I know fully well that our God is an awesome God. Why? Mostly, it is because He makes me feel like what happens in church was EXACTLY what I needed to hear about from the events that occurred the week before or even the day before. This week was no different. The Gospel reading and sermon were all about the bridesmaids at a wedding running out of oil for their lamps and were afraid they would be in total darkness as they awaited the arrival of the groom (the story is not lost on me in that it reminds me that on the evening of our wedding, the electricity in the church went out from a tremendous thunder storm").
Being proactive wasn't necessary the reason I felt so calm that evening. All I cared about when asked by my sweet bridal attendant, Beth, if I was going to be okay if there was no electricity during the wedding, was "As long as Dave is up there when I walk down the aisle, it will all be good." And it was----simply amazing to see the sun come out for a gorgeous sunset just as we were headed to the limo from the church to the reception. But I digress (for a great cause, though, right?).....
The theme of the sermon and the Gospel reading this morning was truly about being proactive and prepared. I think about the notion of preparedness and relate it to so much in my own life. I have often been accused of being a control-freak, having OCD (which I like to refer to as CDO so the letters are in alphabetical order just the way they are supposed to be), having a Type A personality ("A" stands for awesome, right?, so I am good with that) or even being a bit anal-retentive (that starts with "A", as well, but I'm not as jazzed about that one).
I am definitely the Julie McCoy (cue the old "Love Boat" reference and theme song) when working with work colleagues or spending time with my dear friends. I am the driver (partly because I am a good DD since I don't drink anymore) but also because I have it in my bones the ability (and need) to ensure we have dinner reservations, to lead 8 people through the streets of NYC heading toward a venue to teach, and I definitely need to know when we will be eating our next meal (that's perhaps an unrelated need to satisfy my hunger).
Most of the time, this proactive planning works in my favor. I learned early on in my teaching career that, when working with students with severe emotional/behavioral needs, that if I was not proactive in my planning, there would indeed be bloodshed in the classroom. Eric wasn't going to tolerate Richard's inane comments, and Eric would rather punch Richard in the mouth than listen to him. I kind of got it, and I might feel the same way, but my impulse control was a tad bit more established than that of my 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders.
Planning engaging lessons (before the word "engagement" became such a "flavor of the day") was not just a good idea; it was likely the one thing that truly got my students excited about learning. When we read "The Indian in the Cupboard" by Lynn Reid Banks, I created a laminated "cupboard". Inside of said cupboard, every afternoon after the students left, I would place 3 pictures of items that were tips or clues about what might happen next in the story. These kids, who came to me as virtually non-readers, could not wait to get to class and for Reading (pre-ELA terminology) to start, as they knew someone would be chosen to open the cupboard and get to hang up all three picture clues on the board for everyone to write on a slip of paper (regrettably, I hadn't found the inner joy of using post-it notes, yet) what they hypothesized would happen in that day's reading. Fast forward....these hitherto non-reading students were now not just learning to read but they were truly reading to learn....and learn they did. We read Robinson Crusoe, The Sign of the Beaver, and several others. Don't even get me started on how I am certain that in some places, the books I read with my students might have been banned. Uggghhhh..... but that, indeed, is WAY too big of a topic to write in this blog.
Students who earned enough points (they were self-assessing their own behavior, by the way, before that became the "thing to do") would get to go with me on a lunch outing on any given Saturday that culminated in a trip to the bookstore (remember those, pre-Amazon, stores?). They loved that time....almost as much as I did, as it built relationships between me and my students. I even took one of my students to the Alamo, as she had finished reading a historical fiction book about a cat who lived through the events that took place at the Alamo. Reminda, my sweetheart of a 4th grader, at the time, became enamored with the architecture of the Alamo and never once again took my stapler to staple her thumb (Yep, that's another blog topic).
One of my dear friends, who passed away almost a year ago, had planned and prepared for her kids as she began suffering more and more from the 27 malignant tumors that were attached to her liver and knew she was not going to be on this earth much longer. During our last in-person visit, we had lunch and then found some completely quiet time during which I sprinkled her with Holy water (why my Episcopal priest at that time knew I am "equipped" to know how to bless others baffles me to this day, but I sure do appreciate the Holy water and use it as I see fit, which is exactly what she "called" me to do). I wish I was able to micro-manage the hurt away from her beautiful adult kiddos who I love like they could be my own, but that's me trying to "control" the outcome in the way I try to see fit. I have to remember that some of my best experiences were from my biggest mistakes.
Recently, I was asked to teach a workshop in another state. I always try to ensure the contact at the school district, school, university, or charter school network at which I work is made aware of my very specific needs: the room arranged for maximum viewing of the PowerPoint coupled with the ability to discuss in groups throughout the session; the participant materials; highlighters; chart paper; post-it notes (I told you I may not have figured out the magic of these little gems when I was still in the classroom but I use them in every training I do, now); a projector that has an HDMI port, the ability to project sound (as I always show teaching videos); and the ability to get on the internet. After reading that, you might conclude that I am either "prepared" or "anal". I actually believe those two are not mutually exclusive. I often say things like "Only four people to a table; yes, I promise there is a method to my madness". I also teach my Ed Leadership students as well as workshop participants, "I don't do anything because it's 'cute'." You may, indeed, find an idea I use to be clever (and, by the way, I do prepare the room arrangement and materials with fun and purposeful learning in mind), but the real reason is for true, purposeful, meaningful, and relevant content to come across so workshop participants (and my Ed. Leadership students, as well) leave feeling as though they are truly learning really important strategies and material that they can use tomorrow.
Welllllllll.....let's suffice it to say not everything went as advertised in this recent training. Although I arrived one hour prior to our start time (I always do this to be "prepared" for the unknown, which often means moving furniture around so all participants will be able to see each other as well as seeing the PowerPoint). The problems started with no one being able to help connect my computer to the projector (I have almost every connection known to man that I carry with me in my "ditty bag", but nothing fit). There were also not NEARLY enough seats set up, so I got my workout for the day (which means I was sweating something awful) moving furniture around so we could access another table or two. I also needed more chart paper, and everyone (totally understandable) was either helping to dismiss students early or busy eating their lunch before they came to me.
Suffice it to say, we did not have any visuals for about 15 minutes, so I had to "wing it", which the teachers seemed to appreciate, as things rarely come off as advertised despite careful planning (it sure helps to have a good plan, though, because then you can envision how you might "pivot" should the need arise). Once we got the projection, the sound on the videos wouldn't play despite every techy idea I could try. One of the teachers graciously offered her own speaker that was perfect for the 2nd video I used. When we gathered in a circle at the end of our time together to name one word, phrase or brief sentence that could summarize our learning, every single person said something worthy of being heard (a couple even said "flexibility", which made me realize that the flexible manner in which all teachers have to teach was recognized and dealt with). Over 50 people were in that circle (myself included, as I definitely had to summarize that these teachers who had been at school until 8 or 9 the night before and had a musical to put on after we were finished----crazy, right?????), but everyone had an amazing take-away (a couple are going in my own reflection journal).
In what ways have you found planning, preparation, being proactive, and ready to pivot in your own work or personal life?
I'd love to hear your thoughts!