Balance, It’s About You

Photo by Aziz Acharki

This is the time of year when calendars are full. We do the best we can to juggle but oftentimes something gets dropped. More often than not, what gets dropped or neglected is self-care.

Yes, we went to the holiday concerts.

Yes, we managed to get everything graded.

Yes, observations are written and next year’s budget is completed.

But…

We now have very little left for ourselves and our loved ones. Some might say that what we need to focus on is maintaining balance.

But what does that even mean or look like? I recently caught up with Sarah Johnson, co-author of Balance Like a Pirate. She not only opened up about a time in her life when she lost her balance, she talked about how she was able to regain it and then some.

Not that many years ago, Sarah was at a crossroads. Sarah wasn’t sleeping well and she lost an unhealthy amount of weight. Her laptop was always open on Sundays and she would get irritated with her husband and children if they interrupted her work.

She realized that the people that were the most important in her life weren’t getting the best of her. It was about that time that an opportunity presented itself that she thought would lead to better balance and eventually more time with her family.

Sarah had the chance to apply for an administrative position that would reduce her daily commute from 35 miles to 6. The decision to switch schools is never an easy one and it wasn’t until 11:58 pm, on the last day the application was due, that Sarah decided to push send.

She got the job!

But to her surprise. Things didn’t improve.

It wasn’t about the 6 miles. The solution was about much more than distance. Sarah realized that she had to start taking better care of herself. She had to find balance.

And she did!

On July 11th, 2014, Sarah began a running streak that, to this day, she has maintained. Sarah has run every day since. Uhhh…..what? Every day?!? Yes.

She said it is not about the distance or the pace more so than it is about the daily habit. Sarah was able to connect with fellow educators (Adam Welcome, Jessica Johnson, Jessica Cabeen, and Eric Ewald) on Voxer that helped her through this difficult time period. They were like her Balance PLN, if you will. Two of the folks in her Balance PLN, Jessica Johnson & Jessica Cabeen, were also the co-author of Balance Like a Pirate.

Sarah’s parting advice for listeners was to “take some time to figure out what you’re lacking.” It sounds simple, but how often do we actually do it? We analyze student data, scrutinize school test scores and read about current trends in education. But how often do we stop and give ourselves the time and the space needed to determine what we need?

While the episode of My Bad with Sarah was just released about a week ago, I have had the audio for almost a month. And for the past month, I have told myself that I needed to write this piece to accompany the podcast. But for some reason, I couldn’t sit down and knock out the words.

And every day that passed that I hadn’t written the piece was a day that I felt worse about myself. Why couldn’t I just sit down and get it done? I had the time. I love the topic. Sarah was awesome in the interview.

It finally hit me last night.

I didn’t need to write the piece. I had been spending more time exercising, reading and working on other projects. It was time for me to stop feeling guilty for not writing a freakin’ blog piece.

But then, guess what happened?

I wrote it.

Balance my friends.

It is all about balance.

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Making Those Dreaded, Stressful, Parent Phone Calls

Photo taken by rawpixel

It is something that I use to dread when I was a teacher. Heck, as an assistant principal I still get a little nervous when I know I’ve gotta make one. What am I talking about?

Making a stressful phone call to a parent.

Sometimes I put it off until the end of the day because I just don’t want to deal with it. This strategy only makes matters worse. The phone call hangs over my head all day. I can never completely block it out.

I don’t imagine I am alone.

Mandy Froehlich and I recently interviewed Todd Whitaker on Teachers’ Aid to get some advice on how to better handle and approach uncomfortable parent phone calls. What we got was a 10-minute masterclass.

 

Two Tips to Help Ease the Stress

First, Todd couldn’t emphasize enough how important it is to build the relationship before you need the relationship. In other words, the first call home that a teacher makes should not be to deliver bad news.

I am guilty of this.

The beginning of the year gets away from us. Everything is running smoothly. We put off making the positive phone calls home because we’re tired and quite frankly, nothing is wrong. And then it happens. We have to make that dreaded call home and we realize that it is going to be the first phone call home.

Yikes!

This is why it is so important to build a relationship with parents early. At the very beginning of the year. Better yet, call to introduce yourself before the year even starts. Then once the year gets going, make it a habit to make two positive phone calls a day. Again, I am not saying that I did this; but I should have. It would have made those difficult calls home easier and less stressful.

The second tip Todd gave was for administrators to teach teachers what to say to parents when it comes time to make a difficult call. He wasn’t implying that teachers don’t know how to make these calls. It’s just that administrators have much more practice. As Todd mentioned, a principal might have to make a dozen of these calls per week whereas a teacher might only make one per semester.

Administrators or even veteran teachers, often know what approaches work well and which ones bomb. Todd believes that we need to go so far as telling teachers exactly what to say when they get on the phone. It’s not that he thinks teachers are incapable of finding the right words, it’s just that he knows how difficult it can be in the heat of the moment.

Todd would often save up difficult calls and invite new teachers into his office to listen to him make the call. He knew that some of the calls might go poorly. And he wanted teachers to observe how he stayed calm and respectful throughout. When it came time for the teacher to make the call he would offer to sit next to them and provide support and even tell them exactly what to say, if need be.

 

How to Handle Sharing a Mistake

Todd started off with the obvious.

Apologize.

While apologizing might seem like the obvious thing to do, it oftentimes never occurs. In fact, Todd mentioned research indicating that an overwhelming majority of lawsuits against educators could have been avoided if an apology had been made.

He also talked about how to handle situations in which something bad happened but it wasn’t the educator’s fault. These are the types of calls that I often have to make. I hate them. Despite the fact that I haven’t done anything wrong, I feel bad and dread the call.

Todd said that the key to handling these calls lies in how we frame our language. When we make these types of calls we begin by saying, I am sorry that ____ happened. It doesn’t imply any guilt on our part but it does let parents know that we empathize. It shows we care and that we wish it never happened.

 

Okay, But He’s Todd Whitaker, I’m Not

Towards the end of the interview, I had to say what many of you might be thinking. Or maybe it was just me. I mean, all the advice we got was great and I know Todd was right. But he’s Todd Whitaker. He speaks in front of thousands of people. He’s done this for years. He has even written a book on this topic, Dealing With Difficult Parents & With Parents in Difficult Situations (which is awesome by the way).

I am not going to be able to handle these phone calls as well as Todd. I took notes. I’ve listened to the interview five times. But I still feel anxious. I am not looking forward to that first difficult call post Todd Whitaker’s advice.

What do I do?

Todd gave two great pieces of advice.

  1. Write out exactly what you are going to say ahead of time. This way you won’t be struggling for the right words in the heat of the moment.
  2. If the conversation goes left, focus on the future. In other words, you and the parent may not see eye-to-eye, but you can both agree that you want things to be better. Try to steer the conversation towards the common ground.

Interviewing Todd was definitely time well spent. Mandy and I came away with so many good tips. If you enjoyed this piece, I think you’ll like the interview even better. Todd was a wonderful guest and as always, he makes you feel like you’re right there in the room with him.

 

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We Need Them

Photo by Alexandr Podvalny

In the wake of yet another tragedy, educators will be spending time in the coming week trying to help students cope/manage/understand (don’t know if there is a correct verb) all that has taken place. Not a day goes by in which I am not in awe of educators’ ability to provide comfort and support to children when they need it the most. It’s what they do. While they probably knew that a portion of their days would be spent helping meet their students’ social and emotional needs, I can’t imagine educators were expecting to have so many needs of their own.

But they do.

We do.

Yes, there are supports in place to help us cope with our social and emotional needs. Awareness of our needs is gradually increasing. Yet, I can’t help but think that is an untapped resource that we are neglecting.

Our students.

You read that correctly.

I believe that our students can help us if we just let them in.

 

They Are With Us Every Day

Think about it. We spend between one and seven hours with our students each day. While I am aware of the fact that we are the ones that are supposed to be taking care of them, I believe that they have the potential to help us. They notice things that we don’t. They can tell when we are upset or stressed. I know we are supposed to leave our issues at the door. But let’s be real. That’s impossible.

If we are having a rough day, why not reach out to them. I am not implying that we lie back on the sofa and empty our souls. What I am saying is that it is okay to let our students know when we are not ourselves. I have found that oftentimes they will empathize with us. They can surprise us if we let them.

 

All grown-ups were once children … but only few of them remember it.

― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

 

We aren’t that different

The students that we spend our days with, whether they be 7 or 17, need to know that we are struggling too. Not that this will make them feel better. But what it will do is let them know that they are not alone. That we often deal with the same type of sh%$& that they do. We experience self-doubt. We get nervous. We have anxiety.

By opening up to our students, it gives them the courage to do the same. With us. With each other. With their friends. It seems as if every week we hear of someone who is struggling or worse, has taken their life. And yet we had no idea. We can’t let this continue.

 

Why do they treat us like children? they said & I said why do you treat them like adults?
& their eyes opened wide & they began to laugh & talk all at once & suddenly everything looked possible again.

― Brian Andreas, Trusting Soul

 

Better Together

We need each other. Our days are spent trying to find ways to help our students and our nights are spent trying to find ways to put ourselves back together. It is time we start opening up to our students — letting them in.

What we are going to find is that once we realize that we need them as much as they need us, we can start to heal and grow and rise together. The children that we spend our days with are amazing. And so are we. But we are also tired. Just like them. Let’s be tired together so that we can then get stronger together.

I think it’s worth a shot.

 

There are things that you have to do, not that you want to do, and those things even though you still have to do them, and they might not be great, they are better because you are doing them together.

Mary Marantz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Night Before Tomorrow

I begin to prepare.

Mentally.

Physically.

Never knowing quite for sure what it will bring. But knowing that once I close my eyes. For good. It will be here. Whether I am ready or not.

Back and forth I go. It will be a great day says one part of my brain. And I mentally create a list of all the things that I hope to accomplish tomorrow. A smile spreads across my face. Because I know it is definitely possible. Why wouldn’t it be? I have had days like this before. Recently even.

But then doubt creeps in the back door. Uninvited. But making its presence known nevertheless. Why does it always show up uninvited? It plants unwanted seeds in my subconscious that always push and shove their way to front. What if this happens? What if that happens? It’s happened before. Recently even.

Focus Jon! Stay positive!

You can beat this!

Anxiety stinks!

But it’s real!

And I experience it. More often than I’d like to admit. Usually it hits me the moment I regain consciousness in the morning. How is that possible? I have just had the entire night to dream of rainbows and unicorns. Yet they disappear the instant the possibility of the new day becomes real.

I don’t get it. I went to sleep happy. The last words spoken to my family members are usually I love you or involve my son making some sort of butt joke. Five year old boys. You gotta love ’em.

So what gives?

Why do I wake up with feelings of anxiety? Is it because I fear what might go wrong more than I dream of what could go right? It’s certainly possible.

Sure. Tomorrow may not go well. But it may very well be the best day of my life.

Is it because I am making it too easy for doubt to creep in the backdoor? Maybe, but I don’t think that’s it. Doubt is something that every single one of us experiences. We have heard time and time again from successful people, whatever that means, that they too, go through periods of self-doubt.

And yet they persevere!

I need to start spending more time thinking about the possibility of all the awesome things that could take place in my day. Yet, instead doubt and negativity creep in the back door and take a seat right at my kitchen table.

It’s as if I have set the table for them and have offered to make them a plate!

What I need to start doing is leaving my front door unlocked. Better yet, why not leave it open? So that dreams and bucket lists can pull up a chair. I know they have been knocking. Why have I been so reluctant to let them in?

No longer!

Starting tomorrow I am leaving the front door open. I know that doubt and anxiety will still sneak in the back door. But from now on they are going to have to sit across the table from my dreams. And my bucket list that has had to wait outside for way too long. I am curious to see what happens next.

So will this mean that I will no longer experience anxiety and doubt? Of course not. That’s part of human nature. But I am going to start dreaming out loud and I am going to start working on my bucket list!

It is the night before tomorrow.

And I am excited for what the next day may bring. I am a little nervous too. But so what?

That’s life!

It’s time to open the front door!

 

Consult not your fears but your hopes and dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you have tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.

Pope John XXIII

* I wrote this post over 2 years ago. Before I started blogging for BAM Radio and before my podcast My Bad. So while I still experience anxiety and doubt—it’s not as bad as it used to be. And you wanna know what else? I am going after my dreams. Each and every day!

If you enjoy this piece and would be interested in receiving more just like it, join my email list by clicking HERE.

 

 

Better Tomorrow

dj

Photo taken by Drew Patrick

We hurried down to baggage claim because we wanted to get home as soon as we could. We had an hour and half drive ahead of us and it was already 9 o’clock. My wife and kids waited off to the side, while I waited right next to the conveyor.

Everyone was tired and just ready to go and it seemed as if it was taking longer than usual for the whole process to simply begin. I waited towards the back of the line. I am not the type to just jump right in the front. Looking to my left I noticed a tall African-American gentleman who if I had to guess, was about 35 years old. We struck up a light-hearted conversation and in so doing I discovered that he had been to Cambridge, the small town where I live. He told me that he had done a wedding there.

And then…

Before I knew it…

Words came out of my mouth that I regretted the moment I heard them. But it was too late.

I asked the gentleman if he was the dj.

Why would I ask that!?

He very easily could have been the dj. But he could have just as easily have provided an assortment of other services  at the wedding. I was embarrassed and ashamed. It turned out that he was the minister that had performed the actual ceremony.

I spent the next five minutes trying to engage in polite conversation. And it was. He introduced me to his wife and never once did he let on that he was offended by my ignorant assumption. I was so concerned with saving face and trying to make-up for my remark that I didn’t even notice that my wife and kids had gotten all four of our suitcases off of the baggage conveyor. Two of which were quite heavy.

I’ve shared this incident with my wife and a friend of mine, who happens to be African-American. Maybe I felt that sharing this with him would absolve me of any guilt I should feel. But it shouldn’t and it didn’t.

To this day I still can’t get over why I made those remarks. I think of myself as someone who is very culturally proficient and values and respects everyone for who they are and where they’re from. And I still think that I do. But I am owning my ignorant remark.

I have complete control over the words that come out of my mouth. Yes, social media is pervasive. Yes, we are bombarded each and every day with stereotypes. But that is no excuse for a 45-year-old who considers himself above making remarks like the one I made.

The crazy thing is I know many more African-American ministers than I do African-American dj’s. So why? Why did those words come out of my mouth? I don’t know. No excuses. Just moving forward.

Hopefully I can make this a learning experience. First and foremost I need to stop and think before I allow words to come out of my mouth. Because I believe with all of my heart, that if I had done so, I would not have made such an ignorant remark.

In moving forward I am trying to become as cognizant as I can of all of my actions and all of my words. The only thing I can do now is aim to be better than I was yesterday and lead by example.

A week after my airport incident I went into a Mexican restaurant to pick up a carry out meal. When I opened the door to the restaurant, right away I recognized the young girl working at the front desk. I smiled and said, hi Jennifer, it’s good to see you. I picked up my food, paid my bill and walked to my car.

As I sat down and got ready to drive away it hit me. The girl that I had spoken to was not Jennifer. Her name was Najeli. Jennifer was the name of another Hispanic student who had I knew from the school where I last worked. While both girls are Hispanic and about the same age, they look nothing alike.

I then thought to myself, what must this girl be thinking? That I didn’t remember her name? Or worse yet, that I simply confused her with Jennifer because they are both Hispanic? I didn’t feel good about either possibility. So I did what I felt was right. After a minute or two of self-reflection, I went back into the restaurant. Apologized to the young girl. And made it clear to her that I knew her name.

My apology did not excuse my airport incident. But it was a step in the right direction towards becoming a better person. That is all I can ever hope for.

By the way, I plan on being even better tomorrow.

My Bad

MY BAD IMAGE

I spend my days helping children learn from their mistakes.

Some as young as four-years old. Children who haven’t been on this Earth very long. Children who still look for our hand when they walk down the hallway. Children who sometimes call us Mom or Dad.

And here’s the thing. They do share their mistakes with us. We tell them that it’s okay to make mistakes. That that’s how we learn. It’s all a part of growing up.

Yet, what do we, the grown-ups, do with our mistakes?

We lock them up.

We try to forget them.

We hide them from the rest of the world.

But why?

 

This is just our first time playing this game called Life. And if it’s not. Well then what are we worried about anyway?

 

Social media is an amazing tool. It has forever changed our access to the world in which we live. We see everything. Or do we? I contend that far too often we are not. As Hope King, teacher at the Ron Clark Academy, says social media is a highlight reel. And while it is quite entertaining and fun to watch, it often doesn’t give us the full picture. They are not even close.

b2ap3_thumbnail_couros2.jpg

This image, created by George Couros’, was adapted from comedian Demetri Martin and included in Couros’ piece What Success (and Learning) Really Look Like, which talks about how learning can often be a messy process. And I couldn’t agree more. 

So if we know this, then why aren’t we sharing more of our squiggles? Why aren’t we pointing out more of our backward strokes? I think it’s time we start. Because when we do, it will not only give others courage to do the same, it will also allow others to learn from our mistakes.

Ten amazing seconds last year convinced me beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am right. Let me explain.

Last year when my daughter decided to sign up for soccer, I was excited. See, I grew up playing soccer and absolutely loved the sport. It was going to be my daughter’s first time playing on a team and I was curious to see how she would enjoy the experience. I was also a little bit nervous for her since she had never played soccer before and she just so happened to be the only girl on the team. Not that that mattered to me. I just wasn’t sure how she would handle all this newness.

It was amazing! She had a blast, despite the fact that she was still learning the sport. Most importantly, she had a coach who was positive and caring and did everything he could to make her feel good about herself.

What more could a parent wish for?

Well I’ll never forget the practice that had the potential to make or break my daughter’s self-esteem. Towards the end of practice the coach decided to have the team scrimmage against themselves.

No big deal. They had done this before and it was something that the kids seemed to enjoy. Towards the end of the scrimmage the ball rolled right to my daughter and she immediately kicked it and scored a goal.

The only problem was.

Iit was for the other team!

Uh oh!

These are the kinds of moments that have the potential for tears.

These are the kinds of moments that can shatter confidence.

These are the kinds of moments that can rewrite lifescripts.

Neither of the above happened!

Not long after she scored a goal, for the other team, they took a quick water break. I was holding her bottle and as she ran over to me I was prepared for the worst.

Instead, what took place was magnificent!

My daughter said to me,

 

Daddy you and I now have something in common!

I couldn’t believe it.

She remembered!

You see one day, I don’t recall exactly when, I had shared with my daughter how I had once scored a goal for the opposing team. When I was in high school! During sudden death overtime!

She had remembered the fact that, I too am human and that, I too make mistakes. Wow! I was so happy that I had shared that mistake with my daughter.

Because just imagine if I hadn’t.

I’m glad I don’t have to.

I learned a valuable lesson that day.

I learned that the sooner we start sharing our imperfections with the people we serve and the people we love, the sooner they will stop expecting to be perfect.

So today.

Right here.

Right now.

I am issuing a challenge. Start sharing your mistakes.

Big ones.

Little ones.

It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you start.

It’s time we start unabashedly sharing our mistakes.

I am officially throwing down the gauntlet. If you want to consider yourself a great leader and/or a great teacher, then you must start sharing your mistakes. And when you do, I want you to include the brand new hashtag #MyBad16. Why the 16? Because 2016 is the year that we start a paradigm shift.

And I’d like to take it a step further. If you are serious about becoming a part of this paradigm shift, then I am issuing you an open invitation. An invitation to appear on my radio show My Bad’ featured on the Bam Radio Network.

If you curious to see who the first person was to accept the challenge then click here. There’s not a person in education today who didn’t already consider my first guest to be a great leader. But I think you’ll be interested to hear what they shared. It just might surprise you.

So if you enjoyed the first episode, don’t stop there. Take a listen to the second.

And more episodes are soon to come.

I promise.

Because mistakes are being made every day.

 

First Episode: “The Day I Lost It With A Student”

Second Episode: “I Am Not A Perfect Teacher, I Have To Be Okay With That”

I Was Here On Time!

Are you freakin’ kidding me?

Of all days.

Typical.

Last week I had to take my daughter to get some bloodwork done. Nothing major at all. Just routine stuff. But as you well know, it has to be done in the morning and you have to fast for like a million hours.

Not a problem. The lab opens at 7 AM. I need to drop her off at school by 7:30 so she’s on time and so that I can make it to work by 8. The kids at my school arrive at 8:05. I had it all figured out. My daughter and I rushed so that we could make it out of the house a little earlier than usual. Not a big deal — but it took a little extra effort.

We were out of the house by 6:53 and arrived at the lab at exactly 7 AM.

Yes!

We jumped out, walked up to the door and pulled.

It was locked and the lights were off.

Arghh!

I guess that’s why the woman in the parking lot was just sitting in her car.

Great!

Not only would we be starting late, we had someone ahead of us.

At 7:12 someone finally arrived. She turned the lights on and unlocked the door. No sorry, no nothing. She was very short with us and appeared to be in a bad mood. We were the ones that should have been in the bad mood. We were the ones waiting for her.

I signed my daughter in and sat back down. After a minute I realized that I had signed my own name. I was so irritated that I wasn’t thinking clearly. I go up, scribbled out my name and wrote hers on top. It wasn’t neat, but that was their problem now.

About a minute later they called us up. I gave her my insurance card and paid the 20 dollar co-pay. As I was waiting for my card to be processed another employee entered the office. She and the woman who was waiting on me, the one that was 12 minutes late, greeted each other.

I heard one of them say something like, you too huh?

They began talking about how the manager couldn’t find anyone to open up.

And then it hit me.

They had been called last minute. To come to work. And wait on people.

People like me.

That make assumptions.

And overreact.

And make judgments before having all the facts. Before knowing someone’s story.

I was embarrassed.

This wasn’t the first time I had done this and, unfortunately, it probably won’t be my last. I made it a point to share my mistake with my daughter. Hopefully, she can learn from mine.

Life is busy.

School is fast.

We oftentimes don’t have as much control as we’d like over either.

But what we can control is ourselves.

Take time to learn someone’s story before you judge them. I am quite certain you’ll be glad you did.

 

 

 

First, Learn Their Story

I was standing right there!

Jordan had to have known that I was going to see him. That I was going to bust him. Maybe he didn’t care. Maybe he had already made up his mind. Maybe there was more to the story.

Like an Avenger or Marvel superhero, he jumped off the bus and roundhouse punched another kid all one motion. But I was right there. And he wasn’t getting away with such random violence while I was in charge. Not on my watch!

I grabbed him by the wrist, probably tighter than I should have, and marched him and his victim into my office. Once we were in my office, with the door shut, I laid into him. I mean I let him have it.

WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?!?

But …

WHAT GIVES YOU THE RIGHT?!?

But Mr. Har…

WAIT TIL YOUR MOM HEARS ABOUT THIS?!?

But Mr. Harper.

YES, I’M READY TO HEAR WHAT MADE YOU SO MAD YOU FELT IT WAS OKAY TO JUMP OFF A BUS AND PUNCH SOMEONE AS HARD AS YOU COULD?!?

I finally gave him a chance to speak. To share his side of the story.

 

Mr. Harper, last night, that boy that I punched, snuck into the shed in my backyard and stole my bike. And now this morning, he’s telling everyone on the bus about it. Everyone was laughing at me. He thinks it’s funny.

Wow.

I felt like an idiot. I tried to imagine how I would have felt if I had been him. I imagined someone stealing my SUV out of my driveway in the middle of the night. And then driving around my neighborhood the next day. Honking the horn, with his windows rolled down, bragging everyone in earshot that he had stolen my car.

I’d be livid.

I would have lost it.

I would’ve wanted to…

Let’s just say, I would have wanted to do exactly what Jordan had done.

Now, let me be clear. I am not advocating for violence. I’m just being honest. What would you have done if you were Jordan or if you had your car stolen and then…?

You get the point.

How often do we have higher expectations for our students — children — than we do for ourselves? I’m just sayin’. I know that I am guilty.

More importantly, how many times have we reacted to situations without knowing the full story? We assumed we knew the full story when we didn’t really have a clue.

Most of the time it is our students that fall victim to our assumptions. And we owe them better. They deserve to, at the very least, have their story heard.

Looking back on this event that took place almost ten years ago, I have one major regret. I know that I shouldn’t have gone off and lost my temper the way I did. That just wasn’t good. But that is not my major regret. No, my major regret was that I allowed myself to think the worst of Jordan. To judge him. To think that I was better. Shame on me.

I want you to know that you are not alone. We all make mistakes. And it’s not easy to admit them. But we must. I believe it is so important to display vulnerability. The sooner we begin sharing our imperfections with the people we love and the people we serve, the sooner they will stop thinking that they must be perfect.

 

*Jordan is not the student’s real name.

 

Below are links to several My Bad episodes in which educators made assumptions about their students before learning their stories. I think you’ll find them quite powerful. And again, you’ll see that you are not alone.

 

I Assumed I Was Helping My Student, I Was Very Wrong | Maggie Bolado

I Assumed I Knew My Student, So I Called Her Out: I Was Wrong | Trevor Muir

My Student Embarrassed Me, So I Embarrassed Him, Big Mistake | LaVonna Roth

Sometimes Growth Is Ugly Embarrassing and Hurtful | Don Wettrick

 

Like to watch movies?

Think vulnerability is important?

Check out my latest top five list: Five Vulnerable Male Movie Roles

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It’s Time

A knock on my door (Yes, my door is closed — this is the real world — not the fairytale world that is often portrayed in social media). I get up, open the door and am greeted by a teacher who apologizes for being sick. She asks if I have someone that can cover her class for the remainder of the day. Clearly, she is sick. I can hear it in her voice and I can see it in her eyes. I think to myself, I wouldn’t have lasted half as long as she did. Then again during my 20 years in education and 47 years on Earth, I have learned that women are much tougher than men.

I have witnessed this scenario, or one very similar to it, many times.

Too many times!

What is my point?

My point is that even when teachers are sick or have loved ones who are sick, they will often apologize for having to leave work so they can go home and simply rest, recover and care for their themselves or their family.

What are we doing to ourselves?

What are the long-term effects?

And what can we do about it?

As you may or may not know, I host a podcast called My Bad in which guests come on and share big mistakes. I believe that listeners enjoy the show because they often see a bit of themselves in the guests. They appreciate that the guests are willing to display a vulnerability that is rare on social media.

I believe their appreciation is largely due to the fact that they themselves are vulnerable. We are vulnerable. A quick peek at  the definition of the adjective vulnerable yields the following;

“susceptible to physical or emotional attack or harm”

“in need of special care, support or protection because of age, disability or risk of abuse or neglect”

 

This is us!

I read about it every day.

I witness it every day.

I live it every day.

 

Underneath my outside face

There’s a face that none can see.

A little less smiley,

A little less sure,

But a whole lot more like me

Everything On It, Shel Silverstein

 

It’s time to not only talk about it — it’s time to do something about it. I have something that will help with some of the biggest unmet social-emotional needs that every educator has. Let me rephrase that, we have something that can help. I say we because I am alone in my efforts to try and provide what you need — what I need — what we need.

Starting tomorrow — January 23, 2018 — I will be hosting a revamped and reformatted Teachers Aid along with Mandy Froehlich. For those of you who already know Mandy and her work — you know what she is going to bring to this podcast. And for those of you who you don’t, I have just two words for you.

Downward Dog.

Let me explain.

About a month ago Mandy wrote a blog piece titled Destigmatizing the Depressed Educator. It blew me away. She captured what many of us have been thinking and feeling and living for a long time. This was apparent by the number of people that thanked her for her words and honesty.

Oh yeah, the two words that I’ll never forget from her piece — Downward Dog.

Why?

Because in her piece Mandy wrote that what many of us need to become mentally healthy goes beyond Downward Dog. The yoga pose known to help people relax and decompress — literally. I thought her point was clever, brilliant and spot on.

Yes, yoga is nice.

Yes, deep breathing is relaxing.

And, yes exercising can help us to unwind

But raise your hand if you feel like you could use a little more. That is what we are hoping to provide each week with Teachers Aid. This will be a podcast like none you’ve ever heard before. We hope you will give us a few episodes to convince you. You can hear a preview of the show below:

“Yes, I Am a Teacher, a Very Good Teacher, But I Need Help Too”

The Kitchen Sink

My wife and kids leave for school about an hour before I do. Which means I have a good chunk of time to spend how I choose. Sometimes I use it well and sometimes I waste it. Don’t get me wrong, by wasting it I don’t mean that I am lying on the couch throwing down bacon while watching Sports Center. And by using it well I don’t mean that I am editing the final draft of my magnum opus. Probably somewhere in between both scenarios lies the truth.

But one day last week I was feeling anxious. Jittery even. And it wasn’t the coffee. It was nothing in particular. For those of you that have anxiety, like I do, you can probably relate. Those of you that don’t are probably wondering WTH I am talking about. I mean why was I feeling anxious if I had nothing to be anxious about?

That’s precisely the point.

Anxiety is often out of my control.

So with about half an hour before I had to leave for school I decided to try something that I thought just might work. No deep breathing. No gratitude journal. And no meditation. Nothing against either of them — they just didn’t make the relieve-my anxiety-cut.

But you know what did?

My sink that was full of…

Everything.

Dirty dishes and utensils were just sitting—lounging might be a better verb choice—in the sink. Daring me to take them on.

Challenge accepted!

I needed some jams to help me out here. Am showing my age because I just used the word jams? Does anyone even use that word anymore? Ahh,who cares?

My daughter had been listening to Khalid recently and I have to admit. His songs put me in a great mood. So, I put his album on and began tackling the sink.

I emptied the dishwater in no time flat.

Then I attacked the sink. The dirty utensils and crusty bowls didn’t have as much to say now. It was easy for them to give me the side-eye when they thought I didn’t see them.

But now that they were on my radar? Well, let’s just say they showed a little more respect.

As I moved and grooved to American Teen, the sink began to empty.

Forks. Knives. Water spraying. Not too hot, but just hot enough to get that oatmeal off of the bowl I should have rinsed better the night before. In a matter of minutes, the sink was empty and the dishwasher was full.

How you like me now anxiety?!

I no longer felt anxious and my jitters disappeared.

Crazy how something so simple was able to help me deal with something so complex.

But it did. Try it sometime.

The next time you wake up feeling a little off and not sure what to do.

Look around.

Find something that you can do with minimal effort.

Turn on some music that gets you moving.

And see what happens.

What do you have to lose?

 

This piece was inspired by Jennifer Gonzales’ Overwhelmed? Do 5 Things. I was going to try to summarize her piece. But then I realized that any attempt to do so would fall short. So, instead of hearing from me about her piece, just click the link above. I am certain you’ll be glad you did.

 

* To receive my weekly bulletin, 4 For U, aimed at providing social and emotional support just click the image below. It is less than 50 words and consists of 1 blog, 1 podcast, 1 short video and 1 quote.