I love this quote. It reminds me of so much in our lives. One of my dearest friends, Denise, just sent her youngest off to school at Texas Tech in Lubbock. We just talked about the “empty nest” she and her husband are now experiencing. What a change!
Glenn and Callista (our “do everything with” friends) have just recently moved in together. They are combining households and learning how to live together. A huge change, even though it is a beautiful thing!
My sweet husband, Dave, is about to retire at the end of this year. We are already talking about how he will be experiencing an enormous change---he won’t have to get up at 4:45 anymore. Wowee!
Being diagnosed with breast cancer this year has been the absolute biggest change in my life! Learning about the new normal with surgeries and doctor appointments has changed our lives forever. I am so very grateful to be alive and waiting on my last major surgery to be finished with this changing episode in my life.
As I say all this, our sweet M.E., our 12 ½ year old yellow Lab, is beginning to lose her faculties. She urinates on the carpet (which prior to this year would have mortified her as much as it is currently mortifying us). She is staring at the walls in the house and outside on the porch. She is pulling her hair out when she is in her kennel, which used to be her favorite place to be.
Change is inevitable but it is HARD!!!
My best example of this change quote is in the education world. In my last year as principal at an elementary school (the best school in the world, in my humble opinion), we began using a new evaluation system. Talk about change! We went from what used to be what I call a two-ply system of “Meets Expectations” or “Are you still breathing?” to a four-ply rubric --- the Framework for Teaching---that actually focused intensively on teacher growth (Danielson, 2007). Teachers and administrators alike went from “freaking out” to “figuring it out” together. I won’t lie----it was hard!! But the rock solid teachers in our school often said things like, “This is really hard but I can actually see where I need to grow” and “I never got this kind of feedback before” or “I love having the conversation with you ABOUT my teaching.”
I like to emphasize that the change is hard for administrators as well. We struggled to get into classrooms more than we ever had before. We struggled to make all the evidence we collected factual and not based on our own opinions and biases. We struggled to have conversations WITH teachers, as opposed to the former practice in many schools of telling teachers what they had done right or wrong in their class. By learning together, teachers and principals said they had been changed, as long as the culture of the school supported this change and evaluation was now being done WITH teachers and not TO teachers.
A dear friend and colleague sent me this video clip yesterday and I found myself nodding like a bobbing dog hanging from the rearview mirror. I couldn’t help but think of all the things this video clip brings to light about learning being done by the learner, biases, the fact that knowledge does not equal understanding and how unlearning something we have always done can take a long time but may well be worth the effort.
Check out The Backwards Brain Bicycle!!
Just for today, perhaps we can think about the way change has enhanced our lives after we have given it a chance to settle in. I would love to hear your comments on how you perceive this video.
Have you heard the Chinese proverb: “Tell me and I will forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I will understand.”?
We use it in teaching students and teaching teachers and teaching teacher leaders all the time to reinforce the idea that if we simply talk TO someone, they will likely not remember a good bit of the information but if somehow the learner can be involved in the learning process, the knowledge has a much better chance of “taking hold”. Background knowledge helps a good bit in this process, as well, or, as I call it: Velcro. What we already know or have stuck in our brains has little feelers just waiting to capture new and interesting information, but without that Velcro it will likely not stick. This is the nature of truly engaged learning.
I was working with several groups of teachers in NYC on Friday (several one-hour sessions in a row), so I really had to make every moment matter. I had stayed up the night before weeding out any extraneous material to fine-tune it to “perfection”, or so I thought.
I caught a taxi from my hotel to the teaching venue (an absolutely beautiful old school in the Bronx). The cab driver was curious where I was going (which was handy, as he was going to drive me there) and what I would be doing that day. I told him (the address, first. I’m no dumb-dumb) I was going to be talking with teachers about good teaching. He said, “That is such a noble cause. We all need to get better at our jobs but teaching teachers…wow. They help students grow up to be better people.” Yes!!! I did a little victory dance in the back seat---he gets it, I thought.
But he wasn’t finished. He went on to ask me, “Do you want to know what I think makes a good teacher?” Hey, I know some people would just want to put on their headphones or look over their notes for the day, but I look at this as solid research for my work. Research on the fly, if you will! “Go for it!” I encouraged. “Someone who cares about what they teach and wants you to care about it, too.” Now, I was almost levitating out of my seat. Yes!! I decided to pursue this line of questioning research and ask, “Can you tell me about the best teacher you ever had? What did he or she do that made them the best?” He said, “Oh well that’s easy. I had a lot of good teachers and a few teachers who didn’t care anything about what we did in class. But I had one teacher in high school that made every single thing he taught interesting. He didn’t just teach us. He got us involved in the learning, through projects, through activities. I remember most of what we learned that year.” Honestly, I almost shed a tear. I did, instead, ask him what he was doing the rest day and jokingly hurried to clarify (lest he think I was propositioning him for other reasons) that I wish he could simply come with me to help with my workshops that day. “That is EXACTLY what I am teaching about!!” I told him, excitedly.
Throughout the day, I made sure to take time out of my precision-timed workshop to tell them about the taxi driver comment. They all nodded, a bit soberly, when I said, “If this taxi driver gets it, when are we all going to get it?” How can we continue to lecture ad nauseam to a group of students who are barely keeping their eyes open (and I mean in classrooms, too, not just in principals’ meetings or faculty meetings J ) when we know that people need to be involved in the learning, not just be talked TO?
How can we, even in (maybe especially in) corporate America, engage in “Death by Powerpoint” --- reading boring slides to bored people? How about altering the teaching methods to include the participants (engage them in conversation with a partner or a small group and share out thoughts about a discussion question; have them do a quick-write after 5 -7 minutes of talking then share with a buddy what they can summarize from that portion; ANYthing that will get participants involved in the learning, as opposed to being talked to.
Just for today, perhaps you might listen to words of wisdom from other people as well.
The Chinese proverb tells us that we will increase our “bang for the buck”. The taxi driver to the Bronx can tell you that, as well, if you need any reinforcing ideas.
Since my surgery, I have not had much of an appetite. I eat cereal in the morning, have a piece of peanut-butter toast about noon and after that, not much sounds good. I had a doctor who suggested “Why not try a milkshake? That will put some calcium in you and some weight back on you.” In other news, one of my best friends said, “People like me hate people like you.” I know she means it with love.
So, once a week, I try to go to Baskin-Robbins and get a milkshake---I’ve experimented with flavors and always get complimented from the guy at the register (what a great combination!, he’ll say) and I can drink a little bit of it and save the rest for later.
Dave came with me today. I think he wanted to see this Baskin-Robbins guy who keeps giving me extra coupons and complimenting my choice of flavors. J
We walked in with a coupon for a “Buy one, get one free sundae”. No regular guy (it was the weekend, after all. Even the ice cream scooper guy has to have a day off, right?). Instead, there were two girls behind the beauty that is the ice cream cooler. As we entered, Dave flashed them both a big smile and asked, “What has been your favorite part of your day, so far?” Both of them gave answers. One said with an even bigger smile, “That’s so nice of you to ask. I got to open this morning so I get to go home earlier.” Dave continued engaging them in conversation, asking them, “What is your favorite thing to make?” One girl said, “Anything but a banana split.” Dave and I both said (at the same time, by the way), “We want two banana splits” then we said in unison again, “Just kidding”. By this point, we were all four smiling and jovial.
On the way home, Dave and I talked about how everyone talks about wanting good customer service, from our airlines, to hotels, to restaurants, to phone companies, and on and on and on. But we began wondering if we, as consumers, don’t actually have a responsibility to help make the customer service experience better by being a friendly consumer. We firmly believe there is not just a correlation but a causal factor that impacts the customer service experience if we simply go in with an attitude of gratitude, joy and fun.
As an educational consultant who works with students, parents, teachers, and administrators, I often find that if we can establish a caring relationship with participants/students right up front in our workshops, the likelihood of people griping about having to be in an all-day workshop lessens significantly. In fact, I just worked with a group of 22 folks in New Jersey. When, after the first 30 minutes, I took a moment to call each one by name, they remarked, “Wow, how did you do that?” I answered, “I’m not sure how I do it, but I will tell you why I do it. When people know that they matter to you, even something as simple as learning their names, what we have to talk about seems to matter a little bit more. Don’t you find that to be true when working with students in your school?” People began nodding in assent. What’s the point? We all want to feel wanted, needed, and important.
Favorite scene from “The Help”?
How can we make this happen in schools? I believe we do it simply by remembering that everyone is struggling with something in their lives. On the other hand, everyone has the capacity to make someone’s day by being kind to them. How hard is it? Considering it makes the giver feel better, also, I would suggest not too hard.
As we left Baskin Robbins, both girls said something like, “Thank you for making our day more fun” and “You two were so nice and friendly. Not everyone acts like this.”
Just for today, maybe we can focus on not just waiting for someone to be nice to us before we extend a kind, warm, or funny greeting. In other words, make someone’s day!!
I travel quite a bit for work, which means I eat at weird times, I watch people's heads drop to their chest when they nod off (which is REALLY funny, except that I realize I do it, too), and I fret about missing connections. Well, I used to fret more. Even my husband noticed that I don't seem to worry as much anymore. My ranting used to sound like thist (the pauses are panting as I run to make the plane), "I have to hurry... I just got to Houston.... 'cuz we took off late from Newark... and I only have 10 minutes 'til they close the doors." And then, if I didn't make the flight, I would call him, crying. Not going to lie. It wasn't pretty. Now, it sounds more like, "We're taking off late from JFK. If I miss the Houston to Tucson connection, I'll call you from the hotel." And no more tears....mostly.
Part of it has to do with getting used to air travel, but part of it has to do with "seeking first to understand". When a flight can't begin boarding because the crew isn't there yet as they are still on an inbound plane that was late taking off because of hail damage, I want to laugh at the people who go up to the gate agent and complain. What exactly is she supposed to do about the inbound crew who hasn't arrived, yet? Because of hail!! I have made it a point to thank every single person who works the gates on these flights, as they mostly have the patience of Job. Yes, there are exceptions, but when there are, do I also seek first to understand that? Perhaps they just got yelled at by 15 people boarding the last flight. I don't know the scenario, so how can I rightfully judge? For that matter, when is it my place to judge anyway?
I have many dear friends who are starting school (this week, next week, this month), and I know what happens that week before school starts. Tensions are high because there is no time to get done everything that needs to get done. Pile on to that each person's personal stuff that they are carrying with them, from home or beyond. Taking time to say a caring word or put a nice note in someone's mailbox may be just the thing they need to perk them up. Some of you are extraordinarily good at that. I worked with a music teacher and a classroom assistant who were both rock stars at this. When we lost air conditioning (in Florida---in August---while moving classrooms and furniture), Renee became the water bottle fairy who simply walked around sprinkling everyone with cool water as they worked. Renee passed away from cancer that fall but nobody ever forgot her goodness. And Theresa was known to joke around and put silly things in mailboxes, but she also had an intuition when someone needed a sweet note, a prayer, a verse or just a hug and she gave those without fail.
I hope everyone has a Renee or Theresa (or Kelly or Maria or....) in their school who seeks first to understand before demanding to be understood.
Best of wishes and prayers to all starting school in these weeks.
Have you ever done mission work? Any kind of work, like cleaning a church or helping to build a church or just helping people who wouldn’t normally be able to help themselves, either emotionally or physically? Just take a moment to think about those times in your life when you have done just that---from taking a lasagna over to a neighbor whose dad just died to doing a big build for Habitat for Humanity. Now, picture how the person/people felt when you did that loving (maybe sweaty) thing for them. They usually are overwhelmed with gratitude. I know I have been the past few weeks since my surgery. The outpouring of prayers, good thoughts, messages, emails, cards, visits, nursing and gifts have been so overwhelming, I have to just do a group “thanks” because I know in my dopey state, I have lost track of all the people who have been there for me.
Years ago, I went with Peter and other advisors and we took the youth group from St. Jude’s Episcopal Church (and kids from other churches in our area) to Houston, where we worked at a Woman’s Shelter. Kids were allowed but no men could stay there. This was a place that was designed to help women get back on their feet. We cleaned the tables after breakfast and lunch and then sorted clothes that had been donated for women to wear when going for job interviews. They got classes in how to interview and they were appreciative. I’ve done other mission work but I am just using this as an example.
So, now, just for a moment, think about how doing that work made YOU feel. My dear friend, Cid, goes on builds to other countries every single year and there is always a huge smile on her face (and beautiful fingernails, at least the first couple of days). I loved cleaning the tables at the Women’s Shelter. I talked with another priest who had joined us from another church about his work while we cleaned and wiped and washed.
I guess I’m saying the satisfaction in giving is often just as great for people as the receiving. But sometimes, I’m not exactly sure who is the giver and who is the receiver. Take teaching, for instance. Who is giving to whom? As a consultant and trainer, I have the privilege of teaching groups of adults (teachers, teacher leaders, administrators, etc.) about effective teaching, communication, and trust. I love what I do. When I found out I had to take a month off from teaching because of my surgery, I was bummed. Many teachers I know share their passion for teaching every single day. But every once in awhile, I’m not sure who is the giver or the receiver. Case in point: my first day back to training on a Navajo reservation this week. My dear husband, Dave, and 1,000 others had warned me: “it’s too soon. You’ll wear yourself out.” I totally get that, but I get jazzed and hyped when I am helping teachers learn about better teaching strategies. I learn, they learn, we all learn. Just like school should always be, right? So, at the end of the 6 hour training, I told these folks what it had meant to me to be able to spend the day with them. I shared that they were my first group, post-surgery, and they had energized me. I’m supposed to be teaching them, I said, but they got me fired up (which was good because my colleague/dear friend and I still had a 5 ½ hour drive back to Tucson that evening. We said our goodbyes and I picked up the evaluations. While they were all very thoughtful, one participant had written these words: *With everything presented, I feel I have the energy to get back to my teaching, having lost a son four months ago. I wasn't sure if I had it in me to continue teaching. Thank you very much for showing me the passion to continue.
I was there to help them, but they helped me get fired up and my passion fueled someone else’s lost passion. I call that a double win-win!! A dear friend who is always there with a sound byte or a song that fits the mood, Kelly Edelman, sent me this song that puts into words what I believe teachers and students do for one another. The song is by Bruno Mars and called “Count on Me”
Just for today, perhaps you might listen to the song from the above link and reflect on why you love to do what you do and why you appreciate what others do for you. By the way, just by reading my blog and sometimes making a comment about it, you’re doing great things for me, and I thank you!!!!