Tagged: potential

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!

Why Not Now?

I was walking to the library with the kids. Lorelei was out, so it was just the five of us. It was a cold but sunny day. A fusion of snow and ice covered the ground with some glazed over, shiny grass peeking through.

Our eight-year-old led the way. They marched like the seven dwarfs, jolly hopping and jumping intermittently interrupted by some bumping and pushing. Laughing and talking mixed with whining, crying, and shouting.

It was a heck of a day for a walk and we were all enjoying getting out of the house after several bitterly cold days in a row.

Instead of going inside when we arrived, the crew set up shop outside the library in the frozen garden area where they had many sticks to crack ice with, some sculptures to climb on, a couple of snow banks to kick, a tree to push, and some rocks to smash and throw.

They found a painted rock. They took turns suggesting places to hide it, just within view of the next passers-by, so that they could find it too.

Kids have an amazing capacity for finding joy in just about anything. If you can find joy in smashing rocks, kicking snow banks, pushing on trees, and climbing on sculptures you should never be bored. I pretty sure that’s a law of physics.

Anyway, our oldest got an idea. I knew it popped suddenly into his head with extreme force because his eye widened, his body shook, and he bounced around as if he was riding on Tigger’s tail.

“We could do a show!” He cried out. He was elated!

The little ones agreed. He immediately set in describing the first episode.

The show would be called, “Mini Missions.”

He would be the leader and the little ones would be the “Mini’s.”

Each episode would be a mix of funny and educational. They would go on adventures and teach about facts.

In this episode they would dig into ice for rocks. He would check out some library books about ice and rocks for the educational parts. They would get silly for the funny parts.

I interrupted his description to suggest that this was starting to sounds like a real TV show. I told him, “I won’t be surprised if you actually produce this show when you grow up!”

He schooled me by asking (without hesitation), “Why not now?”

Why not now?

I pulled out my phone, showed him how to open iMovie, gave him a few basic tips, and about four hours later episode one was born, complete with music and titles. Funny and educational.

It’s a great show! I can’t wait for episode two. He tells me it’s going to be about flowers.

Guess what, kids believe they can do anything.

Guess what else, when we support that belief and share some tools and strategies with them amazing stuff happens.

Why not now?

A good question for parents and educators to consider as we support the kids we serve in exploring their world.

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.

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.

Lellow Hair

My soon-to-be three-year-old and I were being silly together. It happens a good bit. I’m not sure if he gets it from me or I get it from him; or maybe we’re just simply a couple of silly guys kicking around together. Who knows?

Any which way, there we were…silliness abound.

This kid’s smile is contagious. It’s massive, and full, and genuine. His sizable eyes get all but swallowed by his cheeks at its full power. I can’t help but smile back. No one could.

His laughter is among the most gratifying sounds around, if not in fact the most. Its uniquely joyful timbre saturates a space, resonates in seemingly endless perpetuity, and catalyzes uncontrollable laughter in response.

When this kid is functioning at all silly cylinders it’s like attack of the body snatching giggle monster from outer space; an undeniable force; powerful, prodigious, and healing.

My powers of perception at full steam, I blurted out, “You’re pretty silly,” and then in fit of vanity (and a moment of pride) I followed up with, “Just like you’re daddy.”

My self-absorbed and ridiculous claim stopped him in his tracks. His laughter screeched to a sudden and jarring close, his wide open, gigantic, full-faced smile crumpled into a tiny little pursed line, his brow furrowed, and then his stout little pointer finger aimed itself directly at my face in preparation for the dressing-down he was about to deliver, “I’m not just like you, “ he insisted, “my hair is lellow!”

“Lellow, indeed,” I agreed with deep sigh. Then I tickled him back into a silly, smiling, laughing fit…and on we went.

We can’t want particulars for our children bad enough for those particulars to become their realities, and we certainly can’t mistake our children for ourselves. No matter how apple and tree-ish they seem, their journeys are each undeniably, uniquely distinct from ours. Their needs, their wants, their world-views, are each just that much different that it makes a difference.

Sometimes I wonder why my kids seek indulgence in ways that I don’t understand and gratification in corners that I might have never even found. Maybe it’s because they are not me, and for that matter, thankfully so.

I so profoundly hope that my kids are happy in their endeavors.

As parents and educators we might serve our kids best when our minds and hearts are fully open any possibilities they consider along the way.

My default is to envision relatively traditional pathways for my kids; do well in school, go to collage, get a job, meet a spouse, have a family, paint a fence, mow a lawn, jump in leaves, shovel snow, walk some dogs, etc. These are things that make me happy.

Turns out, my kids are considerable more complex and than I am, one of them even has distinctly lellow hair. If the lellow-haired one is distinct enough from his dad that he doesn’t even seek the simple path I really should support and celebrate that.

Jim Henson wanted to make puppets. Dr. Suess wanted to draw pictures and tell stories. Neil Armstrong wanted to touch the moon. Their dad’s might have been worried for a minute. It all worked out in the end.

We might simply need to listen, learn, guide, support, celebrate, and let kids be anything and everything that works best for them on the way to and through whatever challenging and/or joyful midpoints and ends they head toward.

Colin Hay said (sang), “on a clear day I can see a very long way.” Let’s gift our kids with as much clarity as we can by keeping our hearts and minds open to any possibilities they can imagine, seemingly sensible or glaringly wild.

Let’s let their visions guide. After all, while we do feel the rush in ways they can’t understand (yet), it will be their repeated rise and fall along their way, and not ours.

Even if the lellow-haired one decides to peruse a career as a body snatching giggle monster from outer space, I really should smile. It could be a tremendous contribution to humanity, and after all, he does seem to have a knack.

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.

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.