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. Trust me.

We all make mistakes—some bigger than others. To hear some big mistakes made by some awesome people just click this link. Hopefully they will convince that we are all worthy of grace.

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

 

 

 

 

 

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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

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“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

fence3

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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Waiting

Oh my gosh.

I could taste it.

They have the best ice cream in the world and soon I was going to be tearing into a couple scoops of it. It is one of my favorite things to do when I go the beach. I often end up with a headache, because of the amount of sugar that I ingest. But it is worth it every time.

It was that time of the day when my energy level drops and so I was craving something sweet.We were at the beach with some good friends of ours and this was going to be a good time. We drove separately because between the two families, there were ten of us.

When we arrived, I noticed that there was a large family ahead of us. By large, I mean there were two adults and about four or five kids. I could feel myself getting just a but irritable. Normally, the wait wouldn’t be too long, but since we happened to be there in the middle of the afternoon, there was only one person working behind the counter. A gentleman that looked to be about seventy. Actually, I think he was the owner.

He calmly took each kid’s order. One at a time. And carefully prepared their ice cream treats. As he gently handed the kids their treats they each responded with a polite Thank You. Okay, now it was time for him serve the adults that were with them.

What was probably only ten minutes, began to seem like an hour. It was then that I heard one of the women order a milkshake. Are you….? That meant another five minutes! Oh, and by the way, milkshakes at this parlor are hand spun—with care and precision. I can’t even remember what the next adult ordered because I was so irritable. I know, I am at the beach getting ice cream and I’m seeing red. Embarrassing.

Okay we were next. I would be a gentleman, or really just an average human being, and let my wife and two kids go first. I’d waited this long. It was the least I could do. But then…

Our friends, the family of six, stepped ahead of us. What? Wait a minute. I couldn’t believe it. To be clear, they had no idea. And more importantly, they are some of the kindest people on the planet. They really didn’t know.

I quickly did the math. So now there were nine—yes nine—people that were going to get their ice cream treats before me! At this point, I was simply hoping that when it came my time to order, that I could summon enough energy to drag myself to the counter and place my order.

Well, since you are reading this, you can probably infer that I survived. I even struck up a conversation with the owner while paying for the order. This whole ordeal, which probably only took about 25 minutes, forced me to reflect.

Why was I so impatient?

Why was I in a hurry and when did I become so self-centered?

I think I was impatient because I live in a society in which I am able to have most of my needs and wants met immediately. I am not used to waiting. And so when I have to, I don’t know what to do. Oftentimes, I will pull out my phone. That will often give me the shot of dopamine I need to temporarily sustain me.

And, I believe I was in a hurry because my needs wants weren’t being met right away. I wasn’t starving and it wasn’t as if anything was going to happen to me if I got my ice cream right away or within 25 minutes. Yet, on the inside I was a petulant little child.

When I finally sat down and began eating my ice cream—everything changed. I was happy and in a much better mood. It’s important to note that, as far as I can remember, I did not outwardly express my frustrations throughout the entire event.

But it made me stop and think.

What is wrong with waiting?

Next time I will watch the smiles on the kids’ faces as they enjoy their ice cream.

Next time I will notice, and appreciate, how calmly and kindly the owner remains—despite the fact that he was running the shop by himself and the line was almost out the door.

The next time I have to wait to for something I am going to make it a point to enjoy and appreciate the world around me instead of focusing so much on the world within me. At least I’m gonna try.

A waiting person is a patient person. The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us.

Henri J.M. Nouwen

 

One More Square

i have been looking forward to this all day.

you are going to love this story.

you wait.

 

but the paper you laid on my desk is not big enough.

i need more please.

 

i ask to draw on the back.

but you tell me i can’t.

 

that no one will see what is on the back.

when you stick it motionless to the wall.

 

well, no one will know my story if you don’t give me space to finish it.

one more square please.

 

but you tell me one is all i am allowed.

then please tell me how i can finish my story.

 

i know i did not draw a roof.

that was where my story was to begin.

in the clouds.

 

and yet now it seems that that is where it will end.

 

i could have just as easily drawn a house,

with a roof

some flowers

and a sun.

 

but that is not my story.

my story begins in the clouds and …

 

well i’m really not sure how it ends.

in fact, i don’t really think that it has to.

 

end that is.

 

i watch the big timer move towards zero.

and i want to get up and smash it!

 

i won’t though.

i will end my story now.

using just my one square.

 

but know this.

you were going to be in my story.

 

i was so excited to share it with you.

you would have been magnificent in your cape!

 

but now i…

what?

thirty seconds left?

 

ok.

i’ll draw a line for the roof.

 

almost done.

a circle for the sun.

and a few quick flowers in the corner.

 

what?

i didn’t follow directions?

 

well, i am sorry.

all i needed was just one more square.

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The Big Four

Twitter, Facebook, Email & Voxer.

Twitter, Facebook, Email & Voxer.

Twitter, Facebook, Email & Voxer.

I couldn’t stop. I don’t know if it was the dopamine or the procrastination that kept this cycle going. Either way, it was getting out of hand. I had a terrible headache and was able to convince myself that it was okay to lie in bed and just keep going. It wasn’t as if there was anything that I had to do.

At some point, I don’t know when. I wasn’t timing myself. Heck, it’s a good thing because I probably would have added that to the rotation. But, my brain finally stood up for itself and said, “ENOUGH! You’re killin’ me. DO SOMETHING!”

So I did. I gave myself a task. And I wasn’t allowed to even glance at one of the big four (Twitter, Facebook, Email & Voxer) until I had listed 20 things that I could do to help move forward on three different projects on which I am working. Then and only then could I go back to the big four.

It was fun!

My brain was on hyperdrive. It had been dormant for the past several hours and was glad that it was finally being put to good use. Creating this list didn’t take long. Twenty minutes tops. Now, I told myself it was okay to go back to the big four. And I’m not gonna lie. I did. But not for very long.

Because you know why?

I wanted to get moving on my list. It was fun. I got started on four different things. This isn’t a fairy tale and I’m not gonna tell you that I stayed off of social media the rest of the evening. I didn’t. But I did slow down on the big four. And my brain did thank me. Heck, I must have slept well. I am wide awake at 5:30 AM writing this piece.

So, if you ever find yourself stuck in a rotation like I did last night. Don’t fret and don’t beat yourself up over it. Just stop. Find something to write with and something to write on. And start moving. You’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish. Your brain will thank you and you’ll feel a lot better.

Now you’ll have to excuse me.

I’ve got to get back to my list.

 

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.

MY BAD

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He Owned It

Brad Gustafson is someone who celebrates his students and staff like few others. Check his Twitter feed on any given day and you will see what I mean. And that is why Brad’s admission was so powerful. During our interview, I even gave him an opportunity to back out. But Brad is not that kind of leader. Not that kind of person. He said, “Jon that would be too easy.”

He is about as connected as an educator could possibly be. He is always finding new and innovative ways to challenge himself, his staff and his students. Actually, his reach extends much farther than that. Through his book, Renegade Leadership, his 30 second takes, his UNEarthed podcast that he hosts with Ben Gilpin and countless other initiatives, he has managed to challenge the rest of us.

The mistake that Brad made was one he didn’t even realize he was making. As previously mentioned, Brad does all that he can to celebrate the amazing things that are taking place at his school. He tweets out photos and videos so that the rest of us learn from and with he and his staff.

But at the end of the day, what matters most to Brad are the relationships that he forms with his staff, his students and his community. And as he admitted on the show, the way in which he was feeling about people just wasn’t coming through. He was so eager to highlight staff that were trying new and innovative practices that he lost sight of those that were not. Just because staff members weren’t doing things differently, didn’t mean they weren’t doing things well.

This wasn’t an easy admission for Brad. I could tell that it genuinely bothered him that he had overlooked staff. And though it was unintentional, it bothered him nonetheless.

 

My failure was…

do you see how I stalled there?

It’s like hard to even say…

but the failure was I disregarded

and I think diminished and made people feel bad

who were doing standard work.

Work that is critical to the operation of a classroom and school.

I don’t think I celebrated and noticed

and encouraged that enough.

And that makes me feel bad.

Like several other guests, Brad didn’t know that he was making a mistake until it was pointed out to him. And while these types of mistakes are seemingly innocent, they can often be more painful once they are brought to one’s attention. The fact that we have no idea that we are making a mistake, often causes us to question ourselves.

In Brad’s case, it was brought to his attention by several staff members. They noticed that many of his tweets were taken in classrooms in which teachers were taking risks with new and innovative things such as drone challenges, maker spaces or genius hour. But very rarely was he tweeting out photos from classrooms in which something new and innovative was not being done.

This oversight bothered Brad a lot. He is someone that prides himself in building relationships and he realized that at the end of the day, if people weren’t feeling valued and appreciated then that was a problem. As he mentioned, “perception is reality” and the fact that he valued each and every staff member didn’t matter unless each and every staff member felt valued.

That staff members were willing to approach Brad, the principal, and share with him how they felt, is a testament to the fact that he has built very strong relationships with his staff. That couldn’t have been easy for them to do and it must have been even more difficult for him to hear. To know that members of your staff don’t feel valued and possibly diminished is painful. Lucky for Brad he had staff members willing to point this out to him. Imagine if he hadn’t. Would he have continued making the same mistake?

I doubt it.

I truly believe that Brad would have figured it out on his own. It may have taken a bit longer. But he was already beginning to look inward and examine why it was he was feeling differently about certain staff. More than anything, he knew that something wasn’t right. And once he found out what he had been doing, or not doing, he began to change. Brad owned his mistake. He didn’t make excuses and he didn’t try to explain it away or blame someone else. He took full responsibility.

Moving forward, Brad knew that he had to start doing some things differently. He began making a conscious effort to notice and share the amazing things that were taking place in all his classrooms. Regardless of whether or not they were new and innovative or tried and true.

While I was writing this piece, some months after the interview, I wanted to see if Brad did what he said he was going to do. That is, begin to highlight a wide variety of classroom activities and not just the things that may be new or cutting edge.

No surprise at all. True to his word, the tweets I pulled up were diverse. They were. I saw one of students working in makerspaces, one of a student who had returned to school to pal floor hockey and one of students enjoying a beach day in their classroom.

Do I think Brad will ever stop highlighting and piloting new and innovative ideas? Not a chance! But do I think Brad will ever again overlook someone again? I am quite certain that Brad will not. Now will he make a different mistake? I sure hope so. And I have no doubt that he will share it with us in some form or another. Brad is not one to hide his mistakes. In fact, in his book, Renegade Leadership, he shares a mistake in each chapter.

Hopefully, reading about Brad’s mistake will help you feel better.

Why?

Because maybe you’ve made the same mistake before.

Or, maybe you’ll make the same mistake in the future.

Either way, I hope you come away knowing that we all make mistakes and we can all move forward from them.

Just like Brad did.

 

A true leader is one who is humble enough to admit their mistakes.

John C. Maxwell

 

* To hear the episode highlighted in the piece above, just click the link below.

I Made “Great” People Feel Bad For Doing “Good” Work

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Maybe We Should Make Him A Gift

Some children simply don’t know how to play. Let me be more specific. There are some children that we know have a very difficult time playing properly and safely with their peers. I know who they are and oftentimes when I am called to the playground I know it is them that I am coming to remove.

I’ll never forget the day I was called to the kindergarten playground because a young man had pushed and hit two girls. They had done nothing to deserve being hit or pushed. And though neither child was injured, I was still upset. Upset because this same young man continues to make bad choices despite the consequence he receives and/or the counseling that I provide. I truly believe that the way he plays at school is the way he plays at home and he doesn’t know any better.

Once I was able to get him to my office, I tried to talk to him about what he had done and why it wasn’t acceptable. No response. It is always frustrating when a child ignores you, but I have gotten used to it and I know not to take it personally. I was at the point where I had to decide what to do next. Do I give him a consequence or do I simply counsel him? Maybe I do both.

The one thing that I was certain of was that he owed the two girls an apology. So I called the two little girls down to my office. A place I don’t think either had been before. They came in and sat down in my chairs. I don’t believe their legs were even long enough to allow their feet to touch the floor. Both girls explained to me what had happened and it was pretty cut and dry.

It was at this point that I asked the young man to make an apology to the girls. He was determined to do no such thing. He wasn’t budging. I asked him again. Still nothing! This was making me angrier by the minute. These girls deserved an apology and there was no good reason that they shouldn’t receive one.

So I asked the girls what they thought we should do. Without a second’s hesitation, one of the girls, in her sweet five-year old voice said, “Maybe we should make him a present.”  What!? Did I hear her correctly? This child just got hit for no reason and her solution to the problem was to make the boy a gift?

Wow!

I told her that her idea was very sweet, but that she didn’t need to do that. I think the other girl looked at her like she had three heads. I’m sure her face looked much like mine when I first heard her solution to the problem.

But just stop for a moment and imagine the purity and goodness that was in this little angel’s heart. Maybe she was able to see what I was not. Maybe she could see it in his eyes. That what this boy needed was more love. Not punishment. Clearly whatever I have been trying so far this year has not been effective.

I’m not really sure what message I am trying to convey in this post. I think more than anything I wanted you to feel, if just for a moment, the warmth of a beautiful soul. Maybe I just wanted you to know that she is out there.

I have been doing this for quite some time now. And I have found that there is very little that surprises me. This week was an exception. Because while I hadn’t planned on issuing too harsh a consequence for the young man, I would have never thought to have made him a gift.

But you know. Maybe that is exactly what he needs. And it took a five-year old little girl to point it out to me.

 

Generosity is not giving me that which I need more than you do, but it is giving me that which you need more than I do.
Khalil Gibran
 
*My mistake in this whole thing was thinking that I was the one that had the answer, when instead I should have been looking elsewhere. I should have been looking to child. Lucky for me that she stepped up and told me what I needed to hear.
 
If you’d like to hear some more mistakes made by some amazing individuals, just click the link below.
 

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Knocking Down Blocks

Anyone that follows my blog knows that I am fascinated with the way in which my children interact with and interpret the world. I truly believe that they have much more to teach me than I have to teach them.

The difficulty lies in the fact that the lessons they have to teach me are not always readily apparent. Usually though, if I stop and allow myself time and space to reflect, I am able to come away with something.

I’ll never forget the day that I was experiencing a moment that was meant to teach me something, but I couldn’t figure out exactly what. Actually, I experience quite a few of these moments. My son and I were playing with blocks. We would stack them as high as we could. And then each time, without fail, he would take extreme pleasure in knocking them over.

But why?

Why does he spend the time building them up if he is just going to knock them over each time?

Think Jon think!

And then it hit me!

HE DOES IT BECAUSE IT’S FUN!

Why does there need to be any other reason than that?

There doesn’t!

“There are times when I think I’m doing things on principle, but mostly I just do what feels good. But that’s a principle, too.”

 

Brian Andreas

We spend the majority of our time reading and writing about how to increase student learning. And there is nothing wrong with that.

Or is there?

Have we become so focused on teaching them that we have forgotten that they have much to teach us?

I hate to admit it, but I have.

We spend our days and nights trying to figure out how to help our students become better readers and writers, mathematicians and creators, innovators and artists.

But why?

I believe it is because we want them to have a good life and we want them to be able to help others do the same. In short, we want them to be happy. The problem is that there is no standardized test that measures whether or not we have done this successfully.

So what?

We don’t need a test to tell us whether someone is happy. And yet we in education often fall back on the phrase

“If you can’t measure it, then you can’t improve it.”

And it’s not as if we ignore happiness, but it can fade into the background if we are not careful.

Silly sometimes becomes a bad word.

Daydreaming is often discouraged.

Messes are seen as problems.

We start to discourage these things in our attempt to help our children become College and Career Ready. And so we witness fewer messes, we see less daydreaming and we discourage silliness. Or like Peter Pan, we forget how to fly.

Why can’t you fly now, mother?
Because I am grown up, dearest. When people grow up they forget the way.
Why do they forget the way?
Because they are no longer gay and innocent and heartless. It is only the gay and innocent and heartless who can fly.

 

J.M Barrie

But Peter Pan was able to relearn what he had forgotten and I believe we can too. The problem is we are losing all of our best teachers.

Children

All children are born with wings, and yet we insist on clipping them because we believe we know better.

Do we really?

When was the last time you were as happy as a three-year old?

Most likely it was when you were with a three-year old who has not yet had their wings clipped.

I’ll never forget the day my son asked me if he could do something messy. I’ll be honest I can’t remember exactly what he wanted to do. But here was the exchange:

“Is it okay if I do it?”

“It will make a mess.”

“But if I do it, it will make me laugh.”

I remember this exchange for two reasons. First, I recorded it in my phone because I felt the moment was so poignant. And second, I didn’t let him do whatever it was he was hoping to do because I was worried about the mess he would make. And yet I felt it was important enough to record in my phone.

Shame on me!

I’m sure it would have been fun.

I’m sure he would have let me join in.

And I’m sure it would have been a start in helping me to regain my wings.

So start today

Be silly!

Encourage daydreams!

Make messes!

And above all else,

Knock down some blocks!

I promise you’ll be glad you did!

See you in the clouds!

As I travel on this journey called Life, I continue to learn from the mistakes I make along the way. That’s okay. I’m doing the best I can. And that’s good enough for me.

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.

Click the link below to listen to some absolutely horrible mistakes made by some absolutely wonderful people.

MY BAD