Tagged: Leadership

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!


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.



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.

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.

Intentional Everyday Lovely Looking, Every Day (For The Kids)

Walking in the hallway yesterday I found myself in lock step with a kindergartener. Actually, my pace was moderately accelerated. There was a lot going on in the moment. I was in a hurry.

The kid was probably taking three or four steps to my one, and steadfastly determined to keep pace. To her credit, she made it work.

Think about a cartoon kid, Charlie Brown maybe, drawn with legs and feet in a blur to emphasize intense speed. Passers by might have found it comical. This kid could not have been more serious about it.

All the while she was delivering the news…

“My sister has a hamster.”

“Last night we had spaghetti for dinner, with curly noodles & red peppers in the sauce. I don’t eat the red peppers.”

“Turquoise is my favorite color…it’s blue and it’s green.”

“I can chew five pieces of gum at the same time.”

“I’m not allowed to chew five pieces of gum at the same time.”

“A shooting star is a-c-t-u-a-l-l-y a space rock.”

“I saw a cloud that looked like a dragon.”

…and conducting an interview.

“Do you like chocolate, vanilla, or twist?”

“How old are you?”

“Do you know what the second tallest building in the world is?”

“Have you ever seen a Koala bear?”

“What’s YOUR favorite color?”

Interestingly, I have an affinity for turquoise too. Coincidence? I don’t know.

Regardless, eventually we had to part ways. She had to turn into her classroom and I had to go do whatever very important things I was racing to do. It may have even been very, very important…I don’t recall.

I told the kid how fun it was walking and talking with her, and that I enjoyed hearing about the wonderful information she offered. I remarked on how thoughtful and interesting her questions were.

When I mentioned, in closing, that it would have been nice to have a bit more time to chat, she pragmatically replied, “Don’t worry Mr. Berg, I’m here every day.”

I smiled as she bounced into her classroom. I couldn’t help it.

It is truly a joyful reality for us parents and educators that our kids are here every day, and with that in mind, maybe we should be too.

I understand that we can’t always be present. In order to keep the train rolling we have to take meetings, make phone calls, read books and articles, brainstorm with colleagues, spend time alone in quiet reflection, and so on.

However, I also know that there are many ways to maintain a presence of heart and mind when we do have the good fortune of being together with the kids we serve. We must consider these ways, even and especially when we’re in a hurry.

When there are big, important things to do we must breath and remember our purpose.

When any kid is talking to us we must remember that our core interest is that kid’s, and every kids’ well-being, and that being well for kids includes being attentively listened to by adults with genuine interest in mind.

Parents and educators have superpowers. We can shoot ray beams out of our eyes that show kids we care. Conversely, if we’re distracted we can shoot ray beams out of our eyes that show them we don’t.

Roald Dahl brilliantly reminded us, “if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face and you will always look lovely.”

Demonstrating your underlying and genuine care to a child can be as simple and easy as sharing a smile. When you’re racing down the hallway on your way to some very important things, an honest smile can establish that the real “very important thing” is right in front of you, and that same smile can prompt a reciprocal smile, thereby filling an entire space with loveliness.

Parents and educators are busy people. It’s real and it’s true. In that light, I contend that it might be worthwhile to consider routine, everyday lovely-looking, every day, by way of smiling at every turn.

My experience, while arguably limited and spindly on a grand scale, tells me that just that simple act could keep us increasingly and consistently present of mind and heart, and thereby enhance the experience of the kids we serve.

Let’s be intentional about our superpowers. Let’s smile more, and if you already do…lovely!

In it together for the kids!

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

Re-frame & Celebrate Your Competency

I’ve come across a thing called Self-Determination Theory (SDT) in my research. Basically, SDT suggests that people are best served when the have three basic needs fulfilled: autonomy, relatedness, and competency. It got me thinking about being a parent and an educator.

SDT is set on the foundation that any one of the basic needs unfulfilled has the power to turn out our lesser characters; bring up anxiety, anger, frustration; cause us to think and act in ways we would otherwise not, or rather not.

I blew past autonomy and relatedness for this reflection, and went straight for competency.

SDT proposes that if you don’t feel competent you don’t feel good.

When I read that, I thought about how frequently parents and educators have opportunities to feel not competent, they’re arguably unlimited!

There’s so much going on in every single moment. There are always forms to fill out, sandwiches to make & cut in triangles, baths to run, teeth to brush, homework to do (I mean help with), plans to make, papers to review, assessments to administer, data to process, progress to monitor, and so on.

Parents and educators have tons to do, and because we serve kids, we want to do every bit of it really well…we expect ourselves to. We expect ourselves to get it all right all of the time, and when we don’t get it all right we tend to be really hard on ourselves. The thing is, no one could get all that stuff all right, all of the time.

In the light of the really critical nature of our jobs and the fact that we have to move so incredibly quickly, it’s relatively easy for parents and educators to feel less then competent sometimes. Incompetent even, and if SDT holds, and feeling incompetent gets us cranky, maybe we should re-frame what competence looks like in the typhoon of child development.

Maybe it’s relative?

Maybe we’re doing an ok job after all?  Maybe even a good one?

Walking down the hall the other day a first-grader approached me and asked, “Mr. Berg, do you have a daughter?”

“I do, indeed,” I replied.

Her face scrunched up a bit, a tear squeezed our of her eye and slid slowly down her cheek, and in a bit of a shaky voice she followed up with, “Can you help me with my ponytail?”

I could, I did, and it went really well! Competent!

Then, yesterday, two of my four kids wanted to go on a bike ride to 7-Eleven to get a couple of Slurpees and some chips. This is actually one of my core competencies! It turned out awesome!

We stocked up at 7-Eleven and ate our bounty at the local skate park. We rode those bikes like professional BMX racers. We let the wind blow our hair back, we laughed, and we had a blast! Fun with my children, quality time, spoiling dinner with unnecessary treats, and smiles all around…check, check, check, and check! Competent!

My incredibly wise wife caught me overwhelmed recently, feeling like I was missing the mark in every direction, and so she reminded me that there’s lots of good happening all around me, all the time.

There’s so much positive progress to be found in the lives of the kids I serve at school and at home, and even with the bumps along the way, that’s holistically good. When I remember that, I smile.

When we take the time to remind ourselves of things that we’re doing well we give ourselves a boost of energy, one that might have otherwise been zapped, even if only temporarily, by the importance of what we do and the incredible pressure we tend to put on ourselves.

Parents and educators, next time you’re feeling stressed-out or frustrated, you might consider untangling a ponytail, or even a dinner-spoiling bike ride to 7-eleven, and if you do, you might also consider taking time to recognize and celebrate just how incredibly competent you are!

In it together for the kids!

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

Somebody Feed Me!

We were at my mom’s house for dinner on Friday night. We have dinner at my mom’s house most Friday nights. It truly does take a “village” for our crew, and we’re very fortunate in the “village” department. There are plenty of us, too – enough to make all kinds of noise over dinner.

We were, eating, talking, laughing, and playing, when all of the sudden we heard a primal toddler-shout from across the kitchen, “Somebody feed me!”

It was our two-year-old. He’s quite capable of feeding himself, however, he doesn’t like to get messy. So, when he’s eating something with the potential for a mess he enlists support. He demands it, actually.

In this case it was cereal, something my children eat for dinner from time to time (judge away, after four kids in eight years I’m impervious to it). He didn’t want to get milk on his shirt. He needed some help.

When I looked over he was staring at the bowl, still shouting, “Somebody feed me!” So I did.

As I patiently ladled each spoonful into his mouth, without spilling a drop, the words rang in my mind.

“Somebody feed me.”

I thought, isn’t that something every kids needs in one form or another? Then I thought, isn’t it something we all need? For better or worse, don’t we feed one another all day every day?

Then I thought about food. When we eat healthy food, we feel good. When we eat unhealthy food, we don’t feel so good (in the long-term, at least).

As parents and educators we are responsible for feeding the children we serve, and for feeding one another in healthy ways, that promote and perpetuate positive partnerships.

We are responsible for feeding hearts, minds, and spirits. We must push ourselves to only feed one another the good stuff – kindness, gratitude, humility, compassion, hope, & inspiration.

We must model a growth mindset, take the time to show how deeply we care, interact respectfully with one another, even through challenges, use language that matches our core values and drives our expectations, and always seek to enhance the learning environment in which we exists, through mindful, reflective problem solving and connected adaptation.

“Somebody feed me!”

If that is our call, we should be looking for routes toward independence while staying focused on answering it only with stuff that supports nourishment and well-being, for ourselves and for those we serve.

And if that’s how we set our course, with intentionality & purpose, we can forgive ourselves each stumble, shake it off, and do better next time.

In it together for the kids.

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

“Look” Listening

Stephen Covey consistently reminds us about how critically important authentic efforts at genuine understanding are in building, sustaining, and enhancing positive and productive relationships.

As parents and educators we must put relationships first.

The kids we serve are best served when they know we are regularly seeking to understand and appreciate them with sincerity, and that we’re doing so together.

“Look” Listening is a strategy for mindfulness around kid-first relationship building. Here’s how it works: listen deeply with open-minded and optimistic kindness.

Listening (deep listening, actually). It’s super easy to be distracted, especially during the school year. There’s so much happening in any given moment, and so much of it feels so important.

When we remember the most important part, which is that kids are joyful, that they have opportunities to expand and enrich their world-view, and that they’re safe and feel comfortable exploring independently and with one another, we’re best able to maintain an environment in which those things happen.

A focus on deep listening helps us remember those things. Specifically, deep listening with the goal of understanding, and without judgment.

Open-mindedness. This could be the key to that focus. When our minds are open, we tend to be better at deep listening.

When our minds are open we tend to be less distracted by our thoughts and more attentive to the words, and to the people we’re listening to.

A growth-mindset can assist us here. The belief in limitless possibilities can help us keep our minds (and our hearts) open, which in turn helps kids know that we’re interested in what they have to say, and that we care about them. Be careful though, open-minded listening is likely to lead to learning and growth. You may just have to be ok with that.

Also, there are those who might think you’re silly for believing in limitless possibilities, so you may just have to be ok with that too.

Optimistic Kindness. Optimism is knowing that challenges (even the challenging ones) are opportunities.

It’s enlisting the courage to think and act as if each challenge is short-term and limited in scope, rather than permanent and persistent (a pessimistic and potentially destructive posture).

Optimists are good listeners because they get excited about opportunities to share optimism with others.

Optimistic kindness is kindness based on the idea that we’re here to support one another, and that when more people feel valued, strong, and hopeful, the world is a better place…our small spaces within it and every other space too.

Headed into another wonderful school year, filled with hope and inspiration, and very much looking forward to the inevitable explosion of positive energy we’re all about to experience, I ask you to consider “Look” Listening. In exchange, I will too.

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 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 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.”


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.