Tagged: Intention

The Good Push

Once, when I was upset, a calm, thoughtful person suggested that I imagine a pond.

I didn’t want to imagine a pond. I wanted to push.

I wanted to huff and puff. I wanted to whine and complain. I wanted to kick and shout.

I was upset. I was having trouble seeing past the upset.

I don’t remember if I did it then, but I have done it since, and here’s how it goes:

Imagine a pond.

Imagine that you’re sitting near the pond, possibly on a log or a bench. Maybe with your legs folded on a bed of soft grass.

Imagine that you’re looking across the pond from above.

Imagine the specks of light from a soft morning sun that are dancing playfully on its surface.

Imagine shifting a bit. Imagine leaning over and looking down from above.

Imagine that the surface of the pond is flawlessly still and that the crystal clear gaps between the dancing, playful specks of soft morning sunlight reveal a world of light and life when your eyes adjust away from the reflection of tree branches and cotton clouds above.

Imagine a few carp gliding along in synchronicity.

Imagine some slender, swaying, leafy plants.

Imagine a wise old turtle making his way across the sandy bottom.

Imagine rocks, smooth and jagged, dark and light, big and small.

Imagine a leaf, slowly descending, waterlogged and sinking past the calm action beneath. Let you mind’s eye follow its gentle path.

Now, imagine a raindrop. Imagine a single raindrop breaking the glassy surface of your pond. One at first followed by more.

Imagine the equal and opposite, perfectly symmetrical bowl of a fracture in your calm surface that each drop perpetuates. Imagine the rimmed spray that defines each fractured center and shape. Imagine the impact of each drop and how it alters the surface of the pond, the world beneath, and state of your mind.

Imagine that the soft drops become a spattering.

Imagine that the sky goes dark.

Imagine that the spattering becomes a shower and that the shower becomes a storm.

Imagine that you can no longer see beneath.

Imaging that the surface of your pond is no longer translucent but wild, dark, disturbed, harsh and opaque.

Imagine that the world beneath is no longer available to you.

Imagine that you’ve forgotten all about the synchronicity of the carp, the wisdom of the turtle, the complexity and beauty of the rocks, and the soft, organically purposeful pathway of the descending leaf.

Imagine that you are now only encased in the wild pounding of the dark cold rain, and watching it also pound on the now rough surface of your once calm pond.

Now, do you remember wishing for telekinetic powers as a child? Did you ever sit at a table, staring at a pencil or a playing card, waiting for in to move in response to the incredible powers of your mind? Do you remember believing that it would?

Good news. You have such powers.

When our minds are cloudy, when we’re inside the storm that come with stress, anxiety, anger, and fear, when we can’t see past the hard, cold, pounding rain and dark clouds, we tend to want to push.

We tend to need to.

We tend to push with, and even against our own will.

We tend to push at others.

We tend to communicate less effectively than we otherwise would.

We tend to push our priorities and our best selves aside.

We tend to see increasingly less clearly with each push.

We tend to need to actively release the negative. Ironically, we tend to exacerbate it with our efforts, and we tend to diminish relations with others and with ourselves in the process.

We need to push and we should.

A calm, thoughtful person, by way of suggesting that I imagine a pond, guided me to thinking about the good push and away from the bad, harmful, counterproductive pushing of a clouded mind.

Here you sit, in your imagined storm, over your disrupted pond, under your dark, invented, limiting sky. It’s time for the good push. It’s time to enlist the telekinetic powers you’ve always known you have. It’s time to build the muscle that harnesses your strength and taps your courage and enlists your calm and expands your vision and steadies you mind.

Now head back to the stormy pond-scape you were imagining and try this:

Imagine that the pure power of your will slowly wipes the dark away from the sky.

Imagine that the cotton clouds move in as the dark sky moves out, and that the soft morning sun peeks through once again and scattered, glistening rays along with it.

Imagine the storm slows to a shower, and that the shower slows to sprinkle, and that the sprinkle slows to a misty dew floating above the now calm-again surface of your pond, before it lifts in smooth synchronicity into the sky and dissolves before your eyes.

Take in the feel and the smell of an imagined world renewed, refreshed, and calm.

Imagine bending your head and reconnecting with the surface and the specks of light from a soft morning sun that were once and are now once again dancing playfully upon it.

Imagine shifting again. Imagine leaning over once more and looking down from above.

Imagine, like you did before, that the surface of the pond is flawlessly still and that the crystal clear gaps between the dancing, playful specks of soft morning sunlight reveal the same world of light and life when your eyes again adjust away from the reflection of tree branches and cotton clouds above as it previously had.

Imagine the carp gliding along in synchronicity.

Imagine the slender, swaying, leafy plants.

Imagine the wise old turtle making his was across the sandy bottom.

Imagine the rocks, smooth and jagged, dark and light, big and small.

Imagine the leaf, still slowly descending, waterlogged and sinking past the calm action beneath. Once again, let you mind’s eye follow its gentle path.

We tend to hold true a misnomer that in order to be productive we must think of the myriad things on our proverbial plates, to organize and attend to them, to focus hard on the clutter rather than the calm.

A calm mind is not an inactive mind. A calm mind is simply one that can see and be seen clearly.

A mind is like a pond in that there is world of light and life inside of it that is difficult to engage with during the storm.

It’s not enough to wait for the calm. It’s not enough know that the storm will eventually pass. We still need to push; it’s a part of who we are. If we simply wait, we tend to push in wounding ways. Hurt people hurt people, right?

We must embrace the storms as they hit. However, we must enlist the good push, even by manufacturing the need and applying it repeatedly.

We each have the power. We must practice. We must forgive ourselves when we fail, which we will, and we must press on with the notion that a foundation of optimism, a commitment to positive tones in thought, voice, and action, and a dedication to calm minds can enhance this world for us, for those we serve, and for those we serve with.

Parents and educators, we must model strength, courage, and calm in this way for our children.

We simply must.

In short, I urge you to take a moment when you can (even if you think you can’t), and imagine a pond.

In it together for the kids.

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

The Doing…Possibly Even Better Than The Done!

People periodically ask me when I’ll be done with my PhD. I suppose it’s a reasonable question. Even so, I have no answer.

I’m relatively confident that there’s a chance I might defend my dissertation sometime in the vicinity of between two and twenty two years from now. It’s a really difficult thing to pin down at this point.

Are you ready for a bit of what might seem like complaining?

I wake up really early in the morning. I’m no spring chicken, so I have to swim for a bit before I go to work. It get’s my blood flowing and makes me able to move in the ways I think I was intended to be able to move. Specifically in the ways I’m not able to do when I roll out of bed. Ever pull a muscle adjusting a pillow? No spring chicken.          After swimming I head to work.

I have a wonderful job. I really can’t imagine a more joyful way to spend my workdays than doing the things I’m charged with doing as an elementary school principal. Sure, some of it’s more fun and some of it’s less fun, but whose job doesn’t have ups and downs, challenges and triumphs?

Actually, some of the more challenging moments end up being some of the ones that offer some of the best growth opportunities.

Regardless, there’s lot’s going on. Occasionally, even the most well-planned days slip away without the well-planned plans unfolding, and when I say occasionally what I mean is frequently. Lots of meaningful and productive things typically happen, just sometime not the things I intended.

After work I either continue to work until I no longer can, or I do something like take my kids to swim lessons, piano, soccer, pillow polo, etc. To be clear, my wife is usually in on the taking of kids to places. Sometimes, if my wife has a meeting or some other commitment in the evening I head home to play with, feed, bath, read to, and put the kids to bed. Our kids are 8, 6, 4, and 3 years old. Evening routines are wonderfully loud and energized with lots of wonderful noise and remarkable motion. Tiring. Did I mention I’m no spring chicken?

Weekends are half work and half play unless certain ones require more of either.

Again, I know the previous couple of paragraphs might sound like a complaining rant. Thank you for your tolerance. The truth is I have no complaints. I sincerely enjoy all of that stuff. I’m a very lucky guy, blessed in so many ways. The point is not that I have too much to do. Don’t we all? The point is that I very infrequently find myself done with much of anything.

I am a bit of a Self Determination Theory wonk, and I lean toward believing that the three basic psychological needs of autonomy, competence, and relatedness are a relatively important foundation of well-being. All of the stuff listed above sometimes leaves me feeling behind, and if I let it, that feeling can dig into the competence part of my basic psychological needs. It sometimes feels like a whole lot of “doing” and not a whole lot of “done.”

I imagine it’s that way for many of us.

Parents and educators are constantly running, pouring everything we have into every moment, getting it “right” occasionally and getting it “wrong” a good bit too, feeling exhausted much of the time, pushing through, caring deeply, moving quickly, and regularly being told (by others and by ourselves) that we’re off the mark in one way or another.

Good news, I found a solution! It’s not an easy one to implement, but those often turn out to be the best ones, with the most meaningful outcomes.

Here it is: appreciate, celebrate, and focus on the doing rather than the done. After all, are we really ever “done” with anything? Should we be? Done is darn final.

Done is dull.

Done is uninteresting.

Done is kind of bleak.

Doing is exciting!

Doing is mysterious!

Doing is electrifying!

I officially have no clue about when I’ll be done with my PhD. No clue. Officially. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada. However, I’m quite certain that when I am done I won’t be doing it anymore, and doing it is really meaningful. Maybe I should intentionally never be done (my dissertation chair probably got heart burn just as I wrote that. Sorry).

Friends, I assure you, I’m doing the best I can, which includes learning and doing better each day, and I still simply ain’t getting it all done.

So, in an effort to honor my well-being I’m going all in on this “doing” thing. I’m going to appreciate and celebrate “the doing” and see how that goes.

Actually, I’m doing it right this moment and it feels good, which is good. When we feel food we’re better for ourselves and for those we serve. The doing. It’s good, and it’s a really easy thing to focus on. After all, you’re doing it anyway.

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!

[CAREFUL[L]EADERSHIP]

When I came home the other day little miss was waiting by the door (the four-year-old).

There she was as I walked in, ready to pounce. Incidentally, knowing that a munchkin or two could be ready to pounce as I walk through the door is one of the great joys of my life.

This time it was her, and she’s determined (get’s it from her mom).

It’s likely that she’d been waiting there for some time. When she sets her mind to a thing she usually sees that thing through to its end.

The thing her mind was set to that day was that I smell her feet.

I managed to find and turn the key in spite of the random many accouterments I was carrying that day (educators carry a random many accouterments to and from work each day; I’m not sure why).

As the door cracked I heard a small but powerful voice command, “Dadda, smell my feet!” It was hers.

She sat on the third step up with both bare feet lifted in the air. She presented them for the smelling. I acquiesced. They smelled nice.

She went on to explain that she and mommy had rubbed lotion on them, and that she just “couldn’t wait” for me to get home and share in the aromatic podiatric situation they created in doing so.

I smiled and smelled them again. I may have even tickled them a bit at that point. Little feet are fun to tickle.

“Smell my feet!”

Generally, it’s not a command met with eager anticipation and joy. It can be, however, when it comes from a person you care deeply about.

Here I would go further and suggest that feet are generally recognized as “bad” smelling appendages, and that the act of smelling them is universally accepted as unpleasant.

However, I would further suggest that genuine caring has the power to see people through situations that might otherwise be universally accepted as unpleasant to outcomes that enhance positive pathways for all involved.

Where am I going with this? I’m not suggesting we smell one another’s feet. In fact, I would expressly advise against it.

What I am suggesting is that caring is powerful, and that organizations within which people feel as though, and dare I say, know that they’re cared about are healthier for it.

I’m suggesting that those types of organizations are healthier for it (a foundation and widespread understanding of genuine caring) because challenges that might otherwise be universally accepted as unpleasant are sometimes seen as short-term, limited in scope, and solvable between and among people who genuinely care about one another.

In other words, an optimistic outlook is easier to adopt and maintain, and pathways to positive progress through collaboration based on shared core values are easier to pave and tread when people care; not necessarily about the outlook or even the pathways, but again, about one another.

Parents and educators are well positioned to lead the way in this regard.

Dr. Ron Ritchhart reminds us that the expectations we set, the language we use, the modeling we do, the interactions we have, the opportunities we provide, the physical environment we build, the routines we employ, and the time we take to foster healthy relationships based on shared thinking are all particularly powerful.

I say we focus on being careful to adorn our relationships and organizations with caring, inside and out.

I say we take care to intentionally drive relational and organizational paradigms that are care-full in honest and genuine ways.

I say that when we do we benefit.

I say that when we do kids benefit, and ain’t that what we’re in it for after all?

No feet smelling at work. I insist. Rather, let’s be sure to always keep our aim true by reminding ourselves that ours is a caring path and that consequently we are caring people; genuinely caring people.

Let’s use that reminder to face the robust challenges and celebrate the remarkable triumphs together with open resolve around leadership that is full of caring. Genuine caring.

[Careful[l]eaderhip].

Let’s.

In it together for the kids!

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

Leading The Way

I was working with the “little ones.” That’s what Lorelei and I call our four and our three-year-olds.

For some reason we have our kids categorized into two sets. The “big ones” and the “little ones.” Oddly, the “big ones” aren’t actually that big and the “little ones” aren’t actually that little anymore.

Regardless, we were selecting cloths for an afternoon out with a couple of their grandparents. After settling on snappy casual and gathering what we needed we turned to leave the room. Before we did, our three-year-old son made his intentions clear by holding up a hand and shouting, “I am leading the way!”

In our house, “I am leading the way,” is a decree that speaks to line positions along any particular path. Going to the dinner table, heading into the basement playroom, caravanning upstairs to take baths and brush teeth, every destination has someone “leading the way” in the Berg house.

This time, our four-year-old daughter and I were relegated to the back of the three-person line to stutter-step it through the hallway and down the stairs (you can guess who was at the stern).

Little brother clarified at least five more times as we walked. Every couple of steps he twirled his head around, extended his arm and declared, “I am leading the way!”

Each time did it, big sister looked back at me, smiled, winked, and then turned to him, patted him on the back, and reassuringly agreed, “That’s right, Buddy, you are leading the way.”

It was cute. Big sisters rock! This one in particular.

Moreover, it was a great example of Self Determination in play.

To be fair, nowadays my nose is so frequently buried in literature about or related to Self Determination Theory that connections between it and my learning and leadership journey are never far out of hand. When I think of parenting and/or education the tenets of Self Determination Theory typically set the backdrop.

Specifically, I consistently wonder how I’m doing at promoting an autonomy-supportive culture within which those I serve are confident in their strengths, excited to growth through challenges with optimism, and feeling connected to me and one another as positive partners in progress, be they adults or kids.

When our youngest repeatedly declared himself the leader of the way, autonomy, competence, and relatedness rang in my mind.

He seemed to feel equal to the task, he demonstrated comfort in naming himself to the post, and the partnerships he had build over the three years of life with me and with his sister allowed for some flexibility regarding who would take the lead on this leg of the journey.

Incidentally, I rarely get to lead the way at home, but I digress.

Dr. King said, “I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Dr. King was a young man when he began his leadership journey. Unfortunately, he was young man when he ended it as well.

As parents and educators, we can extrapolate a bit as we reflect on his famous quote, and I’d guess that Dr. King would be ok with it.

We can honor Dr. King along with one another and all those we serve by not judging people by the color of their skin, and if we’d like, we can further honor Dr. King along with one another and all those we serve by also not judging people by the number of years they’ve been alive, whether that number is three, thirteen, thirty-seven, or eighty-four.

In particular, let’s honor Dr. King and one another by seeking out and supporting opportunities for the youngest among us to lead the way.

Every time I do it seems to result in bountiful treasures of connected, meaningful, empowering and joyful learning and growth for all involved.

If we are truly going to judge people by the content of their character, let’s eliminate as many other factors as possible. At the very least, let’s try, and let’s continue to try indefinitely, facing each connected challenge with courage and resolve as modeled by Dr. King himself and celebrating each connected triumph with the brand of passion Dr. King projected in the very words he spoke.

In it together for the kids.

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

Something Not Of My Business

Just after dinner our four-year-old daughter walked into the living room where I was sitting, talking with my sister-in-law.

On Friday nights we eat at my mother’s house with as many aunts, uncles, and cousins who are around. It’s a wonderful weekly tradition and a loud one. There’s a lot going on.

Our kids are the youngest of the lot so they do a bit of showing out, as it were.

They get silly and wild, they demand attention for their stories and dances, and they run around with heightened energy and heightened emotions.

It’s nighttime too. Potential for eight, six, four, and three-year-old breakdowns is relatively high.

We manage, and I have to admit that they’re pretty cute even in heightened states, so we all enjoy the show to some extend. We feel fortunate, even through intermittent frustration.

A highlight for me is when one of the kids needs a break, a problem-solving partner, or a consolatory hug, and they come running to me for it. It’s good to be the go-to break spot, problem solving hugger.

Yesterday, something changed.

Did I mention she’s four?

This time, she ambled into the room as usual, shoulders slumped, arms dangling, lip curled and pouty, eyes upturned and half exposed just under her signature “one of my brothers wronged me” partly closed lids, and brow furrowed. I was ready for a full, fall into me with all thirty pounds hug and some extended comforting.

I opened my arms and offered my best sympathetic look as I queried, “What’s wrong baby?”

As she walked directly past me into the arms of her aunt, shifting her pout to a scowl for just a moment, she lifted her eyes and turned her head just enough to growl, “Something not of your business!” Harrumph.

Ouch, something not of my business.

Ladies and gentlemen, guess what, there are things in the minds, the hearts, and the lives of our children that are not of our business, even in the minds, the hearts, and the lives of our four-year-old daughters.

Also, I suspect the shift over time won’t be that more of it is some of my business.

The kid is teaching me that in order to be trusted in the ways I hope to be as she navigates the trials and tribulations of growing up (which evidently happens really quickly), I’ve got to respect and even appreciate that she’s an individual, categorically separate from me, with her own hopes, dreams, and feelings that I might actually not understand, who will sometimes need me to listen and sometimes need me to back off.

I’m genuinely working to be able to do both with grace.

That said…ouch.

I sure do love her.

In it together for the kids.

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

Show Up & Shine

Our kids were playing.

My wife Lorelei and I were watching and working.

She looked up from her work and asked if I’d heard of “Moon Beams for Sweet Dreams.”

I hadn’t.

She told me that our local hospital had organized an event by which people got together on ground level outside of the pediatric wing every night in December to show support for the kids being treated in the rooms above.

She got teary as she told me. It moved her.

We have four kids. I would guess she internalized what it might feel like for the families of those kids; the moms in particular. I would guess that her heart went out for them.

An opportunity. It was freezing cold last night.

Regardless, Lorelei suggested we go.

She decided that the Berg crew would be best served standing in that freezing cold, ushering in a new year with lights shining into the windows of kids we didn’t know, kids who needed strangers to be standing in the freezing cold, shining lights into their window.

To be clear, I understand that these kids needed much more than our shining lights.

However, to be clear again, the shining light of a stranger who cares is a powerful thing.

Lorelei saw this program as an opportunity to take that time in modeling this type of giving to our kids.

She understood that through this program we could drive an ongoing expectation of compassionate living, contributing, and the sharing kindness with strangers.

She knew that our kids, as young as they are, would benefit from the interactions they would have with a community of people gathered to shine their lights on others in need.

She knew they would take it in and understand the healing power that exists within them, that they would build the muscle that makes strong people stronger in their resolve to share kindness and compassion, and she knew that they would take another step along the learning pathway that demonstrates a sometimes shrouded truth about tangible energy that flows between people who open their hearts and their minds to that energy, and who fall into it as it flows freely between and among them.

All we had to do was show up and shine.

A challenge. Not too long after we got going the cold penetrated our gear and seeped into our bones. Our four-year-old daughter doesn’t have much meat on those bones.

She was shivering something good. Her teeth were chattering. She expressed concern about her frozen thumbs. Her face told the story of genuine discomfort if not pain.

I was worried that it was too much for her, even a few minutes in.

She got the idea. She was enmeshed with the crowd of light shiners.

She saw the kids shining their flashlights in response from the hospital window above.

She made the connection and would have this image to reflect on over time.

I scooped her up and told Lorelei I was taking her to the car to warm up.

Before I could even pivot to go she shook herself loose from by arms and shouted, “No!”

She was staying. I smiled and stepped back. She turned her shining light again on the kids in the hospital windows.

A message. It wasn’t much for me to stand out in the cold for a few minutes shining my light on some kids who needed to know they weren’t alone. I’m an adult. The cold was cold but I’ve stood out in worse.

For the kids, however…for our four-year-old daughter and her three brothers, for their chattering teeth and frozen thumbs, it was a least a push; a good push…a wonderful push.

It reminded me that sometime we do have to push ourselves even just to show up and shine.

I reminded me that sometimes our lights are dim, and that sometimes we’re facing things that seek to slow us down.

It reminds me that we can’t let that happen, and that when we do (which we do at times), we’ve got to recharge, warm back up, and try again.

My kids, standing in the freezing cold on new year’s eve, through chapped lips and bitterly cold cheeks, shining their lights on others in an effort to help them heal, reminded me that we’re so very much in this together.

It reminded me that if we want this world to be a better, more loving, more sincerely kind, and a more restorative place with each passing moment we must stand together, willingly leaned into and even swept away by the positive energy flow binding us all in compassionate oneness.

It reminded me that so many of us do.

Our world is good.

I’m so very grateful that Lorelei found and provided this opportunity for our family and our kids last night.

It was a wonderful way to usher in this new year.

A task. So here we go, into the next moments, days, months, and years.

As parents, educators, leaders, learners, and partners in life on this planet, it is our task to take each simple message delivered to us through the words and actions of our kids and challenge ourselves to use them on their behalf.

I recently heard someone say that we do not inherit the earth from our parents, but rather, we borrow it from our children. That makes sense to me.

Our task is to hand it off in better shape than when we borrowed it.

Let’s show up and shine, every day, in every moment, and even when it’s tough.

Let’s show up and shine.

In it together for the kids.

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

Excuse Me: Always Learning To Listen

I was walking through the hallway the other day when I came across a kindergarten student. Our hallways are very wide.

As we approached one another I smiled. He smiled back.

He walked directly toward me. I moved slightly to the right to let him pass. He responded by moving a bit to his left. He was walking directly toward me so I stopped. He stopped.

There we stood, stopped in the hallway, ready for an interaction.

Knowing that interactions are opportunities to build positive partnerships and drive progressive energy around collaborative learning and growth, I smiled again and paused for a moment.

He said, “Excuse with,” with a smile.

I asked, “Yes?”

He repeated, “Excuse me,” this time with a bit more oomwph.

I clarified, “What can I do for you?”

We continued to smile at one another, standing there facing each other, a bit off center in one of our relatively large hallways.

Interactions with kids are great inspiration for reflective thinking, especially kindergarten kids. They’re generally unrestrained in their thinking and they hardly ever hesitate to deliver the news exactly as they see it, or throw out whatever imaginative curiosities comes to mind in any given moment.

I was filled with joyful anticipation.

Instead of continuing with a statement or a question, this kid simply repeated himself.

“Excuse me!” he insisted again, to which I sidestepped a bit toward the wall.

He walked around me and on down the hallway to wherever he was going.

Turns out, he was simply looking to get passed me. I smiled again as he walked away without hesitation.

It’s not easy to know what kids are thinking about or needing in any given moment. As parents and educators we have to listen very carefully.

Sometimes, we have to wait for needs and intentions to unfold over time. It’s pretty important that we take whatever time is needed to make sure we’re responding in kind.

I have a lot of work to do in this area.

I’m typically in a pretty big hurry with lots of really important things to do.

It’s ironic that whenever I reflect on interactions with the kids I serve, whether I’ve exercised patience or not, I come to the conclusion that it’s those interactions that are truly the really important things.

One of the challenges around paying and giving attention is that sometimes we literally have to keep moving. Sometimes we have deadlines, sometimes we have meetings, and sometimes we have needs that simply preempt our ability to maximize positive interactions.

The “excuse me” interaction turned out to be an easy one, it took me a moment, but in the end I simply needed to step out of the way.

Sometimes we do need to step out of the way.

Sometimes, however, kids are looking for us and not knowing how to express that they are.

Sometimes they even act out so that we have to spend a bit of time with them.

Sometimes they’re looking for us to interact.

Sometimes they need to know that we know how independent they are and sometimes they need to know that we know how important they are.

When we listen with open hearts and open minds, ready to step out of the way or stay put, we serve kids well.

With plenty of work to do in this area I plan to focus on developing my listening to kids skills on behalf of the ones I serve.

I plan go about it by slowing down and attaching a bit of on-the-spot reflection to my listening practices.

I might have to breath a bit deeper in some moments when quick seems to be the way.  I think I can get there.  I think I need to.  I think it’s important.

What strategies do you use for genuine, compassionate, and responsive listening?

How are you focusing on growth in this area?

In it together for the kids.

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

Great Fullness

It’s nice to rest. What a wonderful treat that we had a few days to remove ourselves over and rejuvenate over the Thanksgiving holiday and in the midst of another incredibly busy school year.

Our breaks seem to come just at the right times, don’t they?

Just as we gave our last ounces of energy, just as we pushed ourselves to the limit, just as we put our heads together one more time for parent-teacher conferences, just as we needed it we were given some time to reflect.

Appropriately, that time was also centered squarely on a foundation of gratitude. I’m certainly grateful for it!

While our field is as challenging as any, the built-in opportunities for reflection are not only healing, they’re also reminders that reflective practice is critical to learning and growth.

I’m grateful that this structure, embedded in the public education paradigm, reminds us regularly that even when we’re not officially on break we should take time to slow down and process when we can; a few deep breadths, an intentional walk, some journal writing, or a candid conversation with a trusted partner.

Partnerships are among the important targets of my gratitude. There’s arguably nothing more impactful on student well-being and achievement (not to mention our own personal and professional learning and growth) than the positive partnerships we form with one another.

Partnerships are so incredibly powerful in the formative development of every child we serve together, and each partnership is just similar enough and just different enough to rest on some standard foundations and also to require some special care. We must nurture each one with focused intention and individually.

There is an art involved in fostering and maintaining positive partnerships that drive progress on behalf of kids. Like all art forms, the art of the positive partnership is one mastered over time with great care and detailed attention. As parents and educators we must invest that time, take that care, and give that attention in and around every turn, even and especially when the turns are sharp and swift (which they often are).

When we begin with students in mind and keep balance with an edge of optimism, knowing and regularly reminding one another that all of the challenges we face are short-term, limited in scope, and solvable, we are well on our way to maximizing our ability to artfully foster and maintain partnerships with one another and with kids; partnerships that propel us toward the limitless and fantastic possibilities we know are within our reach.

Now that we’re back from one break and headed into another, what will you do to stay strong in your reflective practice? What will you do to extend the benefits of collaboration within positive partnerships? How will you maintain and build upon the optimism that our kids so deeply need to drive the hope and the inspiration they so fully deserve?

As parents and educators we have such great fullness to be grateful for. What are you doing to take it all in and amplify its benefit on behalf of the kids you serve?

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.