sharp, curt, and/or suggestive ways? Is that how you know his/her aim isn’t true? It’s not easy to receive unkind, sharp, curt, and/or suggestive communication. It’s not easy once, and it’s certainly not easy regularly.

Maybe you know someone who communicates in ways that frustrate you all the time. Maybe you know multiple people who do. Maybe you think those people’s aim is not true.

However, what if it’s that those people are simply moving to fast with too much at stake? What if they’re overwhelmed? What if they simply don’t know, or don’t know how to operationalize tools and strategies for communicating through overwhelming times?

What it their aim is actually true but they don’t know how to demonstrate that? What if their unkind, sharp, curt, and/or suggestive communication is a shroud, masking a true aim and thereby diminishing positive, collaborative energy?

What if you could get to a collaborative core through assumptions and forgiveness? What if it wasn’t easy, but still possible? Would you try? Would you keep trying?

I think it might be a good idea to assume good intentions in this type of situation, and then to forgive, and if the person communicating in deteriorative ways is you, you can remember good intentions instead of assuming them, and then you can still forgive.

Not easy, strangely complex, but maybe a something to consider.

Life ain’t easy.

People are complex.

When we give we gain, immeasurably some might say.

When we’re frustrated with ourselves or with others it’s difficult to genuinely give. It’s difficult to give chances, to give input, to give kindness and caring, to give love.

Ironically, all of those things and so much more that we can give when were focused on positive pathways and assuming best intentions are just the things that relationships need to thrive, especially in times when it’s most difficult to communicate effectively, in positive ways, and with hope and optimism.

As we navigate the challenging waters of parenting and education with hope in our hearts and true aims, we might consider enlisting forgiving for giving.

We might think about forgiving one another and ourselves around every turn so that we can give to one another in ways that promote positive progress and address the many complex needs of those we all see as the foundation of that potential progress, the kids we serve.

Forgiving for giving, just a thought.

In it together for the kids!

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

I Might Not Love My Favorite Color!

We were in the car on our way to Sunday school. Our oldest asked where our youngest was. I reminded him that his little brother doesn’t go to Sunday school. He gets to stay home with his mommy (or his daddy – depending on the day). The big guy declared, “I wish I was him!”

It’s an interesting thing to wish you were someone else. We often forget, when wishing to be someone else, that if were the “someone else” we’re wishing to be, we would have to be all of them, and not just the desirable part that sounds groovy in the moment.

I told the big guy that if he were his two-year-old brother, not only would he get to stay home during Sunday school, but he would also not know how to read words yet. Instead of finishing the last chapter in his latest Minecraft book, he’d be back to doing “Elephant and Piggie” picture walks, which are fun and exciting, but not the same. His eyes scrunched up, one brow raised, and he gave it some thought.

I told him that if he were the little guy he’d still be scared to go in the basement playroom by himself, he couldn’t ride a two wheeler, he wouldn’t get to go on the water slide at the pool, and “The Lego Movie”…forget about it! Now the wheels were turning.

The three big sibs spiraled into a collective thinking rampage!

“If I were you I couldn’t….”

“If you were me you wouldn’t…”

“You don’t like…”

“She doesn’t think…”

Then, like a meteor crashing into the village square, our uniquely sophisticated four-year-old daughter announced, “Hold on, if I were someone else I might not love my favorite color…orange!

The pigment washed out of each of their little faces. A collective gasp resonated through the back seat of the truck cab. Shockwaves shuddered palpably through them.

Wide eyed and confused, they looked around at one another unable to conceive of a world in which this kid’s favorite color wasn’t orange. It would have completely changed her…to the core.

It wasn’t something any one of them could consider without extreme discomfort. Just the thought of it sent them into a bizarre, kid-world, communal grief state of being.

Slumped over and deflated from the impact of such an outlandish paradigm, our six year old sighed, “I’m sure glad you’re you.”

They all shook their heads in agreement before staring out the windows for a few moments of reflective thinking. It was pretty darn cute. I smiled, but held back the laughter so as not to ruin the moment.

So here it is though, and from the hearts, minds and mouths of babes, a pretty solid and simple truth:

We are each what we each are.

Moreover, that we are each solidly and simply what we each are, might very well be for the best thing, for each of us and for each other.

I’ve been told that genuine serenity results only from true fulfilledness in what we are and what we have, rather than wantfullness around that which we are not and that which we don’t have, and while I’m quite certain that neither “fullfilledness” or “wantfullness” are actual words, I agree with the premise.

How do we, as parents and educators, support the kids we serve in finding the type of serenity that comes from self-appreciation?

How do we refrain from pushing and shoving our kids into directions that their spirits don’t advocate for or enjoy?

How do we set a standard expectation for self-love while modeling humility, providing opportunities for interest and ability-driven growth, engaging in interactions that promote understanding, compassion, and kindness, while creating learning environments that afford our kids safe passage along the sometimes painful, but arguable natural and necessary, oscillating pathways of simultaneous progressive-exploration and static-being that are holistically unique to each of them, and do so in conjunction with rich the collective development needed to thrive in this world of diversity?

Frankly, it beats me…but it’s stuff I find worth some reflective consideration as I seek to serve them well.

Meanwhile, I’ll try to stay on course with some good old fashioned modeling. Given that if I were someone else I might not love my favorite color, I think I’ll simply continue being me.

In it together for the kids.

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

Even When You Can’t Be Certain, Be Positive

As a parent and an educator headed into the final month of preparation for the upcoming school year I find myself reflecting considerably on how I intend to face the many challenges and celebrate the many triumphs that will undoubtedly come in working to ever-enhance my leadership and learning practice on behalf of the the kids and the community I serve.

Around each bend, my reflective thoughts turn pointedly to the language and the practices that drive individual and cultural positivity. The following is some food for thought on that foundation.

Your input is always is always welcome and greatly appreciated in the “comments” section. Thanks for reading!

Certainty.

Certainty is a paradox.

We must move forward with conviction. We must attend to our core values as we confidently think, reflect, decide, and act along the shifting pathways upon which we tread ever closer to the achievement of our goals, on the foundation of particular concepts that we consider to be certainties.

As educators and parents, one such concept might be that all kids can learn at high levels, and that it’s our responsibility to hold hope for, provide opportunities to, and inspire each that we serve to consistently and joyfully do just that. It’s one for me anyway.

There are other things I’m certain of as well. I deeply and inexorably love and appreciate my wife and my kids, I’m not interested in even considering anchovies on my pizza or in my salad, I’m a dog person, etc. These are some of the things things I’m certain of, however, lots of the other stuff exists on a spectrum from “let’s give it try” to “I’d bank on it!” That’s where moxie, optimism, problem solving, and positive partnerships come in handy.

Moxie.

Moxie is word that indicates: strength of character, determination, and courage. It’s also fun to say. Try it. “Moxie.” Fun…right?

In fact, it’s so fun to say, and so profoundly grounded in our core value of grit & in the growth-mindset orientation my partners and I work deliberately to impart upon the kids we serve that I’ve chosen it as my word for the upcoming school year.        Stakeholders in our school community are “Meadow Mice,” and Meadow Mice have moxie! I plan to use that language in driving a message of hope, inspiration, and unlimited possibility.

Another way to describe someone with moxie is to say that he or she has the ability to face challenging circumstances with audacity. For my money, people who face challenging circumstances with audacity do so because they believe they can overcome the challenges embedded within those circumstances.

I would further speculate that the same people believe overcoming challenges is a pathway to learning and growth. I would even go so far as to suggest that they might consider that possibility a certainty. I do, which leads me to “optimism.”

Optimism.

One defining characteristic of an optimistic person is that he or she considers any challenge to be: short term, limited in scope, and manageable. This consideration is in contrast to a pessimistic the viewpoint that some challenges (if not all) are permanent, pervasive, and insurmountable.

People trapped in a pessimistic paradigm preemptively and consistently defeat themselves, drive negative tones and worry into the cultures in which they serve, and, while typically not intentionally, they tend to counteract positive progress.

Taking an optimistic tact, conjoined with holding a core founded on moxie can greatly enhance our ability to carve positive pathways for ourselves and for those we serve. It’s a good start anyway, and if you’re worried that “moxie” and “optimism” are well and good, but possibly shallow and vague, let’s talk tactics. A solid problem solving process can be relied upon to take a focused & progressive attitude to the next level.

Problem Solving.

For the purpose of leadership and learning I tend to consider problem solving on two fronts: supportive and restorative.

Supportive Problem Solving. This is what educators and parents do when we work out the details for the kids we serve. Here is the four-step process my team and I have refined to use for both academic and behavioral intervention and enrichment thinking and implementation (I am increasingly consistent in using the same process in my personal life as well…it seems to work when I do):

  1. Identify the challenge (what’s happening that calls for the problem solving process?)
  2. Consider the reason through multiple lenses (why might this be happening according to various lines of thought?)
  3. Assign a connected course of remediation (what can we do to address the challenge though intervention and/or enrichment?)
  4. Decide on data-collection methodology and a time-line (how will we understand the impact of our chosen remediation & when will we evaluate that impact for next steps?)

Restorative Problem Solving. This is what kids (and adults) do when they (we) work out challenges for themselves (ourselves), particularly social challenges in which someone is treating them (us) in counterproductive ways, or ways that they (we) don’t appreciate.

Restorative problem solving rests on regulating and restoring energy levels and emotions to a place where rational thoughts prevail so that rational, positive actions can be taken.

Click the following link to explore a post in which I write about restorative problem solving more extensively on the foundation of the “Color Zones of Regulation.”

The basics exist within another four-step process:

  1. Tell the person what they’re doing that you don’t appreciate (“You’re calling me names.”)
  2. Tell the person how it makes you feel (“When you call me names I feel sad and angry.” Some educators refer to this as an “I” statement).
  3. Tell the person what you would like them do from now on (“Please don’t call me names anymore.”)
  4. If steps 1-3 don’t work out, remove yourself from the situation and enlist the help of a trusted adult, or a supervisor if you are an adult. I am always available to work with kids, teachers, parents, and colleagues on restorative problem solving as needed. My efforts in this collaborative work revolve around Stephen Covey’s advice to assume positive intentions, seek shared understanding, work toward wellbeing for everyone involved, and promote positive progress.

Positive Partnerships.

Finally, unless the progress you seek exists in a vacuum in which you’re alone, trusting and positive partnerships are critical.

The key is to stack each of the previously listed concepts on top of one another to set a workable foundation for the partnerships you form and perpetuate.

With moxie, optimism, and a commitment to shared standards of intentional problem solving in mind and in practice, partnerships can and will thrive, even and especially within the often challenging and frequently uncertain waters of parenting and education.

The very language we use can either drive or diminish a culture of positive progress. Words cast into cultures like rocks into water, rippling shock waves that stretch out as far as they are permitted to.

While making way for optimistic tones to ring out loud, clear, and indefinitely, we must each do our part to thwart gloom and crush cynicism. We must do so on behalf of ourselves, and most importantly, on behalf of the kids we serve.

When we enlist moxie, maximize optimism, firmly root ourselves in intentional problem solving, and dig deep to maintain positive partnerships, we are all significantly better off.

Being human, we are sometimes discontented, we occasionally fall into slumps of doubt, and we are each as fallible as one another. In that, we can sympathize with and support one another.

As I work to take the tact described in this post I find the need to regularly forgive myself for falling off course, and to always shake off the dust as I regroup and reset. The more I do, the better I become, the less I fall, and the quicker I recover.

After 43 years of ups and downs I’m certain that moxie, optimism, problem solving, and positive partnerships perpetuate progress. If that ship goes down, I’ll be on it.

Still, there are many things about which I remain uncertain. My hope and inspiration comes from the fact that even with regard to those things, the ones about which I remain uncertain, I am confident that I can always find my way to being positive and thereby making a positive impact on myself and on those I serve.

In it together for the kids!

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

Some Simple Heart & Mind Math (Exponential Multipliers)

How do you feel? How do you think?

How do you want to feel? How do you want to think?

How do you feel you should be thinking? How do you think should be feeling?

How do you feel thinking impacts the feelings you think you’re having? How do you think feeling impacts the thinking you feel you’re doing?

Ok, I am having fun, but I’m also confusing myself…so let’s move on.

For the purpose of this reflective exploration let’s define the possibilities for both “feeling” and “thinking” within two categories each.

For feeling, let’s go with “good” and “bad.”

“Good” could indicate happy, contented, relaxed or any other desirable emotional state of being. It should be one that promotes well-being and productivity; your choice.

For thinking, let’s go with two traditional frameworks: pessimistic-style and optimistic-style.

Let’s further define our two “thinking style” possibilities as follows:

Pessimistic thinkers view “negative” events or challenges as personal, pervasive, and permanent. They think that every obstacle is a targeted attack on them, aimed at the very core of who they are.

Additionally they think that each obstacle exists to knock them over, infect all aspects of their life, and last a really long time (if not indefinitely).

Optimistic thinkers view “negative” events or challenges at opportunities for learning and growth. They think of obstacles as short-term, limited in scope, and manageable. They believe that after grappling with a challenge they emerge stronger and better equipped for the next one.

Now that we’ve framed out the basis, let’s get to the strategy.

Once you’ve decided how you want to feel and how you want to think, you can insert your intentions into the following equation for optimal results:

(Desired State of Heart and Mind + Strength of Character) x (Interactions + Accountability)/(Patience + Forgiveness) = Actual State of Heart and Mind

The bottom line is that states of heart and states of mind are exponential multipliers.

Embedding yourself in “bad” feelings and “pessimistic” thoughts causes waves of “bad” feelings and “pessimistic” thoughts to advance. Monstrous walls of negative energy, coupled with vicious & destructive undertows pound relentlessly upon those trapped in the negative.

Let’s assume, for the sake of the children we serve as parents and educators, that we each have at least the desire for good feelings and optimistic thoughts. Under this exponential multiplier model, it’s achievable. Give it a try.

Surround yourself mostly with others seeking, and actively working toward the same, act with optimism as a foundation, smile and speak in positive tones, check yourself regularly to ensure a consistent effort, forgive yourself for falling of course as needed, and possibly most importantly, forgive those who insert negativism into the spaces you occupy with bad feelings and pessimistic thinking. I would strongly suggest that they are not doing so from a place of malice but rather one of hurt. Bitterness sinks while compassion floats.

Even more simply, to let the positive multiply within and around you, avoid engaging in the negative. Use your positive energy to shatter negative forces. Know that they are short-term, limited in scope, and manageable, and care deeply about the well-being of others, as it arguably has a profound impact on you and the world at large.

If nothing else, I would confidently suggest that taking this aggressively positive tact can’t hurt.

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

Ready Position

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

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

Coach kept shouting, “ready position!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Checking In

I’m actively seeking pathways to enhanced mindfulness for myself. You might think that “actively” is the only way to seek.  You might be right.

Regardless, I articulate the distinction because I feel as though I have passively sought the same by wanting, but not trying, in the past.

Now, I’m wanting and trying; so, “actively” seeking.

I’m doing it because I’d like to engage more fully in each moment, specifically, while I’m experiencing it.

I’ve heard it said that mindfulness isn’t about knowing, but rather about being aware of, and appreciating not knowing.

When I think about being aware, I think about “checking in.”

Below I’ve listed 7 strategies that have worked, and are working for me as I enhance my “checking in” skills, and strengthen my capacity for being present during the mosaic-like moments along my journey.

  1. Wishing Well (not the type you throw pennies into)

Frustration, jealousy, anger, resentment, and the like, increasingly seem to be nothing more than distractions in my view. When I muster the strength to wish those around me well, no matter the challenges we face, alone and together, I always find myself feeling better about any given situation, and, I find each moment in which I’m doing so to be more positive and productive than it might otherwise be.  The acceptance of not always knowing and a reliance on an “abundance paradigm” (Stephen Covey) help me make it happen.

2. A Core Values Focus

When I focus on my core values, especially kindness and collaboration, I tend to be able to get to the well wishing quicker and more effectively. As it turns out, when those around me feel good I tend to feel good too.  Subsequently, not knowing seems more OK.

3. A Foundation of the Foundation

Asking myself what I’m getting at in any given moment tends to help. Usually, for me, it’s well-being & achievement. Most of the time I’m driven by seeking well-being & achievement for myself and for those I serve.    Specifically, my energy mostly goes to the well-being and achievement of the children I serve, however, in order to get there the well-being and achievement of all involved turns out to be critical.

4. Right-Leaning

Shades of gray are indelibly woven into the fabric of life. That’s said, “right” and “wrong” appear in most situations without having to dig very deep.  Trusting in my internal compass and a right-leaning posture, repeatedly prove to be wonderful tools for carving a mindful and true path.

5. Doodle Focusing

There seems to be a fine line between unconscious and conscious thought and action. Scribbling on a piece of paper with no particular aim helps me connect the two with uncanny consistency. I’m not sure why, it just does.

  1. Walking Outside

If you don’t already, I would suggest you give it a try. While you do, listen carefully with an open heart and an open mind. I find that the sounds of the world around me help to piece together the complex puzzle of my life in ways that nothing else can.

7. Resting

It’s a busy world. Taking the time to restore myself with rest & relaxation always helps me engage more mindfully during the moments when rest and relaxation are not options.

Food for thought. Wishing you well.

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

On Promoting Childish Conceptions of The Future

The other day my seven-year-old was reading on my iPhone. He was using comprehension-promoting software.  For every “book” he read there were a series of comprehension questions to answer.

Points were earned for correct answers. He could use those points to buy things in a digital store. The things he bought were meant to help him create a digital world within the software. It was like a game. He was having fun.  I’m old.

This is a kid who loves to read. He has actual, physical books strewn about his bedroom, and wherever he travels throughout our house books follow like the stardust dust trail from a comet.

He also enjoys digital devices. He likes this reading software and he likes games.  All of my kids do.  Thankfully, they all also seem to like actual, physical books too (my personal favorite – a bias I’m working on).

That day, I told him there were no iPhones when I was a kid.

“Really?” He asked.

“Really.” I said.

I told him that my friends and I could have imagined what iPhones would be like, but that they didn’t exist.

I told him that they pretended to have something like iPhones on TV shows about the future, but just not in “real life.”

His face turned incredibly thoughtful, he let out what seems to be an unstoppable, “Ohhh,” and then he matter-of-factly stated, “So this is the future.”

“It sure is, Bud.”

He went on to explain that if it’s true, anything he and his friends might imagine can become a reality one day too, in tomorrow’s future, or the future that will be here on the day after tomorrow, or the one that will happen any number of years from now.

“It sure can, Bud.”

When do we begin to restrict ourselves?

When do we start to deny the incredible potential of our capacity to unfold the individual and collective imaginations of ourselves and our contemporaries into the fabric of reality?

At what point do we decide that not everything is possible?

How old are we when time, cost, and ability begin to seem prohibitive?

At what age do the laws of physics begin stifling our desire to fly?

We must resist.

One of the greatest strengths of kids is that they believe anything is possible, unless and until we redefine their innate gift-of-a-paradigm into one in which it isn’t.

Let’s not.

Here’s to today, and to every future today we are blessed to experience with the incredible children we serve.

Here’s to their childish conceptions of a nonsensical and brilliant series of tomorrows and future todays.

Here’s to the hope that each of their wildly outlandish dreams comes true.

Here’s to the faith that it can, and that it will.

Here’s to the possibility that we will be with them, watching, hoping, supporting, inspired and proven wrong, and witnessing, with blissful awe, the unfolding of what might otherwise have been unimaginable positive progress.

Yes, here’s to the possibility.

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

The Perfect Lie

Sometimes I tell my kids, “That’s perfect!”

Sometimes I tell them, “Nothing’s perfect.”

My son caught me in the perfect lie the other day.

We needed to get out of the house. He was drawing a picture. He was in one of those moods during which he becomes overwhelmed by a visceral need to “get it right” before moving on. I know the feeling. I understand that this need can be problematic, in part because there often seem to be no “getting it right,” maybe especially for those of us who feel the need in that way (viscerally).

I wonder if those who don’t feel the need to “get it right” all the time are actually “getting it right” by thinking that “not quite right” is in fact “right,” on the premise (as Carol Dweck wrote in her book Mindset) that “becoming is better than being.” Ironically, I genuinely believe that’s “right.”

Regardless, I’m thinking there might be some apple and tree stuff going on here, which is beside the point, other than to suggest that I was confident our hero wouldn’t shift his attention to whatever pressing play-date or junior athletic need was looming, until the drawing looked like whatever he was tying to make it look like.

So, after exercising what I considered a good deal of patience I exclaimed, “That’s perfect!”

He smiled, put down his crayons, and off we went.

A few days later he was back at it. This time, we had nowhere to go and nothing else to do. I was excited that he was taking his time. I was present with him in that moment. I was in awe of his racing, creative mind. I didn’t want him to be stifled by the perfect lie. My motivation had changed.

He got frustrated. He wasn’t “getting it right.”

This time, in a sincere effort to help him get unstuck and shed some frustration I told him, “Nothing’s perfect.”

He looked at me with a crinkled face. He asked, “Then why did you tell me that my drawing was perfect before?”

Oops. I forgot that they don’t forget a thing.

Carol Dweck would be ashamed of me.

I suppose I could have explained that sometimes adults mislead kids when we’re trying to get them to do things the way we want them to, but that didn’t seem sensible. How would he ever trust me again? I was in a pickle (figuratively).

I told him that I shouldn’t have said it. I told him that one of the greatest things about life is that we’re always learning and that there’s always room to grow. I exposed my manipulative ways and revealed that the other day I was trying to get him to move more quickly. He smiled. He got me. It brought him joy. I was happy to help.

I thought about how easy it is for me to utter a tiny falsehood or a harmless misrepresentation to my children when it seems to serve my purpose. I found myself wrestling with the idea. I certainly can’t be the only parent who misinforms his kids from time to time. I tell myself that it’s for their good when I do it. That should count for something. The intention is there. Am I misleading myself? This reflective pathway is wrought with irony.

It’s not like I’m telling him that the earth is flat, of that pigs can fly, or that spinach tastes good.

However, it strikes me that the perfect like could actually be whopper if I’m not careful with it. What if he develops a fixed mindset? Then I’d be sorry.

I once read about a Native American folk tradition set on the foundation that no human being is, or can produce anything “perfect.” Within this tradition was the practice of purposefully leaving flaws in artwork; woven blankets with loose strings or off pattern colors, carvings that might be unbalanced or disproportionate, etc.

The idea being that life is a process and not a product. That the aim should not be to achieve perfection in any given moment, but to keep moving forward, learning all the while, and seeing evolved outcomes unfold along the unique and wondrous pathways we each tread.

I was caught in the perfect lie, and I’m glad of it. I may be better off. I’m thinking that being caught and reflecting on the experience might even enhance my ability to parent in a growth-mindset oriented way. It could help me help my kids live enhanced journies by instilling in them an enthusiasm for things like “becoming” and “beyond” instead of “finished,” “perfect,” or “right,” and that seems right. Right (you know what I mean)?

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