Tagged: Learning

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.

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.

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.

Or We Could Just be Storks

We were talking about how babies are born, a parent’s favorite conversation. The consensus among my kids, who are still too young for the actual conversation, was that the doctor delivers the babies by taking them out of the Mamma’s belly. They agreed that becoming doctors could be fun, so that they could deliver babies all day long.

Then our clever four-year-old daughter matter-of-factly declared, “Or we could just be storks.”

One of the most wonderful things about our jobs as parents and educators is that we get to spend so much time experiencing the thoughts and ideas of the kids we serve. Kids’ thoughts and ideas are so unique, interesting, an inspirational!

Kids exist within an “anything is possible” paradigm and the connected “anything is possible” energy pours out of them in the things they say and do.

While working to perpetuate pathways of genuine learning and growth it’s important for us to remember that there are no silly questions, and there are no wrong OR right answers. I understand that storks don’t actually deliver babies, however, is it a bad thing that my four-year-old daughter thinks they do?

In this situation she used that thinking as part of a larger process, a problem solving session with her brothers, an extrapolation of considerations, and an envisioning of the future; all stuff that’s good for her to practice doing.

She was deeply engaged in a collaborative dialogue. She was interested. She was being thoughtful. She outlined a viable alternative course of action, a “kid-viable” alternative course of action, but a viable one none-the-less.

Sharing in imaginative dialogue and play with our kids is critical to their positive progress with regard to communication and problem solving. We should always remember to stay enthusiastically engaged while we encourage them to explore their every thought and idea.

We should provide innumerable opportunities for them to interact with one another and with us in inspired and imaginative ways. We should model and celebrate creative thinking around carving out pathways toward goals, and we should always employ and appreciate the language of possibilities. All things that are easy to do when we simply follow their lead.

Enthusiastically giving kids space and time to think and to dream gives them permission develop an inspired sense of self, and permission to take the world on through very real and reasonable lenses that we might have otherwise not even been able to imagine.

Besides, whose to say she can’t become a stork? If that’s her vision…certainly not me.

In it together for the kids.

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

Keep Your hands In

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

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

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

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

“You’re the meanest Daddy ever!”

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

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

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

Now…my heart burst with joy.

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

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

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

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

Second, we love it!

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

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

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

Not easy, but easier.

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

In it together for the kids.

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

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.

Even When You Can’t Be Certain, Be Positive

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

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

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

Certainty.

Certainty is a paradox.

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

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

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

Moxie.

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

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

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

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

Optimism.

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

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

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

Problem Solving.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The basics exist within another four-step process:

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

Positive Partnerships.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In it together for the kids!

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

Literacy Learning The “Fastway”

When we drive on the expressway my children close their windows. It’s been a longstanding guideline in our family. The basis is a perception that rocks and other small objects have the potential of being scooped up by tires attached to the cars and trucks in front of us, and consequently that these rocks and other small objects have the additional potential of flying into our open windows, were they open.

Thankfully, due to this longstanding guideline, they’re not.

While it’s fun and even kind of exciting to watch flying rocks fly, none of us want to be hit on the nose by a scooped up one (or any other scooped up, flying object for that matter). We think that might hurt.

The kids take the initiative.

When they think there’s a chance we’re headed there, they ask, “Daddy, are we going on the expressway?”

If the answer is “yes” they roll the windows up.

Yesterday, on our way downtown, my six-year-old asked, “Are we going on the expressway?”

The answer was “yes.”

The window closed. Then something else happened.

He asked, “Why?”

He wasn’t asking why we were going on the expressway, of even why the window needed to be closed, but rather, he was asking about language. He was asking why this particular road is called the “expressway.”

I told him that the word “express” has the same meaning as the word “fast.” I told him that people drive on the expressway so that they can get to the pace they’re going faster than they otherwise could.

He thought for a minute, and then told me that is should be called the “fastway.” Decent point.

He suggested that more people are likely to know about the word “fast” than the word “express.” I suppose he’s right.

Regardless, his expression of curiosity and reasoning made me think. It made me think about language and about speed.

We (adults) might be using language that kids don’t completely understand. In fact, it’s likely we are. Part of what kids are doing all the time is learning (like us, but even faster). Part of what they’re learning about is language. It’s one aspect of literacy learning. One that is ever present, no books, worksheets, or multi-media presentations required.

When I talk about the expressway with my kids they understand that I’m talking about a road on which cars move faster than they do on other roads. Until now, however, this one didn’t get why it’s called that.

That’s ok. In fact, it’s natural. Kids don’t know as many words as we do. Ironically, this experience has me visualizing words like the rocks and other small object that have the potential to be scooped up and fly into open windows on the expressway. Words come at kids really fast, and they have to learn about them bit by bit, with intentionality.

If we’re genuinely attentive to language learning, and thoughtful about our communication with kids, we can give them cause to think carefully about language, and when people think carefully about language their communication tends to be enhanced.

If we pay attention to our interactions with kids around language, we can act as windows, keeping fast flying language from hitting kids in the nose while allowing it to be seen and considered by them as it leaps, dances, and even sometimes flies by them.

On the surface, it doesn’t seem terribly significant that kids know specific details about words that they get the general idea of. However, let’s consider the possibility that communication, and even literacy at its very core might be heightened with every layer of depth we add to their understanding.

My kid can now contemplate “express” lanes, “express” washes, and even explanations that are given “expressly.”

He can practice making connections with the word “express,” and making connections sometimes feels like solving puzzles, which is fun.

He can use the word “express” in the stories he writes or tells.

He can share his newfound knowledge and sophistication around language with his siblings and his friends.

When he reads the word “express,” a light bulb can go of over his head, he can shutter with excitement, and he can exclaim, “’Express’ means fast!”

He can take pride in being somewhat of a linguist.

Let’s not talk to the kids we serve about language because we want them to be able to use fancy words, but rather because we want them to enjoy, and be excited about words in general.

Let’s dig in with them and take time to fulfill their language curiosities because it’s fun and exciting.

Let’s take every opportunity as initiated by them, and let’s also provide opportunities by striking up dialogues and asking questions about language that we find interesting, or that we think might be interesting to them.

Let’s model curiosity and care around and about language.

Language doesn’t cost a thing and there’s plenty of it to go around.

Let’s make it as fun and exciting as it actually is to those who discover its innate influence on our lives, and let’s make sure that the kids we serve have every opportunity to maximize their potential to use it for good.

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

Some Simple Heart & Mind Math (Exponential Multipliers)

How do you feel? How do you think?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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