I am not awesome. Yet.

I am not awesome. Yet.

I walked out of the grocery store knowing that I forgot something. I always forget something, even when I make a list. I never remember my reusable grocery bags either. I usually end up sweaty and flustered by the end of the shopping trip. Today was no exception.

As I loaded the groceries into my trunk, I looked over at the woman parked next to me. Not only did she have her groceries perfectly bagged into reusable grocery bags, she was loading all of her refrigerated and frozen foods into empty coolers she had waiting for that very purpose. She was humming peacefully, looking calm and ready to tackle a day full of productivity. 

I looked away, wiped my sweaty brow, and said to myself, “I want to be her when I grow up. #lifegoals.” 

I didn’t concern myself too much that she was probably younger than me. Also, when did I start talking to myself in hashtags?

I am not awesome. Yet.

I have my very own workbench in our pole barn. It is super cute and very functional. I used it like three times in the month after I got it before it became piled over with stuff. I want to be crafty and Pinterest-y, I really do. But, my creativity waxes and wanes.

I am not awesome. Yet.

My house is usually pretty clean and organized. But my car? Forgettaboutit. A disaster always.

I start each day with goals for how I will eat and exercise. I’d say there is a 75/25 chance I will come close to accomplishing my goals, as in 25% of the time I am remotely successful.

I am terribly uncoordinated. Just ask my friend who allowed me to drive her dinghy the other day–I don’t think she intended for me to nearly drive it into the cottage next door.

I try not to be mean to others, but sometimes I get caught up in thinking about myself first and am inadvertently hurtful.

I am not awesome. Yet. Sometimes I just plain stink (figuratively only I hope). Why do I tell you this? To help us all to fight a disease that affects so many–the pursuit of perfection. I will never be perfect, I don’t even want to be. That would be so boring and give me so much less to laugh about.

I will try to be a little bit better every day. I will try to make sure my failures and short-comings don’t interrupt my enjoyment of life or the lives of the people around me. These #lifegoals will happen…but, the empty cooler in the trunk for groceries is waaayyy out of my league.

To laugh at yourself is to love yourself. -Mickey Mouse

Special thanks to my friend Adolf Brown for teaching me and others that the pursuit of perfection is a disease. What a weight off the shoulders!

A Poem for Principals

A Poem for Principals

So begins another school year
The smiles on our faces bright and clear

Excitement abounds at the possibilities embed
In a brand new year, a fresh start ahead

As the thrill wears off and the honeymoon ends
Let's compel each principal to carefully attend

To both the positive, exciting news teachers share
And the frustrations and criticisms they have because they care

They care about doing the very best for learning
And sometimes the feedback they give us is concerning

Don't dismiss complaints with a wave of the hand
Citing grumpiness or tiredness or unweilding demands

Listen to your teachers with an open mind and heart
Be a team, through good and bad, that no one can part

So begins another school year
The smiles on our faces bright and clear

Honest discussions, no right and no wrong
Echo through the hallways all year long

So that on the very last day of the year,
Surprisingly, we have to wipe away a tear

Because we cannot believe how much was accomplished
When really working together, the results astonished

Image source HERE

What will you ask your students the first day of school?

What will you ask your students the first day of school?

Quincy Elementary staff (the best school staff on the face of the planet, in my unbiased opinion) was inspired this week by Aaron Baker’s widely shared blog post titled “How Was Your Summer“. Mr. Baker reminds us that not all students have an amazing summer filled with frolic and adventure. So, we started sharing questions we ask to build relationships and honor our students their first day back to school. Here are some of our alternative first day of school questions:

  • Hi honey, can you remind me of your name again?
    • Note–this is the only question that is age-dependent. The older the teacher, the increased likelihood that this is the first question they ask students. Just kidding! However, we cannot dismiss the importance of this simple question and learning student names.
  • What are you excited about in our upcoming year?
  • What is one thing you would love to learn about or do this year?
    • Bonus–make a list of what each child says and surprise them sometime in the first weeks of school by reading a book that is on their topic or incorporate the activity they love to do.
  • Read The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown to students and have students write a note to their teacher about what makes them important.
  • What are you curious about?
  • What goal do you hope to accomplish this year?
  • What is the most important thing for me to know about you?
  • Have parents write a “letter to the teacher” about the things they love the most about their children. Share them with the students.
  • Tell me about a time you were brave. Then, allow student sharing to evolve into a discussion about how learning through failure and mistakes is brave and expected.
  • Make an ‘experts list’ by asking your students what they are experts in, and then list things they can’t do YET. Refer back to the lists throughout the year.
  • What is something you’d like me to know about you?
  • Read the book Ish by Peter Reynolds to spark a class discussion on how ‘getting it right’ looks different for everyone.
  • What goal(s) do you have for yourself this year?

We think it would be great for teachers to model answering the questions to help students learn what their teacher values. Principals, you are not off the hook either–how about empowering staff by asking them to share the most important thing for you to know about them, so you can support them throughout the school year?

I had the honor to learn from Mark Wilson (@MarkWilsonGA) and Joe Sanfelippo (@JoeSanfelippoFC) the other day, and appreciated their perspective that this upcoming school year is but a dot on the educational journey of our students. They asked us how we might honor their entire journey by learning our students’ stories.

Thank you Mark, Joe, and Aaron for inspiring us to turn it up a notch in order to value our students’ journeys beginning the very first day of school.

What will you ask your students the first day of school?

 

Just One Reason Why

Just One Reason Why

With some free time in July, I finally watched 13 Reasons Why. My 15-year-old son watched the series when it came out in the spring, and I was interested in discussing the series and the controversy surrounding it with him.

One of the concerns that arose was that mental health was not addressed strongly enough, and mental health resources were not provided within the story. I am not a mental health expert by any means so I will not address that concern. My knowledge lies more in the area of relationships.

As I reflected on the series, my thoughts kept going back to something that Dr. William Glasser taught us so many years ago. The most important thing in your life, right now, is not your past and it’s not your future. It’s the relationships you have in your life right now.

Are those relationships supporting you in meeting your needs for belonging, freedom, power, fun, and survival? Or, are those relationships interfering with you meeting your needs?

Dr. Glasser said that having strong, healthy, positive relationships can help you overcome just about anything. Actually, it’s not relationships–it’s relationship. Just one strong, healthy, positive relationship can help pull you through. Just one.

Just one. That doesn’t seem so hard. Then why is it so hard?

Maybe it is because we are innately selfish creatures, we humans. Maybe we are typically worried about ourselves rather than each other? Worried about how we are feeling rather than how others feel. Worried about how something might impact us rather than how something is impacting someone else. Worried about our reputation, what people will think of us, rather than focusing on the person right in front of us. Do we focus on our preconceived notion of how things should be rather than figuring out how things actually are?

I know I am all of these things.

How do we overcome this selfishness?

We let go of ourselves sometimes. Let go of our preconceived notion of how things should be. Let go of worry about ourselves and focus on the person right in front of us. Seek to understand before seeking to be understood. Ask questions and really listen to the answers. Be there, physically and mentally.

Who is your one? Who provides that relationship that grounds you to the very core of who you are?

And…

Who are you ‘the one’ for? Who do you support no matter what? Who do you try to empathize with, uplift, be with, completely understand?

All we need is one. All we need is one.

Image source HERE

Actor, Philanthropist, Set Designer…Just a Few of the Many Roles of a Teacher

Actor, Philanthropist, Set Designer…Just a Few of the Many Roles of a Teacher

The other day, I shared this quote from 'Best Teacher' on Facebook.

"Every school in America has teachers working for free on a daily basis. Go by any school parking lot early in the morning, late in the afternoon, or even at night or on the weekends, and you will see them. No overtime, no bonuses or promotions on the one–just doing it for their students! Teachers are using their free time, and often investing their own money, for children's literacy, prosperity, and future…"

A couple people made comments on the post I shared, and one person commented this:

"This happens in every industry where salaried professionals approach their job with dedication and urgency. It's SOP."

There certainly are many people in many different professions who go above and beyond, yet this comment helps me realize that people still do not understand what a dedicated teacher's life looks like. I brainstormed the list below based on what I see from teachers in my school. Take a look at this list and I think you will agree that many other professionals do some of these things, but I am not sure we can find one that does them all. And, this list is nowhere near comprehensive.

Actor: A teacher is not allowed to have a bad day, they need to be on their game in order to make every day count for student learning. That does not mean they are positive and upbeat every day. That means that they are good actors who have to push their own emotions aside for the benefit of students.
Philanthropist: Buying sets of glue sticks with their own credit card, not the school credit card. In fact, they have no school credit card. Often, they hide these purchases from a spouse because they spend so much on their classroom. So, in addition to being broke, they have guilt about it.
Set Designer: Setting up the classroom like a set of a play, single-handedly, to create an optimal learning environment.
Then, changing it, multiple times a year, when the needs of the students change.
Researcher: Endlessly searching for ideas to make school come alive for students, because our competition for their attention is video games, virtual reality, YouTube videos, etc.
Character Developer: Not only worrying about teaching them reading, writing and arithmetic, but also wanting to help them become the amazing little people they know they can be.
Public Relations Specialist: Managing a class website and/or weekly newsletter to make sure parents have the information they need to support student learning. Being active on social media–Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.–to garner ideas for the classroom as well as to share ideas.
Learner: Reading books, attending professional development, endlessly learning.
Data Analyst: Constantly analyzing the data we get from students, data collected in a formal way like through assessments as well as informal data like daily classroom observations. We input data into whatever system our school district has chosen and use the data to adjust instruction to meet the needs of students, to complete report cards, to inform school initiatives, etc.
Second Shift: Staying at school well into the night finishing up report cards, holding parent/teacher conferences, preparing for a field trip or the beginning of a big, exciting unit of study.
Dancer: Rehearsing a staff dance number after school to share with students during half-time of a student/teacher basketball game.
Accountant: Collecting money for things like field trips, keeping track of who has paid and who hasn't, sending out notices (sometimes multiple notices) when parents haven't paid yet. Then, paying out of their own pocket when a family can't afford to send in the money.
Counselor: Helping children work through any problems that come up–interpersonal problems, learning problems, family problems, etc. Then, communicating with parents–often well into the evening–to make sure parents are well-informed about what is troubling their child at school.
Comedian: Making sure that laughter is a part of the classroom every day.
Motivational Speaker: Inspiring students to do their very best work, to dream of the possibilities in their future, to support each other in the classroom.
Conflict Manager: Do you have a couple kids of your own? Ever have to manage their conflicts? Picture having 25-30 children, maybe more, and helping them manage their conflicts. We don't get to send them to their rooms, we have to support them in working out the problem in a way that works for both of them, while not interfering with the learning of the rest of the class.

You notice I did not even list the curriculum work teachers do–they are handed manuals and a list of learning goals and they are task with making sure each student progresses in the that curriculum in a meaningful way. As you can see, teachers are more than dedicated professionals, they are public servants who put incredible pressure on themselves to serve their students. I have to agree with John Wooden,

"I think the teaching profession contributes more to the future of our society than any other single profession."

Teachers, thank you from the bottom of our hearts for working for free, for embracing your varied roles, for being perpetual learners.

You amaze me every day.

You are amazing.

My Kids Are Incredible Failures

My Kids Are Incredible Failures

We went golfing a few weeks back and I was struck by how awful my 10-year-old was at hitting the ball. Yet, he wouldn’t give up. Whiff after whiff, he kept swinging the club, and he even started having a little fun by imitating Happy Gilmore. My eyes filled with tears at what an incredible failure he was. Tears of laughter and tears of pride.

I have been thinking about this post for a while now, and I have talked with both of my sons about the message. I have a very difficult time writing about parenting because I don’t claim to be an effective parent. Yet. The success of my parenting skills will be determined much later, when my sons are living happy lives, uplifting others, and defining their own success. The proof is in the pudding.

My sons are not little princes. They are little people–well, actually, it is just months before BOTH of them are bigger than me. The thing I want them to learn more than anything in this whole world is that they make their own happiness. And I want them to learn how to make their own happiness. That mission means they need to fail a lot. They need to laugh, brush themselves off, learn from their mistakes, and move on. With a smile most of the time. Although, it is a little ironic that I’m writing this while parenting a 15-year-old boy. He does smile often, just not at me at this point in his life. To him, I am a super dork, especially when I make musical.ly videos.

My kids have failed at pretty much everything at one point or another–from sports, to academics, to relationships, to keeping their rooms clean. They will keep failing, and they will keep being annoyed at my, “So what will you do now?” response. 

It’s a good thing that I am a failure too.

Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.

-Theodore Roosevelt 

Author’s Note:  This was posted with the full support of my contributing editors, my sons.

Loyalty: asset or a disadvantage in the fast-paced, ever-changing world we live in?

Loyalty:  asset or a disadvantage in the fast-paced, ever-changing world we live in?

A person can be loyal to a fault, don’t you think? For instance, someone who stays in an abusive relationship. Or someone who fails to change with a company only to work himself out of a job. Or a person who ignores an amazing opportunity to change her life for the better because of loyalty to her current employer.

Over the course of my life, I have often pondered the value of loyalty. Not only the value of loyalty in my own life but also the value of loyalty in general in the world today. Is loyalty an asset or a disadvantage in the fast-paced, ever-changing world we live in?

Change is nothing new, our world has always been in a state of change. Tales of woe and disbelief about change are nothing new either. Oh dear, I wonder what poor Thomas Sheridan would think of the language we use to text or tweet?

The total neglect of this art [speaking] has been productive of the worst consequences..the wretched state of elocution is apparent to persons of any discernment and taste… if something is not done to stop this growing evil …English is  likely to become a mere jargon, which every one may pronounce as he pleases.

-Thomas Sheridan, from the preface to the 1780 book A General Dictionary of the English Language

Thomas’ alarm at the state of the English language was a mere 237 years ago. Let’s go back even further to see what Socrates thought of the youth of 400 BC.

The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.

-Socrates

Luxury in 400 BC? Ha! As we can see, change happens, always has and always will. Are we better off being loyal, or are we better off being fluid with our allegiances?

When pondering something, it’s fun to simplify questions by looking basic information, like definitions, synonyms, and antonyms of words. Here is a Merriam-Webster definition of the word loyal:  the quality or state of being true and constant support of someone or something. 

Looking at antonyms for the word loyal, I was dismayed to find only words like “disloyal” and “unfaithful”. Those words do not adequately sum up the opposite of “true and constant support”. Might words like flexibility or fluidity fit better as antonyms for loyal?

Loyalty certainly has value, especially with relationships. I am blessed to have loyal friends, some friendships dating back 30+ years. I am loyal to my family and we support each other through the ups and downs of our lives. I have been married for over 17 years and loyalty to my children goes without saying; we are each other’s biggest fans.

Loyalty to sports teams can bring great joy or great sorrow. Yet, we likely would not have the great joy without the great sorrow because victory is never so sweet as after repeated defeat. Just ask Cubs fans. This Lions fan is still waiting for the great joy, ever so patiently.

Loyalty to a career or to an employer is in a precarious state as our world is getting smaller and smaller and options are increasing by the millisecond. In a world where people change careers over and over as they pursue their passions, loyalty to a career that may not be the best fit could stall chances for tremendous success. Loyalty to a particular employer could do the same thing.

Going back to the examples of being loyal to a fault…someone who stays in an abusive relationship. Or someone who fails to change with a company only to work himself out of a job. Or a person who ignores an amazing opportunity to change her life for the better out of loyalty to her current employer. Are these examples of loyalty or are they examples of fear of change or perhaps of a lack of self-confidence?

I have the answer, finally, that I have been looking for all this time. It comes in the form of a new definition of loyalty:

Healthy loyalty is the quality or state of being true and constant support of someone or something that helps you be the person you want to be.

Healthy loyalty checklist:

  • Is the source of your loyalty a fear of change?
  • Is a lack of self-confidence driving your desire to remain loyal to where you are?
  • Use five words to describe the person you want to be.
  • Does the change help you become that person?
  • Does remaining loyal help you become that person?

Please share ideas you have about loyalty, healthy loyalty, and questions to ask yourself when determining the source of loyalty.

SOURCE for Thomas Sheridan quote

SOURCE for image