One of Ruth Bader Ginsburg's famous quotes is one I SO wished I had coined myself.
“Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you,”
This is something that transcends our personal, professional, and social lives, as well as internally and externally. What does it mean to you?
In the Episcopal church, and likely many others, the word "justice" is brought up in the Baptismal covenant. It says in the Book of Common Prayer: "Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?" and the entire congregation (not just the person being baptized) answers: "We will, with God's help." But, honestly, what am I doing on a daily basis to "strive for justice"? Reverend Debra, our priest, asked us this very question in church today. I know it might seem like a very tiny thing, but as I teach courses to up and coming school leaders, the notion of how principals represent their school and their own reputation matters a great deal. I often have a student or two in each class I teach who has difficulty with their writing. Maybe they overuse or underuse (but misuse, in any case) commas or apostrophes; maybe they can't seem to grasp the notion of subject/verb agreement; maybe, they spell principal as "principle" (this one grieves me greatly, by the way. After all, how can you become one if you can't spell it?).
I consider it my integrity-filled duty to help each and every student I teach become a more proficient writer but to do it in a way that preserves their dignity. Why? Because it matters. Like it or not, we are judged by the way we communicate (both in written and verbal form) with parents, teachers, and even students. If we send home a memo with multiple typographical errors in it, there will most certainly be what I call "ballpark talk" about our competence as a leader. "Why in the world should the school hold my son to a higher standard of writing if the school leader can't even write the correct form of 'their, there, or they're'?" And the hits typically keep coming, after that. It's actually really hard to argue with that point, by the way.
When I first started teaching at one of the universities at which I teach graduate courses for those teachers working on their master's degree in Educational Leadership, I got the occasional, extremely frustrated comment along the lines of "Dr. Arneson is way too tough on our writing." It would hurt my heart, and I also have to admit it hurt my ego. But I was fighting for justice as a general respect, for all involved, for anyone who was going to have to read this student's writing anytime in the future.
I am proud to say that the tides seem to have turned. This "term", I have received emails and even public forum discussion posts that say things like, "Dr. Arneson has pushed me out of my comfort zone" or "No other professor until Dr. Arneson has ever given me so much feedback. I now understand how important effective writing is in our future jobs." I couldn't be more proud of them. Even students who currently have a C going into the last week of our course are thanking me for giving them a swift kick in the..... well, you get the point.
I am so very happy to say that I believe that fighting for some of the things I care about are beginning to grow a following. It may not be across the board (one of my students a couple of semesters ago said it appeared I was "married to the rubric"----was that meant to be rude? I take it as a compliment, by the way), but it is much more respected than it was before. What has changed? I believe it has a lot to do with how I am giving them the true purpose in effective communication. We, as educators or educational leaders, are held to a higher standard, whether we like it or not. We can say "It isn't fair" but the fact is I actually believe it IS fair, as we should be modeling for our teachers what our teachers should be constantly modeling the way students need to communicate---in job interviews, in jobs themselves or even in personal relationships. Some people think too much back hair on a man is unattractive. I feel quite differently. I believe that when subjects and verbs are not in agreement, that is far more unattractive than anything having to do with hair.
Because I try to implement what I believe is the right thing to do every day I continue to work in education, I would like to share with you one of my favorite videos on the topic of writing. Jim Gaffigan makes me laugh aloud.
Just for today, share with me what Ruth Bader Ginsberg's words mean to you? Please share on Facebook, Twitter, or Linked In! I want for us to spread the wealth!!
Are you a good person? Are your friends and family "good people"? What if the people you consider to be good people do things that you don't think are good things to do? Does that make them bad people? It would seem so when we watch the news or get into the rifts on social media about politics, medical situations, human rights, race, etc.
The sermon today in church was about that exact topic. Can good people get into bad things or act in ways that are not "good" in other peoples' minds? I suspect so.
My class I am teaching at Trinity University called "Teaching Students with Learning and Behavior Problems" has been studying the notion of students who have gotten in repeated trouble and been labeled "bad kids". Have you ever taught a "bad kid"? Have you ever had a "bad kid" in your neighborhood? I grew up mostly in apartment complexes and didn't have a whole lot of supervision. I participated in some pretty bad activities but I think I am a pretty "good person". Fast forward to teaching and being a principal. I had a student or two who would run away from school. The text we've been reading in class says that teachers tend to label students who would do such a thing as "bad kids" (Greene, 2016). The problem with even saying the student's behavior is bad is that we are not, in Greene's view going far enough "upstream". We are simply seeing what we see, and even worse, theorizing about the reasons for it. We hear educators say things like, "He probably runs away because he doesn't want to go home to his house where there is drug use and prostitution going on." The problem with these "adult theories" (Greene, 2016, p. 38) is that we are imposing our own beliefs on someone else's choices, and they are often wrong. Instead, we need to go further upstream and explore the unsolved problem. For my runner, it might be that he has difficulty staying in school after 2:00. We, as the adults in his life, including his parent(s), of course, can get together and talk collaboratively about the problem-solving process. What might we do? One suggestion is to get someone who has a really good relationship with the student to have the first discussion with him/her. That might be the P.E. coach; it might be the counselor; it might be the lady who monitors the lunchroom who the student opens up with when he/she feels like no one else is listening. The conversation might go something like:
Adult: So, you seem to have difficulty staying in the school after 2:00. What's going on there?
Student: I don't know. I just don't want to be there anymore.
Adult: Hmmmm....I get that; what do you think is going on around 2:00 that makes you want to run?
Student: I just hate getting on the bus after school. I'd rather run home.
Adult: What's going on with the bus that you're not comfortable with?
Student: It's loud and I just want to be by myself.
Adult: Hm.....it's a long way from school to your house, so we have the bus for that reason. I wonder what might happen if we got you a headset with your favorite songs on a playlist, and you could listen to that on the way home on the bus. What do you think about that?
Student: Yeah, that would be kinda cool....I'd like that.
Okay, maybe that is a simplistic version of the conversation and too easily solved, but it gives us the reality that the kid is not a "bad kid" and the kid is not even doing "bad behaviors". He/she just needs help with his unsolved problems.
We can be divided on our views on politics, religion, human rights, race, etc. but does that make someone BAD? I think not. I hope not. I pray not. As our sermon talked about today, even Biblical Matthew hung out with a homeless guy who ended up getting murdered (that would be Jesus). Who is bad in that scenario? I would think "nobody is".
We may see good people, even people we love more than anyone else in the world, be involved in activities that we don't like or agree with. But does that make their views bad? People on social media often say it does. I don't agree. I believe we have the ability to agree to disagree on many aspects but still be good people.
Whenever Dave and I hear someone talking about "That's not a good activity", it reminds us of one of our favorite comedians, Brian Reagan . He has one of the funniest "takes" on what is and isn't a good activity. But he doesn't get into who is and isn't a good person.
Just for today, perhaps consider what is and isn't a good activity for you. And remember, above all, that you are good and wonderfully made.
Greene, R.W. (2016). Lost and Found: Helping behaviorally challenging students. Jossey-Bass.
I'm sitting here thinking about what life looked like a year ago. I was in airports as much as I was at home, it seemed, traveling from one venue to the next, providing professional development for teachers and school leaders all over the world. Fast forward to now; the changes that have occurred in our world are innumerable. Many people have not seen their families in person for nearly a year. Those who have family members who are in vulnerable medical conditions can do no more than wave to family members through a window.
Many of us are going to Zoom church. Everyone stocked up on toilet paper (still can't figure that one out, but that's for another day). For me, it solidified my belief in 60% alcohol (or more) hand sanitizer (it actually feeds a bit of my OCD, I think). We are either back in school with face shields, like something out of a sci-fi movie; or we're totally online, teaching Kindergarten students through Zoom or other electronic platforms (who knew we should have all invested in Zoom a year ago?); or we're doing a hybrid model. I'm supervising several student teachers who tell me things like, "We can set up the date for an online observation next week, but don't be surprised if we change it to be in person. Things change, from day to day, around here." We cannot overestimate the amount of change that has happened for all educators around the world, and subsequently affecting students and parents. So, how have you been changed? I'll start and you can join in the conversation.
1. Working from home may have altered the venue but it certainly hasn't altered the amount of work, effort and passion I put into my webinars and teaching: After years and years of praying I would someday teach at my alma mater, Trinity University, in San Antonio, Texas, I was hired to do exactly that. Ummm....but maybe "exactly" is not the correct word. Living in Tucson, Arizona, I was going to teach in a hybrid setting, teaching face-to-face every other week, and online the alternate weeks. I couldn't wait. And then the mandates came out: I would have to get tested for COVID each time I entered Texas and quarantine for two weeks before going on campus. Ummm...I think that just defeated the purpose of the hybrid model. So, I am teaching fully online, but in a synchronous fashion, so I see my Trinity students every Tuesday and Thursday from 8:30 - 9:45 (oops! I forgot that would mean 6:30 - 7:45 in the morning for me). I couldn't be any more grateful for this opportunity. It is so different from the classes I teach at Grand Canyon University and Walden University, in which I only rarely get a chance to see my students, as the courses are all asynchronous (and how about that for a change? Everyone knows the word "synchronous" and "asynchronous", now). What hasn't changed? I still love what I do with a passion unmatched by anything I could have ever imagined when I was a little girl, playing school. Teaching may look different, but it still feels like exactly what I want to do until I am unable to communicate effectively anymore.
2.We are MORE involved in church than ever before. I was asked in March if we could help with setting up a Zoom meeting, so people who wanted to attend church from home would be able to do so. I was pretty fluent in Zoom, so I agreed. Only 7 -8 people were allowed in the church each week, so Dave began reading the Bible readings, then began carrying the cross and bringing up the offertory, and I ran the Zoom meeting and then ran over by the organ to be the sole singer (not soul singer, mind you) or praise and worship leader, if you will. We have morphed into a really nice production that we are proud to put out on Facebook Live each week (we call ourselves "Christship Enterprise", despite the flaws that happen when you have humans doing things that are new to them. Every other week, we all stay after church to do what we call "For God's Sake, Listen", in which Reverend Debra leads us in a whole group discussion or small group breakout rooms (thank you, Zoom) to talk about tough topics that some of us even have a hard time talking about with our own families. Rev. Debra gave a shout-out today to Dave and me for becoming such active members of church in the last year. We reminded her, when we were alone with her in the sanctuary, shutting everything down after church, that we came to HER to help us communicate a bit better with one another. We had no idea, at the time, that we would begin going to church there, much less become such active members. God has a pretty funny way of weaving the seemingly littlest threads through our lives. We are eternally grateful and really do feel like we have found "home".
3.We appreciate the time we have been given to appreciate life and love and God's beauty. Our friends and family would say, "You mean, you have time to work with a new puppy!" Yes, that is true, as well. We figured being a bit house-bound was a perfect time to adopt a puppy and train her. L.C. (5 months old and full of piss and vinegar) is a great addition to our home, and she has wormed her way into my morning ritual of running 4 miles. In fact, I now have to carry her water bottle when we run, as she gets as hot as I do. We are both relieved to see a little bit of cooler mornings beginning to creep into our desert climate. Change is HIGHLY inevitable when you have a puppy in the house (she believes she is a mountain goat, for example, as she climbs on every piece of furniture). Did I mention she's a yellow Labrador Retriever who will wind up being at least 65-70 pounds? But as hard as she plays, she sleeps that hard as well. What a change she has become for our otherwise quiet home. And we wouldn't trade her for the world (or at least that's what we keep telling ourselves when she brings souvenirs like parts of our backyard plants into the house, etc.).
What about you? How has your life been changed? How have YOU been changed? I pray that your faith has improved. I pray that your ears are open at least as much as your mouth is. I pray that our country can begin listening with our hearts more than we speak our mind.
I am grateful. How about you?