Tagged: Guiding Questions

I Will Miss You

I was at the park with our youngest son, recently.  We were taking about the farm that we plan to build together, one day.  It will be called, “The Buddy Farm.”  

Among other things, we’ll have cows, we’ll have pigs, we’ll have corn, and we’ll have pumpkins. He and I will be the owners. I’ll manage the work and the workers, and he’ll be the one to show people around when they come to the farm.  

His brothers and his sister, his mother, his aunts and uncles, and his cousins will all work a the farm. This is the plan.

We sat, leaned back on the side of a hill, looking up at the sky through a canopy of trees. It was a beautiful day. A string of moments, essentially standing still. 

As we lay there, soaking it in, he spoke of getting older. He told me he wanted to build “The Buddy Farm” because he wan’t going to get married or have a family.  

He told me that his plan was to live with me forever.  

He told me that he doesn’t want to have a family because he thinks kissing is gross. I suggested that five-year-olds tend to feel that way, and that eventually he might enjoy kissing. I told he might eventually change his mind, fall in love, and decide to have a family, after all.  

He assured me it was unlikely, but even so, even if he were to fall in love and have a family, he was still going to live with me forever. 

He went on to inform me that if he did have kids, his brothers and his sister would be their uncles and their aunt, and that I would be there grandfather. 

Then it happened. As if he realized it just then, as if he was verifying it for himself, he told me that when he becomes a grandfather I will probably have passed.  

While difficult to hear, I could see that it was most likely true.

He looked at me with inquisitive eyes, as if to clarify.  

I agreed with a smile and a nod.

I told him that would probably one the case, and I did my best to conceal the pang of pain that ran through every molecule of my essence, though I’m guessing it showed in some form, somewhere on my face.  

He looked at me for another moment before leaning back and turning his eyes to the sky. In a patience, contemplative tone, he declared, “I will miss you.”

I thought, I will miss you too, Buddy, and my heart did something so profound and powerful that I can’t exactly explain it. I was uplifted and deeply sorrowful at exactly the same time. 

I left myself for an instant. Thinking of my boy every having to miss me is among the most intense images I can produce.  

He shifted over to rest his head in the crook of my arm, and there we lay, together, for some time, not having to miss one another yet.

It got me thinking. There are people in my life who I am not near to at this moment. They haven’t passed, but I am simply not in proximity to them. I don’t miss them. Instead, I feel their presence.  

Maybe that’s because I know I could see them, talk to them, and touch them if I wanted to. Or maybe it’s because when our connectedness isn’t based on a physical, but an emotional plane. I’d like to believe that. I do believe that. 

I believe, whether we’re present, far from one another, or even passed, we can use our minds and our heart to connected with one another. 

As I think about “lost” loved ones on this Memorial Day weekend, I take comfort in the feelings of connectedness I have.

Something inside of me believes that the connectedness exists for them, too.

Whatever you believe, I would suggest that using our minds and our hearts to perpetuate bonds with those we love can be healing. 

At the very least, I believe it isn’t hurtful to try. Sometimes uplifting and sorrowful at exactly the same time, but not hurtful. 

In it together for the kids. 

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

Finding the Good Ain’t Bad

Our experiences impact how we feel and how we function.  

Positive experiences tend to uplifted and energized us. Negative experiences can produce a range of responses that cause us to feel a range of emotions, from contemplative to drained of energy and upset.  

All of our experiences are important. None are without value.  

Even feeling pain, sadness and fear can help us learn and grow. Challenging emotions support the building of resilience. 

I’ve heard it said that kids learn to grapple when they have things to grapple with. I believe that’s true for all of us, kids and adults. We need to grapple in order to grow. We need to do so in thoughtful, safe and intentional ways. 

With focus and strength we can lift and shift the experiences of our days, and we can maximize the value of each. We can do it by compartmentalizing.  

When we make note of, and seek to understand our experiences, we can deign an energy flow that promotes positivity, productivity, and health. In this way, we can enhance our ability to process experiences, both positive and negative. 

Imagine each experience you have as a dash in a long, broken but cohesive line. A chain of events. Indelibly interwoven, but not connected physically. Imagine each experience as one piece of your day that eventually becomes a completed puzzle. 

Some experiences practically process themselves while some are more difficult to process.  

If we lift the more difficult dashes, or pieces, above the imaginary line of our daily experiences, and separate them from those that flow easily, we can put them aside for later reflection.

We can’t attend to everything in the moment it happens. There’s simply too much. If we want to remain present we can’t get wrapped up in every challenging emotion that comes our way. When we lift and shift, we can breath, regroup, focus, and go back to experiences with intentionality.

It’s not easy and it takes practice, however, when I’m able to achieve the lift and shift, I find it extremely worthwhile. 

For example, when someone treats me in an unkind way, and I’m able to lift that treatment out of my immediate timeline rather than attaching myself to negative emotions, I can stay present with the game of tag I’m playing, the book I’m reading, or the joyful experience of laying on a hammock with my daughter, counting leaves and imagining that clouds are dragons and bunnies.  

When I’m ready and have some time, I can re-engage with the challenging experience and it’s connected learning in a more productive way. When I do that, the lessons seem to take hold more deeply, with meaning rather than emotion as the foundation.  

Another piece of the experiential puzzle has to do with the narratives we write about our experiences. 

Narratives are important, and they come in multiple forms. There are the narratives we write instinctively, the ones that pop into our minds as experiences are unfolding, and then there are the ones we write reflectively, given some time and space. 

If someone treats me in an unkind way my instinct might be to consider that person unkind, when actually, they are more likely upset or frustrated. 

Most often, the initial narrative from a negative experience is not the one I want to stick with, in large part because it’s typically driven by emotion. 

When I lift and shift I still write the instinctive narrative, however, I give myself an opportunity to write multiple other narratives until I find the one that’s best for my learning and growth.

What else might be happening in any give scenario, other than the reactive, emotional possibilities that can enter our minds in moments of frustration?  

After writing multiple narratives, we can connect them to the most succinct understanding of reality that we know. We can’t read minds or understand all of the finite nuances of the world in which we live, but we can find the good in most things.

This strategy can help us decrease worry about things that are outside of our control.

Lifting and shifting, in conjunction with extended and thoughtful narrative writing, helps us assume positive intentions, which in my experience most people seem to have. 

Refining out ability to process in healthy and thoughtful ways increases well-being and perpetuates positive progress for everyone involved.

In it together for the kids.

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

The Importance of Embracing These Moments

A few weeks into this changed environment I looked back and realized my emotional bandwidth has been as broad as ever. Turns out a global pandemic sets the stage for emotional overload. Go Figure.  

Also, this era-defining moment has presented me with an opportunity to progress monitor my resilience and emotional wherewithal. Now, I’ve found a flow.  

I believe one reason I’ve been able to find this flow is the experience of accepting and intentionally navigating a wide spectrum of emotions.  

The first couple of weeks were mostly about prep work, setting things up, getting things ready, figuring out what structures work best for me to function in my roles as a principal, a husband, and a father.

Lorelei and I imagined, constructed, reimagined, refined and implemented a system and a consistent pace in our house. At this point, the kids have all but taken both over with a good deal of independence. Our days are flowing relatively smoothly. It adds a foundation of balance. 

I’ve spoken and written about the structured blueprint of our stay-at-home life on multiple occasions since the beginning. I’ll mention some particulars here as a side-note.

We have four kids, all elementary age. Our days begin with breakfast at 8:30 am, followed by a series of 45 minute sessions with10 minutes of transitional time for snacks, stretches and bathroom breaks in between each session. The sessions include “School Work,” “Fresh Air,” “Read and Relax,” and “Free time.”  

We maintain these structures with a foundation of flexibility.  We use the Zones of Regulation to see that we’re focused and ready to go for each session. If were not, we flex. We have a lot of conversations. We give the kids ownership and autonomy through which they’re demonstrating some wonderful independence.  

The few days I wrote about above came shortly after these structures were solidly in place, just after I was able to take my first breath, knowing we were on the right path with regard to some normalcy and balance for the kids. 

After the initial setting of the stage I was able to turn to my own feelings about the challenges we’re facing. In doing so, my broadened emotional bandwidth came into play. I was really sad for a few days. 

At first, I didn’t completely understand the sadness, where it came from, or why it was so intense. In hindsight it would seem obvious, but it wasn’t. I wanted to be “stronger than that,” and I had some trouble letting myself accept and appreciate that strength may not be in how you feel, but in how you respond to what you’re feeling. Upon letting go and falling into my emotions, I realized they needed my attention. 

Paulo Cohelo said, “You drown not by falling into a river but by staying submerged in it.”

What seems to have worked for me, and what I recommend, is that when we fall into a river of emotion, no matter the emotion, we recognize and accept that we’re there. 

I recommend that we look around ourselves, inside and out, for methods and means to rise to the surface and emerge. The difficult journey out might take an hour, it might take a day, and it might take a week. If it takes longer than that, I recommend asking for and embracing help from others.  

In my case, during this round of processing, it took just over 2 days. I emerged with enhanced strength and clarity of vision. I’ve since been in the flow I mentioned above.

I suspect I’ll fall into a river of emotion again during this challenging and unusual time, however it unfolds. I hope that when I do I can see clearly the value falling into the river has, along with the value of finding ways to emerge. That’s my plan, anyway.

We’ve got to give ourselves time, space, understanding and compassion. We’ve got to allow ourselves to experience the moments we’re living in, to enlist our minds and our hearts, to muster courage and strength, and to process through each moment and every feeling in ways that are healthy and balanced. 

Let’s not be too cautions about sharing our emotional truths. Let’s not turn our heads or our hearts away from those who share their emotional truths to us.  

In this relative isolation, we are truly not alone. We are together in our humanity.

In it together for the kids!

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

Publicly Strutting


I’ve been rollerblading every day since the stay-at-home order was put in place. It’s something I can do without getting near anyone. It’s exercise. I can engage in online meetings and phone calls while I’m doing it. The wind cuts through my hair and I glide as though I’m flying, when the surface is smooth and the slope is down.

It can be exhilarating and it can be fun. It get’s me lost in thought sometimes, which I apprecaite.

It snowed today.

It’s snowed on a couple of other days, too, but today it snowed the kind of snow that doesn’t dry up. It was pretty, but it was wet. It was fluffy until it landed, and then it was puddly. It lasted all day. Rollerblading (even for a guy who tends to find a way unless there truly isn’t one) was out of the question. 

So I walked.

I walked through eight phone conversations and the taping of my daily video message (above).

My glasses were fogged and water cascaded down my face, starting from beads dropping of my hair, and becoming streams running along the contours of my cheeks, water-falling from my chin.

I was sopping. My toes were cold. My feet were sore. 

I was processing guilt, having been away from my family for the bulk of the morning while knowing that when I returned I would have to lock myself away to take on the overflowing communication load that piled up this week.

In a flash, realized my hardships were nothing, shifting the guilt of a few hours away from my family to the guilt of knowing that I have everything I need while so many thousands of people are suffering in unthinkable ways around the world. 

Foggy glasses and cascading water didn’t seem so bad, I wasn’t actually that cold, my feet didn’t hurt so bad.

I had a few blocks left before getting to the front door of a house where my loving kids and wife were playing, and where we would sit down for a nice lunch after I shook the snow off my hair and changed my socks.  

Just a few blocks away from home, after about an hour and half of walking in the snow, Peter Gabriel’s “Red Rain” came creeping into my ear buds from Pandora. 

It crept at first, as it does. It built to a proper pour before long, as it also does, and I noticed I was strutting. 

“Red Rain” was pouring into my ears. The beat overtook me.

The sense that we, humanity, in this moment of extreme challenge, remain kind, compassionate, and individually and collectively strong, invigorated me, and so, I was publicly strutting. 

Walking to the beating drums, chin up and a bounce in my step.

I don’t know if a middle aged man struts publicly because he’s lost in something and confused, or if he does so because something has propelled him into a deepened sense of self and into enhanced clarity. It doesn’t matter. It felt good. 

I din’t mind if people saw. I hoped they did.

We can’t change what we’re going through.

We can’t make it better for those who are out of our reach.

We can take care of ourselves, we can look after our families, and we can stay at home to keep distance to help flattened the curve. 

We can connect by phone, through social media, and by way of loud conversations across lawns so that our hearts remain bonded.

We can project love in as many directions as we can face, and if the mood takes us, even if we’re walking down the street with slushy snow covering our heads and the greatest hits of the eighties pouring into our ears, we can strut.

Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead.

In it together for the kids.

Gather Nuts Later

Nuts. 

I imagine it’s what squirrels think about most of the time. 

I stood at the door-wall this morning, looking out over the yard.  I saw a squirrel sitting on the fence. 

There I was, bath robe, pajamas, slippers, sipping a cup of coffee, staring down a squirrel on the fence. 

He was looking at me, too. 

He didn’t seem to be thinking about nuts. 

His face was puckered. His shoulders were slumped.  He seemed deep in thought.  He seemed reflective. He seemed almost contemplative. He seemed, not sad, but maybe disappointed. He seemed remorseful. 

I took another sip.  I wondered what was happening in this squirrel’s life.

Maybe he woke up worried about finding food, with a limited supply of patience and a world of worries.  

Maybe the love he feels for his family had him overwhelmed with concern about how he’s going to provide for them.

Maybe he was frustrated, overwhelmed, and unable to calm his worried mind.

Maybe his kids had been scurrying around that morning, shouting, stomping, playing rough, demanding his attention, and generally showing out in squirrelly ways.

Did he know I was watching him?

Was he actually watching me?

My eyes squinted. 

His tail swished.

My brow raised and then furrowed.

He sighed.

I wondered if maybe his mind was somewhere else.

He took a deep breath, sighed again, and slumped his shoulders even further. 

He looked away.  His gaze shifted to the base of a tree across the yard. I looked over to the tree, too.  A bunch of little squirrels were playing over there.  They were scurrying, they were tagging one another and then running away, there were linking their tails and laughing, they were rolling in the grass, and they were peeling bark off of trees to use for shields in an epic stick-sword battle. 

The little squirrels were having a great time. 

He was still sitting on the fence, still slumped over and looking forlorn.  

He looked at me.  I motioned to the little squirrels frolicking in the yard.  He shrugged his shoulders and pursed his lips. I motioned again and mouthed the words, “Go play with them.”

Even if he had been distracted and upset that morning, worrying about the challenges in his path, maybe feeling helpless and even scared, I thought it could be a good idea for him to play a while. He could gather nuts later.

Maybe some good old fashioned squirrel family fun was just what the doctor ordered.  Maybe it would connect them.  Maybe it would uplift them.  Maybe a couple of moments of play would restore his energy and provide some renewal for a loving family of squirrels during a challenging time. 

I smiled. He smiled. He leapt off the fence and joined the fray. I smiled again. Good stuff. I felt happy.

As I turned to face my day, ready to sit down at the computer for a marathon of messaging and meetings, ready to dig deep into answering, planning, collaborating, coaching, and developing, I heard a noise. It was a joyful noise. The noise was the sound of my kids playing.  

I thought about the stern moments we had already shared that morning. I thought about my frustration, my worry, and my fears. I thought about how all of it came through in the form of a short fuse and sharp communication. 

I thought about who I am at my best and what’s most important to me.

I marveled at the striking similarities between my experience that morning and that of the squirrel who was sitting on the fence. It was uncanny.

A thought occurred to me. I wondered if it might be a decent idea for me to play with my kids for while. I wondered if it might restore and energize me. I wondered if it might strengthen our bond.

I smiled. I set my coffee cup down. I walked past my computer, I climbed the stairs, and I played. I felt happy.

After all, I can always gather nuts later.

In it together for the kids.

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

The End Of Beginnings

We visited lake Huron this past weekend.  It was a really cool place on Michigan’s east coast called Sturgeon Point.  There’s a one room school house, a lighthouse, and an awesome, rocky beach.  We’ve been all over the mitten this summer.  Sturgeon Point is quite different from the more tourist-populated, built-up destinations we spent most of our time at on the west side of the state.  That said it was among my favorites.  

The rocks were smooth and colorful.  Many fossils for the kids to discover and collect.  The wind was blowing perfectly. Not to hard but steady enough for each blade of dune grass to stand a bit slanted and wiggling in unison with each of the others.  The waves capped off in white foam as they crawled toward the shoreline.  

The kids’ kites lifted up out of their hands to dance above us with such little effort. On that day, and in those moments, they were all world class kite pilots; youngest to oldest.  The cheap wood and plastic apparatuses were dipping, weaving, diving and soaring at their will. Our three dollar kites would have thrilled even the Wright Brothers with their grace and utility.

I was in the waves.  It’s one of my favorite places to be.  A Michigan kid all the way.  The water was warm so a few of the others took the plunge with me, body surfing and horsing around a bit.  

When they finished I still wanted to play, so I jogged through the whitecaps to the shore where the nine-year-old was fastidiously selecting rocks for his bucket.  I asked if he wanted to take a break and splash around for a bit.  He replied, “Do I have to?”

“No,” I said, “not if you don’t want to.”

He smiled and said, “Maybe another time,” before dutifully returning to his task.

Ouch.  Maybe another time.  Ok.  I had no option but to grab the seven-year-old from a few yards away toss him back in the water.  Unlike his big brother, he had to.

I wondered about the line.  When does a kid change from someone who appreciates being forcibly (and lovingly) tossed into the lake to someone who doesn’t.  Different for each I suppose.  

Regardless, in that moment it struck me that this kid could be experiencing the end of a beginning.  He’s certainly not done being a kid.  He’s not at the end of the end of it.  I hope he’s not at the end of the middle of it, or even the middle of the middle.  Just maybe at the end of the beginning.

For a moment I had succumb to a whirlwind of reflective thinking about this seemingly horrible prospect.  If this ridiculous thing is happening to the nine-year-old what might be happening to his siblings?  

Earlier in the day I told the three-year-old that we were going to go on a glass bottom boat, only to be confronted with, “Is it a secure glass bottom boat?”  Three-year-olds don’t ask that.  Is he at the end of the beginning of tiny tot-ness?  

The seven-year-old is stretching out.  There’s no more meat on his bones at all.  Where did it go?  All of his pajama bottoms are floods.  I could swear they fit him last weekend.  Is he at the end of the beginning of little kidish-ness.

The five-year-old doesn’t give me a hug and kiss anymore when I drop her off to play with friends.  Instead, she extends her tiny hand and insist, “Just go, Daddy!”  Doesn’t even look back.  I know because I do.  A lot. What beginning could she she be at the end of?

I don’t know what kind of fortitude I’m supposed to have, but thinking about all these ends of beginnings was really starting to get tough on me.  The previously enjoyable waves of Sturgeon Point, once calmly lapping at our beautiful rocky lighthouse shore had transformed into pulsating waves of mocking, taunting laughter that almost had me holding on for dear life.  “Time waits for no man!” They laughed.  “Your grip is slipping!” They provoked. 

Until it hit me.  Things came a into focus and I quickly settle back into the great joy of my lot.

I’m a husband, a parent, and an educator.  It’s not for me to want for stillness, but rather revel in the movement that drives all I’m supposed to be doing.  I’m supposed to appreciate growth.  I’m supposed to look on independence with gratitude and find the courage to step ever-back as they move ever-forward and even away.  I’m supposed to find the strength to continue showering those I love with that love while I loosen my grip on their hands.  

Sigh.  Joy.  Sigh.

There are ends to my beginnings too.  Good ones.  Headed into my fifth year as the principal of a warm and welcoming school community in a progressive, cohesive district I feel that a beginning may be at its end for me.  To be clear, I have light years to go in my capacity for service and in my leadership practice.  It’s just that I know a bit more than I did before.  I have a bit more skill on the foundation of a few more mistakes I’ve been gifted to make in the bit more time I’ve had to practice my job, craft, my art.

As we think about moving into another energized and exciting school year I say we consider intentionally relishing the end of beginnings as it comes to us, to each other, and to the kids we serve.

We’re built for growth.  We’re made for movement.  Even when it’s tough, which it is sometimes, we should find strength to celebrate the end of beginnings in the same fashion we would celebrate our most triumphant moments.  Then, we should breath deeply, reflect clearly, smile and move along.  

Cherished memories in our minds and our hearts and the conviction that our collective learning will guide us ever-closer to wherever it is we’re going…we should smile and move along.

In it together for the kids.

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

A Lucy Fist Bump: “Wonder Twin Powers Activate!”

When I was a kid I watched a cartoon called “Wonder Twins.”  The “Wonder Twins” were extraterrestrial superhero siblings; brother and sister.  Their super power was an ability to transform themselves in ways that allowed them to achieve amazing and otherwise extremely improbable things.  They could also communicate telepathically with one another and they had a pet space monkey named Glick.

In order to transform they had to fist bump one another.  They would extend their arms, bump knuckles, and call out, “Wonder Twin powers activate!”

Then there was an animated explosion of color between them and they would each enthusiastically describe their intended transformation. 

The brother (who could take the form of anything made of water) might shout, “Form of a giant ice monster!”

The sister (who could take the form of any animal) might exclaim, “Form of a five hundred pound gorilla!” 

After which they would proceed to subdue villains and save the day.  Nothing short of amazing!

Well, last week Lucy Calkins fist bumped me.  Can you guess what I was thinking at the time?  You got it…”Wonder Twin powers activate!” 

Then I thought (enthusiastically), “Form of an educator who can inspire real-time, meaningful, long-term, and transformational progress around literacy learning on behalf of the kids I serve!”

Lucy must have been thinking the same thing, because only moments later she was doing exactly that for a group of wide-eyed, energized educators from all around the world who were hanging on her every word!  I was one of them.  Nothing short of amazing!

Now, I’ve had no success at my attempts to communicate with Lucy telepathically and I saw no signs of a space monkey during the TCRWP institute last week, but we have the fist bump…and that’s something!

Maybe I transformed too.  It feels like I did.  I’m certainly inspired!  

Also, I feel like it’s doable.  I’m not a giant ice monster or a five hundred pound gorilla, but I am something at least slightly different than I was before.  Lucy told me to go back home as “the consummate learner.”  Maybe that’s just what she turned me into.

To be clear, I can’t remember a time when learning wasn’t a priority, but I am energized in a new way having spent the week at Columbia.  I’m infused with tools and tips from the TCRWP team and I’m aching to take the learning and use it to share in even more learning with the team I serve back home.  

I’m super excited to dig deeper into the power of Writers Workshop with my district and school community partners!  

I’m eager to read and to hear what words flow from our students’ minds as they learn to share their truths with even more purity, style, and skill!  I’m grateful.  I’m ready.  

Did I mention super excited?

“Wonder Twin Powers Activate!”

It makes sense.  After all, what does “the consummate learner” do if not wonder?  

I can’t say for sure that Lucy considers herself my “Wonder Twin,” but having listen to and learned from her last week I believe she’d appreciate the literary reference, the playfulness, and the fun of it.

The truth is that we should all be “Wonder Twins.”  If nothing else, Lucy reminded us that this journey is about a process and not a product.  She reminded us that it’s about “wonder” in its varied forms; the “wonder” that comes in question form and the wonder that comes in awe form.  

Lucy told us that writing should bring people together and build genuine relationships.  She told us that it should “breath life into the comings and goings of the moments of our lives.”  

She told us we must listen really closely to our kids and be courageous in response, and that we have to create classroom and school communities in which our kids can do the same. 

She told us that “writers’ notebooks should bristle with vulnerable truths,” and that “people should gasp when they hear each others’ stories.”

She showed us that kids are capable of amazing expressions of truth, power, pain, and joy, and that we are capable of guiding and coaching them into the capacity to deliver those amazing expressions to the their peers, to the communities in which they live, and to the world.  

She inspired us into believing, and in doing so she expanded our potential infinitely.

“Wonder Twin Powers Activate!”

These are my sketchnotes from the institute: TCRWP June 2018 SeB Sketch Notes-pin97b

They’re not my original thoughts and ideas, but rather a frenetic attempt at capturing as much of what Lucy Calkins and her amazing team shared with us during the week.  I plan to use them in conjunction with multiple other tools to share in ongoing collaborative thinking and learning with the team I serve in the upcoming school year. I also plan to share details of that learning journey here and through various other media including Twitter.

Please feel free to use them as well if you’d like (and if you can read them). If you do, please feel free to reach out with feedback and for collaboration along the way.  Actually, whether or not you do, please feel free to reach out with input and for collaboration along the way!

“Wonder Twin Powers Activate!”

Now, as Lucy would say, “Off you go!”

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!

I Might Not Love My Favorite Color!

We were in the car on our way to Sunday school. Our oldest asked where our youngest was. I reminded him that his little brother doesn’t go to Sunday school. He gets to stay home with his mommy (or his daddy – depending on the day). The big guy declared, “I wish I was him!”

It’s an interesting thing to wish you were someone else. We often forget, when wishing to be someone else, that if were the “someone else” we’re wishing to be, we would have to be all of them, and not just the desirable part that sounds groovy in the moment.

I told the big guy that if he were his two-year-old brother, not only would he get to stay home during Sunday school, but he would also not know how to read words yet. Instead of finishing the last chapter in his latest Minecraft book, he’d be back to doing “Elephant and Piggie” picture walks, which are fun and exciting, but not the same. His eyes scrunched up, one brow raised, and he gave it some thought.

I told him that if he were the little guy he’d still be scared to go in the basement playroom by himself, he couldn’t ride a two wheeler, he wouldn’t get to go on the water slide at the pool, and “The Lego Movie”…forget about it! Now the wheels were turning.

The three big sibs spiraled into a collective thinking rampage!

“If I were you I couldn’t….”

“If you were me you wouldn’t…”

“You don’t like…”

“She doesn’t think…”

Then, like a meteor crashing into the village square, our uniquely sophisticated four-year-old daughter announced, “Hold on, if I were someone else I might not love my favorite color…orange!

The pigment washed out of each of their little faces. A collective gasp resonated through the back seat of the truck cab. Shockwaves shuddered palpably through them.

Wide eyed and confused, they looked around at one another unable to conceive of a world in which this kid’s favorite color wasn’t orange. It would have completely changed her…to the core.

It wasn’t something any one of them could consider without extreme discomfort. Just the thought of it sent them into a bizarre, kid-world, communal grief state of being.

Slumped over and deflated from the impact of such an outlandish paradigm, our six year old sighed, “I’m sure glad you’re you.”

They all shook their heads in agreement before staring out the windows for a few moments of reflective thinking. It was pretty darn cute. I smiled, but held back the laughter so as not to ruin the moment.

So here it is though, and from the hearts, minds and mouths of babes, a pretty solid and simple truth:

We are each what we each are.

Moreover, that we are each solidly and simply what we each are, might very well be for the best thing, for each of us and for each other.

I’ve been told that genuine serenity results only from true fulfilledness in what we are and what we have, rather than wantfullness around that which we are not and that which we don’t have, and while I’m quite certain that neither “fullfilledness” or “wantfullness” are actual words, I agree with the premise.

How do we, as parents and educators, support the kids we serve in finding the type of serenity that comes from self-appreciation?

How do we refrain from pushing and shoving our kids into directions that their spirits don’t advocate for or enjoy?

How do we set a standard expectation for self-love while modeling humility, providing opportunities for interest and ability-driven growth, engaging in interactions that promote understanding, compassion, and kindness, while creating learning environments that afford our kids safe passage along the sometimes painful, but arguable natural and necessary, oscillating pathways of simultaneous progressive-exploration and static-being that are holistically unique to each of them, and do so in conjunction with rich the collective development needed to thrive in this world of diversity?

Frankly, it beats me…but it’s stuff I find worth some reflective consideration as I seek to serve them well.

Meanwhile, I’ll try to stay on course with some good old fashioned modeling. Given that if I were someone else I might not love my favorite color, I think I’ll simply continue being me.

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.