Once again, the Gospel Reading and sermon today in church got me thinking....a lot! I love to partake in deep reflection, but not if it makes me feel guilty. Maybe there is something about that, though. Maybe if something makes me think or feel a certain way, there is a reason for it. The Gospel reading and our Reverend Jamie talked about how we need to ensure that we are using our talents, as we are able. So, I started thinking about all the talents I have and if I am using them to the best of my ability.
Here are a few talents (albeit at varying levels) I have:
I used to get quite nervous, sometimes, when conducting a professional development (PD) for all teachers or all administrators in a district for fear that they would think my modeling of certain techniques or strategies might be "silly". I no longer fear that, and I often start by telling them I will be modeling for administrators (for instance) what they might model for their teachers as instructional leaders themselves so that teachers can then take these ideas into the classroom. One of the techniques I use are chimes (just three tones, as I do have to pack clothes in addition to my training material). I almost scolded a few teachers one time in Houston who were on their phones while I was giving instructions on the next task. I used proximity to walk over to them while I was talking, and one of them looked up and said, "We're all ordering the chimes from Amazon". Naturally, that got a chuckle out of me. Fast forward to a week or so ago, I was teaching a workshop to about 60 teachers. At the end of the day, we did a "Circle Up" protocol in which they first individually write one word, one phrase, or one brief sentence that summarizes their learning from the day. We made a literal circle and went around the circle quickly (it isn't meant to be a dissertation from each person, and I, as the facilitator need not respond to each one), many people saying things like "total engagement"; "collaboration is key"; "learning can be fun"; etc. One of my participants said, "Honor the chimes". I had to ask him to repeat it because I wasn't quite sure what he meant, but he told me afterwards that learning to respect when the chimes are rung, the expectation should be that everyone gets prepared to listen. Brilliant!
I have thought about school-age students I have known or heard about who feel this fear paralysis in classroom environments. They don't speak up even if they know an answer (for fear of being ridiculed); they don't know how to do the work that has been assigned to them so they simply act out instead. I have learned, time and time again, that sometimes, students would rather be categorized as "misbehaving" rather than "not very bright". Of course we, as adults, can say, "Come on---you can do this!" but the reality that possible environmental issues keep them from wanting to take that chance.
I, too, could stay "comfortable" in the life God has given me....or I can truly listen to what God is "calling" me to do. Which will it be? At the end of the day (or all my days, for that matter), I sure would love to hear "Well done, good and faithful servant".
Happy Communicating to all and have a blessed week,
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!
When I look back on my life (from childhood to my mid- to late-50s), I often ponder where I learned certain things. For instance, my sweet Mother (who died in 2005) used to tell me that when we, as humans, are in a "funk", we likely need to "act as if...." if we are going to be attractive to others (friends, new relationships, etc.). This was, not surprisingly, first taught to me after my first REAL (what does that even mean? I'm still wondering about that, to be honest) boyfriend broke up with me. Not only my mother told me "We all have an aura about us at all times, and if your aura is putting out bad mojo, you are likely not going to be overly attractive to other boys who might otherwise have an interest in you". Ironically (or maybe not so ironic when you really think about it), my 8th grade science teacher (who was also my uber-strict bus driver), when I was a hot mess (sobbing all morning the day after said break-up), started walking over to me (and I thought, "Here goes....he's going to tell me to go to the bathroom and get my crap together") and leaned over and whispered these words I have never forgotten, "He's one of MANY fish in the sea, and you are going to attract so many other bigger and better fish than you could ever imagine, so my advice is to let this one go." Wow! What a way to dry up my tears out of sheer astonishment. The supposed Grinch truly had a heart, and he picked me to show how much he cared. That teacher died many years ago, but his words still remind me to keep the main thing the main thing.
Who did you learn life lessons from? Was it from a mom and dad who gave you some semblance of a normal upbringing and you even had grandmothers and grandfathers who also passed down words of wisdom? My childhood would, by many, be categorized as "the illustration when you look up the word 'dysfunction'", which is not to say that anyone did anything bad to me except to do the best they could when they did it and did better when they knew better (I'm butchering Maya Angelou's words something awful, but you get the gist. When I travel around the world working with teachers and educational leaders, I often tell them, "You're going to hear me sing out some call-and-response examples, and I am going to ring chimes because I am the 'victim' of being birthed by two AMAZINGLY talented musicians. My dad was a band director for 40+ years, and my mom was a concert pianist." That part of my genetics and my upbringing are pretty ingrained in me, so I'm sorry if that isn't something that my modeling is something you could or would use in your own teaching. When I go visit my dad in the nursing home (for lack of a better term), he loves to hear if I worked with the band directors in the district where I just was working. I love talking to Daddy's "people" and using band and choir (and other non-traditional) examples of what good teaching looks like and sounds like.
All of this above to say what I wonder about: if a single parent, who was the solid rock and foundation of, say, three kids, dies prematurely, how much of what she has instilled in those kids going to stick with them the rest of their lives. Or, maybe for those of us who are wondering, are we supposed to swoop in and linger to help with the questions young adults might face since their mom is no longer around to answer said questions? Those in the know obviously know I am not asking hypothetically or rhetorically, but am truly wondering, "How much of what this rock-solid-faith-based Christian mom taught and modeled for her three beautiful children going to stick with them if she isn't there anymore to answer some of life's difficult questions or help be a moral compass when (not if) needed?
One of my favorite contemporary Christian artists, Nichole Nordeman, sings a song called "Legacy" (click on the title to hear the Youtube version of her singing this acoustically) which epitomizes what I believe to be my role in life (since, partly because, Dave and I don't have human children of our own. What is my legacy for my beautiful 37 year old niece if I were to pass away tomorrow? What about for her daughter, who I feel such a kinship with but we don't see each other all the time? What would my 5 year old niece say about my passing, as we are currently navigating the waters of becoming extremely close (we are currently looking forward to her second time in 6 months of staying the night with Dave and me without her parents----to include watching Scooby Doo in bed with popcorn and M&Ms)? Maybe it's a bit of my ego wondering what is said about me after I'm gone, but I do hope and pray that there will be a grain of wisdom, humor, passion for everything I do in my career and fierce affection/love that people will say about me. I may be "a lot" for some people, and that is truly okay if I have made an impact on any of the beings with whom I have taught, counseled, mentored through their doctorate, loved, and admired.
Fun fact: My mother, who was a self-proclaimed atheist for most all of her adult life, had a St. Francis of Assisi statue in her garden or in the woods near her, because she truly worshipped nature and animals much more so than us humans. As our Episcopal priest preached about how St. Francis was one of her favorite saints, I started bawling like a big baby, thinking about how I pray that Mother gets a regular chance to chat with St. Francis. In the same sermon, Jamie (our priest) taught us that although the word "blessing" in our language typically means something that is tangible or real that we have been given. In Hebrew and other languages and religions, blessed is more translated as "ashar" meaning "to find the right and straight road". In addition, the word "blessed" is translated also in Hebrew as "to kneel or stoop down to God". I love this translation, as the work I do with teachers and school leaders focuses so much on relationships. In fact, in the Danielson Framework for Teaching (for whom I am one of selected international Danielson consultants), we talk about kneeling down next to a student as one of the best ways to show respect for and build rapport with students (Danielson, 2013). I happen to love when my "work beliefs" directly correlate with my "spiritual beliefs". How do we bless others? How are we blessed by others?
I'd love to hear your thoughts on what wisdom you have gotten from others and how it has changed you.
Why? Because I want your learning to help me learn.
Danielson, C. (2013). The Framework for Teaching: Evaluation Instrument. Princeton, NJ; The Danielson Group.
Have you ever had one of those days in which everything seems to go askew? Wait a minute. I meant to say: when was the last time you had one of those days...
Everyone has them. It isn't just a matter of if, but rather when.
When I have a day like that, it seems like it is usually when I am traveling. One such day that comes to mind was a few years ago (it would be perfectly natural to assume one hasn't happened since then, but that wouldn't be correct) when Dave and I were traveling back home from a two-week trip to Europe right before we were to be moving from Florida to Arizona. We arrived to Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris, checked in then went to the gate. As we stood there, waiting to board, a notification appeared saying the flight was delayed, then just as quickly changed to "Flight cancelled". Uh-oh! No, no, no. Our flight from Paris to Atlanta couldn't be cancelled because Dave had to get back to Florida to meet the movers who would soon be packing our entire house for our move to Arizona.
On top of that, I was supposed to be flying to a school district in Florida to do a keynote and break-out sessions for them. Dave and I quickly scurried to find a gate agent who could help us. I ended up changing my flight that would end up getting me to my training location the night before my training. Dave ended up not getting home until extremely late the night before the movers arrived early the next morning. It seems that all would be fine. But wait! There's more (like a Ginsu knife commercial without the knives, and Murphy's Law has ownership over times like these)!
The next morning, I was in Orlando (which, miraculously, was where I was supposed to be), preparing for my keynote and I notice that my powerpoint was missing some slides. Scratch that: a bunch of them. I was about two hours away from presenting and I had very little on my slidedeck. My heart was pounding and I started sweating. Some might mistake these signs for being in love, but no. It definitely a thump-thump but no loving feeling was attached to it. If you have lost something big from your computer, you know the wave of panic I felt. Side note: I have a dear friend with whom I got my doctorate who lost all of her material from her computer as she was 3/4 of the way finished. Not great.
I was experiencing conflicting messages: one that said, "Freak out and take everybody with you!" and one that said, "This, too, shall pass." I chose to listen to the first message for several minutes until a still, small voice said, "Take this opportunity to re-do your presentation." After all, I knew the message I wanted to present, I had some of the slides, and I had the printed material the participants would have. I took a deep (read: enormous) breath, and got to work. One hour later (with minutes to spare before I was "on"), I had a new powerpoint presentation which, admittedly, was rushed but a better product than I had before.
The key ideas that I learned from this experience were:
1. Don't getting bogged down in self-pity (for too long, anyway)
2. Start by taking some action
3. Use the experience as a learning opportunity (have I mentioned I now have an "auto-save" feature on my computer, now?)
I am extremely grateful for the re-do opportunities I have been given in my life. Yes, I have often had to be tapped on the shoulder in order to jumpstart the re-do, but the choices were mine to take or ignore. Some of them include:
*Choosing to move into an educational leadership position almost 20 years ago
*Dave and I chose to move to Tucson 10 years ago to "do something new" and then moved to Texas 2 years ago to build on our "what if someday" land in the hill country
*I chose to quit drinking and become more "present" in my life over 25 years ago
What have been yours?
I would love to hear your stories and the lessons you've learned!
Check out this great song by Francesca Battistelli that pretty much sums up life to me:
Happy Communicating!! (and now I am going to save my work) :)
Well, I suppose that since the name of my website and blog are about communication, I should show my vulnerability about certain pieces of advice about communication.
The morning of the colonoscopy (it was scheduled a bit later in the day than I would prefer, but you get what you get and you don't pitch a fit (I learned that gem from the best Kindergarten teachers in the world)), Dave and I were in the surgery center. I already had the IV inserted, and we were simply waiting "my turn", hoping and praying that they clean the instruments with a clear surgical precision. Just as the nurse came in to put the first dose of "happy juice" in my IV (you know, the stuff they give you before they wheel you back and knock you out completely), my phone dinged. Before Dave and I prayed for the doc's healing hands to be upon me, I (just like Pavlov's dog) was drawn to my phone. I opened it, and there was a text message. I wasn't planning on opening the whole message, but I just wanted to see who it was from and if it might be important (like more important than going back for a surgical procedure? I know----don't judge----read my last blog if you are tempted). What I saw stopped me from getting too "happy" from happy juice, as what I could read of the intro to the message said (and I quote): "Jesus is approaching...."
Now, I don't know about you or your faith or your beliefs, but I looked at Dave with a little bit of fear in my eyes, and I began to wonder if I should cancel the colonoscopy altogether. I mean, if Jesus is approaching......
I had to do it. I had to open the whole message, which was directly from DoorDash, saying that "Jesus" (likely pronounced "Hey-soos", but no matter) was approaching my dad's rehab facility with the Crumbl cookies I had sent.
WOWEE!! I started giggling and could not stop. I trust that the surgical center has heard many strange reactions to the drugs they give you, but this was PERFECT for making sure I take care to not make assumptions before reading the whole text.
I invite you to share your best communication (or miscommunication) stories with me.
Today is judgement day. Okay, hang on. No freaking out. Please don't start trying to get your affairs in order. Just keep reading so you can hear me out. It is judgement day for me, because I need it. I have had a LOT of things going on in my life lately that are either connected....or not. Actually, it doesn't matter. All I know is I feel like I have been dealing with a lot of health related issues, work craziness, and a ton of students who I am mentoring in graduate courses, as student teachers, or through their doctorate as they work on their dissertations. Aside from a couple of weighty (no pun intended, but I wouldn't mind losing about 15 pounds) health scares/issues lately, most of the things I have been dealing with are pretty great. Work for me is not taxing except when I make it that way. In other words I find myself over-committing to work, either by accepting too many consulting jobs or taking on too many graduate courses to teach or even by accepting too many student teachers to watch/supervise each semester. What happens when I take on too much? The scales seem to tip in the direction of having too little time to keep me spiritually fit, to keep me patient with my dear loved ones (yes, even the hubby and dogs I miss so much when I am traveling for work) or stressing about getting prepared for the next job. Does that cause health problems? I don't know if it causes them, but I sure know it can't help.
What I have found is when I am working too hard or worrying too much (or "borrowing trouble", as my beautiful spiritual advisor reminds me), I begin looking outward at what is wrong around me instead of focusing on how I can heal myself. Since I broke my wrist in July, I had talked about the need to slow down, which I am not positive I did such a hot job of doing, and I believe it has taken its toll on my spiritual, mental, physical, and emotional health. When I am not on my healthy "game", I tend to face outward about the problems in my life. The consequence of that is I can get snippy and even rude to people I don't even know or people I love. One such example was writing a nasty-gram to a property "host" we were going to use to rent a place in Tucson for a month in the winter. He did a really poor job of communicating the full cost of what we were going to pay, and Dave and I got frustrated. Even after we were "over it" and done and knew we weren't going to rent one of his properties, I felt the need to take a dig at his miscommunication. While I thought my sarcastic remark about his lack of respect, honesty, or professionalism was likely "true", it was something I don't believe God called me to do.
In church today, I heard a few truths that I needed to hear and ponder on for a little bit. I'd like to share those with you, as they might help you as well if you find yourself in the same judgement boat as I was in.
What is it that gets under your skin? How do you remain steadfast in your journey to be a good and faithful servant?
Please share your stories and insights with me.
Several weeks ago, I broke my wrist bone....first broken bone ever. Since that time, and even since I got the cast off a couple of weeks ago, I have learned so much I should already know about slowing down. As I get older, in general, I can't run through the airport at breakneck speed to catch a connecting flight like I used to. Having the knowledge of that and having the ability to not try to do it anyway are two vastly different things. Couple the age factor, though, with the broken arm, and I am slowly learning to slow down...and ask for help when needed.
Dave will likely be the first one to tell you that I do not ask for help, readily. For years, we have watched that video showing the little girl who does not want help putting on her seatbelt. Wowee, she reminds me of myself. But the fact of the matter is: we all need help sometimes. Lifting my bag into the overhead bin on the airplane would be next to impossible without the use of my right hand and arm, but it is such a simple gift for someone to simply put it up there for me, especially when they happen to be 6 inches (or more) taller than me (not a hard feat, as many of you know). I just have to remind myself that it might take me an extra minute (or 5) to get settled or to board a flight in the first place. And don't get me started on trying to get all the training materials I need (plus the obligatory and oh-so-critical diet coke) out of the car each morning I am traveling for work. What horrendous thing might happen if I had to take two trips into the school? But nooooooo....... I catch myself trying to be a packmule and then spilling diet coke on the front of my dress (while the front office secretary tries to convince me you "really can't see it that much"). Ugggghhhh.....
Sometimes, though, God simply tells me in no uncertain terms that I will (no maybe about it) slow down. For me, that mandate typically comes in the form of some type of COVID or other virus/flu. That happened last week. I had gotten home from one state and was going to travel to Houston two days later to train, and I got knocked on my behind by fever, chills, fatigue, cough, and other "not-necessary-to-mention-in-this-blog-but-suffice-it-to-say-they-weren't-great" symptoms. Dave took me to Urgent Care where the doctor told me he was going to write me a "get-out-of-work" note. Dave laughed, and said, "She doesn't have anyone that is going to need that....except HER!" The doctor told me to get some rest, and I'll be honest----I really didn't have a choice----rest was literally all I could do. I did end up (with Dave accompanying me, by the grace of God) being able to travel up to Wyoming for a few days of training, while also getting a chance to drive around and walk in some pretty areas of the mountains and forests. God definitely has a sense of humor, especially when I try to do things in my own time (see above "breakneck speed"). Sometimes, time has a way of simply slowing down FOR me and even allowing me to write a short blog since I have been remiss in doing so for a few weeks.
What are the benefits of slowing down?
For me, they include:
*remembering to pray
*remembering what's important
How about you?
Hurry up (just kidding) and comment on my post to let me know your best "slow down" story and/or advice.
Does life throw us curveballs we find frustrating? For sure! I guess I should just speak for myself, but I know I have my share of annoyances, bumps in the road, flight delays, etc. This past week, I was working in upstate New York on changing the culture in a small school district with really great administrators who are committed to help their teacher become better and alter the culture of their schools and their district for the better. Dave (my dear husband of 31 years as of August 1st) came with me because I broke my wrist a few weeks ago in Cabo (I wish I had a more exciting story to tell besides the fact that I broke my fall down three steps off the tee box on the golf course). I can type (but my wrist starts aching pretty seriously after a few minutes) but my handwriting is pretty atrocious. I'm not allowed to lift anything, lest the fracture gets displaced any further and we have to look at surgery----no thanks. I've learned how to do so many things with my left hand that it's never had the opportunity to do as the right arm gets center-stage. The thought of traveling by myself was a little daunting, but the real truth is the weather in Texas has been over 100 degrees for the past few weeks, so I didn't figure it would hurt Dave's feelings too much to head north for a week. Suffice it to say, Dave literally became my right-hand man the entire trip, and he now has another jewel added to his angel crown for all he did for me. He lugged all the luggage (including his golf clubs, of course---what's a guy supposed to do while his wife works during the day, anyway?); he helped wash my hair; he learned how to dry my hair; he cut up my food (yes, seriously), and so much more.
In addition to doing all the THINGS for me, Dave has always helped me in more ways than I can list, including modeling how to catch flies with honey. He is most definitely a charmer, and he has taught me how to ask nicely for upgrades in hotels, for one. Yes, I could say, "I'm a Hilton Diamond member; be sure you give me an upgrade", but that would likely not work as well as Dave's line, "Diamond status gets us the Penthouse Suite, right?" with an adorable smile. Simply asking specifically for what we want is something Dave has taught me how to do. Notice I said "asking", not "demanding". I think there is a huge difference. The same holds true for having status on the airline to which I have been loyal for over 10 years. I always tell people that every single airline is going to have weather or maintenance delays, but stay true and loyal to an airline and they will stay loyal to you. If a flight is so delayed I am going to miss my connecting flight, I already have a new boarding pass along with hotel and food vouchers (if necessary) ready and waiting for me when I exit the plane. But it is no surprise that air travel is one of those things that aggravates people to the point of sometimes simply blowing up. You don't have to search too long on the internet to find examples of people getting kicked off airplanes for being rude to the flight attendants or even other passengers.
Yesterday was a prime example. Since I paid for my airline ticket and bought Dave's ticket with miles, they couldn't tie us together in such a way that it would put him on the upgrade list for 1st class. As a frequent traveler, I got bumped up to 1st class on three out of four of our flights. However, a 1st class seat does me no good without my "right hand man". Plus, we want to watch Netflix shows together, so I'd rather sit back a few rows but together than sit by myself in 1st class. On two of the three flights on which I had been upgraded, we had a gate agent put Dave on the upgrade list (and we both ended up in 1st class on one of the flights). On that flight, we got to the gate and asked the gate agent if she could try to put us together in 1st class so Dave could help me. She was LOVELY (likely because we asked nicely and didn't assume this would be a "given"). After this got resolved, a guy walked up with a beautiful white Great Pyrenees service dog to get in line before the flight boarded. A few feet away, a woman was Facetiming a relative, and she started complaining to her family member how much she hated dogs and how "that dog better not be on our flight". We thought it was pretty apparent the dog was indeed going to be boarding the flight. The already irate lady started cussing about letting "damn animals" on planes. Okay, I get it. If you aren't a dog lover, you might not appreciate the absolute beauty of this animal, but it didn't stop there. The woman (who had previously been sitting in a wheelchair but had been walking around while Facetiming with her family member) marched up to the adorable and lovely gate agent to say "That dog better not be on the flight with me". The gate agent assured her, with a precious smile, that the dog was with its handler and shouldn't cause her any problems. The completely out of control lady said, "It can't be on the flight because I am allergic to dogs". The gate agent gave the lady the option of staying on the flight or being booked on the next flight out ( which could, in truth, have 10 dogs on it versus the one on this flight, but I was just watching the show at this point), to which the furious lady said the gate agent had an "attitude" (I've never understood this----doesn't everyone have some type of an attitude?) and "Don't you see I'm disabled? I just walked over here, but my wheelchair is over there". That poor gate agent had to deal with the insanity of the woman and asked her to step aside as we were already in the midst of pre-boarding. I made a point of telling the gate agent how much we appreciated her and told her she was doing an AMAZING job. As Dave and I sat down in our seats, I said, "Wouldn't it have just been easier for the irate woman to simply slow down, take a breath, and then ask if there was an open seat as far apart from the dog as possible? If I were that dog, I feel I would say a big 'Amen' to that solution anyway."
Instead of whining about the problem, what might happen if we think ahead about a solution that can wind up being a win/win for everyone? What is an example of this for you? I would love to hear some of your stories. In the meantime, I think honey is on sale at the grocery store this week!
woman rude about dog
do what is asked of you by police
ask for what you want
I know I have mentioned several times that I also teach online graduate courses, but if this is your first time reading my blog, let me catch you up. I teach Educational Leadership courses for online students at one university, and I mentor lots of doctoral students at two other universities (who are writing their dissertations). I adore both types of work, even though they are so different from one another. My masters' level students often get quite surprised by my presence in their discussion threads. I poke my nose in and lurk (definitely not in a creepy way) in a way in which I firmly believe all good teachers should do when their own students are engaged in table group discussions or even partner discussions. Why? Because we simply need to know what is being talked about in order to get the finger on the pulse of what is happening in each of those conversations. Can I hear them all? Of course not, even when I am teaching a face-to-face workshop. However, I think it is one of the most important strategies I can share with novice or pre-service teachers and/or administrators. So, if this is a strategy we expect teachers to use in their classrooms, then principals need to use it when they are listening to conversations between their own teachers in Professional Learning Communities or professional development (PD) opportunities. So, if this is a strategy school leaders should use, then I should be modeling it for them when I teach a face-to-face workshop or an online course.
I try to model several types of engagement strategies, discussion techniques, classroom management routines, and methods of building rapport when I teach, as well. I call participants by name (in my online classes, I ask them what they want to be called as names and relationships matter); I use chimes to ring to bring us all back together after a group discussion or activity in in-person PD, and I use multiple engaging techniques specific to the outcomes we are attempting to reach. I always am certain to tell my participants that I don't ring chimes because it is "cute". In fact, I don't do anything because it is "cute". I ring chimes because music tends to cut through even louder group conversations, which allows me to ask people to pause their conversations and come back to their tables and get ready for the next phase of teaching and learning. I, in fact, also tell people that whenever I show a video, it is for a specific purpose. If they need a graphic organizer to help them keep track of what they are gleaning from the video, I try to provide that, as well. Watching a teaching video without a purpose is...well...purposeless. Again, I am trying to model what I think good school leaders should do for teachers, and what teachers should be doing for their students.
Recently, I got feedback from a participant in a workshop who said, "I didn't like that she used chimes. It was too childlike." I admit I was shocked. First of all, hadn't I explained the purpose of modeling? As a principal, I used to use puppets every Friday morning for our news show. Libby the Black Lab would tell Mud the Chocolate Lab how she should learn better manners as a growing puppy (thereby teaching the students they should model good manners for one another in the classroom or lunchroom). I had a bald eagle (named Eagle Eye) who would say, in a very professorial-sounding voice (stick with me), "I have SEEN......" and then he would launch into what he was seeing as good or bad examples of leadership around the school. When I talk about the use of those puppets, I always jokingly say, "I think I could have taught the students how to multiply fractions using those puppets as they were typically riveted to the news show, not caring that I am not a masterful puppeteer and my lips would move the whole time." But I also make sure I tell people that not everyone is comfortable using puppets, as a teacher or as an administrator (I'm so wacky, I had about 25 different puppets with 25 different personalities and, therefore, 25 different voices and personalities I had to memorize). I always say to use what works for you! If it feels comfortable to YOU, it will feel comfortable for your audience.
This little piece of feedback was literally the first time I have ever had someone say something that indicated they felt "belittled" by my use of chimes as a transition tool. I SO badly wish they would have asked about it during the workshop, as I would have turned to the whole group of school leaders and asked, "What do you use to model for your teachers as transition tools they can use in their own classrooms?" I have a hunch I would have heard things like, "I do rhythmic clapping" or "I model the call and response I like to see teachers use like 'All set?' and then the students say 'You bet'." Some might say, "I don't use any gimmicks with my teachers. I just yell at them to get quiet so we can begin our meeting." Ugggh! Let's yell to get people quiet. Wait....what???
Just as those Russian nesting dolls fit so nicely within one another, so I see with modeling what we want to see at the next level of "doll". Whether it is a set of chimes, a silly song, a call and response, or WHATEVER, teachers are watching school leaders, and school leaders (or potential ones) are watching me to see if I am standing and delivering content (versus engaging them in content). It is incumbent upon each one of us to model different strategies for different purposes.
Maybe I have mentioned that I am a perfectionist. While most all the other feedback from that session was extremely positive, I got stuck on that one negative statement. That, indeed, is precisely the type of negative thinking that I encourage people to avoid, by the way. "Do not let 5% of the group take up 95% of your time", whether that time is physical or mental. So, I'm posting about it to get it off my chest and be done with it. :)
So, what do you model for your own children, students, teachers, or others with whom you work? I can't wait to hear your thoughts.
In one of the classes I'm teaching for Educational Leadership at Grand Canyon University, I posed a question about who the students would or could talk to if they found themselves in a position in which they didn't know what to do or how to handle a particular school situation. One of my students spoke of the "tribe" she uses to bounce ideas off of. Several of us have posted responses to her practice. I am so blessed to have several tribes with whom I use for different situations in life.
In presenting to teachers, school leaders, and university professionals all over the world, I have been so happy to find people with whom I can co-present, people who I go to for new ideas on presenting strategies, administrators who network with me and continue to become true friends and comrades in this education journey. I tell new teachers and administrators to "stick with the winners" and only go to those people for advice. Some people in education (any profession, also, of course) can get burnt out and share their burnt out feelings. Who needs that?
When faced with a situation in which I'm feeling resentful, discouraged, or troubled by worry, I have a tribe of spiritual advisors and fellow travelers who are still making their way through situations that used to baffle me. We can discuss our journeys, give each other advice and not be offended in the least if the person decides to go a different direction (after all, it is not my business to "grade" someone on the choices they make, only to be there to support). I am blessed to have a new tribe member, who I call my spiritual guru. She has saved my butt a couple of times in the past couple of years, and I am eternally grateful. Denise, you are my guru, but I promise not to put you on a pedestal!
Dave makes fun of me because I tell so many people "I love you". You know why I do that? Because I love so many people. I know better than to share every single secret in my life with every single person, but I still love and cherish the relationships I have with so many friends from so many different seasons of my life. Let me preface this by saying I went to 8 different schools in my 12 years of K-12 schooling. I still have managed to stay friends with Tricia, my bestie from 4th - 6th grade. I also am still EXTREMELY close to my rock and cornerstone best friend from high school, Denise. She and her family even vacation with Dave and me once every other year to Cabo San Lucas. We're doing it right now, by the way! Robin and Kelly were my best friends in college; we were in each others' weddings, and we now get together at least twice a year (husbands are allowed to come for the summer trip). We have a group of 8 or 9 of us from Trinity who gather together every year and we group text. We have seen each other through cancer, divorce, becoming grandmas, and always so much laughter (and crying because we are laughing so hard). The guys have simply resigned themselves to the notion that you can't contain this joy, so they no longer try. All of these friends are near and dear to me and are unique in each way we value our friendship.
What about you? Who is in your tribe? And for what reasons do they stay there?
Happy Communicating (in and out of your tribe),