What fills your bucket?
For many people, the holidays can prove to me tougher than other days of the year. Some are reminded of relatives who may have left the earth too early or of regrets that were unable to be repaired. For me, Christmas is a time to reflect on my love for others and to fill up on the spiritual goodness I can. One of my favorite songs to hear during this beautiful season is Amy Grant's Grown Up Christmas List. It is one of those songs that makes me think about possibilities.
One of my other bucket fillers during this time include sleeping a bit later than normal. Dave and I have 3 Labrador Retrievers and every night is a 3-dog-night for us. The girls love to snuggle, particularly when it is cooler outside. I don't mind. I know, I know....dog hair--yuck! But there is something about their desire to be near me and my mutual desire to be near them that just seems like a win-win. There might not be much cuter than one or two of them looking at me with a face that says "Do we have to get out of bed?".
Now, add to all that the best of the best: Dave just retired after 30-plus years of work. I am so excited for him, and for us. Now, he will be able to come with me on some of my business trips. Now he can relax and golf a bunch more than he has previously been able. Now, we can enjoy even more of each other's company.
As grateful as I am for Dave being able to retire, I have absolutely no desire to quit working yet. I can't think of another bucket-filler that gets me going as much as my work does. Sharing new learning about effective teaching and effective leadership with others around the world is so gratifying, why would I ever quit?
And, while I was sitting on the couch grading papers this morning, Dave went into the kitchen and made turkey soup. As the smell of turkey and vegetables began wafting towards me in the living room, I thought, "Now this really is a bucket-filler. Turkey soup will literally fill my bucket." And, a few hours later, I was not disappointed. It was delicious!
I have so many people who are bucket-fillers for me, and we were able to see them in action this year when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. A huge thanks goes out to all of you who wrote texts, emails, cards, and letters, who sent special treats (many in pink) to help lift my spirits, and who came in person to sit with me and let me be dopey from medicine and to laugh with me and hug me. I am forever grateful to each and every one of you.
Now, what about you? What and who are your bucket-fillers? Please share a comment or two with me. I love hearing good news from readers.
In the meantime, have a blessed New Year and may all your buckets be filled!!
Lessons from Caitlyn
Make the World a Better Place
I suppose that, even if you haven’t seen the video of Caitlyn (click on her name to view the video), you have heard of this story or one similar to it. It’s all about the willingness to trust again, to me. After having been through something so devastating as having your mouth taped shut to the point of massive injury, can you trust again? I just attended a meeting this morning, where nearly 75 men and women talked about the need to find a belief in a power greater than themselves after going through some kind of horrible time (addiction, jail, hospitalization for mental illness, etc.). I think there are a couple of keys to surviving a devastating experience.
a. One person with whom you can trust (a mentor or spiritual advisor)
Just for today, perhaps we can learn a life lesson from Caitlyn’s story. How will you live your life after a tough time? How will you go on to be an example of strength to others?
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I am extremely excited to be teaching two classes for Masters' and Doctoral students at an online university this semester. One of the courses in called Collaborative Communication and we have been talking this week about leadership styles. We watched a video depicting a Superintendent who is conducting a meeting with several school leaders and my students then had to choose a point of view from which to comment about the video. To whose leadership style do you most relate? It made me think about my own biases and particularly about how I want to be treated by "my boss".
Just take a moment and think about all the people for whom you have worked over your lifetime (some of us have shorter lists than others, depending up our wrinkles---I mean, depending upon our experience). Do you prefer direct and to-the-point or do you prefer someone who just leaves you alone completely and lets you do your own thing? Do you prefer someone with a sense of humor or do you believe bosses should be seen and heard from only when completely necessary?
I have had the privilege of having some really great employers in my lifetime---an assistant superintendent who was willing to say "I'm sorry---I think I could have handled that better" and then did handle something better the next time I needed him. I also worked for a principal once who never darkened the door to my classroom. He always said, "You know what you are doing with those kids who have behavior disorders. You don't need me to interfere." What I'm not sure he knew is that I craved feedback. I wouldn't have considered it interference in any way. One other employer for whom I once worked had some really great knowledge and skills but was socially inept in many ways, making it very difficult to know where I stood at any given time.
Which do you consider more important? A leader's character or their competence? This was one of the questions I asked teachers when I research teacher trust in principals in my doctoral studies. What I found out was that they seem to be pretty evenly valued---we want someone with integrity but we also value our leaders' wisdom and skills.
I'd love to hear from you --- what leadership qualities do you value the most?
Please take a moment to share those with me in the Comments section of my blog.
Just for today, take a moment to be thankful for all the great leaders you have had in your life and say a prayer of thanks if you no longer are working for any of those leaders you might find lacking the best qualities.
A lesson from the dolphins
While in Hawaii last week for Thanksgiving (I was thankful I was in Hawaii, where it was warm), we got a chance every couple of days to walk down to the Hilton resort to watch the dolphins. You know the deal...you can get in and play with the dolphins, be a dolphin trainer for the day, OR....you can not pay a dime and you can sit on the grass next to the lagoon and watch everyone else for free!!
Here are the lessons I learned from the dolphins:
Smile---Okay, maybe that is an anthropomorphism, but they do seem to be so happy all the time. Have you ever watched a grumpy dolphin? In our workplaces, maybe it sometimes feels like there is nothing to smile about. But have you ever just smiled even when you didn't feel like it? Smiling makes you feel better---watch one of those baby laughing videos or a video of puppies learning to swim and maybe you won't be able to help yourself. Have you heard the claim that kids laugh between 300 - 400 times a day, while adults only laugh 14 - 18 times a day? I have worked in schools where adult laughter filled the halls because of relationships among the staff members. Lance might tell a funny joke or Vicki might tell us something funny her kids said and in no time, we are all cracking up. I want to always work and live in an atmosphere like that.
Have fun with your work--- As we sat and watched the dolphins one morning, we noticed that if they had a "free" moment, they would still play. They might chase one another around the lagoon, they might repeatedly jump out of the water, they might throw balls at trainers, but whatever it was, they seemed to enjoy life. I want to always live like the dolphins and enjoy my life and my work. The Serenity prayer helps me remember I can't control every little thing that happens to me in my life, but I can ask God for the peace to allow me to be serene no matter what is thrown at me. In the workplace, especially in schools, my peace can either rub off on others, including children, or my anxiety can rub off on people. Which would you choose? I choose peace every time I am asked, and yet somehow we allow anxiety to leak out of our pores and spread to others like wildfire. Deep, cleansing breaths can help and just finding a moment to be still can also help.
Relationships really do matter Have you ever seen the dolphins with their trainers? They are hovering around the trainers, waiting to find out how they can be of service, next. (and yes, it is possible, they are also begging for fish, but leave my analogy alone and write your own blog if you wish. :) When asked to hug or be still so kids around them can touch their skin and kiss their mouths, they are always ready to do whatever is asked.. I want to have that servant's heart, at all times. I think teachers and educational leaders are prone to that mentality, anyway, for the most part (you know some anomalies and so do I), but to truly have that ever-present desire to do for others is not always easy. Relationships with others make the difference between feeling burdened and feeling uplifted by our work. I choose to feel uplifted most days, but that doesn't mean it is an easy feat.
Just for today, perhaps we can take notes from the dolphins and smile, build relationships, and have fun at our work.