I sure hope everyone who reads my blog knows that, just because I post a blog about something doesn't mean I am any sort of expert on the subject. On the contrary, some of the topics about which I write are the very ones I need to work on improving the most. The Indigo Girls used to sing a song with the lyrics "Everything that I believe is wrong with you is wrong with me." The way I see that lyric is that when I see someone that "needs" to hear something I have to say, it is likely because I need to work on that very trait or character defect myself.
Case in point: this blog on how I believe we need to focus on our own actions versus worrying so much about how the other person is going to react. One of my favorite youtube videos is this precious nugget my friends and I affectionately call "Worry 'bout yourself" . My sense is that you will either love it or hate it. You'll either believe this girl is hilarious or she needs a time-out for being sassy. I look at it as advice for myself: I need to worry about myself, which means that I need to worry less about what everyone else thinks of me and what I should/shouldn't do and simply act in the way that God intends me to act.
For instance, a dear colleague and friend of mine, Dar, and I were talking about the huge homeless issue in our town. She said she had made up bags to pass out when she sees someone in need. I loved the idea and made up bags, too: bags filled with nuts, granola bars, water bottles, etc. I was able to give two away yesterday and was thanked for the gift by both folks. A friend was making fun of me, saying, "They probably aren't homeless anyway" and "They will probably throw it away when they see it isn't money they can use to buy alcohol." I get it. If it isn't your thing, you definitely shouldn't do it. However, the way I see it is: It is none of my business what happens to that bag of goodies the minute it leaves my hand. I honestly believe I have control of what actions I take (i.e. making bags, giving them away, etc.) but absolutely no control (nor business trying to control) what reactions come from that (i.e. throw away my bags, shout at me for not giving money, etc.).
In the same way, I have to say the same thing about doing the right thing when I am working with other people. I once worked with a teacher who was a bit negative about life and people (Do you hear an understatement radar going off? It should be). Let's call her Karen. Every so often, I would put little notes in staff mailboxes with candy attached to them. One of my colleagues said, "I used to put one in Karen's box, but she never says 'thank you', so I quit doing it." Oh Lordy, I completely understand that feeling. If we do something for a co-worker or friend, we really appreciate a "thank you". The problem is when it becomes an expectation. You know the kind. "I did this for her, so she should have done this for me." or "I always share my lesson plans with him but he never does it for me." Expectations are, as some very dear friends often remind me, resentments that just haven't happened yet. No matter if you are in education or in any field of work, you likely have experienced this phenomenon. We do something for someone and we expect something in return. You might say, "No, no, no, Shelly. I don't need them to send me flowers if I send them flowers." Okay, fair enough. But if you send flowers, do you expect a "thank you"? Expectations can eat our lunch!
I read this article called "9 Things Emotionally Intelligent People Won't Do" and I found it to be incredibly helpful. The biggest thing I saw that emotionally intelligent people won't do is let others limit, or steal, their joy. If I want to put notes in the boxes of my staff at school, then I should, by all means, do it. If it makes me happy, great. The problem is when I think others should react in the same way that I would or the way that I think they should. That gets me in trouble every.single.time.
Just for today, perhaps we can figure out what our reasons are for wanting to do certain things and be certain we aren't doing them expecting a particular reaction from other people.
Now, excuse me. I have more bags to make for people in need.
I have a confession to make. In a couple of weeks, I will begin teaching an Educational Law class. No, that is not the confession. Oh how I wish it was, as that is pretty mundane, right?? Here is the confession. I may or may not have loved Educational Law when I studied it, myself. It may or may not have been the hardest thing I ever studied. I may have (forget the "may not"; I think you see through my evasive tactics) said, "This is yicky" once or twice. But here I am, about to teach Educational Law to several Masters'/Doctoral level folks who have to take the course for their degree. So, what's a girl to do?
Well, I was thinking about complaining, but what good would that do?
“What you're supposed to do when you don't like a thing is change it. If you can't change it, change the way you think about it. Don't complain.”
― Maya Angelou, Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now
Thanks, Maya. In other words, put on my big girl britches and do it, right?
I thought about procrastinating, since that seemed to work okay in college before a test, right?
“Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone”
― Pablo Picasso
Well, good grief, Pablo, that isn't really a pretty picture to paint, is it?
I thought about worrying. After all, I may not have enough knowledge to pass on to these students. Then what???
“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”
― Corrie ten Boom, Clippings from My Notebook
So, I did the next best thing. I got to work. Here are the steps I took, so far.
1. I read the textbook. Always a good idea, right? For those of us who are teachers, we know the value of knowing our content of what we are teaching. Knowing the content of the Educational Law class is pretty crucial. It is extremely meaty text and can I just say I am chewing it up!!! Maybe it is partially because the book smells so good (sorry, if you didn't already know I have an obsession with the smell of books), but I am loving every bit of it. I am finding myself nodding my head or writing questions in the margin of the book. Most importantly, I am writing ideas for how to teach certain concepts.
2. I am starting with the objectives of the course, then deciding what the students will have to do to show they have mastered the content. All of this I am doing BEFORE I decide on the activities and strategies to teach the lesson. Planning the lessons is critical for every teacher, but thinking through the lesson design is the real crux of it. How often do we dive right in before actually thinking about what needs to be done? While I do this, I am feeling more and more confident about how the course will proceed.
3. Next, I am looking at the timeline for each class and planning engaging lesson strategies. This is a face-to-face course and it is four hours long every Thursday night for six weeks. I am taking each objective per lesson and figuring out the timeline for the night. I will admit that 9:00 is typically my bedtime, but this class goes from 5:00 - 9:00 each night. So, if I don't want the students to be falling asleep (or their instructor, either!), I have to ensure that the activities I plan are engaging and have educational value. I am looking at balancing reading with active strategies, mixing jigsaw reading with carousel presentations around the room.
What seemed daunting a few weeks ago is shaping up to be a most exciting venture. Dare I say "I can't wait!!!"? Yes, I can dare to say it, because it is true. Somehow, getting off my duff and doing something has eliminated most of my fear, trepidation, worry, and all those other character defects that seem to haunt my being.
Just for today, perhaps we can look at challenges in our lives as opportunities---opportunities to learn more, opportunities to stretch ourselves, and opportunities to do what needs to be done.
Happy Communicating to all!
We are fostering an 8 week old Labrador Retriever puppy right now, which means we haven't gotten any sleep in the last week. The little guy's name is Kirby and he goes from 0 to 100 in 3 seconds. This morning he was sleeping peacefully, which means he wasn't tearing holes in our feet with his little Edward Scissorhand teeth.
I turned my head for a split second and he had bolted from his sleeping position across the room to our 10 year old female yellow lab's feet, which he promptly proceeded to try to remove from the rest of her body. After playing for 2 minutes, which consisted of our older lab wagging her tail and Kirby using the tail as a play toy, he fell down onto his side and went to sleep.
That is just how it is with puppies at 8 weeks old. They go from one extreme to the other with no intermission. An intermission would be nice. You know the ones where the announcer says, "Ladies and gentlemen, we will be l pausing for an intermission for the next 15 minutes, during which time you can get up, stretch your legs, go to the restroom, go get a drink or a snack." But no such announcer is available nor is the intermission present.
I started thinking about how grateful I am that I have a little bit of wisdom under my hat. While some might see it as gray hair, I like to believe that as we grow older, we don't have to go from 0 to 100 all at once, even if we were physically able.
We have so many shades on our aging color wheel, I don't have to run hot or cold. I don't have to be elated or despondent. I can just be.
I think we all know someone that resembles Kirby, without the cuteness. We likely work with two or three of these folks. You know what I mean. These are the people in our lives who will complain if their new diamond ring is too shiny and bright for their eyes. They are actually quite miserable people with whom to work, as you can suggest a great idea, and no matter how great it is, they will find fault with it. There are such folks in the world who simply are happier being miserable. It is difficult, at best, to work with people like this as nary an idea can slip past them without their ability to make someone around them miserable, as well. There are others, too, who may on the outset seem happy but they might be so scattered that we can't pin them down for a particular idea or plan. I have learned somewhere along the way that being too far to either extreme can be dangerous. Instead, remaining fairly even keeled in the face of life is likely the way that I should probably handle each situation that comes along.
While it might be funny to watch a YouTube video of a cat going nuts and running around a room, nobody really wants to work with that cat. Especially if that cat is a 50 year old grumpy guy who teaches down the hall from you.
To say that we are enjoying having a puppy around the house for a little while is the understatement of the century. He can continue to go from sleeping angel to waking maniac for a little while longer and we will totally forgive him and probably even enjoy him. After a few more weeks, though, he will be expected to Buck Up! just like the rest of us!
Just for today perhaps we can see the nice side of things in our lives and resist complaining. I sure am enjoying all the good that has come my way! I hope you do too!
Leave it to me to fall in love with a weed! It all started when we moved into our new home in Tucson a couple of years ago. When we would take walks, I would smell this fragrant scent and be stopped dead in my tracks. It seemed to be a mix of the desert and something strangely floral. Whatever it was, I was completely attracted to it. (I am certain that I looked like the Labrador Retrievers do when they catch a whiff of someone grilling steaks in the neighborhood). To say I was addicted to the aroma would not be much a stretch. Figures.
The problem was, this gorgeous smelling plant was elusive. I would make Dave come with me into the yards of our neighbors to try to track down this aromatic flower. "It must be beautiful; it certainly smells beautiful", I would tell Dave as I made him my partner-in-crime, tracking down this intangible flower. The problem was we could never find which flower was giving off this amazing scent.
Two days ago, we were on the golf course. Notice I didn't say "we were golfing" as it is quite a leap to call my game "golfing". It would be more aptly named "Hit the ball well one time, then poorly the next 8 times. Get frustrated. Call the club names." What? The name is too long for a simple game? I can actually pare it down to a couple of words but this is a family show. Stick with me. Where were we? Oh yes, we were on the golf course. We were driving the cart from one hole to the next, when all of a sudden, I grabbed Dave's arm and yelled, "Stop!!" Naturally, he should know that it was because I smelled that indefinable smell. Well, it seems he didn't. It actually seems he thought I meant he was about to run over a rattlesnake. Somehow, he didn't appreciate my botanical curiosity because he may have used the same words I might or might not call my golf game. We are a match made in Heaven.
We located the scent on this...bush. I couldn't quite call it a flower, but, oh well, maybe it just hadn't bloomed yet. As I was jumping up and down with glee, Dave asked Google, "How do I subdue my crazy wife?" then plucked a small shoot off this plant, hoping we wouldn't get in trouble for disturbing some state flower or important botany beauty. I could hardly play the rest of our round of golf for all the sniffing of the plant I did (Dave may have just rolled his eyes).
We immediately came home and emailed our dear landscaper, Tim, who is always a font of knowledge about plants and flowers. "You have to find this and plant it all over our yard!" I told Tim.
His response took the proverbial wind out of my sails more quickly than a new puppy can tinkle on your new carpet. "Oh, that's an Ambrosia ambrosioides." Sounds good so far, right? Ambrosia is quite lovely, after all. But apparently, this is plant language for Ragweed. Yep, you heard it here. Ragweed. Some form of ragweed is what has been tickling my fancy these last two and a half years! And, might I add, by the time we had received our answer from Tim, it was also tickling my nose and throat. Apparently, I might be a little allergic to ragweed.
Tim went on to say we probably wouldn't be able to put it in our yard, as our HOA likely forbids weeds being planted in landscaped yards. Good grief.
What does all this mess have to do with relationships and communication, you ask?
It seems to me that we often blunder into bad relationships like this. Whether it is a personal relationship or a co-worker situation, we have likely all gotten into friendships or relationships with "weeds". What are the signs we are hanging out with not-so-great folks?
1. They might be attractive in some initial way (their looks, their words, their "scent", etc), but, on closer inspection, they are simply weeds masking themselves as pretty things. We all have encountered them----shallow, pretty people who wind up making us feel quite empty inside. They should come with warning signs, right?
2. They might start out nice (boy, does this smell great?), but they end up being quite toxic for us. I am still feeling the allergy effects from said ragweed. Who hasn't been in a co-worker/relationship with someone who made you feel like poop after being around them for even a few minutes? I would rather get dental work than spend time with these folks, by choice, but I used to seem to be a magnet for them.
3. They might be strangely attractive to us, but our friends seem to know right away that they are bad for us. In the case of evil ragweed, our landscaper warned that our neighbors wouldn't allow it in our yards. Wouldn't that be great if toxic people came with an HOA warning? "Ummm...sorry, you will be unable to bring this person into your heart or into your life because the HOA does not approve." .
Alas, we all have to deal with our own past weeds and make decisions for ourselves. In relationships and school communities, this means building relationships with people who build us up rather than tear us down. It means taking time to realize that, as fulfilling as teaching is, we cannot likely do it without support from each other. It might even mean taking a stand against the toxic weeds and saying, "I am going to continue to do good for the right reasons. I need to remove the toxicity from my life."
I just watched the trailer for "Miss You Already", the new Drew Barrymore movie about lifelong friendship and fierce loyalty to those lifelong friends. I texted my two best friends from college and told them we simply must plan a weekend together soon. They are not weeds to me. Nor are any of my other dearest of dear friends who lift me up when I am low (and don't let me stay down very long). Speaking of feeling low...achoo!! Sorry, I have to go take my allergy medicine!