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.