"I just want some peace and quiet!!", said our mother and father, likely, when we were little girls and running around the house.
"Let there be peace on earth" says a Christmas hymn
"Peace, man!" said many people in the 70s (....or so I've heard, anyway)
"Peace out!" says my dear girlfriend who is also an Episcopal priest
Our Gospel reading in church this morning was from Galatians 6. My favorite verse talks about "Let us not grow weary of doing what is right". Doing what is right is part of what brings me peace in my personal and professional life. So much of the world is not peaceful right now. People on one side of any issue seem to always be in the faces of the people on the other side of the issue...and definitely not in any sort of peaceful way. How did Gandhi truly abide by his words "Each one has to find his peace from within. And peace to be real must be unaffected by outside circumstances"? How did Martin Luther King, Jr. think, “World peace through nonviolent means is neither absurd nor unattainable. All other methods have failed. Thus we must begin anew"? We can't even agree on the words in our Constitution.
There were 70 people who Jesus apparently told to go be peace-makers, going door to door, saying, "Peace to this house". I got goosebumps all up and down my arms and legs when Father Brian told us, right before communion, that there were exactly 70 people in the sanctuary today. Good grief, I suppose that is one of those God-winks that says I am called upon to be a peacemaker. The problem is, of course, we can't give away what we don't have. This holds true for so much in our lives. Even the flight attendants on the airplane tell us this...every single flight. We have to put on our own oxygen mask before we can help others put theirs on. The cool thing, I think, is that once we have our own peace (or oxygen mask---make your own analogy, and tell me about them because I LOVE analogies), we tend to want to help others with their own.
Two weeks ago, Dave and I put up a wall sticker/decal (don't even get me started on how much that process almost wrecked with my peace) that has the verse "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" (Joshua 24:15). It is on our mantel, right below the television, so our eyes are almost constantly on it. If we are truly acting on this Biblical verse, how then can we allow our peace to be taken from us, despite the temporary worries and frustrations of this world? Well, we do allow that to happen at times, precisely because we are human. What gets under my skin may be totally different from what gets under yours, and I don't know about you, but I have to work daily on the ability to "get peaceful with God". I literally have to kneel down beside the bed (where I am actually nose to nose with one or both of our yellow Labs) and pray every single morning (this is not an easy feat when I am on the road, traveling for work, staying in a hotel whose carpet may or may not be the cleanest in all the land---but I do it anyway) to allow me to be an instrument of peace. What does that mean to you? To me, it means that I need to be a voice of reason, not anger. We simply cannot bully people into believing as we do. I know this, as I have tried it a time or two in my life. But isn't that precisely what seems to be happening in our country the last several years? We try so hard to get our own point across, people give up on listening to us, and we miss the opportunity to possibly meet in the middle. We wind up losing our own peace by trying to get people to buy what we are selling.
I tell my graduate students who are working to become school leaders that there will be many days that they will feel as though they have to "sell" a new program to their stakeholders. I caution that instead of bullying people into something (which never works anyway), modeling the peaceful way toward change is likely the way which will work best.
No matter what, someone has to stay peaceful in this deluge of conflict and adversity. In the 1989 movie "Immediate Family", Glenn Close's character is talking to the surrogate mother they have chosen to carry their baby. She says the secret to a good marriage is "...only one person gets to be crazy at a time". Okay, obviously, it has been a minute since that movie came out, and it happens to have been three years before I would marry Dave. However, that quote has stuck with me since I heard it, and I totally believe it. It's that way with peace. If someone in my life is not acting peacefully, I have no business wreaking more havoc until both of us are in a state of chaos.
So, where does your peace come from? Some might say: church, God, their own Higher Power, marriage, love for children, work, prayer, being in nature, spiritual sayings, reading, gardening, and the list would go on and on. All of those besides gardening help me. Gardening actually stresses me out. Trust me...I want beautiful flowers and plants in my yard; I just know me---I don't have the patience or fortitude to make it happen (sorry to my Mother who had the greenest thumb of most anyone I know), myself. I desperately need outside help in this area.
If I truly believe that I have been called to be a peace-maker, I need to remember to help do that in the communities in which I live and work. I am blessed to work in communities all over the world, helping school leaders and educators hone their craft as I hone my own. My oxygen mask is not always completely functioning, but I know this to be true: when I hear words from even one of my workshop participants that make me reflect on why I am in the education profession, I am re-charged and filled up with the air of peace. Then, perhaps, I can do the same for others.
So, again, where does your peace come from? I pray that you find it today and spread the good news that peace is more preferable to conflict and unrest.
I'll be presenting via a panel discussion on June 20th and via my own presentation entitled: Building Effective Teaching, One Conversation At a Time on June 21st. I'd love to see you there!! The Principal's Desk https://principalsdesk.org/the-principals-desk-virtual-conference-summer-2022/… via
Every time we turn around, it seems as though there are perils that make us so divisive. Issues of guns, race, politics, abortion, and so much more seem to keep us saying "Go" when someone says "Stop". Problems abound with our inability to see eye to eye. Actually, seeing eye to eye wouldn't be necessary if we would just be willing to listen to one another without the constant need to be readied with a rebuttal.
I have been so saddened to see how divisive our country has become about the tragedy in Uvalde, Texas. It seems that the issues being discussed are not about the human lives that were lost but rather about blame regarding responsiveness, whether teachers should have guns, whether semi-automatic weapons need to be in anyone's hands, and whether Republicans or Democrats should be smarter.
Divisiveness is a choice we consciously make...about anything. People can read a Tweet from a former President (pick one...President or Tweet) and get riled up. People unfriend their friends on Facebook because they disagree with their choice of baby formula or best airline. I wonder what we feel we might be adding by arguing with others about, well, anything! Disagreeing with others is so very different than becoming or remaining divisive. We convince ourselves that our way is the only way to think, while this very act actually impedes us from having civil conversations with others, even family and friends, about topics that are worthy of discussion. One of my best friends and I disagree on a particular topic, and we actually enjoy the art of discussing it. I learn from her why she believes what she believes (and I really do respect the opinion), and I think she learns from me, as well. We have never once even hinted at the notion that either one of us might not want to be friends anymore despite this pretty major difference in opinion. Instead, we transition from that topic to laughing about something (we can pretty much crack each other up about anything, truth be told), and I believe our friendship is strengthened by this ability.
But I see people disavow relationships with a family member over a disagreement (or hurt feelings), and I feel sorrow for both parties. Why? Because in this situation of "I'm right, and until _____ apologizes, I'm done!", nobody wins. True confession: my dad and I had a falling out when I was in high school. He had made some pretty tough mistakes, and I was a kid who had a tough time forgiving him for them. After I graduated from college, I found myself living in the same city as my dad, again. I don't even remember who reached out to whom, first, but we started slowly, getting to know one another again....he was finding out about my newly discovered career interests, and I was finding out about his life happenings. We somehow agreed to let go of the past and form a "new" relationship, one I am grateful today for having. My dad is turning 91 this year (the last of Dave's and my parents to survive), and I am eternally grateful for the times we go to see him and I can hug his neck, kiss him on the cheek, and always tell him I love him. He has a really tough time getting around, his hearing is not what it used to be, and we have different views on a few topics. However, he is my Daddy, and when he passes away, I honestly will not have one regret. He and my mom divorced when I was 9 years old, but they shared and passed along a love for music to my sister and me that cannot be altered. I may not like everything my dad did or believes in, but I can so appreciate and be grateful for hearing his stories of being a band director, playing clarinet and saxophone is more bands than I could ever name, and of growing up in Oklahoma during the depression. When it's all said and done, divisiveness will not be the theme of our story. Just because I made the decision to be "opposite" a long time ago doesn't mean I still need to dig my heels in today to prove I am/was "right".
What brings about divisiveness in your own world? Dave and I will celebrate 30 years of marriage this year, and I would be lying if I said we had never had a disagreement before. In fact, there have been times in which we joked about there not being a need for us to go to the voting booths because we would just cancel out each other's votes. But the fact remains that if we are committed to building rather than tearing down relationships with people in our lives, we simply have to learn to be a "part of" versus "apart from" other views. As scintillating and intelligent as I might think I am (stop it! Please don't post your examples of how I am NOT those things), I can become a better human when I realize that diversity is so much more fulfilling than a billion clones of me and my views. Whenever I conduct a professional development opportunity for teachers, principals, professors, or students in my graduate school courses, I learn something new. I have begun carrying a reflection journal with me so I can capture new ideas that make me think....maybe even views that challenge my own way of thinking. In other words, I think I am still willing to listen to the opinions of others and perhaps learn something new from them and their own worldviews.
With that, I'll sign off so I can go argue with Dave about what we should have for dinner tonight. ☺
Abraham Maslow (1954) created a pyramid in 1943 (that was finally published in 1954) that depicted the hierarchy of basic needs of all humans. The theory is that we cannot become fully self-actualized (the top level of the pyramid, which is meeting our full potential) unless the other segments are first met. At the base level of the pyramid are the survival pieces like food and water. The next layer is SAFETY. Wow, does that one hit home this week, or what?? Dave and I built our "forever dream home" this past year in the hill country of Texas. It is beautiful country....God's country....a bit rugged with rolling hills and brilliant wildflowers and an unencumbered expanse of roads and trails on which Kirby, L.C. (our two Labs) and I run each morning. One of the nearby towns happens to be Uvalde, Texas, the site of the horrific shooting this week at Robb Elementary School.
As a former principal, I have never quit wondering what it would be like to have such a dangerous situation on our campus, despite practicing intruder drills several times a year. How, I wonder, can students, teachers, and parents alike function when their entire "Maslow safety level" is torn to shreds? Because I don't know those particular 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade students or their teachers at Robb Elementary, I keep picturing the elementary students at the school at which I was the principal for almost 8 years. I always used to tell the parents the day before school started, during Open House, "For the time your babies are at Edge, they are our babies too, and we will love them with all our hearts." To have any loved one killed so viciously, sadistically, and violently makes all of us shudder. The safety of our children simply must come first before we are able to teach them about the main idea of a story, how gravity works, or how to multiply and divide fractions.
Matthew McConaughey, whose mother taught at the Episcopal church's school when he was a young boy growing up in Uvalde, visited with the victims' families a couple of days ago. The people of Uvalde said it brought a smile to see McConaughey care so much about his hometown and its devastated residents. McConaughey asked in a Tweet what we truly value and how we can repair the problem. He goes on to caution that we cannot "....exhale once again, make excuses, and accept these tragic realities as the status quo." Amen, Matthew! We can't because, if we do, we are risking the chance that no child will ever feel safe in school, negating all the pyramid levels above safety: relationships and love; feelings of accomplishment; self-actualization and creative abilities. In other words, if we don't feel safe, how can we function in normal society?
I don't believe in coincidences but rather believe in Godwinks...those times in which things happen surprisingly (i.e., "Wow! I was just thinking about that person and then I saw them in the grocery store!"; "I was feeling confused, and the sermon in church was about praying for answers when we feel confused"). As a professor for graduate students at Grand Canyon University, I teach all sorts of courses for educators who wish to become school leaders (principals, Superintendents, curriculum directors, etc.). One of those courses is Education Law. As an adjunct professor (meaning this is not my full-time job), I often find it amusing that Education Law is one of the courses I teach the most (I wonder if many of the full-time professors don't care for it as much as some of the other, more "fun", topics). In a true Godwink, I literally just finished having a discussion with my Education Law class about whether or not they believe that teachers should be taught to carry firearms (with training, of course). In my class of insightful students from all over the country, they were almost exactly evenly split on their own beliefs backed by text-based evidence, anecdotal experiences, and simple feelings. Half believe it would be helpful to have all teachers have a gun in their classroom. The other half believe it would drive them out of education if they were asked to teach AND carry a weapon. I have my own views on the subject, to be sure, as most everyone does. I am terribly frustrated that we sometimes get caught up in the "argument", though, rather than remembering those dear children and teachers who lost their lives this week.
I get extremely frustrated that our lawmakers cannot find a way to walk across the aisle and work with others of a different political party in an effort to make change happen. Whether we are talking about gun laws, mental health resources, or whatever else people want to throw in to stir this pot, there are so many vitriolic comments thrown back and forth, I fear we lose sight of those innocent people who lost their lives on Tuesday. I have wept a few times this week, as children are our future. I wept when I saw the ad that Daniel Defense created, depicting a very young child holding an assault weapon with the Bible verse `Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it ' (Prov. 22:6.). Wait, what? A gun company is using a Bible verse to justify the sale of firearms??? I know people will argue about what that ad was meant to represent, but the use of a child in a firearm ad just hurts my heart tremendously.
Food and water are necessary for any child to be able to learn and grow, so we ensure that even the neediest of families are able to send their children to school for a free breakfast and/or lunch. But that next step on the pyramid, SAFETY, is rocking my world right now. How do we sufficiently promise families that their children will be safe when they come to school to learn and grow (and hopefully filled with respect, dignity, and character, as some will become caretakers to help Dave and me when we are old and feeble and need someone to help us eat and help us wipe our bottoms)? I know for certain that throwing hatred across the political aisles is NOT the answer, but what is the answer? I'll hazard a guess that it isn't just one answer but so many potential ideas that, in tandem, can help us all feel a little more safe, particularly for some of our most vulnerable----our children.
I pray we don't forget, exhale, or accept this Uvalde tragedy (and so many before it) as the status quo. For those of you with children and all of you who are faithful stewards as teachers and school staff, I am praying for you each and every day.
Faithfully communicating and looking for answers,
Maslow, A. H. (1954). Motivation and personality ([1st ed.].). New York: Harper.
I feel like this time around graduation for so many is one of those periods of time that this bit of irony comes up for me. We tell our graduates to dream big! Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote his "I Have a Dream" speech that gets quoted quite often (and I'm praying it will someday be lived out by all the world). Even in "This is Us", Rebecca tells her three grown children (as she is dealing with the onset of dementia) to not make their lives smaller because of her. She tells them she wants them to take risks and make the big moves, despite what health complications she has. In other words, she wants them to dream big! It's a pretty emotional scene, and I hope I didn't do the dreaded spoiler for those of you who haven't gotten to that part, yet (I am, of course, assuming you are all watching it----if you aren't, I'm not sure there is hope for you in the first place----just kidding!).
But weren't some of us also told, as children, to quit daydreaming and get back to work? Oh wait, maybe that was just me. Charlotte Danielson (personal communication, 2017) talked to her Danielson consultants at a training about how we should caution administrators observing teachers to not "assume" a student is not "cognitively engaged" in a lesson being taught just because the student might be staring out the window. In fact, "staring out the window students" are often the most engaged, as they are possibly trying to process and figure out what they want to write next on their writing assignment or what strategy to use as they begin to tackle the next math problem. So, is daydreaming really a bad thing? Maybe, in some cases, if it keeps us immobilized from getting up and getting into action. We all know the sayings: "The road to hell is paved with good intentions" or "Small deeds done are better than great deeds planned", etc. (I'd love to hear more of yours), but the fact remains that our graduates (and maybe all of us) need to remember that sometimes a really great action starts with a dream.
When I was getting my master's degree in counseling, we talked about the psychology of dreams a bit. I wish we could have studied it for a whole course, to be quite honest, as I have always been a lover of the meaning of dreams. I analyze my own, and I love to help others analyze them (Dave might say "...whether they like it or not"). If Dave tells me a dream he had the night before, I often say, "Oh, well the train part came in because we were talking about taking a train vacation yesterday". I can almost always point to the thoughts (fleeting as they may have been) that led up to at least the impetus for a dream. And I do have certain beliefs about recurring types of dreams. For instance, every once in a while, I have a dream in which I am driving way too fast and I drive off a cliff. The dream always wakes me up, as I never have "landed" wherever that might have been, going off that cliff. But I can look at that dream and say to myself, "You have WAY too much on your plate right now, and you feel like things are out of control." That makes perfect sense to me.
I think dreams can also be God-winks, as well. If I have a dream that my mother (who passed away in 2005) is still alive, and we are holding hands walking through a garden or nature trail ("This is Us" spoiler alert: this week's episode had me crying like a baby when Kate took Rebecca for a walk), I know there is something that I am wishing I could talk to her about or I'm wishing she were still around to be my biggest fan (she believed in my abilities WAY before I ever dreamed them----she actually told me (when I became a principal) that she always knew that I would wind up in a leadership role like that). I, on the other hand, had absolutely no idea that would ever happen. She didn't live long enough to see me get my doctorate, become a professor, publish articles and four books, or become an international educational consultant....which sometimes makes me sad....but when I see the stunningly vibrant red cardinals out on our oak tree in the backyard of our new house, I have a sneaking suspicion she is aware of the accomplishments she always believed I could or would achieve.
What are your own dreams? How do they impact your decisions? Do you get caught up in daydreaming? Do you get cross with your children or students who are daydreamers and wonder if they will ever get into action? Does someone feel that way about you? What are the implications of being a dreamer, for you?
I'd love to hear your thoughts about this topic!
In the meantime, dream big....then go out and make it happen.
I certainly can't take credit for the term "Godwinks", as SQuire Rushnell has written several books on this topic, but I can say for certain that I am eternally grateful for all the Godwinks in my life. Wait, you don't know what one is? Well, I am more than happy to enlighten you. Many people talk about coincidences, like, "I was just thinking about Sheryl when I happened to see her in the grocery store." Coincidence? Not likely----it was probably a Godwink, and there was likely some reason you were supposed to see Sheryl on Aisle 4. We pass a lot of things off to coincidence, when in reality, I think God is constantly putting people, things, opportunities, incidents (either positive or negative) in our path in an effort to tap us on the shoulder.
On Mother's Day, of all days, I am reminded of one of the most touching Godwinks I have ever encountered. It was during the wee hours of the morning after Mother had passed away in her rental house in July of 2005. K.C. (our first Lab) had been there with me, staying with Mother, as the inevitable was nearing. K.C. would diligently get up with me every hour or so that night to go check to see if Mother was still breathing. At 12:01, I woke up, K.C. and I did the bleary-eyed walk out to Mother's daybed where I saw that her chest was not rising and falling any longer. I called Dave immediately, and he came over to help me get folks over to the house to take care of things. The coroner had come to take her frail body away, and Dave was headed back home in one car with the dogs, and I was headed back home in my car. As I turned on my car, the song "Held" by Natalie Grant was just beginning to play. I had never heard the song before, but I have sung it in church many times since. The premise is that no one promised us that we'd be rescued from trauma or troubled times, but the promise remains that no matter what, we'd be held. I needed that so much that night; maybe you need it now (just click on the link above and you can hear what made me know this was exactly what I needed just when I needed it). Some call these "just in time" moments. For me, God was winking at me saying, "I gotcha". Well, He probably was saying, "I have you", as He likely has better grammar than what I just used. Who knows?
In 2009, Dave and I were living in Florida, and we were perfectly happy there. I was a principal; he was working at Eglin Air Force Base. There was a bit of talk of the possibility of us moving to Tucson at some point, so I looked at a principal position at a school district in Tucson. Apparently, the parents and staff told the Assistant Superintendent that they loved me and they wanted me to to come for a 2nd interview. Suffice it to say, I was told later that they already had an assistant principal who was "promised" the job. "Why did they even have me come out to Tucson?" I wanted to scream But Dave and I realized that my time as principal in Florida wasn't done, and at the same time, I heard about an opportunity to get my doctorate at the University of West Florida with a cohort. Had I gotten that job in Tucson, I likely would have never gotten my doctorate, quite honestly. Closed door that turns into an open door somewhere else? Maybe you can write it off as that simple, but I believe it was a true Godwink. I met and stay networked with so many of my fellow members of my cohort who got their doctorates at the same time. What an amazing opportunity!!
Fast forward to 2012 when Dave and I really did make the commitment to move to Tucson. I had resigned from being the principal at the best elementary school in the world, and I was wondering what the future would hold for me once we moved to Tucson. I knew I could likely find a job as a principal/administrator in the Tucson area, but I was thinking I wanted to try something different. Charlotte Danielson, whose Framework for Teaching we had been using in our Florida district to observe, evaluate and coach teachers, just happened to be coming to Okaloosa County to speak to the administrators (remember: I wasn't one anymore, as I had resigned), but I heard she was coming. Dave and I had sold our house already but weren't moving to Tucson until November, so we had rented a house right on the beach for the month of October (as an aside: the dogs were absolutely in Heaven!). I may or may not have "stalked" Charlotte a bit and found out her email address, which is when I found out she was coming to our area. I told her I'd love to speak with her if she had any need/interest in gaining any more educational consultants. When I asked where she was staying so we could find a mutually agreeable space to meet, she told me she was staying in the hotel that was literally right next door to the house on the beach that we were renting. It wasn't five houses down; it wasn't down the street. It was NEXT DOOR. Godwink? I think so. Even more Godwink-y (my own term, thanks) was when we hit it off, and she asked if I wanted to join the select group of international consultants who worked with educators all over the world to help teachers grow in their own reflective practice. I still do that work today. In fact, I am leaving tomorrow morning to go teach in a school district in Wyoming. When I asked what town it was in, Dave was Googling it to see where I would fly in. The first thing he saw is that it is about 30 miles from where my best friend/roommate from college lives. Folks, I can't make this stuff up. In fact, the closest Hilton property to the school where I will be is actually in Robin's town! CRAZY Godwink. Yes, we are having a slumber party, just like we did for three years in college every night.
The funny thing about Godwinks is that if we aren't paying attention, they will sometimes elude us (at least they do me). If I am all caught up in the worrisome trappings of this world, I might miss the beautifully brilliant red cardinal that is sitting on the branch of the oak tree in our backyard because I am so frenetically trying to get ready to travel for work this week. I might get so upset about not getting a job for which I thought I was perfectly well-suited (and it for me) that I miss that another former colleague is working with an entity that is doing work that I am extremely passionate about.
What does all this mean? It means I need to pay better attention, be alert to new possibilities, and be thankful when I can see a closed door as simply a chance to be open to another possible open door later down the road.
What is one of your favorite Godwinks? Please share! I love hearing other peoples' stories!!
While I am not currently a principal (I miss it so much---does that count?), I belong to a couple of forums on Facebook for principals. I feel like these sites and the topics that are brought up help me tremendously in informing my work as a professor for teachers who are getting their degree in Educational Leadership as well as the work I do as a consultant who facilitates learning for school leaders.
This is not (I repeat "NOT") a political forum, nor is it supposed to be really controversial, although people often have differing points of view about how they would handle certain situations in their schools. Every once in a while, though, it seems like people are just ready and loaded for a fight. Wait, what? These are supposed to be helpful groups for administrators that can often provide levity to what seems right now to be one of the most difficult times to be an educator or educational leader. I am so very proud that I currently am able to observe, coach, and work with student teachers who cannot wait to get their degrees and begin teaching, despite the complexity of the job. This week, someone posted a meme. The gist of it was about indoctrination, but it was a joke saying that if we, as educators, were going to indoctrinate students, it would be to turn in their work on time, get to school on time, etc. It was meant to be funny. I got the humor in it, as did most people in the group. One person, however, had to turn it into something political. The person stated that they felt that teachers were, indeed, indoctrinating their students to feel guilty about being white. He got a lot of backlash about, "What happened to your sense of humor?" "Why make this something it's not?" and many other comments in response to his inability to simply take this as a meme that was trying to make light of what has become, for many, a very gloomy outlook on what people outside the education world (or outside the school walls, for that matter) think teachers are "doing" to their students. And so it began....
There began a quite nasty thread of people arguing about Critical Race Theory (CRT) with people saying that most people who talk about CRT don't even know what it is (possible? I would believe so); people arguing about Common Core with people who are trying to say those people don't even know what Common Core's purpose (possible? I would believe so) and why it might be helpful for students to learn how to reason through multiplication problems rather than simply memorizing facts; and even people arguing that teachers shouldn't be TEACHING anything but facts with other people (I may or may not have gotten into this one as well as the others above) who believe we absolutely have to teach our students how to agree and disagree respectfully (we clearly didn't come out of the womb knowing how to do this, as evidenced by the filthy ways people talk about people with opposing views from their own), how to reason through a prompt such as: 'Members of a society should always have freedom to do what they want to do', and how to read a book then discuss it with others who might have opposing opinions about the subject matter of the book.
Is any of the above striking a chord with anyone? It sure does to me. I'm not afraid to say that I believe that we have, in our schools, students who do not all learn the same way, students who are so entrenched in generational poverty that they are going to have to be pretty good at climbing to get out of that trench, and that we can do a better job with teaching students how to reason. Regarding students who don't all learn the same way, in Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns,
Christenson (2011) says, "...schools have a very interdependent architecture, which mandates standardization" (p. 23). This standardization makes it really difficult to customize learning for individual students, but effective teachers often work day (and night) to figure out ways to make the differentiated learning not just a possibility but a reality. Christenson also says, "...the children of lower-income, poorly educated, inner-city parents are trapped in a multigenerational cycle of educational underachievement and poverty" (2011, p. 153). The cycle includes parents not knowing how to talk with their children about issues in a mature, adult way because they, themselves, weren't taught how to do so (remember what I said about not coming out of the womb with certain skills? This is one of them, I'm pretty sure); these students start out school already at a disadvantage and only fall further behind and become less self-confident and less enthusiastic about school. And the cycle continues on and on and on (In a quick moment of levity, Dave had surgery on his right foot this week. In pre-op, the doctor came in to talk to us, and he wrote "no, no, no" on Dave's left foot". From Dave's vantage point, it looks like something from a Stephen Bishop song (for those of you a bit younger than us, Bishop sang a song entitled "On and On")), making it tremendously difficult for traditionally marginalized kids to catch a break unless they find a mentor who might coach them along the difficult path to successful adulthood. Finally, in the area of teaching students how to reason, I saw a huge difference when we began teaching students HOW multiplication worked versus simply learning our "times tables" (as many of us were taught and many still believe "if it was good for me, it should be good for students of today"). But was it really all that great? We all learned to memorize our multiplication tables, typically up to 12 X 12, but I know many adults who cannot tell you why it makes sense that 25 X 3125 would more likely be closer to 75,000 than to 750,000. Today's students learn how to look at an answer to a problem and note its reasonability (or not). Is this such a bad thing? Having context with this type of problem even furthers its ability to make sense for many students. For instance, if I create a word problem that says: "A small high school has 25 students who need mental health counseling that will cost $3125 per student per year. How much will the total cost be for one year?", this not only allows students to figure out the reasonability of it costing closer to $75,000 than to $750,000, it makes it okay for students to talk about mental health issues and how there is help for them. I ask again: is this such a bad thing?
Florida governor's press secretary recently said, “If you want to teach your kid Woke Math, where ‘2+2=4’ is white supremacy, you’re free to buy any CRT math textbook you want. You just cannot force Florida taxpayers to subsidize this indoctrination." Wait, what???? I visit a LOT of schools in a LOT of districts. I watch a LOT of teachers teach. I have never once, in my history as an educator, heard any teacher try to indoctrinate students about White Supremacy through an addition fact or, frankly, through any other method. This statement, in itself, is bat guano crazy. Why do we have to be so combative, unreasonable, and think teachers are indoctrinating students because they teach them how to debate respectfully then might facilitate a point/counterpoint discussion on whether it is possible we could wind up in another Civil War in today's day and age, basing the student-led debate on past history, current events, and the students' own opinions? I ask again: is this such a bad thing? What if we, as adults, were no longer afraid to talk about our inherent biases regarding race, ethnicity, religion, political parties, sexuality, etc.? I don't know why "WOKE" is such a negative term for people coming to realize that perhaps what we believed when we were younger might not be an absolute truth, and we are now "awakening" and "open" to new beliefs and opinions.
Many times, I have talked about the sentence Dave and I use (I was taught it almost 24 years ago, and it has served us well) when we disagree. One of us, in the middle of the disagreement, will often say, "You know, you might be right about that." Now, this doesn't mean we have abandoned our principles; in fact, I believe it means we have held tightly to the principle of our integrity, that we are WILLING to admit that we might not have all the answers.
Let's go back to the beginning in which I talked about why some people find humor where others cannot. The film-maker, Taika Waititi said a good film "doesn't take itself too seriously, but it does believe in itself." I think this is a pretty cool line. I'm wondering if we might, just for today, take a lesson from it and reflect on finding humor when ours seems to be hidden under a rock for defending our "position" on something so tightly, we forget to laugh.
And for Heaven's sake, can we please just agree to disagree without "unfriending" each other, calling each other names, or taking something so personally, we create a chasm between ourselves and so many others?
This morning, at church, was Youth Sunday. The sermon was done by a young lady who will soon be leaving her church home for college at Baylor. One of the lines of her sermon truly resonated with me. She had been lamenting to one of our priests about how she will miss her church home, and that she is afraid she won't find a connection like this one. The priest told her, "You may never find another St. Helena's, but you will most certainly find a place that needs a Megan." Wowee...how important and profound is that!!
I "grieved" so much when I left the school where I was principal for almost 8 years in Florida (and that was after being a guidance counselor at that same school for 7 1/2 years). How could any place or any job ever compare? I always said it was the best job ever to be the principal at that school. How would any other job ever match up? Well, the fact of the matter is: it couldn't. I have never and will never find another Edge Elementary School, but I have found places that truly needed me (and I, them) over the last 10 years.
I began consulting and getting to travel to places all over the world to work with educators and educational leaders who were learning new skills, just like I was. I found that work to be so absolutely fulfilling, I said it was the best job ever. Dave laughed at me (still does, on an ongoing basis, by the way) and said, "You have said that about every job you've ever had in your career in education." He also reminds me that every time I go to a new place to teach (or especially back to schools or districts that feel like "coming home" because of the relationships I have built with the people there), I usually say (when I call him from my hotel room that night), "That was the best day ever!!" He says, "You know, they can't always be the best day ever." Hmmmm...."why not?"---I wonder. I've grieved when I am unable to go back to work at a particular place because the district or entity has perhaps changed hands and they are going a different direction (whether I think that direction is a mistake is beside the point) than believing that students should be able to construct meaning from what content versus sitting in row-by-row desks being "taught at" (uggghhh!). But grieving that I am leaving a job for another experience or opportunity has typically never let me down. I end up saying, "This is the best job ever!" whenever the new place comes along. I wonder if it is like what our priest told Megan, "There will never be another ________, but there will always be another place that needs a Shelly". And, I might add, I might need that new place, as well, to continue my journey and growth as a reflective educator. I have a sneaking suspicion that I will likely never go into banking or construction work. Indeed, the education world holds my heart and my passion. But where that passion leads next is always the "right" next move, I think. Right now, I am extremely blessed to get to teach at three different universities. I mentor doctoral students who are in the process of getting their dissertations. I teach courses to teachers who are getting their degrees in Educational Leadership. They want to become school leaders, and I live vicariously through so many of them who keep in touch with me once they have landed their first jobs. Those relationships help inform my own work. I am also blessed to be able to use what I teach in those courses to help further inform and augment the consulting work I do. The student teachers I supervise help me use skills of coaching that then help me teach educational leaders about coaching their own teachers. The development of curriculum for Grand Canyon University that I do helps me realize how critical curriculum development is to enable master's level courses to be the very best they can be in order to give students the experiences and content that will help them become of maximum service to the schools they will someday lead. It's so synchronous and synergetic, it's almost creepy (not in a weird way, though).
I suppose I am in a bit of a state of grief whenever one of my many part-time jobs comes to an end. I feel the loss deep in my soul....maybe because I have given my heart and soul to those jobs. I have, indeed, also applied for a couple of positions in my life in which I was not the "chosen one". "Ouch!" says my bruised ego. Those experiences break my heart, as well, but I have to remember that there is a plan for my next "move", whatever that may be (whether it's to continue to put together 7 different part time roles that wind up being way more work than a full time job could ever be or it's to take on a full-time position to help a school or entity grow). There may never be an organization for me like the one I leave or the one at which I wasn't chosen to be, but there will be another organization that needs a "Shelly 2.0" or "Shelly 3.0".
What does your next move look like for you? If you say "I will forever remain in my role as __________ at _________", then I would push you to consider, "How might you ensure you continue to grow in that role?" "How might you ensure you are not resting on your laurels in your current position?" I'd love to hear the ways that you do that, as I believe people need to hear our successes (and even what we have learned from our not-so-successful-experiences).
I know this to be true: there will never be another Shelly. Dave says the world probably couldn't handle more than one of me, but I know he means that lovingly. I have so much to offer. I can't wait to see what the future holds.
In the song "Watershed" by Indigo Girls, there is a line that says, "Every five years or so, I look back on my life, and I have a good laugh....". I laugh for joy at what I have been blessed to do throughout my life as an educator; I laugh at my foibles in certain situations; I laugh at the wisdom I lacked from which I have learned a bit; I laugh when I think I have learned it all, as the world is constantly evolving, and I am willing to be open to new ideas and new thoughts if I remain a reflective practitioner. What will your next five years hold? I pray they are good ones. I pray that you know that no matter whether you remain at a particular place or not, the world needs a "You" at the place where you will be.
Listening to this father and daughter duo singing "A Million Dreams" from The Greatest Showman (click the underlined words to watch and listen---it will not disappoint, I assure you) made me think so many thoughts. I happen to love thinking about thinking (metacognition, or "going meta" as some like to say), and it allows me to reflect on my life, my work, my contribution to my community and the education world at large.
I have three thoughts to share with you today. I hope you can find something to which you relate. If not, it's your own fault (just kidding---I totally share the burden if I am unable to catapult you into thinking about your life through my three key points).
Ready for a controversial blog? Here goes. These are not my words, but I am SO very interested in what people think about this teacher's words and thoughts. I do have thoughts---one is that we often talk about that which we do not know because someone ELSE has told us what we should think or believe. Another thought is that actual history has sometimes, (not always, but enough times for us to be aware and perhaps concerned), been misrepresented in history books, so good teachers supplement textbooks with real stories. Another thought is that we don't have to "remove" books with which we disagree. We can use them as really great discussion starters for our classrooms (i.e., if parents, school board members or other community members want to dismiss the reality of the plights of marginalized groups of people, then might we want to examine the real reasons for that and if it even makes sense?). This letter to Tucker Carlson says something that I have asked people who bark about "Critical Race Theory", "Do you know what that even means?" to which I have often found that the answer is typically a floundering for words that people have heard OTHER people say.
I welcome discussion on my website and on my Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter accounts. I will, however, delete comments that use profanity, as I have former students, parents of students, colleagues and dear friends for whom I choose to keep my sites open to enhanced vocabulary words rather than cursing. For me, this was definitely a great letter for so many reasons. To you, it might create discomfort. If it does, I invite you to explore that discomfort. My former Episcopal priest used to encourage us to explore our discomfort by saying aloud or to ourselves, "Welcome! Welcome! Welcome!" to subjects and conversations that make us a little uncomfortable.
This open letter is from an Iowa Teacher addressed to FOX News host, Tucker Carlson.
Dear Tucker Carlson,
Hey Tuck, I just finished watching a segment of your show. You know, the one where you suggest that there should be a camera in every classroom in order to root out… let me get this accurate…”civilization ending poison.”
I’m going to zig where you thought most teachers would zag. I welcome your Orwellian cameras in my classroom. Frankly, I don’t know many teachers who would object to having people watch what we do. As a matter of fact, I hate to tell you this Tucker Swanson McNear Carlson, but most of us spent the last year having video cameras in our classrooms.
See, I think you believe that your suggestion that people see what happens in our classrooms will somehow scare teachers. The truth of it is that we have been begging for years to have people, such as yourself, come into our classrooms.
I somewhat famously asked Ms. DeVos to visit a public school before she became Secretary of Education (https://www.huffpost.com/.../an-introduction-from-public...). It’s unclear whether she has yet to set foot in an actual public school classroom, but I digress.
I sense that you think you’ll see all of us pinko teachers speaking endlessly about Critical Race Theory leading to…
and again, let me get this right, “civilization ending poison.”
I’ve been in a lot of classrooms (more than you I am willing to bet) and think you’re going to be disappointed on that front. What happens in America’s classrooms is teaching and learning.
Your “spy cameras” will see teachers and students working together to be better every day. I’ll tell you what I saw on a tour of classrooms not that long ago.
I saw a group of kindergartners trying to create bridges over running water with basic classroom supplies in a lesson about collaboration. I saw a high school literature class talking about the character development in The Glass Menagerie. I saw a middle school history class participating in group project where they had to solve problems in a fictional city, with specifics of how they would utilize resources and build public support for their projects.
Anyone watching your cameras will see learning…
all day every day. For those who watch your “nanny cams” carefully, they’ll see a lot of other things as well. They will see teachers working with students who have vastly different life experiences.
They will see students who are fluent in multiple languages working with teachers to become proficient in yet one more language. They will see students who are hungry get their one solid meal a day in the cafeteria. They will see students itching for more fine arts, industrial technology, or world languages to be offered in their school. In my classroom, if we’re being honest, they’ll probably hear some sketchy intonation from my saxophones, and I promise we’re working on it. But for sure, they will see learning… all day every day.
To be honest, I’m fascinated by the logistics of your proposal. In a world where school districts are struggling to recruit and maintain teachers, who is going to man your “citizen review boards” (setting aside the fact that public school teachers already answer to publicly elected school boards)?
For instance, in my school district I sense you would need well over 500 cameras going every day. Who watches those 500 screens 10 hours a day (I want you watching my 7 am jazz band and my after school lessons)?
What qualifications would these “experts” need to know what they were watching for? What happens when they catch a teacher teaching… let me get this right… ”civilization ending poison?” Who do they report that to? I’m also curious who will pay for all of this incredible technology.
Maybe I missed it, but can you point me to a K-12 institution where Critical Race Theory is being taught? Hell, can you define Critical Race Theory for all of us? I’m sure you’ve got answers to all of these questions.
Frankly, I’ve never been able to figure out, instead of dreaming up Orwellian plans to have Big Brother in all of our classrooms, why you don’t round up an army of bright young conservatives to actually step up and teach?
Is it because teachers work hard, aren’t paid as much as those with similar educational backgrounds, don’t have support from our elected officials, constantly serve as punching bags for those who don’t understand public education, or is it just because it’s easier to throw rocks at a house than to build one?
Here’s the real deal Tuck, I grew up with my mom making me eat your family’s Salisbury Steaks once every couple of weeks (his family makes Swanson TV dinners) for many years. I struggle to take advice on teaching and learning from a guy who makes a steak that, on its best day, tastes like shoe leather that has been left out in a goat pasture for a few weeks.
I get that Critical Race Theory is your latest attempt to scare your easily manipulated demographic, but let’s just admit that you don’t know what you’re talking about.
With all of that being said, count me on the cameras Tucky. Like many teachers, I’m in the early stages of understanding Critical Race Theory (most of us hadn’t heard about it until you and your people started crying about it), but if you find me teaching it, have one of the Tucker Youth watching your surveillance devices let me know.
If Critical Race Theory involves talking honestly about American history, I’m probably doing that sometimes. I spent much of the last six years advocating for a way for teaching to become more transparent, and in the dumbest way possible, you are joining that crusade. Let’s make this happen TV Dinner Boy.
Patrick J. Kearney