Tagged: Happy

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!

Always

Always

Not many things are certain in life. Mysteries abound. Each step involves some degree of risk. It’s good. Life is exciting. Within the challenges and the triumphs we face exists the essential learning that drives us forward. Through the ups and the downs interwoven into life’s fabric is excitement.

There is one certainty in my life however, and it’s a certainty on which my courage and strength for the rest stands. My wife is the most solid and compassionate partner I could have ever imagined. She is an unbelievably amazing spouse and an overwhelmingly remarkable mother.

This astonishing woman and I have four children. Our oldest is six, our youngest is one, and those two sandwich three and a four-year-old siblings. Our house is a whirlwind of noise and motion in any (and every) given moment. It’s a joyful whirlwind of noise and motion, but a whirlwind of noise and motion nonetheless.

My kids need food, and cloths, and permission slips, and book orders, and play dates with their friends, and friends to have play dates with, and diaper changes, and snuggles when they’re scared or hurt, and care when they’re sick, and lessons on courage, and opportunities to practice being courageous, and a set of core values, and opportunities to practice decision-making and action-taking that match those core values, and redirection, and discipline, and understanding, and boat loads of attention, and lot’s of love.

They need endless and unwavering love. They need love that thrives even when they’re loud or defiant. They need to be embraced by genuinely loving arms even when they smell funny. They need to have resolutely loving shoulders to bury their little faces into even when those faces are overrun by gobs of gooey snot. My wife joyfully meets these needs and so many more. Always.

Our kids each need to know that they’re valued and they need to be able to explore their unique and authentic voices. They each need to understand what it means to be a part of our family and a member of our community. They each need to know themselves as individuals while also maintaining special connections to one another, to us, to our extended family, and to our religious and cultural foundations.

The list goes on and on. There is truly no end. My wife’s demands as a mother are inconceivable to me. I don’t know and couldn’t comprehend all of what she does or half of how she does it. I often find myself dumbfounded that the wheels keep turning. She makes it happen.   She always makes it happen and she never drops the ball. We have everything we need. We have everything we could ever want with the possible exception of cookies before dinner (an sometimes we even have that).

My wife is tireless and unstoppable. She won’t be deterred when it comes to her family. She is always there. She is always holding it together. She is always just what we need. Always.

On top of all that, this woman is breathtakingly beautiful inside and out, and she’s energized even through what I can only describe as intensely exhausting daily commitments. She makes it look effortless. Her strength is the scaffolding for my learning and growth, and any successes I ever experience are as a direct result of her support, encouragement, and dedication.

There is really nothing I can do to honor her enough on this Mother’s day or on any day. I can only remain thankful that she chose to partner with me on this mysterious and incredible journey. I can only work to match her resolve and try to find every opportunity to show her how much she is appreciated, by me, by our children, and by everyone who’s life she touches with her generous, authentic, and extraordinary loving kindness.

Trough my trials and with all of my faults I am indeed truly blessed. I am truly blessed to have this beautiful woman to share my life with and to love endlessly. Always.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Live, 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.

Even When You Can’t Be Certain…Be Positive

Doing what makes you feel good
A story about a study. I recently read a study in which the researcher told some people that a new drug was found to have a 70% effectiveness rate. Those people expressed positive thoughts and feelings about the drug. The same researcher told some other people that the drug in question was found to have a 30% failure rate. Those people expressed negative thoughts and feelings about the drug.

After that the researcher reminded the first group that a 70% success rate is the same as a 30% failure rate. They shifted their expression of thoughts and feelings to the negative. She then reminded the second group that a 30% failure rate is the same as a 70% success rate. Their expression of thoughts and feelings remained negative. No shift.

The researcher repeated this experiment with multiple controls and repeatedly found similar results. It’s tough to shift from a negative to a positive outlook; a better bet is to start and stay positive.

Who cares? I guess it’s well and good to consider that starting positive increases the chance that you’ll stay that way, but so what? Is being positive helpful? What benefits does it provide? What about the perceptibly cathartic remunerations of the relentless venting that we all seem to enjoy so much? What about misery loving company? This is that part where scientific exploration gives way to personal opinion. You should stop reading if you have a weak stomach for soapbox oration.

My best work is scaffolded by optimism.

I’m decidedly stronger when I’m authentically joyful.

Decisions come to me with increased clarity during times of hope.

My integrated contentedness to world, work, and spirit is highlighted by happiness.

It feels good to feel good.

The reflections of a parent and an educator.  Sometimes when my kids get grumpy I defy them not to smile. “Don’t do it,” I say. “Stay grumpy,” I insist. I’m relentless until they fold. Like me, they want to feel good too. They want to enjoy instead of agonize. They want to appreciate instead of resent. They want to heal instead of hurt.

Again, it ain’t easy to shift away from a negative paradigm when you’re embedded in it, but if you feel like I do, if you prefer to live with hope and joyfulness, it doesn’t hurt to try. In fact, I would argue that it helps.

My experiences consistently tell me that it not only helps me but that it’s good for those I serve. Furthermore the more I’m able to recover and make that shift the more it’s not necessary. If I can make that shift and stay in it then the shift isn’t needed anymore. Recovery becomes regulation. The key is to press on and never stop growing. I can only imagine that I’ll be very old and very grey if I ever make it to a state of mind that negativity simply can’t crack, but at that moment I also imagine the old and greyness won’t bother me.

Our lives our challenging. The world is a complex and often confusing place. Our primary purpose is to make it better for the kids who are inheriting it from us. That’s why we do what we do. I believe that we owe it to them, and to one another to focus on hope and inspiration.

One of my mentors consistently reminds me that, “staying positive in challenging situations is not naive…it’s leadership.” What if we could always do just that? What if we could always do it at school, at home, when we’re with people, and even when we’re alone? What if? There are not many certainties in life. Every day comes along with countless challenges. Even so (and arguably, especially so), each moment is truly a gift. In what ways are you focused on making the most of it for you and for those you serve?

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

In Our Hearts

In Our Heart

A Story:

My mother lives across the street. My wife and I have four kids six and under. You can imagine how involved we are in each other’s lives. That’s one way to put it.

Or, you might say we live across the street from my mother because we simply couldn’t raise four kids without a tight knit village within throwing distance (and I can’t throw very far).

Also, my mother-in-law has furnished a bedroom in my mother’s house so that they can tag-team babysitting and carpool duties. We need a lot of support and we’re blessed to get it.

The connected blessing is that our kids have great relationships with our mothers. They’re absolute constants in each other’s lives. Our mothers tell us that it’s a gift for them. I say it’s a gift for our kids and us. Maybe it’s a gift for everyone involved. Great gift.

My mother has a tradition with the kids. Before she walks across the street or vise versa, they blow each other kisses. They each reach out, grab the kisses, and put them in their respective hearts for safekeeping. The kids love it and my mom loves it, another great gift.

Yesterday, as my mom was preparing to leave for a six-day trip to Florida she waved farewell to my son from her bedroom window while we passed her house. He asked me where she was going and for how long. I told him. This is what he told me back after a brief moment of thoughtful silence, “Well, I still have her kisses in my heart.”

A Parent’s Connected Reflection:

Time flies. I don’t enjoy rolling out of bed well before my family on many mornings and having to drive down the road without getting to spend any time with them at all; but what about the pieces of our lives together that I have indelibly engrained in my heart? What about the joyful play we engage in whenever we’re together? What about the fort building and the snuggling? What about the story telling, the reading, the singing, and the make believe?

Once again, the big guy reminds me that while we can’t and aren’t meant to spend every moment of every day together with the people we love we remain connected to the extent that we understand what a connection truly is.

Funny that kids, who have far less worldly experience that adults, sometimes seem to understand the concept of connection better than we do. Maybe it’s because they don’t tend to skew the realities of energy, spirituality, and love with the occasional other, and occasionally harsh realities we’ve encountered. Who knows?

Regardless, the reminder makes the reality come very clear in the blink of an eye. We are together. We are together in spirit, in energy, and in love. I would argue that we are each always together with anyone and everyone with whom we’ve ever shared a meaningful, spiritual, and deep connection. We’re in each other’s hearts. That is presence. That is a gift. Great gift.

An Educator’s Connected Reflection:

Each day comes with new and unique challenges.   Because we, and those we serve, are human, we experience ups and down. It’s a standard in the world of teaching, learning, and leading.

Another standard is that the students we serve weave their ways into our hearts. So do the families and our colleagues as well. The work we do is often so intense and critical that we get to experience deep depths of individual and collective challenge and triumph. With our hearts and the hearts of those we serve in mind we can remain connected even, and especially during the most challenging moments we face.

When we keep every celebration in our hearts we move forward with joy. When we swim in the sea of discovery made up of the symbolic light bulbs constantly turning on around us the subsequent light clarifies our vision. When we latch onto the myriad of miraculous thoughts, ideas, and connections that we’re gifted with each day in the business of education we gain strength to access each while confronting our trials together and with positive progress in mind.

Our hearts carry the foundation of why we teach in our collective belief that it all boils down to what’s best for each and every child we serve in each and every moment that we serve them, yet another great gift.

Our hearts are built to foster and maintain connections that our minds can sometimes forget, especially when clouded by hurt, fear, frustration, or even fatigue.

As parents, educators, and leaders, we’re well served to occasionally rely on our hearts to remind of the basics. It seems to me that when we accept life’s incredible gifts, even the seemingly mysterious ones, we tend to grow.

When I lead with what’s in my heart, no matter which hat I’m wearing, it all seems to work out. How about you?

Live. Listen. Learn. Lead.

Bring Your Best.

I S.E.E. Gratitude

I SEE Gratitude

We’ve been going steady with holiday festivities for a few months now. It seems a good time to reflect on gratitude.

What am I thankful for? There’s quite a lot. When I reflect on gratitude I come to the conclusion that I could never make an exhaustive list. There’s the big stuff like family and friends, the stuff that makes me who I am and continues pushing me along a pathway of learning and growth.

There’s the little stuff like harvest moons and fresh snowfalls, the stuff that amazes and inspires me without me expecting or always even realizing it.

There’s great food, there’s music, there’s moment of celebration and causes for those moments, there’s sledding, there’s pizza, there’s the humorous and poignant stuff that kids say and do, there’s jokes that only a few people find funny but cause uproarious laughter, there’s uproarious laughter, there’s swimming, there’s trips to the city, there’s trips to the country, there’s playgrounds, there’s basketball courts, there’s farms, there’s cider mills, there’s apple pie, there’s cinnamon ice cream, and there’s the magical combination of hot apple pie with a scoop of cinnamon ice cream. When I reflect on the things I’m thankful for I’m led down limitless roads.

Then there’s the gratitude that comes my way. I’m repeatedly being thanked for all kinds of things. Some of the gratitude I receive comes connected to service. I might have held a door or poured a glass of orange juice. Some of it comes connected to attention or responsiveness. I might have listened or expressed value for something someone said or did.

The other type of gratitude I experience regularly comes in the form of general and arguably underrepresented daily situations and occurrences. This type presents in the form of expressions like, “Thank goodness,” or, “It’s a good thing!” It’s the type of gratitude that’s expressed but not directed. It’s typically expressed in general, loosely targeted ways, and then left to float away chased by a couple of consensus identifying but tenuous head nods.

Person one says, “It’s a good things this sidewalk has been salted.”

Person two nods her head in mild agreement.

Person one and person two continue walking safely along a salted sidewalk (thankfully).

All gratitude is good gratitude. When I reflect on any of it I wonder about ways that I can do a better job of highlighting the importance of gratitude in my daily life. Because I’m an educator this wondering has led me to form an acronym: S.E.E.

I can use it, I can share it with you and my colleagues, and I can share it with my kids at home and at school. If you’d like, you can use and share it too.

The “S” is for “spot.” The first thing that needs to happen if we’re going to take gratitude to the next level is to spot it. We can spot it in ourselves and in others. Things to be grateful for are all over the place all the time. When I’m looking, they literally pop out. Spotting gratitude is an especially good practice when I’m not feeling grateful. It helps redirect me in moments of frustration. It reminds of how holistically fortunate I am. I suspect it could work in a similar way for others as well.

The first “E” is for “explore.” As you know, to explore is to dig a bit deeper. Any amount of thinking around gratitude can be good. Just a spark of a grateful thought has the power to inspire good feelings and positive progress in us and in others. When you spot something to be grateful for, dig in and roll around, you might just enjoy yourself. Take some time to draw it out. Tell someone about it, trace it back to its origin, write a poem, sing a song, and/or meditate on it for a while. Explore the gratitude that you intentionally spot in any way that works for you.

The other “E” is for “extend.” Do something about it. Thank someone, pay it forward, share it in some way, shape, or form. Take as much of the gratitude that you’re able to spot and explore to the next level by embedding it in your life through extension.

The “S.E.E. Gratitude” model not only offers a very user-friendly method for everyone, young and old, to connect with the immeasurable joys of life through a frame of appreciation, and it requires just enough time and thought to serve as a distraction from grasping for the negative through challenge and frustration. When you spend your time S.E.E.ing gratitude you lift yourself up, and as a result you carry an uplifted spirit along whatever paths you tread.

Thank you for reading. I know that you have a rich, full, and busy life. I hope that the time you spend with the pages of this blog is meaningful for you. I’m grateful for any moments you take to consider the thoughts, ideas, and wonderings I put forward, you are a valued contributor to my positive progress, and as always, your input is very much welcome and appreciated.

Live. Learn. Lead.

Dream Big. Work Hard. Press On.

Color Zone Powers Activate: Helping Children Self-Regulate Their Emotions and Responsive Actions

Slide1

A few months ago a strategy was brought to my attention at school. Our social worker was using a model called “The Zones of Regulation” based on the research of Leah Kuypers. Leah is an occupational therapist who has practiced in both school and clinical settings. ‘The Zones of Regulation’ is a framework meant to foster self-regulation and emotional control. More information about Leah and her work can be found at http://zonesofregulation.com. I’m a novice and plan to dig in more myself.

In the meantime a very basic understanding and application of Leah’s concept immediately impacted my school and my home in a positive way.   We began exposing our students to the four “Color Zones:”

– In the “Blue Zone” you’re sad, tired, and distracted.

– In the “Green Zone” you’re happy, calm, and ready to learn.

– In the “Yellow Zone” you’re worried, silly, or scared.

– In the “Red Zone” you’re unhappy, angry, or frustrated.

The two keys for us have been to connect these zones to energy and to self identified solutions. When we process with children by way of these zones we also give them opportunities to identify whether their energy is slow, just right, high, or out of control, and they get to decide on connected actions that have the potential to help them shift from one zone to another.

It’s all right to be in any one of the zones. We each experience a range of emotions and we’re each challenged by that range, even into adulthood. Positive progress, consistent happiness, and achievement rest in part on our ability to self regulate so that we can function in various social and professional settings in spite of life’s emotional challenges. Our children’s independence with regard to the same is critical to their learning, growth, and socialization.

I didn’t intend to latch onto this concept in the way that I did. It simply worked. In fact it’s been working to some extent in every situation in which I’ve used it, with children along a broad spectrum of developmental readiness. It’s helped to forester independence in those who struggle mightily and in those who simply need a break to reset every now and again.

Again, I’ve only been using it for a few months, but in that time I’ve found that it’s been effective for everyone willing to engage. Even better, those who do engage seem to derive joy and from the process. It’s powerful. It demonstrates that each person is actually in control of him or herself. That’s powerful.

I brought it home. Nothing formal, I just kind of mentioned it to my six-year-old. He got excited. We made the following chart:

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It took no time for him to understand and begin using this concept chart. In fact he now adds to it independently (he recently added the “read or read together” icon). He also now acts on his emotions and connected decision making independently or with gentle prompting. He expresses great satisfaction in his ability to do so.

His two-year-sister was playing with her Anna and Elsa dolls the other day when I overheard her say, “Elsa is really not in the green zone…she’s upset!” It’s concrete, connected, and it drives a doable process for kids. They can regulate their emotions and their responsive actions when they are empowered to do so. I’ve only scratched the surface of this concept and I’m extremely excited to dig deeper.

Check out Leah’s web site, play with how it connects to your life at school and at home, let me know what you think and how you adapt the ideas and tools. I’d love to hear about your journey of fostering self-regulation and empowerment for the children you serve. Color Zone powers activate!

Live. Learn. Lead.

Dream Big. Work Hard. Press on.

Principal Note to Self: Thought Bubble Compassion

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We live and work in an eventful and complex world. One of the most important things I force myself to remember on a daily basis is that not everything is a crisis. Ironically, one of the most important things that I’ve been learning to understand on daily basis is that some things are.   More importantly I’m learning to realize that everyone has his or her own stuff going on. I don’t always get to know when there’s a crisis at hand because I’m not always involved in it; thankfully so.

What I do know is that just like me everyone I know is complicated and significant. In fact, I’m quite sure that the ones I don’t know are too. Knowing this along with having significant limitations in the area of mind reading makes compassion an amazingly effective leadership tool for me. When I successfully access my capacity for compassion things seem to work out well (with regard to relationship building and positive progress). When I don’t, they tend not to (with regard to the same).

Like you I’m exceedingly busy all the time. Also like you I’m tired and stretched thin much of the time (hazards of the educational leadership/husband and father gig). In order to consistently remember about compassion in the middle of the mix I have to practice intentionality.

Recently I came across the thought bubble as a great reminder. You know, the thought bubble. It’s a graphic literary device used to indicate thinking and consequently suggest the things that someone is thinking about. Cartoonists draw it above the heads of their characters like a cloud with a bubble tail.

I was recently talking to a partner at school about this. She mentioned seeing a training video in which people were walking around a hospital with thought bubbles above them. Unlike observers in real-time, viewers of this video could see the content of people’s thoughts. Some of the featured people were worried about loved ones in various states of critical medical need while others were concerned about grocery lists. There was even a dog in the video thinking about where he hid that elusive bone. The point of the video is the same as the point of this post. Simply put, everyone has stuff…specifically and often times uniquely important to him or her.

Sometimes we don’t talk about that stuff. In fact, I would venture a guess that most of the time we don’t talk about that stuff. Some of it is pretty personal. Some of it seems beside the point in professional context. Many people decide work through their own stuff while trying hard not to let it impact their professional lives; a legitimate practice. Regardless, it’s there.

Compassionate leadership doesn’t require knowing the content of the thought bubbles belonging to those you serve and those you partner with, but I would argue that consistently remembering that those thought bubbles exist is important. I would further argue (much like many who’ve considered leadership and learning from a theory-to-application paradigm before me) that when we’re thoughtful about individuals’ situations and worldviews we’re better equipped to communicate information and focus on solutions while avoiding the potential relationship and organizational hazards of challenge or ego-based messaging.

If you don’t have your own practice already, give it a shot. Picture thought bubbles above everyone’s head. Don’t worry about what’s in them; just know that they’re there. Think about what’s in your own. Understanding that while it’s more than likely yours is different from anyone else’s it’s also more than likely that everyone else’s matters to him or her much the same way that yours matters to you.

Remember that we’re each as complicated and significant as one another. Understand that while everything is not a crisis, some things are. Realize that we don’t get to know every detail driving the energy of those we serve and partner with. Consider that simply framing our individual and internal thoughts in a context of “important stuff” might be useful in the areas of leadership and learning.

Live. Learn. Lead.

Dream Big. Work Hard. Be Well.

Don’t Forget The One When…

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I was lying in bed with my four-year-old while he was waking up the other morning. He was still rubbing the sleep out of his eyes and I was reading a draft of a blog post that was a revision or two away from publication. I was reading it to him because it was about him.

The post (my most recent) highlighted a trip to the library. He listened intently as I read.

Afterward I asked what he thought. He said, “Good,” and then he said, “And don’t forget the one when we went swimming at the pool…and the one when I fell off the porch…and the one when…” He went on for a few minutes in that fashion.

Kids lead very important lives. They’re not running for congress or winning the Nobel prize (typically), but the stuff they are doing represents the fibers that make them whole.

As parents and educators we should be careful to recognize and appreciate how important and impactful each child’s daily experiences are.

We have to remember that every child is unique and that each child needs our attention and support as much as the next.

Being charged with responsibility for so many children has the potential to leave parents and educators focused on the ones who’s needs are the most obvious.

We must remember that even when children keep quiet about the amazing adventures they’re having and/or the intense challenges they’re facing, those adventures are no less amazing and those challenges are no less intense.

Two things:

1. Kids believe they’re capable of the things they value and they tend to value the things they’re capable of. Sometimes I find myself thinking that there are limits to human potential because history hasn’t proven our full capacity. Even worse, sometimes I forget that the impossible is actually possible as evidenced by ongoing human achievement.

People can fly, we can go to the moon and even Mars, we can explore the depths of the ocean and we can still discover things that would have otherwise been amalgams of our collective imaginations and what’s just outside of our collective imaginations. The possibilities are truly limitless, only stifled at times by self doubt and narrow vision. We can help our children a avoid both.

2. Every kid’s every moment is just as important as every other kid’s every moment.

If you find yourself slipping into a paradigm of diverting attention where attention is obviously needed, try to remember how obvious it is that all of the children you serve require your attention.

They each need to be cared about. They each need to be celebrated. They each need to be guided and provided with structure and security. They each need to be trusted and given opportunities to gain trust through genuine relationship building. They each need to know that you know how incredible they are. They each need to be regarded as the brilliant, capable, unique treasures that they each are.

Parents and educators are about to become intensely busy in a different way as the school year begins. Let’s all work hard to savor each precious moment and give every child in our care every opportunity to experience success…during every moment of every day!

Live. Learn. Lead.
Dream Big. Work Hard. Be Well.