What does that mean in your life? For me, it means we shouldn't ignore things that stand in the way of communication or relationships with other people. Whether at work or at home, there will always be those little things that get under our skin: the teacher down the hall that talks so loud, I have to shut my own door to hear myself teach; the neighbor whose dogs bark incessantly when I try so hard to keep mine from making any sound when they are outside; the custodians who stand in the hallway at school and argue with each other; and the list goes on, ad infinitum.
But the real issue is what we do about those things. I heard someone say the other day that they use their middle finger to tell other drivers what they think of their driving. Somebody please tell me when, in the history of the universe (or at least with the advent of cars), do you think someone who has just been "communicated with" by the middle finger of another driver all of a sudden says, "Gee, that really makes sense. I am going to make a pact that I will be a more conscientious driver from now on." I am guessing the odds are better to play the lottery. So, perhaps, within the confines of our own car is likely not the time or place to speak our truth (or, worse yet, only our own perception of the truth).
But for so many of us who work in the field of education, what we do and how we communicate is a model (intentional or not) for students who will become the adults of tomorrow. And, by the way, for people like Dave and me, who don't have human children of our own, these future adults will likely be, as Dave says, "changing my diapers someday". I'd prefer they have really good role models in the areas of respect and communication (they can learn the diaper-changing skills later on). When I walk in a school and hear two staff members arguing with each other in the middle of the hallway, my first thought is: I am not the only one hearing this exchange. The 1st graders who are walking to Music class are hearing it as well. But people argue, right? That is simply a fact of life. The issue is: how, when and where we do that.
For myself, I find it difficult, any more, to let something that is bothering me build up to the point that it warrants a blow-up. Instead, my serenity and peace of mind have become more important than traffic. But that doesn't mean I don't address something that is bothering me. On the contrary, if I have a poor experience with a hotel stay, for example, I will be upfront about it. Not long ago, I stayed at a lovely hotel for work. The check-in went seamlessly, the room was clean, and I had a nice view of the parking lot (well, you can't have everything, right?). However, I awoke two hours into my slumber to what I thought was a person IN my room (I was staying by myself, so nobody should be in my room). Sitting up, I listened. Nope. Nobody was in my room, but the guy next door might as well have been, as he was snoring, and I could hear him, loud and clear! Nice hotel, thin walls. When the hot water during my shower ran out, I found myself doubly frustrated. Not a great night's sleep and then I don't get hot water? Instead of raging, however, I simply stopped at the front desk and let them know what they could fix (the hot water) and what they likely couldn't fix (thin walls). The front desk manager credited me some points to my hotel loyalty account for my trouble, and he told me they were extremely sorry. Had I simply gone on my way, complaining to everyone ABOUT my stay, or run ranting to the front desk manager, I likely still wouldn't have had a great night's sleep nor would I have some extra points in my hotel account. In other words, speaking up in a respectful way pays off.
The same holds true for educators who work with each other every day. I have been privileged enough to witness first-hand, as an administrator, teachers and staff who found ways to talk through problems they were experiencing in their relationships.
As a professor, I witnessed two of my online students do this exact thing this week. While they had disagreed on a particular issue in the discussion thread, they both apologized to each other for their miscommunication and resolved to think before "speaking" in the future. That, to me, is how communication and relationships are supposed to work! I pray this will be the case for you, today and every day!
This is going to be short and sweet, as the buns have risen and so has Jesus! That means it is almost time for Easter lunch with some family and friends.
I've been thinking a good bit about transformation and change during this very Holy Week. Who I was five years ago, ten years ago, or 20 years ago is such a vastly different person that who I am today. Is that a good thing? I sure hope so, as I pray that I am making progress even though I stumble all the time. Progress in what? I hope I am a little bit more understanding, a little more giving, a little more patient (oh dear, I may need a LOT more work on that part), and a little more loving.
I have been humbled this week to be in church services in which we have washed each others' feet, partook in a Last Supper, and then blessedly proclaimed that the tomb was, indeed, empty this morning (I hope I didn't need to write: SPOILER ALERT before that last piece).
If we choose to be, we are transformed every single day we wake up. Every single day, we are given the chance to start over, to do what we feel we are called to do. The question is whether we are going to answer the "call" or whether, instead, we are going to say, "Nah....that wasn't the call...I'll wait for something louder." I say that from experience. There have been many times that I believe God was tapping me on the shoulder, and I brushed that feeling off. The thing is...for me, God didn't stop tapping. Sometimes He has just had to tap a bit harder.
I am so grateful, today, for my family, my dear friends, my career that has been one God-wink after another, and for all the other blessings of this life. I pray I can continue to feel that way for the remainder of my days on this earth and realize that I simply can't wait on the world to change.
Happy Easter and happy communicating!
In church this morning, we read from the book of Isaiah, in which this passage caught my undivided attention:
"Do not remember the former things,
or consider the things of old.
I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?"
I was struck by how often I have focused on the mistakes or poor choices I may have made in the past instead of focusing on what I am presently doing or even applying lessons I've learned for the future.
I've come a long way in this regard, believe me. As a card-carrying member of the "I want to please everyone in the world" club, I spent most of my growing up years people-pleasing. What can I do to get accolades? What will get me noticed in a positive way? What can I say that will make you like me more? These are all questions (plus a whole slew of others) that guided my actions. God bless you if you didn't grow up feeling this way. I tried hard in school, not just because I wanted to learn but because I wanted my parents and teachers to be proud of me. I could justify all of this by saying I was simply driven (Dave would attest to the fact that I am definitely driven). But the fact remains that part of me was simply trying to impress others. After hearing Colbie Callait's song "TRY" (click on the song title to listen to it for yourself) for the first time, I figured it was written with people like me in mind.
The only problem with this attitude is that I am called to do the best I possibly can for a higher purpose than simply getting attention and getting noticed. These days, I like to believe my motivation and my purpose for doing a good job working with teachers, school leaders and university folks is to improve the quality of education, not to impress people with my knowledge. I truly have a passion for improving the culture of schools by working with pre-service teachers, budding administrators, current teachers and school leaders, and upper-level school administration. Last week, I had the honor to work with superintendents in the Yukon Territory who are also highly motivated to improve teacher growth in their area. One of them said something about wanting desperately for all administrators to find their growth areas and build trust with their teachers. I almost got teary-eyed, truthfully, as I feel so passionate about the same goal.
And yet....I still catch myself wondering if educators with whom I work "like" me. Why do I really care if they like me as long as they are learning something from what I have to share? Ummm...because, apparently, that people-pleasing little girl hasn't totally disappeared. That would account for the fact that, despite having 95% of my graduate or doctoral students rate me highly as a professor, I still focus on the 5% who say, "She graded my grammar too hard" or "She was too hard. I've never gotten a B in graduate school before her class". Ugggh. Shouldn't I actually be proud that I am not letting poor academics slip through the cracks? Nope, instead I want to somehow reach out to those students and say, "I promise you would like me if you met me in person." Double Ugggh.
A teacher with whom I used to work many, many years ago told me she knew I wanted everyone in the school where I was principal to love one another, and she wasn't going to love me or anyone else in that school, so I should quit trying. I can tell you that this broke my heart. Why? Because she was right. I did, indeed, want everyone to feel a love (whether you use that word or not) for the field of education, for the fellow staff members, and for the students. Even though I knew 100% of "love" was likely an impossibility, I still wanted it, desperately.
Today, I try to focus on the "wins" instead of the "losses". Sometimes, I am not going to get a job that I wanted. Sometimes, a participant in a workshop may feel I am not their cup of tea. Sometimes, I am going to feel like I gained too many pounds on vacation. But that will no longer be my primary focus because "I am about to do a new thing". I am going to focus on the present and apply any new growth learnings to my future, in work or even in my relationships with others.
I pray you are able to do the same. I'd love to hear from you about this topic (and whether you like me or not).
Happy Communicating to all!!