First of all, don't get your knickers in a twist because of my title. I'm sorry, but I simply cannot write "Who do you love?" even though Bo Diddley made that title famous with his song of the same name. "Who versus whom" is not actually the subject of my blog today, although many know I could go on and on (Dave just said, "...and on and on and on..." about the correct way to say things. In fact, I have stood in front of a crowd of participants trying to figure out how to not end my next sentence with a preposition --- to the point that the sentence became so convoluted, I would have been better off with the preposition ending. Alas, it is a fatal flaw passed down to me by my dear, departed mother, who was a stickler for good spelling and fine grammar. She graduated from high school and then promptly married my dad, but I always thought she would have made a spectacular grade school teacher. Instead, she proofread and wrote newsletters for the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio. Funny but true story---she always said she would rather hear us say the word "ass" rather than "butt" because she felt there should only be one "but" in the English language.
There you have it: I have paid homage to Mothers' Day in a blog not meant to be about Mothers' Day. I hope each one of you is having a marvelous day today, whether you are spending it with your mom or thinking about a mom who has passed, as both Dave's and mine have.
I just got back from teaching in the Yukon Territory yesterday. I spent Thursday and Friday with teachers and school leaders from all over the Yukon Territory (which covers 186,272 square miles, by the way). With that much real estate, you would think there would be a fair number of schools, eh? (look at me trying to throw in a little Canadian lingo for you) And yet, there are only 28 schools (14 in Whitehorse and 14 in rural areas of the territory). They all came together (or most all, anyway) to learn more about how to help their teachers grow stronger in their craft. This is not my first Klondike rodeo, by the way. I have been up there three other times, so we have built relationships (which is hugely important to the approximately 14 First Nations communities there, and to me, too!).
After learning with them all day on Thursday, they were exhausted. But Friday morning came, and all of them were back, ready to learn some more. The answers to some of the questions I asked about making connections from planning to teaching and about building relationships with students were brilliant. At one point, I simply stopped everything I was doing and just smiled a smile that I know went from ear to ear (which is not a good look for me, as it increases the number of wrinkles on my face---but that is a subject for another blog, I'm certain). I got a little choked up when I said, "I hope and pray you believe me when I tell you I am being totally genuine when I say, 'I honestly love you guys'." This statement was met with finger snaps, answers in French (they have a huge French immersion community in the Yukon Territory), and a few "I love you" signs in sign language.
I told them they couldn't tell Dave (my dear husband of 25 years) that I had said that to them, as he says, "You love everyone. You can't love everyone, but somehow you love everyone." Now that, my friends, is simply not the truth. I met someone in the airport yesterday I can honestly say I do not love (another topic for another blog, but suffice it to say it would be nice if he had a bit of professional learning on the importance of hygiene and manners, in no particular order).
I was talking with a colleague the other day and said that I believe the single most important thing we can do for our teachers, school leaders, students, parents, school board members (oh and anyone else outside the school---in the community and business world, perhaps) is to be in relationship with them.
What does that mean? Surely, it means something different to each school, district, state or territory. But for me, in that moment in Whitehorse, Yukon, it meant telling them how much their commitment to the work mattered to me and how fulfilling it was to work with them. They say they enjoy the work because, while we are learning with as much brain-sweat as you can imagine, we are laughing and enjoying each others' company all the while. For your added enjoyment, I am attaching a picture I took of the beauty of that area after our learning ended on Friday (the sun stays up a LONG time there, if you didn't already know).
I am so grateful for the opportunity to share good news with each of you who takes the time to read and/or comment on my blog.
For that, I say "I love you".
Having worked in public schools as a teacher, counselor and principal most of my adult life, I am aware of all the rules that are imposed on students, teachers, administrators and parents.
Some of them include things like:
*Students can't wear shorts that rise up so high that attention in the classroom might be drawn to someone's undercarriage rather than the topic at hand (okay, the rule might not have been stated quite like that, but you get my drift---no pun intended)
*Administrators must have their budgets for the following year turned in by April 5, despite the fact that we know the state is going to do something different in May which will affect the budget (but we have to do this exercise in futility, anyway, including telling teachers they won't be re-hired next year, even though we will likely get more money, in which case we will re-hire them then). Does any of this sound insane, yet?
*Teachers are not allowed to wear flip-flops to school. "What is the difference between a flip-flop and a sandal?" you might ask. Yep, you institute a rule like that and for the next few days, all the administrator is doing is fielding questions from every teacher in the school district. They want to show you their shoes and ask, "Are these flip-flops or sandals?" I don't know!!!! I know I have to turn in my budget by April 5th, though.
*Parents are not allowed to check their students out from a field trip to take them home versus the child riding back to school on the bus (even if the parent chaperoned the field trip, and the bus is going to drive right by the family home).
Do these sound like nutty rules? Well, apparently, there are exceptions to all of these rules, depending on who you ask (and maybe how their day is going so far; or maybe it depends on if their feet are comfortable in the flip-flops...errr...I mean sandals they are wearing). :)
I teach at two different universities, both online and face-to-face courses. I have found out that there are two types of students: one type acknowledges the assignment dates (and sometimes lets you know when they have completed the assignment three days early in case you want to grade it early----hush---yes, that would have been me) and the other type who, within two days of the class starting, asks if they can turn in the first assignment a day or two late because either:
a. they couldn't find their computer
b. their internet access isn't working
c. they can't do the "interview" they've been assigned because there is no one in their school district to interview
Which of the above do you think are real excuses for which an instructor should make an exception? Does your answer change whether it is an undergraduate course, a Master's level course, or a doctoral level course or does one size fit all?
I experience exceptions and non-exceptions in traveling for work. For example, the airline has an on-time departure rate, and doesn't want to mess it up, so they close the boarding gate door at precisely 9:02, when eight of us from another flight come running (and sweating; don't forget sweating) up to try to board the flight. "I'm sorry, we can't allow you to board. As you can see, the boarding door is closed." But you KNEW there were eight of us coming from the previous flight! "Sorry!" The next week, we are all boarded, ready to take off, but oh no! The flight attendant announces we will be waiting another 15 minutes as there are four passengers coming from another flight. Wait, what?? You didn't wait for me last week, but you're going to wait for half the number of passengers this time?? (Okay, maybe you can tell this one is one about which I am a bit tender).
However, I experienced a pretty cool exception this week. In two weeks, I will be leaving for Nairobi to participate in my first Habitat for Humanity build to build a classroom in a small village nearby. I have been collecting items for my trip: work gloves (stop laughing! Dave has already said he wants to see a picture of me swinging a hammer more than he wants to see a picture of me on a safari watching animals in the wild----big eye roll from Dave's lovely wife), anti-malaria pills (after all, it has been raining quite a bit in Kenya, so the mosquitoes are likely to be bad----why couldn't the mosquitoes make an exception for where to live for the next few weeks??), etc. I also have been collecting school supplies, books and classroom materials. I ordered a bunch of books from Amazon.com but I also ordered a whole lot of school supplies from Office Depot/Office Max. While I was trying to place my order (don't even ask me how I am going to get all these supplies into my two big suitcases), I asked if they had a policy to help with humanitarian purposes, and the gentleman with whom I was speaking asked said, "No, but we can always make an exception!" I started doing a victory dance around the kitchen (quite literally, I'm afraid to tell you---so glad there was no video). With the extremely generous credit they issued me, I was able to buy more supplies to take with me (what I really need is another suitcase, frankly).
Exceptions are everywhere; it's just a matter of what the motive is for the exception as to whether it might be granted or not. I am currently on the phone with my beloved airline and the agent is making an exception to my reservation coming back from Africa , allowing me to get home sooner with less of a layover in Frankfurt, Germany.
Just for today, consider the exceptions you make or have made for you in your life.
What are the rules you simply find non-negotiable in your life and which are the ones for which you can make exceptions?