EduQuote of the Week: January 9 – 15, 2017

If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people.

Chinese Proverb

Office Door Quotes 2

Teach & Serve II, No. 22 – One Song 2017

Teach & Serve II, No. 22 – One Song 2017

January 4, 2017

One of the greatest gifts of living in our society is that we are not all the same.

And yet we are one.

 

Stop me if you heard this one (and, if you read my blog last year, you did!): I love music. I’ve sung and played guitar in garage bands, cover bands, liturgical music groups and solo at coffee house gatherings on and off for the past 30 years. I am not a terrific player but I know that I am good enough to be the number 2 (okay, number 3) player in a group. Strictly rhythm and strictly out of the spotlight, my playing gives me great joy. It’s difficult to describe the feeling I get when a band is in a groove, making good music, having fun, playing and singing as one.

In thinking about the one song that I wanted to have in my head this year, the one piece I wanted to put at the top of every playlist to remind me of who I want to be this year, I thought, as I did last year, about the artists I love who seem driven and passionate themselves. I am the first to admit that my musical tastes are not vast but what I miss in diversity, I make up for in loyalty. For my song last year, I selected Bruce Springsteen’s The Rising.

I played the hell out of that song last year and it really personified who I wanted to be and how I wanted to live.

This year, I wanted to choose something proactive, something engaging and something that resonated with the personal theme I selected for myself on New Year’s Eve.

The theme I selected was kindness.

My one song for the year is One by U2.

One love/One life/When it’s one need/In the night

One love/We get to share it/Leaves you baby if you/Don’t care for it

Sometimes years do not go the way we think they should. Often our plans are not realized. We can be frustrated. We can be upset. We can even despair. But we get one.

One life. One chance. One opportunity to make a difference.

We make our difference through kindness. We make it through love.

Too late/Tonight/To drag the past out into the light

We’re one, but we’re not the same/We get to /Carry each other

We can live in the past. We can hold others’ slights against them. But we can also move beyond this, beyond our hurts and our fears. We can realize that we are not all the same, but we inhabit the same places.

How much better would our years be if we approached those places and people from kindness?

One love/One blood/One life

You got to do what you should/One life

With each other/Sisters/Brothers

One life/But we’re not the same

We get to /Carry each other/Carry each other

One…life

One of the best parts of Christmas Break is the break from dealing with so many personalities, the break from feeling the need to respond to so many varied pressures from people. One of the greatest gifts of that down time is to settle. To contemplate. To think.

All well and good, but one of the greatest gifts of our work is the very differences that can sometimes drain us. Students, parents, our colleagues, they come to us (sometimes they come at us) with a myriad of differences, from a myriad of perspectives, from a multitude of diversity. That’s one of the greatest gifts we share in education. Of course, one of the greatest gifts of living in our society is that we are not all the same.

And yet we are one.

Feels to me like some of that truth has been lost in recent months.

Let’s get it back.

It’s the beginning of a new year. More germane to us in the education game, it’s the beginning of a new semester. We’ve had time away from the grind. We’ve had time to recharge. We’ve been able (I hope) to take some reflection time. To assess what we did last semester. To emphasize and repeat the good things and to de-emphasize and adjust those that things that were not so good.

We have a chance to start a new. To refocus.

May I suggest we use some of the focus on kindness?

U2 – One

EduQuote of the Week: January 2 – 8, 2017

If you don’t play hard, they won’t let you in the huddle.

Gary Kubiak

Office Door Quotes 2

Teach & Serve II, No. 21 – A Few Highlighted Posts

Teach & Serve II, No. 21 A Few Highlighted Posts

December 28, 2016

Reaching back for the last ten posts of the year…

 

EduQuote of the Week: December 26, 2016 – January 1, 2017

The goal of education is the advancement of knowledge and dissemination of the truth.

John F. Kennedy

Office Door Quotes 2

Teach & Serve II, No. 20 – The Gift of Our Work

Teach & Serve II, No. 20 – The Gift of Our Work

December 21, 2016

Our work reaches beyond us. It reaches through time. It reaches into the future.

This post will be published on the Wednesday prior to Christmas. Most likely, most teachers and administrators are done with their work today. Schools are about to shut down for Christmas – as much as schools ever shut down – and faculty, staff and students have time to spend with family and friends, away from the work for a few days, perhaps even a few weeks.

On many desks and in many inboxes this time of year, teachers and administrators find all manner of remembrances – cards and notes and gifts, tokens of affection and appreciation. Typically, these trinkets and notes do not fully express the gratitude of the students we serve. They are lovely to receive. They are not always reflective of the appreciation our communities feel for us.

But, while It is an appropriate time of year for students to thank us, it is an equally appropriate time of year for us to be thankful.

As many of us finish our last minute tasks, our baking and decorating and preparing, this is a great time of year to think about another great gift we in education are given: the gift of doing work that influences the future.

Our work reaches beyond us. It reaches through time. It reaches into the future.

We most often do not see ready results. While some of us have been in this work for an extended period of time and we have been able to watch some of the seeds we have planted grow in the lives our students lead after they have left us, we are typically immersed in the day-to-day, the checklist of the moment, the class to come, the next paper to grade.

It is challenging, then, to remember that our reach exceeds our grasp, ever and always. The work we do influences the world to come. It shapes society. It changes the world.

Changes. The. World.

That’s a gift worth receiving. It’s a gift worth sharing.

Teach & Serve II, No. 19 – Optimism Is a Choice

Teach & Serve II, No. 19 – Optimism Is a Choice

December 14, 2016

If we, as teachers and leaders, do not project optimism about the work, do not project positivism about the road ahead, do not push ourselves to be our best selves, who else will?

The days are short. The nights are long. For the last few weeks, many of us have been up before the sun breaks the velvet cover of night, have been on the road with the first slivers of light shine and have still been at our desks or in our classrooms as darkness begins to fall. The push to Christmas Break can be a challenging one and, though the promise at the end of the push is days off, celebrations of hope with family and friends and a few moments of re-creation, the payoff of these days can seem distant.

So can our own hope and optimism. It can be difficult to maintain a joyous and optimistic outlook when we are as drained as the teachers and students with whom we are journeying. It can be especially difficult this time of year.

Let’s look, then, at the other times of the year – the times when we are not at the end of the semester, the times when we are not buried by our fatigue, the length of the semester, the culmination of days without breaks. On the typical day during the typical week, as teachers and administrators, how conscious are we of maintaining our optimism and our joy? Do we make an effort to project an optimistic and outlook? Do we challenge ourselves to be the most positive person in the room?

We should. We really, really should.

If we, as teachers and leaders, do not project optimism about the work, do not project positivism about the road ahead, do not push ourselves to be our best selves, who else will?

I pose that question wanting you to reflect on it. If we are not positive, who else will be?

As leaders, are we not, in a very real way, responsible for the spirit of our work? Are we not responsible for trying to positively influence the mood of the school? Are we not responsible for how the place feels?

Optimism is a choice and it is a significant one.

As leaders, one of our goals should be to be the person our students and staffs point to and say “she’s so positive. He looks at everything optimistically. I feel better when I am with her.” We should be the “life of the party.” We should be the foundation around which people gather. We should develop the habit of looking on the bright side, of seeing the glass as half full, of always seeking out new and better possibilities. If we inculcate this mindset during the good times, the typical times, the normal times, how much easier will it be for us to be positive when we’re tired, when we’re low, when we are at the end of semesters?

We should be optimistic.

If we are not, can we truly expect others to be?

EduQuote of the Week: December 12 – 18, 2016

No one has yet realized the wealth of sympathy, the kindness and generosity hidden in the soul of a child. The effort of every true education should be to unlock that treasure. 

Emma Goldman

Office Door Quotes 2

Teach & Serve II, No. 18 – Disagreement and Dialogue

Teach & Serve II, No. 18 – Disagreement and Dialogue

December 7, 2016

It’s just so much easier to only consult yourself and it feels good. You are the leader. You have all the answers. Cue the swelling violins.

Picture the scene if you will: it’s towards the end of a long day at the end of a long week at the end of a long month. An extended break lies minutes away, if you can just get out of your classroom or your office. You have a few things to do, but the end is near. You can feel it. You can sense it.

You want it.

As you reach to unplug your device and switch off your light, someone is in your space. This person just wants a few minutes. Just a few.

You’re a good teacher. You’re a good leader. You settle back in.

“What’s up?” You ask.

“I really disagree with that decision you made.” You are told.

What happens next?

Does our body language stiffen? Do our eyes roll? Do we get defensive? Do we evade?

What happens next has a lot to say about what kind of leader you are.

Far too often when decisions are questioned, leaders tend to immediately defend. Leaders tend to immediately explain. Leaders tend to immediately justify.

disagreeIt makes sense (assuming decisions are thought out, thought through and thought about) to defend them. They have been arrived at with consideration. They have been put in place. They have been enacted. Why are they being questioned? It makes sense that we are ready to explain when our decisions are challenged. But is that the right course?

What if we asked questions, instead? What if our approach to disagreement invited dialogue? What if we validated the question of our decision by validating the person asking the question?

“What part of this don’t you like?” we might ask. “Why is this troubling?” we might ask. “What else should we consider?” we might ask.

Often, we don’t ask these questions. We are sometimes more invested in the decision than in the people it affects. We are sometimes worried about what engaging on questions like these says about us as strong leaders. We are sometimes too stubborn to listen.

We should listen. We should engage. We should be less invested.

Hey, some decisions must be made, made quickly and adhered to, but not all. On those decisions where we can talk, where these is give and take, we’d be well advised to do some giving, to encourage some taking. Our leadership is stronger when we can be questioned. Our decisions better when they can be explained.

Those we lead will trust us and our decisions more when we talk through them and engage in healthy dialogue and disagreement about them. They will trust us more when we trust them and illustrate that trust by our openness to this kind of talk.

Imagine if we modeled this. Imagine in our mode of engagement with disagreement became the standard way our schools operated. Imagine what it would be like if constructive conversation was the result of question and if disagreement was not feared and avoided. We know that avoiding small disagreements is the first ingredient in the recipe to create larger ones…

Clearly, the above scene is a set up. You’re tired. You’re looking to leave. You’re ready for a break. However, if we can present our best selves when we are not at our best, how much better can we be when we are? If we are practiced at respecting disagreement and encouraging dialogue as a matter of course, it should not matter if we are at the end of the day or the beginning, at the end of the semester or the start.

When we encourage healthy dissent and constructive dialogue, we shape a collaborative environment. That’s the kind of environment we should desire to build.