All posts by Daniel Kerr

Dan Kerr is now Lower School Director at the American School of Paris. He previously served as Intermediate Division Principal at Academia Cotopaxi American International School in Quito, Ecuador, and prior to that was the Middle School Principal at SCIS in Shanghai, China. Dan has also worked at JIS in Jakarta, Indonesia and he began his International career in Abu Dhabi. Dan is thrilled to be joining the ASP family and will be accompanied by his wife, Jocelyn, who will be working as a counselor, and his two children, Max and Gabby. 

A Beautiful Balance

So not that long ago I gave an assignment to a group of educators who I teach as part of their international education and leadership master’s degree program. The class is titled, Innovative Practices, and the overarching theme for that particular week revolved around the idea of a blue sky vision for schools. The assignment was to write about, and then to defend what they believed to be more important when designing their school of the future, a greater focus on academic rigor or a greater focus on social emotional health and wellbeing. What I thought would be an interesting discussion actually turned into a fascinating debate on the very nature and purpose of education, and the essential responsibilities that we have as educators as we seek to prepare students for their lives inside and outside of school. 

What made me smile about the outcome of this assignment (and where I was truly hoping they would eventually land) was that the group came to this rock solid conclusion…it wasn’t one or the other in isolation, it was a purposeful marriage of both. We ended up calling this parallel approach, “the beautiful balance”, and it was inspiring to hear the ideas, discussions, and recommendations that they all had for bringing this balance to life in their particular schools. There was a lot of talk about the importance and the imperative of a deep focus on social emotional health and wellbeing, particularly in a post-covid world, and that is the absolute truth, but a recognition as well that we can’t sway too far in one direction for fear that the high expectations and deep rigor that we want for our students might be compromised. 

Finding this beautiful balance in schools is no easy task, and the work and commitment needs to be targeted, intentional and explicit. It’s deep and difficult work as we review things like curricular and advisory programs, course offerings, units of study, student workload, and beliefs around assessment practices. It’s about prioritizing systems thinking too, and watching for any unintended consequences that may knock us off balance, so to speak. It’s about a new or renewed commitment to developing not only incredible students, but incredible human beings as well. 

As a part of the assignment they also brainstormed the skills, dispositions and attributes that they wanted as natural outcomes for their balanced students. They envisioned students who ask critical questions and fail forward and seek to understand. Students who inquire deeply and follow their passions and take ownership of their educational experience. Students who are inclusive and empathetic and collaborative and look for solutions to problems in their world. Students who persevere and challenge themselves and find comfort in being uncomfortable. Students who feel celebrated and valued for their accomplishments outside of the regular classroom, and who feel seen and heard and loved. And finally, students who ultimately feel a deep sense of belonging and who find success in all aspects of the day simply for being who they are as young people in our world.

That’s the balance that they are chasing, and it’s a balance that is not only attainable in my opinion, but essential for us as schools as we think about what might go into this blue sky vision. As a way to begin to find that balance, the place to start for schools is to target the social and emotional well being of kids, and teachers, as we think about and tackle the school experience post pandemic. It’s imperative that we look at how we can support not only students, but our entire community, targeting how we can get better in this area and using the last few years as a catalyst for change. It’s not okay to simply go back to the way things were, as the opportunity is here to focus on empathy, compassion, understanding and belonging. It is not the time at all to add more work and more stress and more homework to try and catch up, or make up for “all that lost time”. With an eye on the health and wellbeing of our communities we will take a giant step in the right direction toward finding that beautiful balance that we need in schools. 

Anyway, I enjoyed the assignment and the deep discussion that followed, and it’s encouraging to know that schools around the world are currently focusing heavily on creating that beautiful balance for their communities, and I’m proud to know that we are one of them. Have a wonderful week ahead everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other. 

Quote of the Week…

Next to love, balance is the most important thing – John Wooden

Related Articles – 

Social and Emotional Skills – OECD

Three Keys to Infusing 

Academic Growth

The Anchors that Drive Us

The Dark Side of Rigor

TED Talk – Having Fun

TED Talks – Protecting Your Passions

Inspiring Videos – 

Back to School Inspiration

10 Things That Made Us Smile

School Spirit

Honoring Your Mom

The Beauty Within

Joy Begets Joy

So we have this new little kid at our school, who only arrived in Paris just a few short weeks ago, and honestly, there is just something about him that draws me in. Lately I find myself seeking him out at least a couple of times a day because his smile and energy and enthusiasm is ridiculously contagious. Interacting with him is like getting a triple espresso shot full of joy, and everytime that I speak to him he leaves me feeling instantly better, and belly laughing or smiling as I move along through my day. 

With him it starts early in the morning as he comes bounding off of the bus literally exploding with sunshine and rainbows, and it continues until the end of the day when we fist bump goodbye. Just seeing him changes my mood for the better…and I’m almost always in a great mood already! It’s amazing how a single person’s mood and attitude can have such a profound effect on your own, and he is a great reminder to me that happiness spreads, and that your energy and attitude matters, and that joy does indeed beget joy. 

This child’s joyful approach to life connects nicely to an activity that we did as a faculty the other day, where we unpacked the phrase, “you teach who you are”, and discussed what that phrase means to us as educators. Obviously we can dig really deep into that idea, and we did, but on the surface and in very simple terms that short but loaded phrase can not only represent the effect that you have on everyone else as you enter the building each day, but it can serve as an important reminder that the energy that you bring to every space and every situation really and truly matters.

You see, If we know that joy begets joy then it isn’t too far of a stretch for us to realize that a negative mood or a poor attitude can be equally transmissive. Like me, I’m sure you find yourselves drawn to people who lift you up and infuse you with a little boost, and I’m also sure that you try to limit your interactions with those who dampen your spirits. For me, I believe that the only true currency that we have in the world these days is the energy and attitude that we bring to each and every human interaction. In every instance we have the power to inspire, or to deflate, and we all need to be uber conscious of what energy we are exuding. 

I don’t usually share poems in back to back posts but the one below resonated with me so I thought I would share it…take a read and let it sink in. Joy is a funny and sneaky thing, and like the poem suggests, it will always find you when you are ready to accept it. The thing that is true about joy is that it spreads, and it’s contagious. Knowing this, it’s also true that we all have the opportunity to change a person’s day or life for the better when we are intentional about handing it out. It’s just like my new little buddy who bounds off the bus each morning…his joy spreads over a kilometer in every direction, and it’s impossible to not be positively affected by it. 

My challenge to you all this week is to monitor who you are being for others, and to do a self audit of your joy factor. Are you spreading it around enough? If not, then make a change and seek out others who can inspire you in the right direction. Remember that joy begets joy so take it in and spill it out and watch how it changes your life, and the lives of those around you for the better. Okay, have a wonderful week ahead everyone and remember to be great (and joyful) for our students and contagiously joyful for others. 

JOY

Joy does not arrive with a fanfare,

on a red carpet strewn with the flowers of a perfect life.

Joy sneaks in, as you pour a cup of coffee,

watching the sun hit your favorite tree, just right.

And you usher joy away,

because you are not ready for it.

Your house is not as it must be,

for such a distinguished guest.

But joy cares nothing for your messy home,

or your bank-balance,

or your waistline, you see.

Joy is supposed to slither through the cracks of your imperfect life,

That’s how joy works.

You cannot invite her, you can only be ready when she appears.

And hug her with meaning,

because in this very moment,

joy chose you.

-Donna Ashworth

Quote of the Week…

Find ecstasy in life: The mere sense of living is joy enough. 

-Emily Dickinson

Related Articles – 

Joy is Contagious

The Contagion of Happiness

Make it Go Viral 

Why Attitude Matters

Every Single Day

TED TALK – 

Where Joy Hides and How To Find It 

Inspiring Videos –

Out to the Ball Game

Kindness 101

10 Things That Made Us smile This Week

The Arrival Gate

So I used to think that the happiest place on Earth was the arrival gate at any international airport, kind of like the introductory scene suggests in the classic movie Love Actually. You see, ever since I was a kid I have been taken by the smiles and the hugs and the pure joy that is unabashedly on display every time a person comes into sight through those opening arrival doors. People are always rushing over the railings and past security guards and holding up signs, and in most cases they are quite literally unable to contain their happiness at the sight of their arriving loved ones…it inspired me then as a young person and it still does to this day. Next time you find yourself at an arrival gate, take a good look around and take in the beauty…it’s a deliciously happy place indeed. 

Anyway, over the past few years I have started to change my tune slightly, and now I firmly believe that the happiest place on Earth might just be the arrival gate of a lower school on the first day back from summer. Our first day was this past Tuesday, and the amount of smiles, hugs, laughter and unadulterated joy that was spilling out of the students and teachers was palpable and magical. Kids were sprinting off the buses and into the playground, desperately seeking out their friends, and eager to make new ones. Even the new students, who were sent into an “I can’t wait” frenzy the day before at new family orientation day were dying to get started in their new classes…it really was a beautiful experience, and I just stood there taking it all in, smiling from ear to ear (in between hugs and high fives and fist bumps of course). 

Thinking about it though, I’m sure that this particular year is a little different, as there seems to be a sense of deep relief being shared by all of us as we start the year without masks and isolating restrictions and all the rest. I guess it is an exaggerated version of what we usually see on the first day of school, as I know we are all hoping that this is the new beginning that we have been waiting for since the pandemic began. I have to say that it wasn’t just the kids and teachers who were joyfully ready to roll last Tuesday, it was the parents as well. The lower school playground had a party-like atmosphere almost like a carnival, and it gave me a glimpse into the community that we used to have here at ASP not that long ago, and it was an inspiring promise of what’s to come. It was a return to a look of our true community, and a wonderful first step into reconnecting.

It reminded me of the poem below that I’ve shared before in previous posts, which talks about the important and essential partnership that needs to be developed between parents and educators in order to give our students the educational experience that they deserve. The poem might be a little outdated in some parts but the sentiment rings true, and it’s one of the things that is so exciting about this year…that reconnection of community after such an abrupt and isolating collective experience. So with all that in mind, and the arrival gate euphoria still very much in my heart, I want to wish everyone an amazing school year ahead. Here’s to keeping that arrival gate awesomeness alive and well in the months to come. Welcome back to school everyone, and remember to be great for our students and good to each other. 

Whose Child Is This?

“Whose child is this?” I asked one day

Seeing a little one out at play

“Mine”, said the parent with a tender smile

“Mine to keep a little while

To bathe his hands and comb his hair

To tell him what he is to wear

To prepare him that he may always be good

And each day do the things he should”

“Whose child is this?” I asked again

As the door opened and someone came in

“Mine”, said the teacher with the same tender smile

“Mine, to keep just for a little while

To teach him how to be gentle and kind

To train and direct his dear little mind

To help him live by every rule

And get the best he can from school”

“Whose child is this?” I ask once more

Just as the little one entered the door

“Ours” said the parent and the teacher as they smiled

And each took the hand of the little child

“Ours to love and train together

Ours this blessed task forever.”

~Author Unknown~

Quote of the Week…

School bells are ringing loud and clear. Vacation is over and school is here!

– Winifred C. Marshal

Interesting TED Talk – 

Nurturing Student Genius

Related Articles – 

Thinking Ahead

Making School a Happy Place

Joyful Classrooms

Joyful Learning Network

Don’t Go Back to Normal

Inspiring Videos –

Pep Tok

10 Things That Made Us Smile

The Whole Community

Saving a Life

The Arrivals

Hallway Therapy

So over the past week or so, I’ve had a few difficult and emotionally draining conversations with adults, which when combined together started to fuel a slow and downward trend in my energy level and spirit. After the most recent one I decided to take a long and dedicated walk around the Lower School to get some much needed hallway therapy, and as is always the case, after that magical tour I felt my spirit soaring once again. I’m so fortunate that my mental health booster shot is just outside my office door, and how lucky am I that I have access to instant hugs and belly laughs every time that I walk down a Lower School corridor. Believe me, I don’t take it for granted, and I am so grateful for this particular little gift, as well as for the enormous gift of being able to feed off of the joy and energy of children each and every day of my life.

Here are just a few of the sights and sounds from my most recent hallway therapy session, which began with a hug from a 3 year old after he corralled me in his pretend spiderman web…that was literally after one step out of my office…nice 🙂

  • I saw and heard kids singing beautiful little songs as they transitioned from one class to another.
  • I came across a ladybug investigation in our science garden with kids screeching for joy when they found one or two of them snuggled up under some leaves.
  • I saw three little girls skipping hand in hand back to class from the washroom, smiling and giggling along the way.
  • One student who was hanging up his coat just outside of his class invited me to his birthday party, and went on to invite me on his summer vacation to Spain with his family.
  • I had a bunch of students stop to show me their crazy socks, and ask me which ones I was wearing on that particular day (Spongebob Squarepants).
  • I saw some older students smiling and working collaboratively on an end of the unit project, and high fiving each other as they finished.
  • I saw our student leadership team making sandwiches for refugees.
  • I saw kids playing soccer and tag and swinging on swings out on the playground.
  • I saw kids making flower and dirt soup in the mud kitchen.
  • I saw two boys helping their friend to the nurses office after he scraped his knee on the slide.
  • One student told me a joke that he had recently learned (Why do bees have sticky hair? Because they use honeycombs).
  • I saw students writing reflections on their Ipads, and reading together in their book clubs.
  • I saw a class full of 3 and 4 year olds debating which one of their family pets was the cutest (the bunny won).
  • Two students performed their latest dance routine for me, which I quickly learned, and then I promised to perform it next year in an assembly with them…yikes!

And best of all, after touring the hallways for just under an hour, I had received 11 enthusiastic hugs, (not including the first one from our little spiderman) and 3 sincere I love you’s…talk about a therapy session worth every minute, and totally free!  

Anyway, as we stare down the final week of the school year, and dream of the summer months ahead, I want to take some time to celebrate our beautiful children. This past year has been difficult and exhausting in many ways for all of us, and honestly, it would have been so much harder if it wasn’t for the daily therapy sessions that we all get to take advantage of as educators. If you ever start to feel a little bit down, or a little bit tired and overwhelmed, then just walk through the hallways of a school with open eyes and open ears, and watch your heart, energy and spirit grow immeasurably! 

Have a wonderful final week everyone and thank you for your incredible effort this year, and send our beautiful little therapists off to the summer with a huge smile! Finally, here are a few lines from a poem by Paul Hayward, which will hopefully put you in the right frame of mind for our final 4 and a half days. Happy summer holiday everyone, you certainly deserve this one, and remember to be great for our kids and good to each other.

Dance 

Open your heart to happiness.

Let every pore absorb light.

Swim in the joy of the here and now,

And cast off the darkness of night.

Walk in the summer of sunshine.

Fly in the blueness of sky.

Sing ’til your throat gets too sore.

Smile for as long as the day is,

And laugh just a little bit more.

Breathe slowly and deeply and listen.

Give all your ideas a chance.

Let the sun beat down on your goodness,

And kick off your shoes and dance.

Quote of the Week…

Nothing can dim the light which shines from within – Maya Angelou

Related Articles – 

Recharge and Prepare

Summer Tips

Teacher Self Care

Switch Off and Grow

Inspiring Videos –

Play By Play Announcer

10 Things That Made Us Smile

TED Talks – 

Building Joy In your life

Career Day Magic

So just before the April holiday our Middle School division hosted their annual Career Day for students, and it was inspiring to see so many professionals sharing their life passions and purpose with our kids. I overheard one student say, “I didn’t know that job even existed”, and another one said, “Wow, everyone sure loves their job in our community”, which may not be completely true, but at the heart of it, it really was the exact message that we are trying to send…love your work!

It reminded me of that old saying, “Love your job and you’ll never work a day in your life!”, and honestly I believe that there is a lot of truth to that, and just before the event began I had the opportunity to talk to several of the presenters about the key message that they were eager to share with the students. I was thrilled that the enduring takeaway message for students, from all of the presenters that I spoke to, revolved around the imperative of finding meaning and purpose in your chosen field, and the importance of following your passions once you find them. There was no talk about how much money they made, or how much power they had, or how influential they have become, it was singularly focused on the idea of making a difference in the world, and becoming a positive influence in the lives of others, all while staying true to who you are. Wow!

The best part of that day for me was that I had a chance to speak to dozens of students about the inspiring and meaningful career of international education, one that we are familiar with. It was heartwarming to see so many young people interested in the idea of education, and when I asked why they decided to attend my season, the overwhelming response revolved around the opportunity that teachers have to positively impact another person’s life. Each one of them spoke beautifully about how a teacher in their lives had empowered them and changed them for the better, and how that experience had inspired them to do the same…double wow! 

I gave the kids in my session the hard sell of course, connected to the meaning and purpose that educators bring to work with them every single day, and the opportunity that educators have to not only change a single person’s life, on a daily basis, but the opportunity that they have to indeed change the world…how many careers can promise that! After the sessions were over there was a palpable buzz in the hallways as students started talking about which career resonated most powerfully with them, and then, just as I was leaving to head back down to my office I heard two 8th grade students chatting. One said, “I’ll probably find a career in some profession that doesn’t even exist yet”, and her friend said, “Well, make sure you at least find meaning and purpose in it!”… nice 🙂 

Anyway, it truly was a magical day, and not only was it profound to have those professionals share their experience with our students, it was also incredible to partner face to face with our community again, finally, in a meaningful way on campus. The best schools leverage their parent community to inspire, just like our Middle School did on that day, and it was even more special that (completely unscripted) their collective message aligned so perfectly and so beautifully to our stance as a school. Meaning really is the new money, and seeing so many of our students inspired by that message made me smile from ear to ear. I’m so excited to see how these young changemakers inspire our world when they enter the world of work. Our future is in good hands that’s for sure! Have a wonderful week ahead and remember to be great for our students and good to each other. 

Quote of the Week…

Life is about making an impact, not making an income

– Kevin Kruse

Related Articles…

The Why of Work

Finding Meaning at Work

Defining Your Purpose

Meaning is the New Money

Meaning and Purpose

Recommended TED Talks – 

What Makes Us Feel Good About Our Work?

Is There More to Being Happy?

Flow – The Secret to Happiness

How To Stop Languishing

How To Live Passionately

Inspiring Videos – 

Kindness 101 – Determination 

Runaway Cat

Kindness 101 – Inclusion

A Message That Still Rings True

So it was 10 years ago this month that a very close friend of mine, and a fantastic Middle School teacher with me at the time, died very unexpectedly and very quickly from an aggressive form of throat cancer. One day it was a sore throat and a difficult time swallowing, which we thought nothing of at the time (too much celebrating and spicy food perhaps), but then quite unbelievably, within a few short months he was gone. It seems strange to me that it has been a decade since he passed away, particularly since I think about him all the time, with his photo on my bookshelf in my office, but over the past few weeks I’ve been thinking about him more than usual. 

I feel incredibly grateful that before he died I was able to sit with him on a few occasions to talk about love, death, regret, and about all of the things that he was grateful for in his life. We also talked about the deep sadness that he felt for having his life cut short so randomly and so unexpectedly. He had a message that he wanted, and needed, to pass on to me before he died, and once he did he wanted me to share it with others…so I did then, and I have tried to intentionally spread it around ever since.

The enduring sentiments, the life lessons, and the immediate call to action that came out of those honest and heartbreaking conversations with Jason positively changed my life forever, and made me a better father, friend, husband and leader. I actually shared much of his wisdom in the only TED talk that I have ever done, titled Living a Life Well Lived, and for the sake of memory and inspiration I decided to re-watch it this past weekend to see if I am still living up to the promise that I made to him during his final days. After watching it again, it struck me that the life lessons and wisdom that he shared with me ten years ago still ring true, and in fact, I think they are more important to me now than they were back in 2012, particularly thinking about our traumatic experience with Covid over the past couple of years. 

The things that he implored me to take to heart were simple, yet deeply profound, and at the time they shook me wide awake. They were a perspective and attitude check for sure, and a much needed “look in the mirror” moment for me that has shaped a significant portion of my life. Anyway, the things that he spoke about included the following…

  • Embracing your regrets, and using them to inspire you to do better.
  • Telling the people that you love that you love them..all the time!
  • Regularly thanking the people in your life who have made you smile, made you better, or  impacted your life in a positive way.
  • Checking your attitude. If there is something in your life that you want to change, change it. If you can’t, then change your attitude.
  • Intentionally paying attention to the person that you are for others, each and every day, and with every human interaction that you have.
  • Paying attention to the beauty of our world, and the little daily gifts that it offers up to each of us. Beauty is all around us, all the time.
  • Putting yourself first and keeping balance in your life.
  • Finding gratitude, and using that gratitude to drive your approach to living.

After watching the video again it struck me that because of what’s been happening over the last couple of years with the pandemic, and the sense of isolation and the disruption to community and relationships that we’ve all had to navigate, it’s the right time to share Jason’s message again. The truth of the matter is that we are only given today, and it’s up to all of us how we choose to spend it. We can use today to inspire, spread joy, lift each other up, and find gratitude, or we can show up in a way that deflates others, or even more sadly, we can allow the days to speed by invisibly, missing out on opportunities to connect and to truly live our best lives. 

The pandemic has shown us how incredibly important relationships are, and how necessary it is to leverage our community to inspire. It has also shown us how easy it is to get comfortable in isolation, and how easy it is to use digital and online connection as our communication default. Well, as the sun begins to shine and as we stare down the end of the school year, let’s use these lessons to finish strong, and to end what was another difficult year in a positive and uplifting way. Jason may be gone but his message certainly lives on in me, and I hope it can spread a little into your lives as well, as we rapidly approach the summer. Have a wonderful week ahead and remember to be great for our students and good to each other. 

Quote of the Week…

Self-Care is not selfish. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.

-Eleanor Brown

Related Articles – 

Work-Life Balance

Embracing Regret

Change Your Attitude, Change Your Life

The Ripple Effects of a Thank You 

The Benefits of Gratitude 

Inspiring Videos – 

40,000 Daffodils

10 Things that Made us Smile

TEDx Shanghai – Living a Life Well Lived

Embracing Regret – Daniel Pink

On the Road – Dear Mom

Community Celebrations

So we had our student-led celebration of learning conferences last week in the Lower School, and what a celebration it was! Not only was the day itself a true celebration for our entire community, the lead up to it was magical as well, as teachers, students and parents worked collaboratively together to prepare for this important showcase. 

As the students left for home in the afternoon before conference day, there were so many comments like, “Mr. Kerr, I’m so excited to show my parents how much I am learning in writing and math!”, and “My parents are going to be so proud of me, and you know what Mr. Kerr, I’m really proud of myself too!”, and heartwarmingly, one little boy said, “I love school so much and I can’t wait to tell my parents all the reasons why”. 

On the day after the event it was the parents’ turn to flood my inbox with positive comments, mostly about how much they enjoyed the opportunity to partner with the school, how impressed they are with our teachers, and most importantly, how grateful and inspired they are with the amount of growth that their child has shown throughout the year. All of these celebrations got me smiling for sure, as it was indeed a great day, but it also got me thinking about the need for us to start doing even more of this!

With much of the world slowly learning how to live with Covid, I think that we can begin to dream about ways, as a school, that we can start building a robust and vibrant on-campus community again…and celebrations will be at the heart of that. I spoke briefly in my last post about needing to get together more face to face, and how we will need to “get to know” each other again as a school community, and celebrating our teachers, our parents, and of course, our students is absolutely paramount. 

Our recent student-led conference celebration proved that there is such a strong desire to reunite the school, from all sides, and when we finally do open back up to parents, creating opportunities for community involvement and community celebration will be huge. I’m so excited to get parents back on campus at some point, and honestly, the situation that we’ve all been in over the past two years has really shone a light on how important “community” really is to a school. Honestly, we just haven’t been the same without it, and I’m excited and inspired to prioritize this when we are finally able…not long now I hope 🙂

You see, In my opinion, the best schools have strong parent partnerships, and a strong, connected and family-like community. Where everyone works together to support our kids and their learning, and where we all come together to celebrate each step and milestone along the way. Our student-led conferences were a great example of that, and we can use it as a jumping off point as we look to reunite on campus in the not so distant future. In the meantime, keep looking to find ways in your classrooms or in your departments to celebrate, celebrate, celebrate, and I will do the same. Have a wonderful week ahead everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other. 

Quote of the Week….

Remember to celebrate milestones as you prepare for the road ahead – Nelson Mandela

Inspiring Videos – 

Driven By Love

An Inspiring Adoption

The Power of Forgiveness 

Kindness 101 – This Week – Optimism

10 Things That Made Us Smile This Week

Being Called Beautiful

TED Talk – The Value of Kindness at Work

TED Talk – Where Joy Hides and Where To Find It

Related Articles – 

Celebrating Students

Celebration Activities

School-Wide Events

Impact Your School

Celebrating Student Success

Internal Motivator

A Day to Celebrate Each Student

A Smile Has Never Burned So Bright

So two Mondays ago, the French government dropped the mandatory mask wearing for students and teachers inside and outside of the school buildings. I have to admit that when I first heard this news I was both relieved and excited, and I could hardly sleep at all on the Sunday night before, thinking about seeing full faces and smiles for the first time in almost two years. 

Even with my excited anticipation of that first morning, knowing that I might get a little emotional, I didn’t expect it to affect me as much as it did. As the kids started to turn the corner into the playground I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes, and when one little girl said, “Mr. Kerr, that’s what you look like!”, and another one said, “Mr. Kerr, I knew you would have a beautiful smile”, I started to cry just a little, and I couldn’t bring myself to stop for much of the day. 

I think that for me, the hardest part of the pandemic has been not seeing people’s faces, and being such a smiley guy myself, I know how a simple smile can transform a person’s mood, day, and attitude in profound and lasting ways. Not having those smiles to feed off of has contributed enormously to the prevailing sense of isolation that communities are struggling with these days, and a big part of transitioning out of Covid will need to involve lots of face to face gatherings I think, with the specific and purposeful intent of reconnecting with people’s faces and smiles. The power of a smile is undeniable, and it has been an absolute gift over the past two weeks to get back to seeing a person’s smiley face, and in many ways, back to seeing a person’s true self. 

Having said all that, I am acutely aware of the fact that the pandemic is probably far from over, and that Covid is still circulating rapidly in France. I am also aware that people have varying levels of anxiety and trepidation regarding mask wearing, and that of course is to be expected and respected. It may even be that at some point we need to go back to wearing masks in schools for another stretch of time, and even though that would be hard for many of us, safety still needs to be our priority. At this point however, I am enthusiastically accepting the beautiful little gift that each and every soul-feeding smile is bringing to my days, and I hope you are too 🙂

When this is all over, and we reflect back on how we have been impacted by the pandemic, I think it is fair to say that the absence of face to face smiles has been one of the most difficult experiences that our world has had to navigate. Maybe though, in the not so distant future, when we emerge from this better and much stronger, we will commit to going out of our way to truly connect with each other more and more and more…face to face.

We will put our phones down a lot more often, and choose to connect in person with one another instead of through social media and email and text, which is mainly, and sadly, our current and learned default these days. Nothing beats the power of a smile, and over the past couple of weeks these smiles have never burned so bright! Here’s hoping it is something that lasts, because I have just finally stopped crying everytime I see a beautiful little face with a toothless grin. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other. 

Quote of the Week…

A smile remains the most inexpensive gift you can bestow on anyone, and yet its powers can vanquish kingdoms kingdoms – OG Mandino

Related Articles – 

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An Essential Reset

So I was speaking to a friend and colleague of mine the other day, about some of the difficulties that we have been collectively facing as a global society over the last two years, and our conversation eventually started to revolve around the themes of isolation and community. Knowing that we’ve gone through almost 24 months of mask-wearing, zoom meetings, limited gatherings, and a lack of human touch, it doesn’t come as a surprise that people are feeling isolated, and that sadly, our idea of community has become drastically altered. We even began wondering nervously if people have started to feel comfortable in this isolation, and finally, we began wondering whether transitioning out of the pandemic might actually be just as tricky as transitioning in. 

You see, living in a world for this long of a period of time, where the primary sources of communication are text messages, social media posts, emails, facetimes, and Zoom meetings is bound to become problematic, and it’s not much of a stretch to say that as a world we are a little worse for wear because of it all. It’s also not a stretch to consider how this problem might have actually started before the pandemic even hit hard back in 2020, but I digress. Anyway, these communication defaults and platforms have absolutely contributed to this isolation, and they have not only isolated us, but they have in many instances started to divide us as well. 

I have certainly been guilty recently of being triggered a social media post that was shared by a long time friend of mine, whose opinion is drastically different than mine, and instead of reaching out to connect with him and to seek to understand, my knee-jerk reaction was to hit the unfriend button…and I couldn’t believe that’s where my mind initially went. It’s just so easy these days to get sucked into our confirmation bias silos, and to lean away from the human connection thread that links us all together…sadly, that thread has become increasingly frayed over the past several months and what we need, in my opinion, is a complete reset. This essential reset needs to be rooted in kindness, understanding, and even a little bit of forgiveness, and as educators we should be leading the way. 

It’s interesting to think how it’s going to be those same foundational pillars of kindness and understanding, that helped us to struggle through the most difficult parts of the pandemic in the first place, which will be the ones that will help us to successfully transition out. The first step however, is to recognize that we have ALL been negatively affected by this experience in one way or another, and that the only acceptable response to any given situation these days is kindness. Once we lead with kindness, the only acceptable response to any given situation after that is to seek to understand. That, along with a willingness to forgive people for maybe not being at their best, or maybe being somehow changed (haven’t we all) over the past couple of years, needs to be our first step in our approach to transitioning out. 

That first step will be an important step into community building, where we prioritize sharing, listening, reuniting, celebrating, and relationships…smiling face to smiling face, away from our devices. For me, it’s exciting to be writing this post because it means that we are at a place where maybe, just maybe, there is a hope and some light that signals the beginning of the end of all of this. Regardless of that though, it’s time to open up our hearts to each other NOW, in meaningful ways, and to start rebuilding what has been lost. It’s about kindness, seeking to understand (especially when someone has a different perspective or stance than you) and forgiveness. It’s my belief that as hard as it has been for the world and for our community, we will get past this and emerge stronger than ever. My challenge to all of us, beginning this week, is to find the courage and the strength to begin that essential reset, and commit to leading with kindness, seeking to understand as your default stance, and to open up your heart to forgiveness…we will transition out of this together, and I know we will do it well. Have a fantastic week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other. 

Quote of the Week…

There is nothing more intimate in life than being understood and understanding someone else.

-Brad Meltzer

Related Articles – 

The Loneliness Pandemic

Acts of Kindness 

National Park Visits

The Importance of Kindness

Compassion in Key

Inspiring videos – 

Driven By Love

The Fairy Garden Friendship

The Inner Net (10 years old but still powerful)

20 Year Timelapse

10 Things That Made Us Smile This Week


TED Talk – Kindness at Work

Is It Friday Yet?

So I have to admit that the year 2021 was indeed a difficult one, for all of us, and this year has sadly started in an eerily similar fashion. It’s crazy to think that we have been living in this dystopian existence for almost two years now, and yes, it’s been deflating and demoralizing in so many ways. I also have to admit that even though I have had it much, much easier than most people, 2021 did finally start to take a toll on me, particularly through that final month of December. 

I consider myself the world’s most optimistic person by the way, and it takes a lot to get me down, which is why I was really surprised when I started to recognize a shift and a dip in my mood. I struggled to find that extra gear, and I began to find it hard to tap into my usually overflowing energy reserves. I found myself asking, “Is it Friday yet?” over and over again throughout the week, and before I knew it I had started pinning my happiness on the start of the weekend. I even started counting down the days until the school holiday break…yikes. It got to the point where I knew that I needed to share how I was feeling with the people closest to me, and I’m glad that I did because as it turned out, they were feeling it too…truthfully, I bet we all were. 

Anyway, since the holiday break I have done a lot of running and reflecting (and less eating and drinking), and I’ve started the new year in a much better place, my usual place. I feel like I’m back to my old self (thankfully) due to a few little tweaks that I’ve made to my attitude and mindset, and as usual, due to a great idea from my amazing wife. I started by re-reading the book, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, which I highly recommend, and I pinpointed some triggers and routines that had started to become unproductive habits toward the end of the year. Then, once I identified what they were, I changed them as fast as I could. 

I started a new running route and routine, at a different time, with a goal attached to it for the Spring. I considerably cut down my use of social media, which was sucking the life out of me, seeing the endless posts of people sharing their best lives (staged or not), or hearing all about the latest Covid updates and opinions. I started to listen to music that I absolutely love in the mornings before school (80’s is my go-to recently), and as a foundational commitment, I chose a word…a word that will define my attitude and perspective over the next 12 months. I think I might even stick it up on my bathroom mirror to keep it front and center in my mind each and every day, which will help me to stay present. 

Listen, I’m not at all trying to trivialize the incredibly difficult year that so many people have had over the past 12 months, with the loss of jobs, or loved ones, or those people who are right now trying to survive a very real struggle with mental health, because my dip in mood obviously pales in comparison. If however, you are looking for a fresh start to a new year, or if you can’t seem to shake a low level sadness, dip in energy, or mild depression, then try shaking things up a little. As simple and potentially silly as these changes sound, they are actually working, and the shift and purposeful intent behind them has helped me bolster my joy and gratitude. The other important thing that I can recommend is to be vulnerable, and to open up to a few people that you trust so you can get the support and friendship that you need. Sometimes just talking about how you’re feeling can be cathartic enough to get you back on track. 

One thing for sure is that I’m going to stop asking, “Is it Friday yet?”, and get back to being more present in the day to day experiences of life. Happiness is not only found at the beginning of a weekend, it’s in the beautiful little moments embedded in each and every day leading up to a Friday afternoon…it’s time that I get back to practicing what I preach, and so far it’s been a much better start to 2022. Hang in there everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

Quote of the week…

The ability to be in the present moment is a major component of mental wellness – Abraham Maslow

Related Articles – 

Live in the Present Moment

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TED Talks – 9 talks

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Break Out of Your Shell

Inspiring Videos – 

Cheerful Gowns

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10 Things That Made Us Smile

TED – How Gratitude Rewires Your Brain