Perhaps I would prefer you not ask Dave, directly, if I have high expectations, as I think he would have answers for you about what it is like to live with me. While dishwasher loading is his arena, the way the silverware is placed not only is my area of expertise, the process comes with its own song:
"Big spoon, little spoon,
Big fork, little fork,
Knives and other things".
Hey, it may not make America's Top 40, but it does come with its own original ditty, so there you go. You could likely quit reading today's blog, now, and say, "I learned something totally cool and new today". But wait...there's more.
I teach at two online universities. I teach all graduate level courses---master's level courses for students wanting to go into Educational Leadership and doctoral courses for students writing their dissertations and perhaps wanting to become Superintendents someday. Suffice it to say: I have expectations in these courses, including but not limited to the following:
*Time management---assignments and discussions should be posted on or before the due date. I, in turn, make good use of my time management, because I have expectations for my own work, and I feel the extreme need to get feedback to the learner as quickly as I possibly can so the students can alter their work if necessary. That is not to say I have never granted an extension for those rare occasions in which life happens and a student desperately needs an extra day due to unforeseen circumstances (a computer was burned in a fire---that sounds like a situation for which I make an exception. Now if the computer is burned in a fire next week, then Houston, we have a problem).
*Academically appropriate writing skills---Did I mention these students are all graduate students? Unfortunately, I am seeing a trend among some of my students of poor spelling, grammar, and other mechanical or APA writing errors. Here is the latest error (truly a new one for me, but I have had this issue with three students in the past two weeks): writing the word "I" with a lowercase "i". Wait, what?? I was an elementary principal for seven years and a counselor and teacher before that, and we didn't let our 3rd grade students get away with that mistake. Furthermore, if a paper was marked down, a parent wouldn't even argue about that grade, so you know it is a non-negotiable item! Unfortunately, I had a student actually call to argue with me about that very issue. In the course of the conversation, he said, and I quote, "No other professor has ever told me I write bad until you." "Poorly", I said quietly. Ugh!!
So, I have created an assignment for my students who will soon be applying for jobs as principals and assistant (or "assistance", as one of my students called it) principals in your districts, possibly. I have challenged them to constructively and respectfully critique each other's posts, instead of me being the only bearer of bad news. After all, if you are a principal, and one of your teachers sends home a memo with frequent misspellings and grammar errors, you will likely need to talk to said teacher about their writing. Why not practice that craft now?
If you have a question or a concern about your grade in class (and this goes for teachers asking their administrators questions about their observations or notes on their lesson plans, etc.), respect goes a long way to the time and effort I am going to expend in helping you.
Consider, for instance, the difference between the following two emails:
1. Hey, i got marked down on my observation for not assessing my student's. Didn't you see me ask nine of my students questions in class? I don't understand why you marked me down. Marcus
2. Dr. Hebert, I realize you are terribly busy right now with observations, but I was wondering if I could ask you for some advice on resources you might recommend for me to read about formative assessments. I am looking for some new strategies to try, after our conversation about my observation the other day and was hopeful you could help direct me to some good ones.
Thank you so much for your time,
In all honesty, what sort of biases come up for you in the first example? What are your inclinations on how to respond? (hint: don't respond until you think it through)
The fact remains that we ARE biased against poor communication skills, and I believe rightfully so. I am much more inclined to give guidance and genuine help to someone who uses a respectful tone rather than to someone who demands it in a disrespectful manner. Anyone in customer service will tell you the same thing.
Do I have high expectations? Most certainly. I hope and pray I am never asked to change them.
For today, I pray you have a blessed day and know that I love each and every one of you who takes a moment out of your day to read (and I love the responders even more, I'm not going to lie). :)
We’ll never know the influence we have on everyone’s lives we touch, will we? I suppose, if you have a spiritual belief that someday, we will find out, that is one thing. But in day-to-day life, we are affected by and affect the lives of so many people, the interactions are countless and boundless.
Think about your day so far. For me, it might look like:
*I called the waiter who served us our drinks at breakfast by name and thanked him.
*I talked in depth with a fellow consultant about the work we do and how we “bonded” more this weekend.
*I critiqued someone’s work.
*I called out the lady who tried to move in front of me in the TSA line.
*I said “Thank you. They are so comfortable” when the flight attendant complimented my shoes.
Will any of these incidents be remembered tomorrow---by me or by the other person? Perhaps yes, perhaps not. I’m still reeling from stinking-foot-rude-lady from last week’s blog. Do we remember the good experiences more than the negative ones or vice-versa?
For what do I want to be remembered? Eileen, one of the dear new friends who was one of the 11 people on our Habitat build for the classroom in Kenya, posted a video on Facebook the other day of the children at Kyumbi Primary School singing a thank-you song to those of us who helped with the build. I was moved to tears. The words of their song said, “Things are so very much better now.” I totally believe that, if I pass away tomorrow, I could and would die a happy person for having heard that. Is that selfish of me? I am so very proud of the work we did, but I also am so very humbled for having been a part of making someone else’s life better (and the lives of a few someones at that school, to be honest).
But life isn’t just about doing a pre-planned mission trip, is it? It’s really about what we do and say on daily basis. There are a few tenets around that theme that I like to hold true in my life that I will share with you:
1. If it is not true or kind, I likely have no business saying it. Now, having said that, there are times I, with a true closed-mouth friend, will vent about something that is eating my lunch. I happen to believe we all need those closed-mouth friends----ones with whom we can talk about ANYthing (and I mean ANYthing) and there will be absolutely no judgement. I’m talking about in public arenas, or around a dinner-table full of people. Am I gossiping about someone else? If I am, it is highly likely I am doing it in an effort to make myself look or feel superior to that person and their behavior. But what does that say to the group? I know, for me, if I hear someone gossip about another person, one of my first thoughts is: If they are doing it about them, they will do it about me. I prefer the alternative: if I have a conflict with someone, I should likely just say how I am feeling, which leads me to my second tenet.
2.It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it. I have worked with students, teachers, and school leaders my entire professional career. As teachers, we often have things we need to say to students, but it matters SO much how we say it. What is a memory of something a teacher said to you that you will remember the rest of your life? Mr. Katzer, my 8th grade science teacher, was a no -nonsense kind of guy to say the least. Let’s suffice it to say that, if you had him before lunch (which I did), you marched to lunch. So, after my first boyfriend broke up with me, and I couldn’t stop crying, Mr. Katzer likely wanted to say, “Hey Drama Queen, knock it off. We’re identifying rocks today, and your weepy self isn’t going to help matters any.” Instead, this hard-nosed man walked over to my desk, knelt down next to me, and whispered, “Just remember this: there are other fish in the sea, and I promise you there will be a better fish than that one in your future.” Lo, and behold, I ultimately found the grand prize of sea life in Dave Arneson and would live under the sea with him for another 25 years if necessary. Mr. Katzer knew there was a time and place to be a hard-ass and when to be gentle and caring. I have tried to carry this into my teaching, even when I am teaching Master’s Level and Doctoral level courses at Grand Canyon University and Walden University. As we finished a course this past week on Educational Finance (stop laughing at the fact that I taught about budgeting and finance---it isn’t kind), the students filled out a course evaluation. One of my students took a screen shot of one of the papers I had graded for her. She said, and I am paraphrasing, “This course was HARD, but Dr. Arneson took the time to give me specific feedback about my writing and about the content of my papers that helped me so much. I’ve never had anybody do that before. I just want to show you an example of how specific her feedback was.” I was so proud----I think I am finding the balance between challenging my students and giving them encouragement.
3.There are two kinds of business----my business and “none of my business”. Once again, I will refer to my favorite flounder, Dave, and tell you that he reminds me, every once in a while, that I care way too much about what people think about me. I hate it when he is right, but he is. I say the Serenity Prayer at least once or twice a day (sometimes more as prescribed by others around me). I know I am not everyone’s cup of tea----I love life, I love to laugh, and I love to make others around me laugh. But frankly, I don’t always succeed (I’m hoping I would hear a collective <What?>, but I’m afraid it isn’t happening). I made a joke in one of my workshops that one of my participants didn’t care for---it was actually an ageist joke, and it was at her expense, but I thought we had a good enough rapport that it would be okay. I had made a reference to the show “Dragnet”, and I walked over to her and said, “Melissa”, (names have been changed to protect the interest), “Once upon a time, long before you were born, there was a show called Dragnet”. She later told me that she found it embarrassing that I had called her out on her youth. I was awash in apologies, “I never meant that in any hurtful way. I totally thought we had worked together enough that you would know I was only doing it in a playful manner.” She said, “But people laughed, so it was embarrassing.” I wanted to say, “They were laughing WITH you, not AT you,” but at that moment, I figured it wouldn’t do me any good. My business was to make amends to her, which I did, along with the promise I would not ever do that again. What happens after that is none of my business, although I kept worrying about it. If “Melissa” went back to her school and said, “That presenter made fun of me---I hate her”, then so be it. I made amends because one of my top goals in teaching workshops is forming relationships with the participants. Melissa and I may never bond. She may talk trash about me. She may say I shouldn’t give up my day job to be a comedienne. She would be right about that. But whatever she says is none of my business, and I have to let it go.
So hard to do, so easy to say to do it.
That’s how I would characterize the above three tenets. Some days I am good at it. Some days, I stink at it. The beauty of life, though, is I get to start over, each and every day. I have been on five flights since stinky-feet-lady and I disagreed on the level of “disgusting” it was for her to put her feet on my blanket. I forget about it, but then someone brings it up again, and I’m right back there. It’s like I have a helium balloon in my hand with my resentment against her. I let the balloon go, because I know I can’t carry it around with me forever (not to mention I look like a goober carrying around a helium balloon wherever I go)---but the second I let it go, I have a choice----I can grab it back and say I’m not ready to let it go, or I can watch it drift away and pray it lands in a safe place or pops, never to be seen or heard from again.
Just for today, I pray that I constantly remember the influence I have on other people. I can’t always control what other people do to me (cut in front of me in line, etc.) but I sure can choose what I do and say to other people.
Let me start by saying I have missed talking to the three of you who read my blog the last two weeks (just kidding, I think there are a few more of you than three). but I was in Kenya (building a classroom for a primary school in Machacos County outside Nairobi) and let's just say internet was "iffy" (and by that, I mean I would get kicked off every five minutes---not at all frustrating when I was trying to enter grades for my students in the Finance course I am teaching).
So, I was telling some folks this morning about my trip, which consisted of one week of building the classroom (anyone who knows me should not even attempt to imagine me mixing concrete and sawing boards ---- did you know they actually want you to saw the cuts in a straight line? I think that is a bit picky, but what do I know??) and then a few days on safari (we saw four out of the "big five" as there weren't any rhinos in our area---but lots of hippos and that made up for it). While telling these folks about the two weeks, I got choked up because I honestly couldn't say which week was "better" (working my buttocks off building and playing and working with the children and teachers at that school OR going on the safari). Both were transformational in different ways. During the "build", I had a chance to witness children who were so excited about learning new things: we sang with them, I made up songs to teach them, I taught them in class one day, I taught their teachers a couple of cool new strategies to use in the classroom, and these kids couldn't wait for recess, not so they could go run and play with their friends, but so they could come and help us throw 25 pound rocks into the foundation of their new classroom. The teachers, dressed in their Sunday best, got in on the mixing of the concrete as well. We were, to say the least, overwhelmed at the welcome and the appreciation these folks had for the work we did.
Contrast that with sitting in a jeep every morning and evening for game drives to seek out mama and baby elephants, female lions with their cubs who rough-and-tumbled all over each other, the male lion, the cheetah who looked like it wanted to prey on an animal but didn't want us watching, and the most elusive of all --- the leopard. Nothing compares to seeing these gorgeous animals in the wild. I may never be able to go to a zoo again.
So, the next piece of my story is going to sound so trivial, but I pray you will stick with me, as it speaks to what is important. At the end of two weeks being away from home, I was so ready to simply be teleported back to Tucson from Nairobi. But no, we first had an 8 hour flight to Frankfurt, which was fine. Then, in Frankfurt, I boarded an almost 12-hour flight to San Francisco. The dear agent in the Lufthansa lounge said to me, "I can't bump you to first class because you used award miles, but I can get you in a 4-person row all to yourself. You can stretch out and sleep." Yes! (not about the no-first-class-because-you-used-award-miles----that part stinks! I earned those miles. But then I remembered the children who were so overly thrilled we brought duffel bags full of paper, crayons, markers, scissors, etc. and I felt guilty about being picky).
So, I get on the plane, and take my seat (I'm on one end of a four-person row). A few minutes later, a lady sits down on the other end of the four-person row. Uh-oh. Danger, Will Robinson, I guess I don't have that whole row to myself. That's okay. I can at least stretch out on two seats. Her husband sat across the aisle from her, next to a couple ---- the three of them filling up their three-person row). The lady turns to me and asks, "Will you go switch with my husband?" "Ummmmmm.....no way, Jose'" (okay, I didn't exactly say that---what I did say was "No thank you. I had my seat changed to have some room to sleep as I just flew all night from Nairobi." She looked at me and said, "Come on...I want to sit by him. Do it for me." Okay, now, I'm not sure she realizes I am jet-lagged, worn out and getting a little miffed. "No thank you" I repeated. "Why don't you just have him come sit by you? There is an open seat right next to you!" She glared at me and he moved over and she moved over. Now, we have three of the four-person-row the gate agent had given me for my status taken up. My blanket and book were on the one empty seat next to me, which still held the pillow and blanket the airline had laid out for that seat. The "lady" (yes, it's in quotes for a reason) reaches over and grabs the pillow from the empty seat. "Seriously?" I asked. "Your husband can just grab the pillow from the seat he just vacated!" She said, "This one's fine." At this time, she takes off her shoes and puts her naked, smelly (oh, wait, I didn't mention the smelly part yet? Dear Lord, have mercy on her soul!) FEET and puts them up on the one empty seat next to me ---- she put them ON MY BLANKET!! "Oh no, now come on" I said, "you're not going to do that. That is not just rude, it is nasty. You paid for two seats, and you are now taking up four of them!!" She glared at me again, and said, "Don't worry about it." Did I mention how tired I was? For just one moment, I wanted to punch her in the face (I feel being honest with you is important, if not terribly kind) or at least stab her stinky feet (sorry).
Instead, I started thinking about what the entire trip had been for me and the humility it had taught me. And so, instead of inflicting harm on her, I simply got up and asked the flight attendant if there were two empty seats anywhere on the plane. She sympathized totally (as the stinky-feet-lady had already asked said flight attendant if she would marry her son and the flight attendant had to basically do a moonwalk backwards to get out of that conversation) and found me another two seats in which I could stretch out and get a couple of hours of rest.
What was so important? I wondered later. Well, you could argue that I was told I would have a row to myself and that didn't happen, so I was mad. But that incident, after having children call my name each morning, "Shelly! Shelly!" then mimic one of the songs I had taught them about peanut-butter and jelly or hug me to get their picture taken with me? Stinky-feet-lady wasn't going to ruin all that for me. So I made a choice.
Every time I have the opportunity, I am going to try to choose what is most important, in this case---my own sanity and serenity over getting angrier and angrier.
What lesson can you garner from this?
1. If you see my stinky-feet-lady friend, don't sit next to her on the plane. She will invade your space like the plague.
2. Doing for others is likely as rewarding as doing something, albeit beautiful, for yourself.
3. Don't let the little things get you down. Our Cadillac problems simply don't compare to 3rd-world issues.
Blessings to each one of you!