Tagged: potential

Picking the Positive [a(IQ)]

pick-the-positive

The Foundation. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about diversity. I’ve been focused on considering ways in which I can effectively practice, model, and teach a healthy appreciation and respect for the diversity that exists in every direction I look around this ever-changing and often-challenging world.

I’ve been wondering about ways in which I can best make and support positive connections with those whose paths I cross or parallel along my journey. I’ve been carefully working to understand how the myriad thoughts, ideas, and perspectives constantly surfacing through my interactions with others play into our individual and collective learning and growth, and how the same enhance our individual and collective lives.

That’s what it’s all about after all, isn’t it? Looking for ways to be happy while simultaneously contributing to the happiness of others? The pursuit of happiness is an unassailable right indelibly connected to the core of who we are. Should it not be woven into the fabric of our quests?

As a husband, a father, and an educator, I feel a strong responsibility to protect that right for myself and for those I serve. Fostering and sustaining positive partnerships that lead to joyful teaching and learning has always been at the core of my learning and leadership vision, the foundation of who I am, and what I seek to do in every moment, with each passing day.

My aim is true. My intentions are pure and concentrated. I continue to look for tools and strategies to aid the unfolding of those intentions. I’ve become a master at forgiving myself missteps along the way in favor growth. Much of my thinking energy has gone into ways I might emphasize the importance and impact of positive partnerships.

Recently, I read an article called, “Unconscious Bias: When Good Intentions Aren’t Enough” by an author named Sarah E. Fiarman. Mrs. Fiarman is an educational consultant and a former public school principal who has written multiple books on learning and leadership. She sub-titled this article, “Deep rooted biases hinder our best intentions. Learn how to recognize and address them.” The article is published in the November 2016 issue of Educational Leadership, entitled “Disrupting Inequity.”

At first blush, when I’m considering equity in schools, I go to race. Then, I tend to move to socio-economics, followed by gender, and so on. Could this be a form of unconscious bias in and of itself?

After leading with some thinking on the impact of bias and the need for increased awareness, Mrs. Fiarman addresses naming it. She points out, “Sometimes we increase awareness by naming bias in others and in ourselves,” and goes on to assert that naming is not always comfortable. It’s not easy to consider your own biases. Especially in light of the fact that in most cases where bias plays a role in decision-making and actions the bias doesn’t fit with intentions or worldview.

Bias is often unconscious, which is why it’s so important to dig into it with an open mind, an open heart, and a clear purpose. My purpose in reflecting with critical intention on this article and digging into the potential of my own unconscious bias is to enhance my learning and leadership practice. I’m looking to do the hard work of figuring out where I could be more attentive to the needs of those I serve. I’m seeking to understand how I can enhance my ability to seek to understand.

After moving through pieces of the puzzle in which Mrs. Fiarman points out how important it is to recognize and appreciate that unconscious bias can negatively impact our behaviors, that designing systems to counteract those impacts is critical, and that positive, trusting, and collaborative relationships have the power to provide some essential unconscious bias understanding through shared analysis and genuine, caring checks and balances regarding decision making, I came to the part where she wrote about empathy.

She began with, “Another proven way to counteract the power of unconscious bias is to replace negative associations with positive ones.” This drove straight into the heart of what I’d been thinking about. It caused me to lift my eyes from the page and process. It’s what I would like to be best at. With Dweck’s growth mindset as a foundation, maybe it can be.

If you believe that everything happens for a reason, and at just the right time for that reason to be most striking, than it’s worth noting that this article came to me at just the right time. If you don’t, it might be worth noting anyway. Either way, I dig it.

Mrs. Fiarman says, “Biases are built by repeated exposure to a particular message,” and that, “Deliberately consuming counter narratives can help break down that automatic reflex.” I dig it, indeed.

So, what if our biases extend to the negative itself. What if we are bent to leaning toward the negative in any, and even more troubling, every situation?

The world moves fast ad it’s riddled with challenges. Lest we forget that every challenge is also a chance we could likely become wrapped up in the ongoing tumble of dirty laundry that seems to surround us.

The Story. Yesterday my five-year-old punted a beanbag in the middle of the living room at his Nan and Pop’s house. Let me clarify that Nan and Pop’s living room is not an ideal place for punting anything. Whatever grace prevented that punt from resulting in something being knocked over, smashed, or otherwise destroyed is undoubtedly real and indisputably powerful.

After several seconds that seemed to go by in slow motion, and upon a safe landing for the would-be-destructor of a bean bag, my son and I looked at one another wide-eyed and filled with relief in the knowledge that neither of us was about to be in big trouble.

I spoke first, “That was a really bad idea.”

Then he spoke, “A really bad idea but a really good punt.”

We both laughed.

The Reflection. What if that’s the way?

What if my astute five-year-old was the teacher and I was the student?

What if I found a new mentor?

What if, no matter the situation, picking out the positive is where the treasure can be found?

Sure, there are several, easily conceivable worse scenarios than the potential for a broken vase at Nan and Pop’s house, but in that moment, we were both slightly (if not considerably) terrified. Still, this kid picked the positive. My mentor modeled what might be the way.

My hope is that he understood the theoretically flawed decision-making and the potential for disaster. I try to impart learning around every turn. I also understand that learning comes at its own pace and in its own time.

What if the real learning here is that life is better when we look on the bright side?

What if the nugget of truth in this situation is about a holistic look at our moments with an eye on what went well?

Should I be considering the living room beanbag-punt experiment as a viable lesson in positive responsiveness?

What do we do when questionable decision-making goes right? Should we be focused on the decision making in a vacuum, or should we be focused on the “right?’

What if we set our individual and collective paths on picking the positive?

Is it possible that picking the positive could lead to a paradigm of progress and self-celebration? Might that be good for all involved? Could picking the positive help to foster cultures of teamwork, trust, and growth is school communities? Families? Within ourselves?

Could picking the positive shift our thinking in right directions by repeatedly exposing us to hopeful and optimistic messaging?

I suppose anything is possible, isn’t it?

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

 

Reflection and Growth: The Bad News Is the Good News [(a)IQ]

reflection-and-growth

When I think about reflection I typically think about looking back on something. I think about a blanket analysis of something I had previously thought, said, or done.

Why?

Why do I think of reflection as a simple backward-looking act when I know what the word means? A reflection is an image of the present. It’s essentially an aura of the moment in which it exists, and in that, it’s a powerful tool for considering growth and next steps.

While the incorporation of pathway and progress are essential to planning and forward thinking, it would seem that those next steps should be the critical focus of a meaningful reflective practice.

Hank Procee refers to Frank Serafini’s outlining of reflective practice on the foundation of both “reflectively” as dealing with “profession-related issues” and “reflection” as stressing “critical social issues.” He summaries Serifini’s distinction between “three critical dimensions” or reflective practice as follows, “The first dimension in purpose (what is the goal of reflection); the second is process (how is reflection exercised); and the third is focus (what is the central event or experience to reflect upon)” (p. 238).

I’m beginning to consider that my conventional reflective paradigm might have something to do with a type judgment that lays outside of the scientific lens that Serifini constructs, and in that, has the potential to restrict meaningful and progressive outcomes.       It is through that consideration that I have been further contemplating shifting my paradigm in favor of a more real-time conception, solidifying a new reflective paradigm that better aligns with my intended purpose, process, and focus, and framing each reflective stop along the path with forward progress always in mind.

In doing so, I’m also bearing in mind an effort to reframe and enhance my perception of judgment as a function of learning and growth indelibly connected to reflection.

Visualize your own reflection in a mirror. What do you see? Do you not see yourself as you are right now?

Arguably, in this moment, within your reflection, and given the knowledge you have of yourself and your past, you can see how that past has impacted your progress toward this moment.

As I reflect right now my thoughts are with what has led to this moment, professionally and personally, and with what I might think, say, and do to continue becoming what it is I’m aiming at. This would be a process focused on real-time growth with the purpose of learning and enhances practice…process, purpose, and focus.

In reflection through this lens I would be forced to think on a foundation of the moment I’m witnessing and asking how I can bring my best and most thoughtful personal and professional qualities to each consecutive moment, even as I change along with an ever-changing understanding of myself within both a personal and professional context.

Another critical aspect of understanding my best and how to tap it in each moment is reflection around best practices in others. Sometimes it’s difficult to see and understand our own best. It often seems less difficult to recognize others at their best or to pick out best qualities in others. If that is the case, scientifically reflecting on the thoughts, ideas, and actions of others as potential models of effective practice (whether through a “what to do” or a “what not to do” lens) could contribute to progress in meaningful ways as well.

In doing so it is critical to avoid negative or personalized judgment, while focusing in on growth-producing judgment. What if I were only to pull only the very best from every situation I see or hear about? What if my reflective practice was only about the positive? What if even the instinctively negative aspects of reflective judgment were forcibly viewed holistically as opportunities for advancement?

Inside of a growth mindset, even challenges and mistakes are to be considered positive opportunities for learning. Through this lens, even the bad news is the good news because the bad news is fodder for contemplation of connected development.

I would suggest that thinking about reflection as a scientific act in which purpose, process, and focus set the stage for growth allows us to separate from the arguably reflexive potential for negative judgment, and to connect our personal and professional practice to the meaningful growth patterns we would inevitably then discover in ourselves and in others. I would further suggest that the same has the potential to help reflective practitioners see those patterns with enhanced clarity and use them as drivers of continuous and positive progress.

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

And I Quote: Professional Learning As Guided By Professional Learners

Learner Guided Learning

One viable approach for school administrators seeking to support the fitness of a collaborative professional learning culture with reflection as a foundation is through a structure described by Gladwell and DiCamillo as “professional dyads,” in which teachers organically find their way to one another as partners in progress. Regardless of reflective phase or content, Gladwell and DiCamillo suggest that teachers, students, and school communities are well served when administrators are supportive of teachers as the primary determiners of their own developmental pathways, and more specifically, as functionally best-suited to decide with whom they will move along those pathways.

Gladwell and DiCamillo outline professional dyads as partnerships formed over time, born out of genuine interest that leads to the formation of trusting relationships between sets of teachers who support one another in self-selected learning because they’re excited about it, because they each connect to it, and because they’re genuinely seeking to support, celebrate, and learn from one another. It’s a structure that might seem removed from the collective learning paradigm of a school, but for the passion of teachers with an all-inclusive view of school culture and the support of administrators who recognize the value of, and stand committed to a shared instructional leadership standard.

Professional dyads work “because each teacher possesses unique strengths,” and because teachers drawn to this type of partnership are likely to “encourage each other to pursue their unique interests in and outside of the classroom (p.7).” While remaining steadfastly aware and attentive school administrates can take a relatively hands-off approach to encouraging this structure by noticing as various partnerships are forming, encouraging those partnerships to mature and thrive, supporting those partnerships by listening and seeking guidance from teachers as they define progress on their terms, and celebrating outcomes with genuine enthusiasm.

Administrators can value the critically important voice of the teachers they serve by maintaining that teachers are well suited to guide progress in school communities. They can scaffold the reflective learning process by entrusting teachers as learners to follow dedicated, if adaptive routes to shared outcomes of their own volition, and empower them to lead the way for others. Even as Camburn’s three phases of reflective learning unfold in whatever order and over any number of potential schematic possibilities, professional dyads give teachers command of their learning in a way that promotes individual and collective progress with sensitivity.

As we anticipate another great school year, consider ways in which you might support the teachers you serve in designing their own learning pathways, and then get excited about the impact that might have on student well being and achievement.

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

3 Ways To Practice Forgiveness, 2 Reasons To Consider It, & 1 Disclaimer

Near Seems Bigger

Do you ever have moments you’d like to return? Have you ever thought better of an action or a decision and wished you could step back in time? Is there an occasion you can recall in which bringing your best would have been wonderfully effective, but instead you brought something else?

Have you flopped? Have you failed? Have you disappointed yourself? Have you disappointed someone else? Has something like this happened to you? Has it happened repeatedly? If so, congratulations! Not only do these circumstances represent powerful opportunities for learning and growth, but if you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, I can verify with a high degree of certainty that, like me, you’re a human being; a flawed but extraordinary thing to be.

The 3 Ways:

1. Forgive Yourself. Do it. You can thank yourself afterward. Forgiving yourself is a boon for maximizing the learning and growth of which I speak. It’s not always easy. Not for me anyway. Sometimes you’re not forgiven by others, and in those cases it’s especially not easy. But still, do it. Don’t forget. Don’t overlook. Don’t dismiss. Just forgive, and then, reflect with intention. Don’t repeat the same mistakes too many times; a few will do. Be strong in your resolve to make positive progress. Focus on your core values as you reflect. Enlist strength to defeat frustration. Never give up. Try to remember things that are near can seem bigger than things that are far. Down the line you might even wonder why forgiveness was needed in the first place. Still, I would suggest that it might be.

Think about what might happen if you make strides with each opportunity; even tiny strides. Do it. If you don’t like it or see value in it, stop. But I think you will. If you already do it, keep it up, even and especially when it’s most challenging. Give yourself permission to stumble, and if you don’t catch yourself, to fall. All the while, remember that you’re brave, strong, and in every way capable of bringing your best at every turn; dark, light, or otherwise.

2. Forgive Others When They Ask For Forgiveness. Grudges are bad. You don’t have to be best friends with everyone along the way, but don’t waste time obscuring your positive progress with extended negativity. I believe most people are well meaning. Like us, they stumble and they fall. Give the benefit of the doubt, maintain optimism, consider that good intentions abound, suppose that pain could be the root of hurtful behavior and that sadness might be the foundation of insensitivity, and then use those considerations to exercise compassion in the face of frustration. Take an apology as an invitation to support someone in learning and growth. Give them that gift.

3. Forgive Others Before They Ask For Forgiveness. Why wait? If you agree that forgiveness is a positive thing you might consider carrying some with you all the time. A reserve, if you will. Even a bit of “just in case” forgiveness can go a long way. Most people mean you no harm, and those that do are typically seeking to gain power over you. Dissolve that possibility. Don’t be harmed. Be strong. Have resolve. Again, stick to your core.

The 2 Reasons:

1. Practicing Forgiveness Is Good For You. When you practice forgiveness in any of the ways listed above you open yourself up to a world of possibilities that tends to be stifled by the opposite. Again, forgiveness and apathy are wildly different things. When you forgive the humanness of any given situation and the human being within it, with the understanding that we learn from bumps on the road, you stand a chance at paving the section of road you just stumbled on. Pave it. You bring your best when you seek do so. You enhance the world when you bring your best.

2. Practicing Forgiveness Is Good For Those You Serve. Speaking of enhancing the world, we are all servants. I mostly speak to parents, educators, and organizational leaders because that’s my wheelhouse, as it were. When we offer forgiveness we model forgiveness. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. We should be teaching those we serve, especially the children we serve, about the power of forgiveness and we should support them in learning to exercise it themselves. Practicing it might just be the best way. Besides, it feels good to be forgiven. It promotes confidence and suggests value. Confident people who feel valued contribute great things to the world.

The 1 Disclaimer:

1. I Could Be Wrong. It’s a human thing. My thoughts and ideas on this and all other topics of which I think, speak, and write are inexorably tainted by my limited capacity to understand the complexities of this world and inescapably skewed by the experience I’m having within it. In other words, this stuff might work for you and it might not. It’s really just food for further reflective thought.

So, if forgiveness isn’t currently a part of your paradigm and you decide to consider it on the basis of reading this post…and, if doing so isn’t effective for you…please forgive me, or not. I already have.

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

Thankful Thursday: My Personal Paleontologists

Interest as readiness

Paleontologists are thoughtful and patience people. They spend loads of time very carefully uncovering tiny bits of stuff that connect them to bigger fragments of stuff and eventually lead them to thinking about whole pieces of stuff that points to enhanced knowledge of stuff that existed a long time ago (or something like that).

It all represents a bunch of time, a throng of patience, a bundle of thinking, a great deal of dot connecting, a big slice of goal focusing, a deluge of excitement on the part of the paleontologists (and eventually on the part of those of us who get excited about looking at and thinking about the stuff paleontologists uncover), and a process parents, educators, and organizational leaders have a lot to learn from.

The patient and painstaking work of this kind of digging typically takes more time than most people in today’s busy world are willing to devote to any one pursuit. It’s really a means to an end. An end that could be profound and impactful if discovered but also one that might never be (discovered, that is). Paleontologists have to find lots of the stuff they’re digging for before they can do the part of their job that produces new knowledge and understanding.

Even so, they love it. As I alluded to above it excites them. It seems that dirt excites them. Maybe that’s because of its potential. It seems that digging in the dirt excites them. Maybe that’s because of the same. No matter how long it takes to meticulously chip away at some semblance of fossilized rock or brush dust off of an ancient bone, they’re thrilled.

I have a few personal paleontologists. On this thankful Thursday, which has very quickly become a Saturday, I’m eternally grateful for them. Through my personal paleontologists (even thought they’re seven, five, and three-years-old respectively) I get to see first hand how the process works. Moreover, I get to directly experience the mindset of patient people who dig because they see & understand the value of digging, because they believe in it’s potential for uncovering some of the more remarkable and miraculous mysteries of the world in which we live, and because they love it.

Because of my personal paleontologists I’m up close to the process, and in being so I get to think reflectively about the magic of patient, thoughtful, and targeted discovery. I get to benefit from the potential it has to positively impact my processes regarding living, learning, and leadership.

It began with my oldest son. He was hooked from his first dinosaur. I’m guessing that lots of kids are. Still, he took it to a place that amazed me. From a very young age he painstakingly studied dinosaurs. He never let his skill level or developmental readiness get in the way. Before he could read he studied the pictures. As he was learning to read he forgave any pronunciation errors, not that he knew he was pronouncing things in creative ways, but he didn’t allow frustration about his reasonable limitations to stifle or frustrate him.

My second born started with dragons. Eventually he recognized the diminished likelihood of discovering dragon bones in the backyard (diminished but still not completely unreasonable). In light of that recognition along with his undying veneration for big brother’s pursuits he has since shifted to dinosaurs. He now joins his brother in the regular declaration that he’s going to be a paleontologist (plumber is a close second at the moment).

Little sister isn’t fully devoted to paleontology (or patience for that matter) but she did find and remove a bone from their practice dig site block the other day. The boys abandoned it for a snack and a break. Not five minutes later we heard a shout of, “I found a bone!” from the other room. She took it upon herself to pick up where they left off. Carefully and quietly (not her standard mode of practice) she dug and brushed out a pteranodon bone. A rib, or part of “the guts” as my oldest called it.

Shame on me for even wondering if the boys would be upset; turns out they ran into the other room with open arms, ready to embrace their little rascal (I mean, sister) in celebration. She instantly became a member in good standing of the Berg family paleontology society. They were thrilled about the discovery, despite not making it themselves. The look of pride and accomplishment on her face was priceless!

As a bit of a side note I feel duty-bound to mention that our youngest (one and a half) has made many efforts to join the club. To date, those efforts have been thwarted in large part because to his predisposition for unintended but enthusiastic demolition. I don’t suppose his older siblings will be able to fend off his curiosity and devotion to the practice of paleontology much longer. We’ll see.

Go, ready or not. For parents, educators, and organizational leaders, if we concern ourselves too much with readiness we may never start. What’s more, we may never encourage those we serve to start. We should be making sure that those we serve (especially the children) feel comfortable digging into any reasonable pursuit whether or not we feel they’re ready. We should let their interest be their readiness, and then we should make sure that our enthusiastic guidance and support serves to enrich their pathways to progress.

Yet (the potential of potential). Our children will have to thank my wife and me later for our commitment to “yet.” They certainly aren’t thanking us now. In fact, sometimes when we use the word they shout, “STOP!” in close proximity to our faces. And loudly. But we’ve emphatically decided not to stop. We use the word in response to the phrases, “I can’t,” and “I don’t know.” We believe that “yet” is a critical caveat to both sentiments if you want to maintain a growth mindset, which we do. It’s an important component of our core values. And what a connection to the great thinking, believing, and discovering our children are modeling through their commitment to paleontology.

Hey, maybe they’ll thank us for a bunch of stuff eventually (but I digress).

Inclusion & celebratory collaboration. The boys were thrilled that their sister discovered a piece of the puzzle that they’d been diligently working on. At home and in our school communities we must follow that lead. I don’t tend to think in absolutes but if you don’t believe that it truly takes a village I believe you should spend more time considering that it might, absolutely.

Let’s listen to the voices of those we serve. Let’s remember Covey’s charge to see though a lens of abundance rather than scarcity. Let’s actively share leadership; secure in the knowledge and understanding that if we don’t we’re bucking human nature. Let’s celebrate the accomplishments of others and take pride in them as if they were our own, if for no other reason than that the achievements of those we serve only serve to enhance our communities and our lives.

Let’s be patient. Let’s listen to one another and to the world around us as if we have nothing but to learn. Let’s breathe deeply and take all the time we need to see the learning unfold over time. Let’s live in each moment and realize its potential as a piece of whatever whole we exist in and a stepping stone meant to support us, individually and collectively, on whatever journey we’re each on.

I could not be more grateful for my personal paleontologist. Their dedication is another shining example of the good in what we have to learn from one another.

Paleontology…I dig it.

Happy Thankful Thursday!

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

Let’s help boy writers celebrate themselves as writers, please (thanks).

Believe It.

There’s so much more to being a writer than simply thinking you’re one. I think. Or maybe not. Who knows? Not me. I’m just a guy who thinks he’s a writer, but that’s beside the point (kind of).

Anyway, in elementary school we find that some students don’t think they’re writers. Specifically, we tend to find this diminished sense of writerly self or otherwise holistic lack of confidence and/or drive in boy writers. But that’s too bad, and it’s also the underpinning of unfortunately inaccurate feelings on their part. In fact, they are writers. We all are. We all have a story and we’re all capable of telling it in some written form. That’s writing, and that’s what writers do.

I love to write. Writing quite literally feeds my soul. It scaffolds my growth. It’s the foundation of my reflective processing. It’s in no small way a big part of my life. I crave it.

When I feel bad, writing helps me feel better. When I’m stuck, writing helps me move. When I need it, it’s there. I can write on a napkin or in the sand. I can writer standing up or siting down. I can think about what I would write even when I don’t have anything to write on or with. I call that mind writing and I think it’s writing too (some people consider it daydreaming; you say tomato…).

I consider myself a writer, and I consider that consideration a gift. It’s a gift given to me by those who have celebrated my self-identification as a writer, and those who have supported me in doing the same, for better or worse…and there’s been a lot of worse with some peppered in better.

I distinctly remember writing and submitting a piece composed in a language that I totally made up. It was entirely nonsensical from start to finish, but it made sense to me. I was compelled to do it even thought I suspected that my teacher would be frustrated and that my parents would most likely be on the receiving end of an angry phone call regarding my lack of solemnity for school. What if that was the moment they found out I was a silly guy? So be it.

But it wasn’t. My teacher took it seriously. She celebrated it. She celebrated me as a writer. She supported me in doing the same, so I did. I loved it. I wanted to write more. I did that too. I still do. I even write in English (a well establish and widely recognized sensical language) much of the time.

I identify as a writer. I made, and continue to make no apologies about using words like “sensicle.” Just look at this post. With regard to writing proficiency it’s stinky at best. And that’s being kind. Heck, I’ve used the words “but,” “with,” and “and” to begin sentences throughout these paragraphs. I honestly have no idea if I’m actually allowed to do that. I’m walking a fine line to say the least. But I love it (oops).

Getting boys to self-identify as writers is a challenge that we in elementary education face with a great many of the boys we serve.  We want boys to self-identify in this way because we believe that self-identification breeds confidence and fosters engagement. It does and always has for me.

I was a boy at one time. Granted, it was long ago and for an appallingly brief period of time, but I was. I promise. Now, I’m the father to three boys. I want them each to feel free to write as they see fit. I want them to know the power and the joy of the written word, or the written whatever. I want them to be able to define what it is to write for themselves and to feel comfortable exploring this cathartic medium with vim (and even vigor if at all possible). I want that for all the boy writers I serve.

Parents and educators, let’s make sure to celebrate as the primary response to boys when they seek out quiet spots with pieces of paper and pencils in hand, when they get lost in scribble and sentences, when they discover the power of expression that writing can uniquely grant them, and let’s get wildly excited when then decide to share their writing with us, even and especially if and when they use silly words or broken punctuation. Let’s be ok with “but,” “and,” and “with,” as sentence starters if we can muster the strength.

We can refine along the way. First let’s help them explore, discover, and understand what being a writer means to each of them individually, and then let’s help each of them get excited about the fact that that’s exactly what they each are! Writers indeed.

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

Write? Write.

Thankful Thursday: Her

Her

My wife and I have three sons and we love them each. We’ve shared a lot of thinking about the connection that each of these most important people have to our hearts and our souls. For my part, I love them each with matching strength but in distinctive ways. They’re each unique and therefore my relationship with each of them is unique as well.

The big guy is cerebral. We spend lots of time thinking things through. Our second born is curious. We spend lots of time wondering about and exploring stuff. The little guy (who’s actually not little at all) is a love bug. We spend lots of time snuggling.

Then there’s her. I love her too. Big, big love.

Talk about unique. My daughter is three-years-old and as tough as they come. She’s also as sweet as they come. At three she’s already mysterious, complex, dichotomous, and remarkable. She’s everything I can imagine a person being all wrapped up into one little bundle. She’s very little in stature (outweighed by her one-year-old brother) and gigantic in personality. She shocks us regularly with her astonishing sophistication and she frustrates us regularly with her intensely strong will.

A vibrant, happy, and insightful imagination stands on one end of her profoundly defined personality and rock solid character while a refractory and deliberate mischievousness stands on the other; both ends yielding amazing outcomes and both laden with intense and powerful exuberance. A cornucopia of wonder and awe-inspiring individuality swirls, alive and active in between.

She’s playful and she’s stubborn. She’s as kind and loving as is possible but when so moved she’s capable of imparting anguish-inspiring provocation on her unguarded brothers. She’s smart as a whip and silly as a penguin (penguins seem silly to me).

An enigma in many ways, she’s incredibly easy to love. Also, because of her I have an exceedingly important job.

It’s my job to help her understand how to respect herself, how to respect others, and how to make sure that others respect her as she moves through life. Sounds pretty straightforward. Turns out, it’s not.

I’m finding that I was a much better parent before I had the kids. I knew exactly what to do. Now, I’m often working things out in the moment, and questioning whether or not I’m working them out well at that. She seems ok so far. Thank goodness for my amazing wife. Still, my job remains fundamental and uniquely mine.

It’s critically important that I hold her accountable for high standards of self-awareness and compassion, along with a value-driven approach to living in consistent, loving & kind ways. It’s essential that I teach her how to stand for her core values and for herself as she moves through what will no doubt be a lifetime of challenges and triumphs.

It’s possible that she’ll learn to expect, and even more notably accept an analogous brand of love and affection to the brand I offer and model (some would argue that it’s probable and even likely); she’s watching me and shaping her understanding and expectations of how people should treat one another simultaneously. My interactions with her mother, her brothers, her extended family, our friends, my dedication to personal and professional pursuits, my interests and concerns, my thoughts and ideas about living, learning, and leading, my trials, my victories, my decision making, my thought process, my strengths, my weaknesses, my achievements and my missteps. Even when I’m not aware, she’s watching.

At the risk of coming off as self-important I will now boldly suggest that with regard to her I am in fact a fundamentally important fella. In my estimation, having her in my life makes my life more significant than it would have otherwise been. To that end, I’m operating devotedly to make it so that the sum of the next several years turns out a result reflective of the best of my capacity for supporting this little girl, who I’m told will be a big girl, a teenager, and then a young woman even sooner than I’m able to piece together how it happened.

I love my boys. I understand my noteworthy responsibility to do right by them and I’m devoted to that as well. For today however, I feel a strong pull to express my tremendous gratitude for having been gifted the opportunity to be a part of my incredible daughter’s life, along with the connected duties that accompany that opportunity.

As educators and parents we must think well enough of ourselves to be the role models we know we can be. We must always expect ourselves to deliver the highest standards of love, kindness, and care to the children we serve. When we stumble, as human beings do, we must forgive ourselves, reflect though a lens of our core values, and press on with renewed strength and the concrete knowledge that our every move matters.

My only hope is that her life is filled with boundless joys and overloaded with wonders even beyond her unimaginable imagination. Is that too much to hope for?

Even and especially through the innumerable challenge we will both undoubtedly continue to will face together and apart, I am eternally grateful for her…miraculous, remarkable her.

Happy Thankful Thursday (even though it’s Friday)!

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead.

Thanks!

I Don’t Know: Understanding via a Lack Thereof

Imagine

I heard the most fascinating story yesterday through an interview of a fifty four year old woman, Kim, who self-discovered her Asperger’s Syndrome and then got a brief glimpse into a world in which it didn’t stifle her ability to read social cues.

Researchers exploring a method called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) showed Kim a video. In the video a woman answered her door to find a man standing on the other side with a bag filled with DVD cases. The man handed the bag to the woman and said, “Here are the DVDs you lent to Roger,” followed by, “He asked me to return them to you.”

The man suggested that the woman take a look in the bag and examine the state of the DVDs. She did. She opened each one to find that nothing was inside. The bag was filled with empty DVD cases. After a few moments the man asked, “Is everything alright?”

The woman replied, “Oh yes, everything is just fine.”

The man then asked, “Would you be willing to let Roger borrow your DVDs again?”

The woman replied, “Absolutely…without hesitation.”

Kim reported that after watching this interaction she was very impressed and somewhat surprised by the woman’s reaction. She told the interviewer that she thought the woman in the video was uniquely forgiving and generous.

Then came the TMS. The researchers delivered a series of precisely targeted magnetic pulses into Kim’s brain with the aim of stimulating key areas in the hopes that it would enhance her ability to read social cues, a standard reported deficit in people with Asperger’s Syndrome. Kim recounted that it did. She told the interviewer that she was shocked upon watching the same video again after the TMS treatment.

The woman in the video did not seem forgiving or generous this time. In fact, she was clearly upset. Kim described high levels of sarcasm in the woman’s responses that she could not detect previously.

When the woman said, “Oh yes, everything is just fine,” she meant, “No, everything is not alright…can’t you see that Roger has taken all of my DVDs?”

When she said, “Absolutely…without hesitation,” she meant, “Not in a million years!”

Kim was stunned. In that moment she realized that she had been moving through the world with a blindness of sorts. She thought about her inability to maintain positive relationships and her confusion over the same. She expressed relief in finally understanding that her interactions with people have been marked by a distinct inability to recognize “appropriateness” in communication.

She talked specifically about kindness. She expressed a profound shift in thinking about it. She realized that when people are unkind to one another it’s not necessarily because they’re mean people. She thought about the possibility of a primary source of unkindness and that the unkindness itself could be a side effect.

She recalled being bullied as a child and instantly forgave the perpetrators, suggesting that they may have simply been trying to bond with one another, not fully (or even partially) understanding the impact their bonding had on her.

Through TMS Kim had but a momentary glimpse into a world in which she could recognize, understand, and interpret social cues. The effects were not lasting. Furthermore, the researchers cautioned that the treatment remains unreliable for this application. They strongly warned against its clinical use expressing that a tremendous amount of research and exploration lies between these experiments and a practical, safe application…if one should ever come to be at all.

Kim expressed that she’s not disappointed. She told the interviewer that the experience, while brief, was momentous and profound. She said that it left her with a critically important view of a world that has always been acutely confusing.

Kim is a successful physician with a thriving practice. She’s achieved much in her life so far and is only part way along her journey. However, she’s consistently been on the outside of what most of us seem to understand as acceptable social norms.

Well meaning and kind, Kim has struggled significantly to build and maintain relationships. By bravely risking what I can only imagine would be a terrifying paradigm shift, she now knows a bit more about why.

Kim’s experience has me wondering about how I see and function. Is my worldview the same as yours? Is each of ours different? As we try to communicate with one another, how often do we miss the mark? How about the people we serve? What within our daily messaging is well received by students, parents, colleagues, spouses, kids, friends? What is misperceived and subsequently potentially damaging?

I can only conclude that exploratory leaps of faith with open minds, while scary, are very likely boons of positive progress. What if I’m not hearing what I think I’m hearing when I hear it? What if I’m not saying what I think I’m saying when I say it? If perception is reality…what if we each perceive the world in a unique way? Even if slightly, imagine the ripple effect and the impact on relationships.

I believe that the great majority of people are driven by kind hearts and hope for positive pathways. I think that incorporating a mantra of acceptance not fully knowing stuff with the connected act of consistently seeking to enhance my knowledge might help deepen my understanding of the social world in which I live and my productivity within relationships as a result.

My aim is true but I’ve seen that even the softest wind can shift the pathway straightest arrow. I’m amazed by Kim and truly grateful for having had the opportunity to see through her lens, if only for a moment. Let’s listen really carefully to one another’s stories…it can only help advance our collective vision of a peaceful and productive planet. Let’s imagine that the world might be different than we currently perceive it to be, if only slightly, and if only because it truly might be.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead.

Thanks!

Thankful Thursday: Restoration

A Bit of a Break

I recently wrote about the “Zones of Regulation” in a post outlining a philosophical base and a program structure built on the foundation of restorative practices used for social-emotional learning and growth in the school community I serve and subsequently in my home.

Regarding both my role as a parent and an educational leader I continue to gain increased confidence in restorative practices with each passing day.

I’ve been a restorative kind of guy for as long as I can remember. It’s basic. When things heat up I take a break.

I use the term “heat up” to signify a spectrum of heightened emotions beginning with slight (including mild excitement in the form of frustration, impatience, resentment, etc.), which can happen at varying degrees of intensity relatively frequently in the busy worlds of parenting and educational leadership, and ending with intense (triggered by unusually stressful events or toxic situations), which fortunately happens quite infrequently.

Each “hot” moment is a challenge and a chance. Each one is an opportunity to exercise restoration, and in doing so to increase restorative strength.

Restoration is the act of moving from a state where emotional strain has the better of you to a state where you have the better of it. It’s making your way from emotion-veiled thinking (and the potential for connected action) to clear, core-value driven thinking (and the reasonable assurance of focused, core-value drive action).

As I continue working to enhance my restorative practice and impart a utilitarian understanding of the same to those I serve I find myself particularly grateful for the human capacity to restore.

What are your primary core values? Do you ever find yourself sliding away from them in thought or action? If so, how do you pull yourself back? How do you focus? How do you restore?

Happy Thankful Thursday everyone!

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead.

Thanks!

What Do I Expect?

Organic Nature of Nature

In an effort to go greener I switched to an old-fashioned push mower last year. You know the kind with whirring drum blades. No gas, no plug, no charge. Turned out…no good. I couldn’t reconcile the unpredictability of the cut. Some pieces of grass or weed (another side-effect of mission greener) were longer than others. Some were simply pushed over instead of cut. It was wild looking. It felt untamed. I wanted uniform, manicured stripes. I got jagged, indelicate streaks.

I cursed that little push mower before relegating it to a cobweb-crammed corner of the garage. It was all but predestined to fade away. It could very well have ended up a curbside bargain but for a “one more chance” wind that blew through me at the beginning of Michigan’s mow season this year.

“One more chance” was just the beginning though. What followed was a holistic paradigm shift with regard to my expectations. I guess another cycle of learning and growth flipped a switch in me. So, in a moment of forgiveness, acceptance, and serenity I pushed that little mower over my lawn, cobwebs and all.

As I complete the first go around I looked out over what might have been familiar jagged, indelicate streaks to discover that they were not familiar. They seemed different now. There was no distain in my mind or my heart. No anxious wanting of uniform, manicured stripes. I appreciated what I saw. I liked it.

In a fluid scoping out effort my gaze cleared the streaks and landed on a perennial bed stretching its arms after a long winter nap. Plant tips in varying shades of green peeked out past the dirt browns and the faded greys of what was once a stark black blanked of dyed mulch. It was organic. It was connected. It made sense. It was more than ok, it was right.

Headed into my third summer as a school administrator, my eighth as a husband, and my seventh as a father I greatly appreciate the organic nature of the path; so much more jagged than it is manicured, and in my humble opinion, so much more exciting and meaningful than it would otherwise be.

What do I expect? Life is mysterious. Learning is messy. Love is wild. Last year I couldn’t deal with the natural look and feel of a powerless blade-cut lawn and this year I’m actively deriving power from the same.

I’m excited to continue reflecting on how this newfound appreciation for the organic nature of nature can contribute to my growth as a learner and a leader, and how it can enhance my support for those I serve in my professional and my personal life.

I’m enthusiastically diving into thinking around expectations and how I can manage them with an eye positive progress, even and especially through challenges.

On a whim I used the power mower last week. I thought I’d give it one pass in between the push mover grooming, just to even things out a bit. I got manicured stripes. For a moment I thought that’s what I wanted again. It wasn’t. Things aren’t even. Things are uneven. Things are irregular and rough, and even so, things are wonderful.

I can’t wait for my lawn to grow back. I expect it will soon.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead.