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Getting Better At Work Doesn’t Always Require Being There

[This is a collaborative post by Jon Harper and Lisa Meade. We are both members of the neat blogging project #compelledtribe launched by Craig Vroom and Jennifer Hogan. As part of our commitment to blog more and support other bloggers, we decided to co-write this piece. We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we did writing it.]

Have you ever found yourself so busy that when you finally stop to rest all you can hear is your own breathing?

We all have!

On the other hand, have you ever slowed down enough so that you can hear the heartbeat?

And I don’t mean your own.

Recently we both found that if we stopped what we were doing. Just for a short while.

In one case, a day. In another, just an hour.

We were not only able to learn what we could not have at work.

We were able to hear and feel the heartbeats of our children and we realized that through them we have become better.

Better educators? Maybe.

Better people? Definitely!

Playing Hooky in New York

I was supposed to go to work today. At the last-minute, my son needed a driver/chaperone for a planned trip with friends to a nearby amusement park. I surprised him by taking the day off and joining he and his friends. Since they were at the age where hanging with Mom isn’t all that cool anymore, I spent most of the day in the background taking it all in.

It occurred to me that this trip to the amusement park and what was observed, can serve as a source of tangible reminders for all of us.

Surround Yourself With Good People

It’s heartwarming to see my son interacting with two dear friends he has missed. The same is true for me. I consider my PLN to be “good people”. Whether it’s through Twitter, Voxer or even email, it is a comforting feeling to know others are there for you.

Dance in the Rain

When we first arrived here, the sky was dark and overcast. The kids and I agreed that we would stick it out as long as we could. As they rode their favorite roller coaster, for what seemed to be 10 times in a row, I took cover under a tree and watched. I’m not sure Sam and his friends even noticed the rain. They were too busy laughing, posing for silly pictures and screaming their way through each trip on that coaster.

As adults, we should do more dancing in the rain in our schools. Rain could be seen as test scores, compliance issues, policy, etc. We could likely deal with that kind of rain if we had the mindset the children do.

Be Kind

Let others cut in front of line if you can. Say please and thank you to those who help you — especially the ride operators. At work, kindness still matters with grown ups too.

Learn to Let Go a Little

Try new rides. Face a fear. Since these kids are “almost teenagers”, I’ve been ten steps behind most of the day. I waited on a centrally located bench while they rode on their own. When they finished each section of the park, I moved to another centrally located spot.

This isn’t how we’ve done our trips before. I usually go ride to ride. But they asked me if they could have some space today. This reminded me of the teachers who we need to be empowered to let go and take risks. As I wrote this, I was relegated to a chair near the water park entrance. My role was simply to hold all of their bags. Doing this forced me to let go of my son’s hand. It also helped remind me that I need get better at this professionally too. Letting go is a good thing sometimes.

Stay Positive

If you believe the sun will come out, it will. Remember those dark clouds that met us at the gate? Two hours later, they have disappeared and have been replaced with sun and heat! Imagine if they didn’t take a chance on today? Imagine if I didn’t?

Naptime in Maryland

Since I live less than a mile from work, I am able to go home for a quick lunch. While my plan was to eat and head back to work in about a half an hour, that’s not what happened exactly.

You see, at the time I finished lunch it was time for my son to take his nap and the naps are my thing. I have always been the one to lie with our children until they fall asleep. This technique might not be found in the parent’s manual but I really don’t care because I enjoy and it works.

It only took an extra half out of my day, but in those short minutes I was able to learn more than I thought possible.

Be Patient With Questions

Even though my son was sleepy he still had a hundred questions in his head. They never seem to end. Why this? Why that? Sometimes I wonder if there is ever an end in sight. And once in a while, for about a second, I wish he would just stop asking questions. But then stop and appreciate what a beautiful thing this is. A precious little mind wanting to know more about the world.

I need to always remember this when adults come to me with questions. They are simply trying to learn more about the world around them. Be patient. Because the next time you have a question you would want the same. If you ever have a few extra minutes please watch this video. I promise you’ll be glad you did.

Learn to Be Still

While this is the title of an Eagles song, it is also advice that we should all heed more often. In my all of my years of putting kids to sleep, probably the single most important lesson I have learned is that kids will be still when we are still.

It is important to note that it is not enough just to be still physically. We must also learn to be still mentally and spiritually. If children sense we are stressed, they become stressed. When I lied down with my son to take a nap I was not the least bit worried about how long it would take. I was at peace with however long the process took.

And it happened quickly! It always works that way. When I am in a hurry and try to rush a nap, they take forever. We should remember to do the same at school. Students, staff and parents can sense when we are stressed and they then reflect our behavior. We must be the mirror.

He Knows Where To Find Us

Will my son remember that I took an extra long lunch to help him take his nap? Probably not. But does my son know that I am always there for him? Absolutely. The same holds true for my wife and his sister. We can’t measure the power of just being there for our children. There is no rubric for that. But one thing is for certain. It matters!

This is why we must always be there for our students, staff and parents. It means everything. If they come to us then we must stop what we are doing and be there for them. It may only take a minute or two. But that minute or two may make or break that person’s day. We can’t ever let that happen!

Back to Work

So as we both think back to the time we took away from our place of work we can’t help but think that we made the right decisions. If we had stuck with our normal routine we would have missed the chance to enjoy life a little more. Instead we were both able to squeeze in a life lesson or two that we know will make us better people and may even make us better leaders in the process.

Our hope is that we may have inspired you to take an hour, a day, or even a week away from your work so that you can catch your breath. We believe that  not only will this slow your heartbeat down, but it will help you to better hear and feel the heartbeat of those around you. And in the end they are what matter most.

“While we try to teach our children about life, our children teach us what life is all about.”

Angela Schwindt


2 comments on “Getting Better At Work Doesn’t Always Require Being There

  1. Tom Snyder says:

    Jon and Lisa, Impressive collaborative effort. I love the weaving of the personal and professional lessons that are related in this piece. Masterful!

  2. Ben Gilpin says:

    Lisa, Jon…Bravo! Your two stories had me thinking and reflecting throughout. Lisa, your story about the amusement park was easy to visualize and I was able to put myself in your spot. I have a 12 year old and I understand the need to let go at times. You had great reminders and excellent takeaways. Jon, once again you have a unique knack of taking a moment that most wouldn’t think much about and creating a moment of learning and connecting. You were spot on when you stated, “Students, staff and parents can sense when we are stressed and they then reflect our behavior. We must be the mirror.” For leaders, we must be the mirror…we must rise above the negativity.

    Well done you two, thanks for the inspiring post.


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