We Need Them

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

 

 

 

• “4 Four U” is a Social & Emotional Support bulletin that I send out once a week. It is less than 50 words. It will have links to 1 blog/article, 1 podcast episode, 1 short video and 1 quote. Click the image below if this sounds like something you think has the potential to make your day a little better.

 

 

 

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.

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.

 

 

Grace

I have a front row seat to one of the greatest shows on Earth. You see I get to watch the teachers in my building work magic everyday. Many get to school before I have even finished my breakfast and some do not leave until I am tucking my children in for bed. Their dedication is amazing and spending time with them each day is an honor.

This is why when I hear folks blame teachers for low test scores, poor behavior or low motivation I cringe. I can’t begin to imagine how teachers could do anymore. And so the next place to blame is the home. Parents and guardians are very easy targets because they are not us. Why would we blame ourselves when we know that we are doing all that we possibly can?

A child comes in without their homework. Their parents must not take their education seriously.

A child misbehaves in class. Their parents must not teach them right from wrong.

A child comes to school disheveled and a mess. Their parents must not care enough to properly dress and groom their child before they come to school.

Well, I can say from experience that sometimes the above statements are in fact true. But I can also say that many times they are not. And we should always assume the best and give each parent the benefit of the doubt. We should because it’s the right thing to do and we should because we would want our children’s teachers to do the same for us.

Thankfully my son’s daycare provider, Miss Janet, had known me for years and had always given me much latitude when it came to some of my parenting skills, or lack thereof.

Let me elaborate. I was the one that usually dropped my son off at daycare and oftentimes I was rushed because I simply wait until the last-minute. Well I’ll never forget the week I had two incidents that further convinced me to give parents the benefit of the doubt.

One morning I was in such a hurry that I somehow dropped my son off with his, uh, how do I say this gently? His little friend was not tucked all the way in his diaper or his pants. How does one miss that?! If I were to ever have a child walk into my school as my son did that week I would’ve probably speed-dialed social services. Luckily Miss Janet knew that I am often in a hurry and she knew that I am a good parent. Despite not properly securing my son’s little friend before dropping him off.

Later on that week I had another incident that further tested Miss Janet’s faith in me. You see, my son was in the process of potty training so he had been experimenting with underwear. Well on this particular day my son didn’t quite make it to the potty chair in time. So he peed. All over himself. Cleaning and changing him last-minute was not that big a problem. I have to do it often because he somehow times his “heavy diapers” so they take place right before we are getting ready to walk out the door.

But on this occasion my son not only soaked his clothes, he also soaked the only decent pair of shoes he has. There was no “wiping them off”. My only other option was sending him in his old shoes which have huge holes causing half his foot to stick out of the shoe. I explained all of this to Miss Janet when I walked him in. As I mentioned earlier, she knows me and she gave me the benefit of the doubt. Thankfully!

Here’s the thing. I have lived and currently live a very charmed life. I am married so I have the luxury of having an amazing wife helping me raise my children. I work only one job and really don’t want for anything. Once I walk through the door each evening my entire focus can be on my family.

What about those that aren’t so lucky? Who are raising numerous children? By themselves. Working two jobs. Without all of the means that I have been afforded.

Can’t we give them the benefit of the doubt? I think we must. I think we owe it to them and we owe it to ourselves. What is the alternative? Thinking the worst of others? That is not right and it is not moral.

I would never want to be judged on my worst moments. I also realize that many of my students’ parents unfortunately have many more worst moments than I do, simply based on the cards life dealt them.

Take it from me. If I had been judged based on my parenting performance that week I would probably still be collecting bail money instead of publishing this post. So, please do your best week this week to give parents the benefit of the doubt. They deserve it and you will too one day soon. Trust me.

I do not understand the mystery of grace—only that it meets us where we are and does leave us where it found us.

Anne Lamott

If you are interested in learning about just powerful vulnerability can be just click HERE.

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The Fence

This afternoon my son and I went for a walk around our block. It was a beautiful day. The wind was gusting, but the sun had been waiting all spring to make its presence known. And today it did. Providing the kind of warmth that made the cool breeze feel welcome.

We held hands. When he allowed me to. He’s becoming a Big Boy, so hand-holding isn’t always permitted. Sometimes we’d race down the sidewalk. I would let him get ahead of me and he would turn around and giggle like only a six-year old can. Blissful moments like these I do not take for granted. And I try not let anything interrupt them. Hoping they will last forever.

But they don’t. Somehow, invariably, thoughts of work always seem to creep into this sacred space. Like an uninvited guest that is not welcome. I try to push them away, while simultaneously clinging tighter to the interrupted moment. This is a skill that I have yet to master. Actually, I am not even close.

Why is it so difficult to stay on one side of the fence? Is it just me? Climbing back and forth is very tiresome and can become quite dangerous. And yet when I am at work I do not have difficulty staying away from the fence. Why is that? Maybe it’s because I have complete confidence in the other side of the fence. I know that it will always be there for me. No matter what. I take it for granted. Is that wrong?

Whereas, when I am at work I never know from one moment to the next what to expect. It can be invigorating, exhilarating and frustrating at the same time. And so really, there is no time to even glance back at the fence. Then I go home. I cross the fence. To my place of comfort. My retreat. But from time to time I can’t help but glance back.

And when I do, I chance missing out on some of life’s most precious moments. I am guilty of this too often. Of not being altogether present, when I need to be. The other side of the fence is not going anywhere. It will be just the way I left it.

But if I continue to pay it too much attention, can the same be said about my side of the fence? The side that I come home to every day. The side where my loved ones expect, at a bare minimum, the same level of attention and concern I give to the other side.

This is not to say I can’t take work home. I can. And this is not to say that my work isn’t important. It is.

I just think that I need to stop straddling. Once my work for the day is complete. Once I have crossed over. I must not allow myself to look back. I must stay away from the fence. I owe it to myself. More than anything though, I owe it to those who have been waiting patiently for me all day. To climb back over. Where they have been waiting for me.

You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land, there is no other life but this.

Henry David Thoreau

* Balancing work and home can be very difficult. I have had two guests come on My Bad and discuss their difficulties with finding this balance and how they were able to prevail. If you can relate to this piece, I think you will find these two short interviews very helpful.

 

“I Burned Out Because I Thought Everything Was Important” with Jethro Jones

&

“I Lost Sight Of What Matters Most” with Dwight Carter

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I Must Do The Same

In those days, we finally chose to walk like giants and hold the world in arms grown strong with love. And there be many things we forget in the days to come. But this will not be one of them.

Brian Andreas

If I hadn’t witnessed it with my own eyes, I am not sure I would have believed it could happen.

Three times in three days!

But it did.

The first time I took a little bit of the brunt. Not much. But a little. The student had lost their temper and cursed and pushed and almost reached the point of no return. Almost. But not quite. And if I had gone with my initial reaction I would not have this story to tell.

Lucky for me I got some good advice.

Have the student and the teacher sit down together. To come up with a plan on how they could move forward. I knew this wasn’t going to be easy. The level of disrespect shown to this teacher was off the charts. And to be quite honest, I had no idea how the conversation was going to go.

It couldn’t have gone any better. The teacher had every right to be mad. To be livid. But they weren’t. They had every right to ask for their “pound of flesh.”  But they didn’t. This teacher did ask for one thing. To be treated with respect. A more than fair request.

Towards the end of the conversation I made a suggestion. One in which I probably had no right to ask. But in the hopes of rebuilding this relationship I thought it just might work. I asked the teacher if they’d be willing to take on this student as an assistant of sorts. Without a thought, the teacher agreed. The conversation ended with a firm handshake and gentle heart.

It’s moments like the one above that give you hope. They give you hope that you can make a difference. They give you hope that what you’re doing is worthwhile. They let you know that people are inherently good when given a chance.

So you can imagine my disappointment when two days later, the same student ended up in my office for a remarkably similar event. I was speechless! Didn’t they learn? Hadn’t they reflected on what took place? Weren’t they grateful for having been given a second chance?

At least I had learned something. I did not fly off at the handle. I didn’t make any rash decisions. Instead, I asked the staff member who was on the receiving end of the student’s anger to come to my office. While they made their way to my office I lectured the student on the inappropriateness of what they had done.

Once again, the offended adult was not looking for revenge or hoping for punishment. They simply wanted the student to do the right thing. Despite the fact that this staff member towered over the student by at least two feet, they did not look down on them. The meeting ended with a sincere apology and a firm handshake.

Not thirty minutes had gone by when I got wind that this student had disrespected yet another staff member. I took a deep breath and tried to fathom how this was possible. Was I being played?

I was able to speak to this staff member before we met with the student. And once again, the staff member’s main concern was for the student, not for themselves. In fact, they told me they just knew that they were going to win this kid over.

What!?

Here, this grown adult was threatened and disrespected and all they wanted was to win this kid over. And I can tell you because I was in the room. That’s exactly what they did! Hugs were exchanged and smiles were warm.

As I sat and reflected on what I had witnessed over the past three days I couldn’t help but feel honored. To get to work with such amazing people each and every day is a gift. The work we do is hard. But when you work with good people it’s not as hard as it could be.

The student and I sat for a while. And I have to think that they were just as amazed as I was at the unconditional forgiveness that we had witnessed over the past three days. My charge to the student was that they now  were to try and show the same unconditional forgiveness the next time they feel as if they had been treated unjustly.

And you know what?

I must do the same.

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The Fence

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This afternoon my son and I went for a brief walk around our neighborhood. It was a beautiful day. The wind was gusting, but the sun had been waiting all winter to make its presence known. And today it did. Providing the kind of warmth that made the cool breeze feel welcome.

We held hands. When he allowed me to. He’s becoming a Big Boy, so hand-holding isn’t always permitted. Sometimes we’d race down the sidewalk. I would let him get ahead of me and he would turn around and giggle like only a three-year old can. Blissful moments like these I do not take for granted. And I try not let anything interrupt them. Hoping they will last forever.

But they don’t. Somehow, invariably, thoughts of work always seem to creep into this sacred space. Like an uninvited guest that is not welcome. I try to push them away, while simultaneously clinging tighter to the interrupted moment. This is a skill that I have yet to master. Actually, I am not even close.

Why is it so difficult to stay on one side of the fence? Is it just me? Climbing back and forth is very tiresome and can become quite dangerous. And yet when I am at work I do not have difficulty staying away from the fence. Why is that? Maybe it’s because I have complete confidence in the other side of the fence. I know that it will always be there for me. No matter what. I take it for granted. Is that wrong?

Whereas, when I am at work I never know from one moment to the next what to expect. It can be invigorating, intimidating and exhilarating at the same time. And so really there is no time to even glance back at the fence. Then I go home. I cross the fence. To my place of comfort. My retreat. But from time to time I can’t help but glance back.

And when I do, I chance missing out on some of life’s most precious moments. I am guilty of this too often. Of not being altogether present, when I need to be. The other side of the fence is not going anywhere. It will be just the way I left it.

But if I continue to pay it too much attention can the same be said about my side of the fence? The side that I come home to every day. The side where my loved ones expect, at bare minimum, the same level of attention and concern I give to the other side.

This is not to say I can’t take work home. I can. And this is not to say that my work isn’t important. It is vitally important.

I just think that I need to stop straddling. Once my work for the day is complete. Once I have crossed over. I must not allow myself to look back. I must stay away from the fence. I owe it to myself. More than anything though, I owe it to those who have been waiting patiently for me all day. To climb back over. And not look back.

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