Tagged: Happy

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 Chance For Her to Learn

We were at the Detroit Historical Museum.  It’s nestled between the DIA, the Michigan Science Center, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, and the Detroit Public Library.  Given its proximity to these gems we often skip it in favor of some combination of the others when we’re in Midtown (who am I kidding, the Science Center is our haunt 99% of the time at this stage of the game:).  Every time we do end up at the Historical Museum I remember why skipping it is a mistake.  

It was me and the four (two bigs and two littles).  If you haven’t been I highly recommend it.  If you have, I highly recommend a return trip.  So engaging, so relevant to young Michiganders, so much fun for all!  From the massive train set in the “Streets of Detroit” exhibit on the lower level to the life size assembly line display and the Kid Rock History of Music in Detroit showcase on level one, the kids loved it all!  

If your kids are ready for the content and you’re ready for processing with them, there’s also an moving and meaningful Underground Railroad exhibit on the top floor.  Be ready for a deep, reflective, and emotional experience.  My little ones are too little, but soon enough.

One of the stops upstairs is a simulation of the invention of Vernors, a Detroit-based ginger ale brand created in 1866 by the pharmacist James Vernor.  The kids get to put ingredients together and submit their bubbly invention to a digital Mr. Vernor for tase testing.  He either likes it or he doesn’t, and then he gives a critique…too bitter, not bubbly enough, etc.  Our 9-year-old acted as advisor to his 5-year-old sister for her turn. The concoction she made ended up being too bitter.  She was furious!

With red cheeks and clinched fists she turned to me and said, “He made me lose on purpose!”

Surprisingly, he admitted it.

“Dad,” he exclaimed in earnest, “it was a chance for her to learn!”

We spend so much time wanting them to get things “right.”  We hope for it, we wish for it, sometimes we even make it happen by manipulating situations that are beyond their ability to navigate.

Once again I have a kid to thank for reminding me of the backward nature of some of the adult-ish stuff we do!

Parents and educators, let’s let them fail.  Let’s embrace it.  Let’s let them fight through frustration and into learning and growth.  Let’s let it be a paradigm we live in during all the moments we’re gifted as the stewards of their development, from their youngest days on into their adult lives.  

If we’re going to manufacture moment, let’s consider manufacturing moments for mistake making.  They’ve got to get to know how it feels on both ends and all the way through the making of mistakes, the processing of frustrations, the pulling oneself up by bootstraps, and the learning toward “back to the old drawing board” grit, determination, faith, hope, and persistence.

Big brothers.  Great parenting resources!  Thanks, Bud!

In it together for the kids.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. 

I Got Ya Buddy

We all get scared, even (and probably especially) those among us who claim not to.

If you don’t know what it feels like to have a loving arm around your shoulder when you’re walking through a dark place you’re missing out.  It feels good.  

Compassionate, non-judgmental support is a cornerstone of organizational well-being, regardless of the organization.  Be it a city, a school, a widget factory, or a family…kind, loving, and connected is the way to build cultures in which we’re not only prepared to help one another but also to communicate openly about our need for help.  It’s a need we all have from time to time and one that’s sometimes naively suppressed in favor of the illusion of supreme competence (something none of us actually possess). 

Also, support begets support.  In one moment you’re the loving arm and in another you’re the shoulder. Life is best when we’re enthusiastic about being both. It helps us better understand each paradigm, and in doing so it helps us better understand one another.  We’re a bunch of complex organisms.  It’s as simple as that (so to speak).

Covey reminds us that “the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”  It doesn’t take much searching to understand that the main thing is people.  The main thing is you and me and those we serve.  It’s each other.  The main thing is us.

Summer is a great time for educators and parents to build our “sharing about fears” and “being open to support” muscles.  It’s a great time because we’re generally in relatively safe spaces.  

During the summer educators and parents tend to spend lots of time with family and friends.  Much of the time these are people who are happy to embrace us for who we are, ready to listen to us with open hearts and open minds, and enthusiastic about being “our people.” 

Generally, family and friends are the ones to catch us when we fall and to walk through the dark places hand in hand with us.  Some aren’t, and we likely know who those some are (if we have some like that in our lives).  However, even those some can surprise us when push comes to shove.

Regardless, a worse case scenario of putting yourself “out there” in this way is disappointment and rejection, which as we all know are both wonderful catalyst for enhanced wisdom and strength.  A positive outcome through hard times remains a positive outcome.

Hope and optimism in mind, educators and parents might consider using this summer as an opportunity to be vulnerable by sharing our fears when they arise and accepting support when it’s available.  Through this practice we can strengthen our “genuine partnership” muscles for when we return to school and enlist them for the critical challenge of seeking to love, understand and engage each child and one another in the light of our magnificent and sometimes demanding individual uniquenesses.  

Just imagine how strong we’ll be if we practice with conviction.  Just imagine what an impact we’ll make if we dust ourselves off each time we stumble in our effort to grow into the most revealed, self-aware, and sympathetic selves we can be.  

We’ll practically be super heroes!

You get what you give.  I say give as much as you can until you can give it all, and then do that.

My son stepped onto an elevator the other day with unsteady legs, watery eyes and a quivering lip.  He told us without hesitation that he was scared.  My daughter wrapped her arm around him and said, “don’t worry…I got ya buddy.”  Without hesitation too.

The main thing.  

We got this!

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!

Don’t Be Silly (unless you want to have fun, relieve stress, and maintain a positive outlook)

Have you ever tried to sneeze with your eyes open? Can’t be done.

How about tickling yourself? Ain’t gonna happen!

Similarly, you can’t be silly and frustrated at the same time. I dare you to try. I double dog dare you.

Next time you feel yourself getting upset, get silly instead – genuinely silly.

You don’t have to jump around flailing your arms, just think about silly things and allow them to surface. Let loose and allow the silly thoughts manifest in real-time, right there, in whatever space you’re in at that very moment.

Let the silly thoughts make you smile. Let them make you laugh.

If people are around that’s okay too. If the silly thoughts do make you laugh witnesses might look at you sideways and tell you you’re being silly, and if that happens smile more. If that happens you know you’ve done it! You’ve been noticeably silly through frustration. Being silly around people makes the silliness measurable, and sometimes it help the people you’re around feel good.

Granted, sometimes it doesn’t. For whatever reason, some people don’t want to be silly and some people don’t want to have silliness around them, so do be thoughtful about gauging the impact and appropriateness of your silliness whenever you take this leap. However, some people do, so I suggest you error on the side of impulsiveness. Throw silly caution to the wind. It’s risky, but to maximize the healing benefits of silly thinking and action one must take reasonable risks. You can always dial it down and others can always walk away.

Make a silly face or a silly noise. It can be subtle. Do it repeatedly (sometimes it takes a minute to congeal). Look in the mirror if there’s one around. Stew in it. If you’re doing it with a pure heart and an open mind frustration will begin to melt away. You’ll start to think positive thoughts. Jolts of amusing things will pop into your mind. Let them let you smile and laugh wider and longer. You’ll start to take yourself less seriously. Seriously.

I got a compliment that I really appreciated and enjoyed from a parent just the other day. She told me that her first-grade daughter came home reporting that I’m a silly and kind principal. Incidentally, kind is another antidote to frustration (and various other forms of distress).

I’m lucky. When frustration creeps into my space I can always find someone to be silly with or kind to. At work I can step into a hallway or a classroom where generally awaits opportunities for either and even both. My home is a veritable silly factory populated by the goofballs my wife and I are raising.

Because I serve kids and those who also serve kids, silliness is largely acceptable in the spaces I occupy (and kindness is generally appreciated), and on the same foundation, being silly (and sharing kindness) mostly produces really positive outcomes like shared laughter and genuine, joyful engagement.

If you let it, being silly can be really fun. When done with conviction and without restraint it can relieve stress and foster positive outlook and progressive outcomes. It can show those we serve that joy is a sustainable alternative to frustration, even in deeply frustrating times and through profoundly frustrating challenges.

Silliness is a close cousin to optimism in that it sets the stage for light-hearted solution-based growth through un-blurred and along pathways un-obstructed by self-doubt or skepticism.

If we can be silly when the going gets tough, seriously silly, then anything is possible. If we can consistently model persistent joy and faith in limitless possibly to the kids we serve as educators and parents just think of what a wonderful world they might envision and cultivate for themselves, and how cool that we could have the opportunity to grow old in that same world.

We each only have a certain amount to time to play with. None of us really know how much. If it’s silly to suggest that the more we smile and laugh during that time the better off we all are than I’m a silly guy. That said, I’m working to get better at it each day. Join me if you’d like. Be silly, be kind, and smile…you might like it.

In it together for the kids.

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

Keep Your hands In

It was nearing bedtime. Our four-year-old daughter asked for some ice cream. My heart desperately wanted to retrieve a big bowl of it from the freezer. We’ve got some with brownie chucks and piece of chocolate chip cookie dough. It’s good stuff. She would have loved it!

I would have loved to share a bowl with her, but my wife has made it exceedingly clear that I’m not allowed to serve the kids ice cream before bed. She’s pretty smart about this type of thing, so I do my best to remember.

I was strong this time. No ice cream. I held my ground.

Then, it happened. Our sweet, tiny little girl knocked the wind out of me.

“You’re the meanest Daddy ever!”

She announced it as if it were an absolute fact. She’s a powerful force. I almost believed it. It stung.

Even though I know she loves me, and even thought I get whey a four-year-old says things like that when they don’t get ice cream, my heart broke. It may have even left a scar.

After she stuck her tongue out and stomped away, her six-year-old brother leaned over into a deep snuggle with me, and after a moment he whispered in my ear, “Daddy…you’re the nicest person I know.”

Now…my heart burst with joy.

As parents and educators we’re constantly on emotional roller coaster rides. Three weeks into a new school year, giving ever ounce of energy to the kids we serve, we’ve each felt just about every emotion that exists in a very short period of time.

We’ve been thrilled, we’ve been frightened, we’ve been proud, we’ve been worried, we’ve been celebrated by those around us, and we’ve been humbled by the challenges we face with each passing day.

The thing is, we put ourselves in positions to face those challenges for a couple of reasons.

First, we’re holistically committed to kids. Making sure they have safe and joyful experiences as they learn and grow. Through the triumphs and the trials, it propels us forward.

Second, we love it!

We love seeing their faces when they discover something new. We love sharing their excitement over every little moment. Their enthusiasm is infectious. Their genuine zest for life reminds us of what’s truly important. They keep us grounded, they inspire us, and they amaze us around every corner.

The emotional roller coaster that is parenting and education is certainly not always an easy ride, it isn’t always easy to predict, it can be faster than we thought it would be, it can be startling and it can be dizzying.

When we stay mindful of the reasons we do what we do, it’s that much easier to handle the ebb and flow of emotions that is indelibly connected to our chosen pathways.

Not easy, but easier.

So take a breath, remember that they no matter what they say, they do appreciate and even love you, and as you rise, fall, twist and turn at ridiculous speeds and pitches, keep your hand in!

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.

Be Selfish, Make Others Feel Good

I recently read a powerful & though-provoking quote.

I don’t remember it precisely, but paraphrased it went something like, “Everyone you come across is struggling with challenges beyond your understanding. Be kind.”

Indeed. Powerful & thought-provoking.

Now, focus on yourself. Consider your personalized interaction-utopia.

Specifically, how would people treat you in a perfect world? What would interactions look like? What would they sounds like? How would they make you feel?

Maybe everyone would communicate with kindness and respect all the time, even through challenges. People who feel good do that.

Maybe everyone would express lots of gratitude with all kinds of humility. People who feel good do that.

Maybe everyone would genuinely listen for deep understanding while truly considering your perspective with open minds. People who feel good do that.

Maybe everyone would treat you in ways that match your intentions and core values. People who feel good do that.

Maybe everyone would be patient. Maybe they would give you space & time when you need to process & rejuvinate. People who feel good do that.

Maybe everyone would get excited about your thoughts & ideas, and maybe they would all believe you can achieve your goals, no matter how precarious. People who feel good do that.

Maybe everyone would focus on making you feel good. People who feel good do that.

Maybe you have interaction hopes that I wouldn’t think of. Whatever they are, I would suggest that if they’re built on thoughtfulness & the common good, people who feel good do that.

As parents & educators heading into a new school year, I say we consider being selfish by squarely aiming our communication efforts at making others feels good so that we can come ever-closer to perpetuating the types of interactions that are best for us, & even more importantly, drive the type of collaborative culture that’s best for our 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.